There are 37 recorded miracles of Jesus in the Bible; 37 times that Jesus did something inexplicable in any other way than that God had powerfully acted. And of course, the writer of one of the Gospels, the Apostle John, tells us that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)
But of all the miracles that we know about, those that were written down, surely the most extraordinary, the most astonishing, the most amazing, were the three times that Jesus gave life back to someone who was dead. Three times when Jesus refused to accept that death was irreversible, final, and gave someone another chance at life.
And in looking at those three occasions, three very different people, three very different sets of circumstances, we can see that once again, as in so many of his miracles, Jesus is teaching us something each time too.
So in this three-part series, let’s have a look at them, in the order that they appear, and think a little about what these most astounding of all Jesus’ miracles show us about him, about the person he raised from the dead and their circumstances, and maybe even about us.
1. The son of the widow of Nain
Nain (also called Nein or Naim) is a village in northern Israel, located southwest of the Sea of Galilee, about 9 miles south of Nazareth. Only Luke records this miracle, in ch7 v11-17
Jesus raises a widow’s son
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. (Luke 7:11-17, NIV)
When a passage starts with something like “Soon afterwards…” it’s always wise to have a look at what precedes it. In this case, Jesus had encountered the faith of the Roman Centurion who had asked for Jesus to heal his servant. The Centurion had spoken of the authority that he had, and the authority that Jesus had to heal his servant. This example of understanding and faith had amazed Jesus, and it was shortly afterwards that he encountered the widow and her dead son.
As a widow in 1st Century Israel, it is likely that she would have relied on her son, her only son, for support. Now he too was dead. Her grief would have been for her son, but she must have also been wondering what the future held for her now. The passage says that Jesus’ heart went out to her, he was compassionate towards her. He would have understood her situation and perhaps remembered the Centurions words from v7b-8 of this chapter, “But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Jesus could have walked on by, but he didn’t; he chose to do more than just show compassion for the widow, he acted. Just as he had healed the Centurions servant, he performed an even more extraordinary miracle by raising the widow’s son back to life. In one amazing act he gave a future back to the son and transformed the future of his mother.
What does this teach us?
- We can have compassion, our hearts can ache for situations that we see, but if we just leave it there nothing changes.
- We may not be able to perform miracles, but maybe we can act, help, make a difference. Jesus got involved; are there times when we could too? Just a few chapters later in Luke’s Gospel (Ch10: 25-37) Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Two people walked by on the other side of the road, they didn’t get involved. The third one did and in doing so transformed the situation.
- May our compassion drive us to action!
In this series we see three very different stories, three very different people and situations, but what links them all is that Jesus chose them to be the three people whom he raised from the dead, gave new life to, transforming theirs and their families’ situations. And in each case Jesus taught us something wonderful, including about compassion, faith and hope.
Whatever our situation, however hard things are for us, they are unlikely to be as bad as the situation of the son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’ daughter, or Lazarus. That isn’t to diminish our own struggles and challenges in any way, far from it, it is to remind us that the Jesus who can raise from the dead, the Jesus who can bring transformation to the bereaved, the Jesus who defines compassion, faith and hope, can and does bring those things, and more, to us too. Why not ask him?
Raised From The Dead: Jairus’ Daughter
Raised From The Dead: Lazarus
New International Version (NIV)
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