As we sit down to look at the story of Jesus bringing the widow’s son back to life, we pray for hearts to be able to turn our troubles over to Jesus by seeing His compassion, assurances, power, authority and presence in our lives.
A mother’s love is often used as a way to measure love, isn’t it?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “A face only a mother could love,” right?
Mothers carry this unconditional love in their hearts for their children. This love can be seen in all that they do for their kids. Young mothers can commiserate about sleepless nights, dirty diapers, not having time to shower and cleaning up mess after mess.
But it’s easy to look past all of those things and see the true love a mother has for her children. I mean, that’s why she does all of those things to begin with. But even as we think about this great love that a mother has for her children, it cannot ever compare to the amazing love of God! A mother is human, her love is finite. It can only go so far. She can only do so much for her children. And for those of us who are mothers today, we realize that there are times when the only thing that we can do for our children it to lace them into the loving hands of Jesus.
In our story today, we have one of those times.
We begin with a woman who had a son, her only son… and she could not help him. The circumstances were beyond her control. They were out of her hands. Her only son had died and we find her completely devastated. Her only remaining source of hope, strength and protection was gone. She had previously lost her husband and now death had taken her only child as well.
She was immersed in grief and sorrow, as any mother would be.
But we see an unexpected turn of events occur. And we learn so much about the character of Jesus in these events:
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 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. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
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!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
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.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. Lk 7:11-17 (NIV)
As we all encounter problems and difficulties in life, we can begin to feel just like this poor widow did.
You see friends, many of our problems (just like death) are ones that are beyond our control. And that can be tough to really grasp and deal with at times.
Fortunately for us, the good news is that nothing, not even death, is beyond the control of Jesus. And that news gives us four reasons that we should take our problems directly to Jesus for help.
THE COMPASSION OF JESUS
We’ve talked a lot already in this Bible Study about Jesus’ compassion for those around us. But, we see it here again.
Compassion is at the heart of WHO Jesus is. Over and over again throughout Scripture, we see how Jesus walks with those who are hurting and has compassion for them.
Here in this particular story, we learn that a large crowd had followed Jesus and His disciples as they traveled to Nain. They had heard of Him healing the sick and performing miracles along the way and were hoping to catch a glimpse of Him in action.
As the crowd was following Jesus, He was focused on something different. Not that He didn’t notice the funeral procession… I’m sure it was a big to-do. And funerals sadly were very common back in that time. Often, men died at very young ages. But we see Jesus turn His attention from the procession to the mother who had lost her son. Jesus’ heart breaks for her. We see how He has compassion for her. Scripture says:
When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Lk 7:13 (NIV)
You see, compassion was such an essential part of Jesus’ heart and His ministry, and we see it over and over again throughout Scripture. It was how Jesus showed God’s love to us time and time again. We can see it in a few examples below:
- “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Mt 9:36 (NIV)
- “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Mt 14:14 (NIV)
- “Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Mt 15:32 (NIV)
- “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” Mt 20:34 (NIV)
At the times in our lives when we feel hopeless and that our circumstances are beyond our control, we must remember that Jesus sees us. His heart breaks for and with us, and He has compassion for us. It is then that we need to take our problems directly to Him. For in His great compassion, He can overcome anything… including death.
THE ASSURANCE OF JESUS
As we get back into the story, we think about Jesus’ words to the widow who was engulfed in grief. He told her not to cry. I remember thinking to myself, “What an interesting choice of words.” And as I looked at this response on the surface, it at first seemed a bit surprising to me. I mean, she had every reason to cry.
Why would Jesus say those words to a woman who had just lost her son?
I’m sure we have all been to a funeral of a friend or family member and been in a position in which we had to offer words of comfort and solace. I don’t know about you, but “don’t cry” wouldn’t have been at the top of my list of comfort words.
But see, Jesus wasn’t offering comfort, he was offering assurance. Assurance that it would all be okay. Assurance of what was about to happen.
One of the greatest assurances that we have (and is underused!!) is the Bible. In God’s Word, we can find so many assurances. There are assurances not to be afraid because God is with us. We see a great example of this in the following verses in Scripture:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Is 41:10 (NIV)
We see another perfect example of God’s assurances in the next verse, in which we are reminded to not be anxious or worry about the details in our lives:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Pet 5:7 (NIV)
And finally, God’s Word reminds us to rejoice, finding joy in our lives through Christ in prayer and thanksgiving in all circumstances:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thes 5:16-18 (NIV)
My friends, Jesus was bringing words of assurance. Words to let her know that today may be hard but it will get better. He has the future planned. He was letting her know that He saw her and cared for her.
And His compassion moved Him to act, performing a miracle that would remove at least a portion of her burden. Perhaps lightening her heart, helping her to turn it to the One who she needed to rely on to get through the difficult days.
