14 March 2013

Luke 7:11-17

"When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, 'Do not weep.'" (v. 13)


Today's passage describing Jesus bringing back to life the only son of a widow only appears in Luke's Gospel. It follows another story where Jesus heals a centurion's servant (Luke 7:1-10). In that story Luke's Gospel is making it clear that Jesus is prepared to heal a gentile servant, a signal that God's good news is for both gentiles (non-Jews) as well as the Jews. In today's account Jesus shows compassion to a Jewish woman and in particular a widow, affirming that God's love knows no gender divide and will reach out to the poorest in society.

In addition both stories have strong links with the acts of Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha. Luke has already highlighted that comparison (Luke 4:25-27) and there is no doubt that his readers will have been very familiar with the story in 1 Kings 17:8-24 where Elijah meets a poor widow and later raises her dead son. Similarly in 2 Kings 4:8-37 Elisha brings back to life the only son of a woman. Luke's Gospel is deliberately comparing Jesus with these two great prophets and underlines this by recording the reaction of the crowd who exclaim that "a great prophet has risen among us!" (v. 16). As the Gospel account has progressed the status of Jesus has become greater, so that now he is regarded as a healing prophet following directly in the line of the revered prophets of old.

Luke's Gospel rarely draws attention to Jesus' emotions and yet here his encounter with a widow who has lost her only son leads Jesus to act with compassion (verse 13). Previously it has been other people approaching him asking for help, but in Nain Jesus recognises that without her son, this poor woman who had already lost her husband, could well become destitute. Jesus continues to be followed by a large crowd, but he is still able to spot the need in those who do not ask for help and reach out to them in their time of crisis.

To Ponder

  • It is increasingly suggested that our society ifs suffering from 'compassion fatigue'. How do we avoid that when there are so many competing demands for our attention?
  • Luke's Gospel compared Jesus with two revered Old Testament prophets. Who are your own role models? Give thanks for them.
  • Pray for those you know who have been bereaved.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.