1 August 2015

Luke 7:11-17

“When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” (v. 13)

Psalm: Psalm 56


It would be possible to be distracted into spending time considering the centuries of debate about miracles. However, it seems more important to me to remember that in those days it was expected that the best of the travelling preachers or Rabbis would prove themselves, as it were. So the stories of wonderful signs, of healings and other miracles, including the raising of the dead, were very common. The question for today's readers is to ask what it tells them about Jesus, and only then to wonder what it might mean for a life of faith.

The differences that are offered in the telling of the stories about this travelling preacher frequently have a great deal to reveal about who he is. One of the differences that is offered in this case is that Jesus seems more concerned about the bereaved woman than the dead man.

It is important to recognise how needy the life of a widow with no other support could be. She might not even have a home now her only son is dead, unless she has another relative who is prepared to offer that to her. She would almost certainly have no income, again unless some relative was prepared to put themselves out for her. The law was very clear that a devout Jew would support 'the widow and the orphan and the alien' (eg Deuteronomy 10:18; 27:19) - ie those in most need and unable to support themselves. But it is also clear in the Gospels and in other Scripture stories that this law was frequently not followed.

It would also be very unusual for any man to address a woman, particularly in public. So, when Jesus speaks first to her and, having raised the young man gives him to his mother (verse 15), the writer is not simply underlining the strength of Jesus' compassion. The reader is being invited to recognise a new interpretation of the law, and a new way of being, especially as even touching the dead would have been regarded as making Jesus unclean. And the people see this as an act of God.

To Ponder

  • Who do you consider to be in most need in your own community and in the wider world?
  • What might compassion for them require of you?

Bible notes author

Revd Alison Tomlin

Alison Tomlin is a supernumerary Methodist minister, who was president of the Methodist Conference in 2010/2011. She has been involved for the last 25 years in leading retreats and offering prayer, accompanying both groups and individuals.