As we see the assurance that Jesus gives, we need to remember that we can turn to Jesus with our most difficult problems as well.
THE POWER AND AUTHORITY OF JESUS
Scripture tells us in Luke 7:14-15 (NIV):
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!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
I don’t think there is anything that shows more power and authority than being able to call the dead back to life. Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead reminds me of a very similar story in which Elijah brought a different widow’s son back to life in 1 Kings 17:19-22 (NIV):
Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.”
While there are some stark similarities, the differences are very important. We can see the biggest difference in these two stories lies in who has the power and authority.
Elijah wasn’t able to command the widow’s son to come to life. He was only able to pray and ask God to do so. He didn’t have the power and authority over life and death like Jesus did. So he prayed to the One who did. Elijah prayed and asked God to bring the widow’s son back to life.
Jesus, however, did have the power and authority to raise the dead. When He commanded the widow’s son to come back to life, the boy’s life returned to him. Just like in other examples, we see in Scripture when Jesus did the same thing.
In Luke 8:49-56, we hear the story of Jesus bringing Jairus’ daughter back to life. If you remember, Jairus was a synagogue leader and received word that his daughter had died. Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
What a step of faith that Jesus asked of him!
Then Jesus traveled to Jairus’ house, taking with Him several of the disciples as well as Jairus and his wife.
People all around the town were mourning over the girl’s death. When Jesus met up with these people, He told them to “stop crying” because she was not dead, only asleep. Of course, their response was disbelief as I’m certain ours would be as well.
They began to laugh.
They knew what their eyes saw, and that the little girl was dead. But then Jesus stepped into action.
But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.” Lk 8:54-56 (NIV)
We see the magnitude of Jesus’ power and authority over death as He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. All He had to do was speak it and it was done.
The world tries to give us many assurances, even on a daily basis. But these assurances and promises turn out to be quite empty. See, the world can’t deliver most of what it offers. That is what is so GREAT about Jesus. What He promises and what He assures us, when we become followers of His, is that we will have eternal life.
This is the greatest assurance that Jesus gives us as believers. And this one promise is one that we can rest all of our problems and troubles on each day. We know that we are able to take anything to Him because He has power and authority over all things. After we’ve given it to God, we can rest on the assurance that at the end of the day He is in control and our future is planned.
THE DIVINITY AND PRESENCE OF JESUS
You know, I really love the ending of this miracle. Jesus hands the boy back to his mother, giving her so much joy and hope. And then Scripture tells us how the people who were there reacted:
They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said.” Lk 7:16 (NIV)
I first looked over this response and didn’t give it much thought. But as I dug deeper, I realized that this is SO significant and it is important that we understand why.
In the Bible, there is a gap of 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament, which is called the “Intertestamental Period.” It was a period in which God essentially did not reveal anything new to His people and they lived in a great spiritual darkness. When we look at the quote above (a great prophet has appeared among us), we can see that this marks the end of that Intertestamental Period and the long-awaited fulfillment of the prophecy that was spoken in Isaiah 9:2 (NIV):
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
And the second part of the people’s response is equally important as well:
God has come to help his people.” Lk 7:16 (NIV)
We see this response as the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken in Isaiah 7:14 (NIV):
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
We see fulfillment as Jesus is presented to the people, being sent by God. And we also see the divinity of Jesus in this prophecy, represented by His birth. The phrase Immanuel means “God with us.”
There are hard times in our lives, just like the widow has in this story. During these times, we may doubt and question the presence and love of God. I have had those times in my life as well. We all do at some point.
The people of Nain proclaimed that “God has come to help his people” after 400 years as if He had forgotten them. But we can find assurance in Psalms 46:1 (NIV) that says:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
God doesn’t forget us and then suddenly remember us. He is always with us, working behind the scenes on our behalf.
Sometimes that takes time. Remember, His plan is always bigger than ours. The people of Nain thought that God had forgotten them for 400 years, but little did they know that God was working behind the scenes preparing for the arrival of our Savior!
We need to remember the same. If God ever seems distant, we need to press in closer and remember that He is working very hard behind the scenes and hold tight to the promise that He is doing something very amazing in our lives through Jesus. And by taking all of our troubles to Jesus, He can help turn those troubles into God’s best for our lives.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your great love for us! For being able to lay all of our troubles and burdens at your feet. Thank you for your great compassion and care in our lives. Help us to remember your promises and assurances when things get tough. Let us know that we can rest in the assurance of your power and authority in any situation. Show us how to cherish your presence, especially at times when it may seem far away. Let us know you are always with us! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Do you need to catch up on previous parts of this Bible Study?
You can find all of the posts below.