6 June 2010

Luke 7:11-17

"A great prophet has risen among us!" (v.16)


Today's passage is set early on in Jesus' ministry, which began in his hometown of Nazareth. From there he journeyed to the town of Capernaum, not far away, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In Capernaum - the most important place in northern Galilee - he taught the people and had healed his disciple Simon Peter's mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). He also performed other healings - a man with leprosy, a centurion's slave - so crowds were seeking him out to cure their sick relatives. His teachings were beginning to cause a stir too and, at times, Jesus withdrew for a time of solitude on the mountainside. People were beginning to ask questions about him in their homes, with their friends and relatives, in the market place, at the well... "Who is this?" "Who is this Jesus?"

Those who witnessed the raising of the widow's son in the town of Nain had an answer to the question...

From Capernaum Jesus, his disciples and a large crowd walked to Nain. The ruins of Capernaum can be visited today. Archaeologists can even point to what they believe to be the foundations of the house of Simon Peter's mother-in-law. Of Nain, however, there is no trace. All that can be said is that it was not far from Capernaum and not far from Nazareth.

As they all arrived at Nain, a funeral procession met them. A mother's only son was being carried out for burial. Jesus felt very deeply for her. Not only was she without a husband but now her only son had died too. The grief of the woman we can only imagine, and she would have probably feared for her very survival. In 1st century Palestine, widows had a particularly difficult time. Women were dependent on their husbands to care for them and for their status. Without a husband a mother could hope for protection from her son but with the loss of her only son as well she would be in a very vulnerable position. Yet Jesus tells her to dry her eyes.

Fear was the first reaction of all those who witnessed the young man raised to life. But then came an outburst of praise and thanks to God. And what did they give thanks to God for? Jesus. They saw in Jesus a special messenger from God, a great prophet and a sign of the living, loving God, 'risen' amongst them.

To Ponder

In what ways is Jesus still a great prophet today?

What is your experience of the living God amongst vulnerable people today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Barbara Calvert

Revd Barbara Calvert is a Methodist minister and superintendent of the Bromley Circuit. Before becoming a minister she was an RE teacher, area coordinator for Christian Aid and chaplain to international students in the three universities in Glasgow.