Gospel Reading: Lk 7:11-17
Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.
GOD HAS VISITED HIS PEOPLE
As they enter Nain, Jesus and his group meet a funeral cortege of a young man who has just died. Luke’s focus is entirely on the mother and her poignant plight. A widow, now she has likewise lost her “only son,” her only source of joy and security. Without any significant male (husband or son) in her life, she is as good as dead in her society.
At such a sight, Jesus is “moved with pity for her.” The verb in the original Greek is splanchnizomai, which is the inner emotion accompanying mercy. It is often rendered by “moved with compassion.” But something of the original vitality is lost in the translation. The verb often renders the Hebrew rehem that refers to the mother’s womb and maternal care. Seeing the widow in such a state, Jesus is moved “viscerally,” touching the very depth of his being.
He then raises the dead one. Life is restored to the son, but also to the mother, whose place in the community is restored when the son is brought back to life.
As a reaction, the people are moved by godly fear. They exclaim while glorifying God, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst” and “God has visited his people.” In referring to a prophet, they probably recall one of the greatest prophets, Elijah of Tishbite, who once raised the son of the widow of Zarephath from the dead (cf 1 Kgs 17:20-24).
The Greek rendered by “has arisen” literally means “has been raised up,” a “divine passive,” and points to the action of God. It thus echoes the promise of Moses to the Israelites, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you” (Dt 18:15). So Jesus here is being compared not just to Elijah but also to Moses. People, in fact, are waiting for a new Moses.
In Jesus, God visits his people. This has already been prophesied by the old priest Zechariah. While holding his son John and being filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah sings of redemption that comes with the Lord’s visitation:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people” (Lk 1:68). In the Old Testament, God would visit his people in the form of an angel or mysterious being. In the fullness of time, the divine visitation takes the form of the presence of Jesus of Nazareth who lives with the people and interacts with them. In his powerful teachings and mighty deeds, he makes the Kingdom of God present in the sorrows and vicissitudes of the people.
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