19 September
Lk 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

This is one of the few times that Luke mentions where an event took place.  Nain is usually taken to be a village six miles SE of Nazareth, his own home town; and like Nazareth, it is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible.  This is the first use in the gospel of the word ‘Lord’ to describe Jesus (verse 13), a title hitherto reserved strictly to God; and the context is mercy.  Leo the Great (+ AD 461) said that “Jesus is the hand of God's mercy stretched out to us.”  Jesus performed this miracle without being asked, just as God’s love takes the first step.  He reached out and touched the bier – an action that would incur ritual uncleanness in Jewish law.  It was becoming visible to the people who saw him at work that he was from outside the normal frame.  "God has looked favourably on his people!" – or, as the Jerusalem Bible translates it,“God has visited his people.”  God's visitation is a key theme in Luke (1:68, 78; 19:44; Acts 15:14). 

Evelyn Underhill once said that she would consider the resurrection of the body a mistake, unless the body is much improved in construction.  No doubt the widow of Nain would have wanted her son back in the form she knew.  But it remains true that the resurrection Christians hope for is not just the resuscitation of their present bodies.  “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:42-44).  The raising of the widow’s son was not a preview of the resurrection.  There were instances in the Old Testament of people being raised from death: by Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37); and later Peter and Paul would perform similar feats.  These are rather signs of the power of God working through people; in the case of the widow’s son, it showed Jesus, like Elijah and Elisha, to be a great prophet. 



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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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