Nain the crowd hiking along with Jesus encounters another large crowd also on the outskirts of Nain. This crowd is heading to the cemetery. Now try and imagine this. Here’s what happens when the two groups meet.
The only son of a widow has died, Luke writes, and one of the big crowds is headed for the burial of the son. This young man can’t have been dead but a few hours. Jews almost always bury within 24 hours. Right up to this slowly moving and grieving crowd marches up Jesus and the crowd pressing around him. I can imagine that the crowd around Jesus was wondering what in the world he is going to do next? Why else would such a big crowd be now following his every move?
Now I can also imagine a rabbi from the synagogue in Nain leading the funeral procession chanting verses as the procession makes its way to the cemetery. It was customary for the mourners to move slowly, stopping and allowing people to grieve and pay their last respects.
In the midst of two large crowds — I’m imagining 300, maybe 400 people, maybe even more — Jesus steps out and walks up to the the grieving mother. Luke tells us that Jesus’ heart is touched and the traveling rabbi (Jesus the Messiah) suddenly makes himself the center of attention. Looking at the grieving mother he says, “Don’t cry, lady.”
Excuse me? Don’t cry? Yep, Luke says Jesus tells the woman to not cry.
Now this is very interesting to me. Because just this week I attended the memorial service of a 17-year-old young man from Champaign, Ill. … Big crowd of 400 or so people.
Lots of teen-agers. Lots and lots of people were crying, I mean really crying. Of course. People were really shaken. It was a crowd filled with somber faces. A 17-year-old got robbed of his life.
Something similar has happened here in Nain and Jesus tells this woman to not cry. Hmmm… It’s just not something you would hear in this context, obviously. It is a very unusual thing to say in that moment.
But Jesus not only says it but then immediately steps away from the woman and walks over and touches the bier holding the body of her dead son. (A bier is a wooden frame on which a corpse is laid and then transported to the cemetery. It would have been carried by maybe 6 young men.)
Just as no one would say, “Don’t cry,” no one would ever touch a bier because that person immediately would be unclean. It would be unthinkable and people would be disgusted; I mean immediately shocked.
Luke said at that point everyone stood still. Well no kidding…
The Messiah has asked a grieving mother not to cry on the way to the grave and he has touched the bier, which is a no no. … And this in full view of three or four hundred people watching him.
Try to imagine it. Hundreds of people have just seen something they never have seen in their lives.
The Gospel writer (Luke) says Jesus then spoke again. But not to the grieving mother. This time to the body of the dead young man, a young man whose corpse is about 5 minutes from being buried beneath the Judean soil:
“Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
News of this spread throughout Judea. Again, no kidding! Hundreds of people were just stunned. They began shouting out, “A great prophet has appeared among us.” We can only imagine. I imagine people ran in every which direction just shouting and screaming and shaking their heads and saying over and over, “What just happened? This didn’t just happen, did it? Yeeeeooow!! Yes it did. Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!! What kind of prophet is the man!! Yeeeooow!!!
This all takes me back to the question: Why did Jesus tell the woman not to cry?
I can only imagine that Jesus knew what he was going to do, and boy did he ever do it. … raising a widow’s only son from the dead. Wow…
Jesus, the Messiah, said over and over, “The Kingdom of God has come.” … The one who was, and is, and is to come, is still in our midst… Yes he is! I think we’d all do well to be watching for what he is going to do next in our life!