9 June 2013

Luke 7:11-17

“Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’” (v. 14)


At the heart of this passage is the question 'Who is Jesus?' When the crowd see the miracle they declare that he is a great prophet. This is a very reasonable conclusion as Jesus' actions would have reminded the crowd of Elijah who raised the son of the widow of Zarapheth from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24).

This miracle comes after Jesus has healed the centurion's servant (Luke 7:1-10) and before John the Baptist asks Jesus if he is the "one who is to come?" (Luke 7:18-23). We can see that the question about Jesus identity is being raised once again. Jesus' reply includes the phrase "... the dead are raised ..." (Luke 7:22), and although Jesus does not directly answer John's question we can infer that Jesus is offering an affirmative answer.

As well as being a remarkable, miraculous act, this raising of the widow's son also has great economic and social significance. With the death of all her male relatives, this woman faced utter poverty and a descent to the weakest end of society. So to raise her son from the dead was not just an act of compassion for someone who had lost a loved one, but also a social and economic act in which the woman was saved from destitution. In performing this miracle Jesus was also fulfilling the law which saw widows and others as a group within society who needed special care (Exodus 22:22).

This miracle, like all those in which Jesus raised someone from the dead, prefigures his own death and resurrection. We notice how the bearers stood still when he touched the bier and how he simply commanded the young man to rise. All of this suggests great authority.

Finally, moved with compassion, Jesus told the woman not to weep before he raised the young man. We can see how this also prefigures the promise of Revelation 21:4: "he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away".

To Ponder

  • What place if any, can or should miracles have in the life of the Church today?
  • What do you think happens when we die?
  • What can you or your church do for those who are bereaved?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..