The Widow of Nain
Where do we go for help with fear, suffering and death? The Lord obviously, and what is he like? This is important as the better we know someone, the more we are likely to trust them, assuming, that is, that they are of good character. I have a deep trust in my oncologist because I know him extremely well.
What is the Lord Jesus like? This small story (Luke 7:11-17) is one of my favourites for sharing the gospel. We see first of all that Jesus meets us at just the right time in our grief and sorrow. Jesus starts the long walk from Capernaum to Nain (about 25 miles) when this young boy is still alive. Perhaps his disciples were puzzled - why go to that small out of the way place? They don’t know, but he does, that this is because the maker of the universe has an appointment with a grieving widow. She doesn’t know who he is, but he knows all about her. So the same with us. However utterly insignificant we are (and the truth is we all are!) the maker of the universe makes a bee line for us in our suffering. Our eyes may be filled with tears and we can’t think of any help, but in fact he is right in front of us, waiting for us.
We see how perfect God’s timing is. A few minutes either way and the two processions don’t meet. But at just the right time Jesus is there, standing in the way of death. And the people carrying the dead body stand still as they see this ordinary looking man blocking the procession on its way to dusty death.
What kind of roadblock is this man? He is full of compassion. “Don’t cry” he says to the grieving mother, her eyes full of tears. The Greek speaks of Jesus’ intestines being twisted. Yes, friends, the Lord is deeply moved by our suffering. Yes, though we seem to be forsaken and abandoned, he meets us in our grief. And not just words; there is also touch - he touches the bier. He connects with the dead body. Something no normal rabbi would do for it makes him ritually unclean. God is not only moved he touches us in our suffering. “I am with you”.
But if our God was only compassionate that would, may I say reverently, not be enough. For he has equally a colossal life giving power. Power over death, for at just one word the dead boy is brought back Immediately to life. What is death? Many things, but it is perhaps separation that is the hardest. The boy comes back to life and starts talking! Jesus turns death round 180 degrees. Nain is on a hill so Death is carrying off his prey downwards, but Jesus holds the keys of life and death and turns the whole thing around.
So it is with us. Death is a terrible enemy but the Lord owns it. Death will one day be carrying off our body and will also meet Jesus standing in the way. “He or she is mine and I am the resurrection and I am the life ” he will say, and Death will have to give up its captives and our bodies will be gloriously resurrected.
Friends, in our affliction let us comfort each other with the knowledge of the character of the Lord Jesus and his love for his children. What do we need above all? To know him more and through that to trust him more. What is he like? He meets us at just the right time. He is full of compassion and kindness and he touches us in our infirmities. He has total control over death and will raise us all gloriously.
He helped the widow of Nain 2000 years ago. He helps me today. He helps you today and He will help us tomorrow and for all eternity!
Alleluia! What a Saviour!
Almighty God, through your only Son Jesus Christ you have conquered death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: by your grace put good desires into our minds and, in your mercy, help us to bring them to their fulfilment, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.