After a long day’s journey, Jesus and his disciples arrived at the town of Nain, having traveled about twenty-five miles from Capernaum. Jesus immediately encountered a funeral procession at the entrance of the town. In those days, as in many parts of the world even today, the funeral procession leaves the house and people follow the coffin to the cemetery. At this procession a lonely woman preceded the coffin which brought her directly to Jesus. People were wailing and others were making mourning sounds.
The widow woman walked alone without a husband or any other children. The heartbroken woman was on her way to bury her only son. She would be left alone with no one to provide for her. Luke says that when Jesus saw her, his heart went out to her, and he said, “Don’t cry” (Luke 7:13). Jesus was moved with compassion for the woman.
Empathy transforms moments and brings deep meaning into relationships. Jesus’ empathy transformed the moment for this woman. If a husband can grasp what his wife is going through and empathize with her, she will be comforted and drawn to him. If a mother can understand and identify with the struggle her son is having, he will be encouraged. But if this is so, then why does it happen so little in our lives? It is because we are a people of self-focus. We are inhibited because of the shame we carry, or angry because of resentment, or jealous because of a comparison, and unfortunately we cannot grasp the pain of another. If Jesus can teach us a lesson that would bring life to our families, it would be this—the ability to care deeply for each other.
When Jesus says, “Don’t cry” to the woman, he isn’t proposing that she repress her emotions. Rather he is offering her hope—a reason not to cry. She cries, for her loss and sadness is all that she has, but Jesus is about to give her much more than that. Luke continues the story as Jesus went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "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 (Luke 7:14-15).
What an amazing picture this is as Jesus confronts death. He would confront it again and again, and each time he would be the victor. When Jesus spoke, the boy heard. His body didn’t, but his spirit did. The lifeless, cold body came to life as the heart started beating and the blood began flowing through his arteries again after having been dead for hours. He sat up in his own coffin and began to talk. I’m not sure what he said or if anyone actually heard him since most would have been in a complete state of shock.
That same voice—the voice of Jesus who alone can speak to death will speak to all God’s children no matter where their bodies were deposited. From millions of cemeteries around the world to the depths of the sea, even from the thin air, Jesus will call their bodies to life with his word. Hear these amazing words from John: "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice” (John 5:28).
I remember my father coming into my room as a boy and saying, “Son, it’s time to wake up.” I would open my eyes and see my father’s face. John says there is going to be a day when all of those who have preceded us in death will hear his voice. He is going to say, “Get up, Arlie. Wake up, Troy. Time to get up, Ken; it’s resurrection morning!" We will wake up and see his face. What a day to look forward to.