Sometimes on the saddest of days, we are sure of the grief the day will bring.
And sometimes we are wrong. After the healing of the Centurion’s beloved servant, Jesus traveled to a town called Nain. Just a few miles from Nazareth, this village was on the road from Galilee to Jerusalem. Nain means, “delightful.” Nain would have faded into the obscurity of most small towns except for the amazing thing that happened as Jesus entered the gates.

Total Loss
It is difficult to calculate the totality of the loss suffered by a woman of Nain. Sometime before Jesus came, she, like so many wives, lost her husband. There was little a widow could do in that culture to support herself. Until her children could support her, she would live at the mercy of other family members.

By the time of Jesus, her only son—all she had left from her husband—was a grown man. There is no record of his having his own wife and children to support so he was probably one of those brave men who took on responsibilities as they came to him.

He was her life! Perhaps his mother could see reflections of his father in his eyes or hear notes of her husband’s voice when he sang. Maybe certain mannerisms reminded the man’s mother of his father. What we know for sure is that the love between them was great and the home, although a small one, was a functional one, creating a space for them in village society. How do we know this? Dr. Luke’s description of events gives us hints.

The unthinkable happened; the young man died. We are not told how he died, some sudden or lingering sickness, or a random, senseless accident, or perhaps a crime of violence, but with his death, this man’s mother lost everything.

Tears at the Town Gate
Jesus arrived at the entrance to the town at the same moment the man’s funeral procession was leaving. A large crowd followed the open coffin, surrounding his body with public grief far beyond anything professional mourners could have produced. This parade of tears speaks of the heart of the village for this widow. Perhaps other widows had mourned in a similar procession when their husbands died. Thoughtful, observant people took civic pride in the way the young man sacrificed to provide for his mother. Their sadness extended beyond the day’s events to the uncertain future of a woman who had lost so much.

Two Processions Meet
Jesus and the Twelve stood to the side of the road to let the funeral procession pass. When the open coffin approached Jesus, He halted the mourners. He focused on the grieving widow and spoke these impossible words,

“Do not weep.”

“Do not weep?” How was that even possible? Those in the crowd who knew who Jesus was and what He had done wondered what might happen next. Those who did not know Him were offended by His presumption. They all watched in wonder as Jesus spoke to the dead man in the open coffin:

“Young man, I say to you, arise.”

The divided crowd was silent but on the verge of protest when the man sat up in the coffin began to speak to them. Jesus helped him out of the coffin and presented him to his mother. In profound silence, with scarcely single breath among them, the people watched the most unlikely reunion. As if on cue, they broke into praise of God, proclaiming Jesus to be a prophet. From these town gates, this story spread throughout Judea.

Nain means, “delightful.”

Luke: 7:11-17

Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

Lord Jesus, You can turn a day from tears to rejoicing with the sound of Your voice! You called my soul from the grave, from death to life, and I came out rejoicing. Death does not have the final word—you do, Lord! And Your word is life and that everlasting! You break all kinds of chains that would bind me and set me free to love You with heart, soul, mind, and strength! This I will do, rejoicing all the while for tears become laughter at Your command! Amen and Amen.

Mourning into Dancing

Words and Music: Tommy Walker

He’s turned my mourning
Into dancing again. He’s lifted my sorrows.
And I can’t stay silent.
I must sing for His joy has come.

Where there once was only hurt
You gave Your healing hand.
Where there once was only pain
You brought comfort like a friend.
I feel the sweetness of Your love
Piercing my darkness.
I see the bright and morning sun
As it ushers in Your joyful gladness.

Your anger lasts For a moment in time
But Your favor is here
And will be on me for all my lifetime.

He’s turned my mourning
Into dancing again. He’s lifted my sorrows.
And I can’t stay silent
I must sing for His joy has come.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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