The story of the widow of Nain whose son Jesus raised from the dead, is only told in the gospel of Luke. In Luke’s account, this was the first time a person had been raised from the dead. The story of the widow’s son is a powerful reminder that our God can do anything.
Who Was the Widow of Nain?
The Bible doesn’t give a lot of information about the widow of Nain. We know she was widowed, that she had a child who died, and that Jesus raised her son from the dead. Yet this Bible story is ripe with nuggets about the character of God.
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What Happened in Nain in the Bible?
The city of Nain is only referenced once in the Bible. The day after Jesus healed the centurion’s servant in Capernaum, he went to the city of Nain. As he approached the gates of the city, He saw a funeral procession.
Jesus was moved to compassion and so He approached the funeral procession and spoke to the dead man. Since the story is so short, let’s include it here.
Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her.
When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:11-15 NLT
Who is the widow’s son?
There are a few things you should know about the widow of Nain’s son. Though we don’t know anything about him except that he was dead and brought back to life by Jesus, the original language has some more clues about this man’s story.
Luke tells us that the dead man was the only son of his mother. The word translated as only in that passage is the Greek word monogenḗs, ( pronounced mon-og-en-ace’). Monogenḗs means only-born, or only begotten child. That is the same word used to describe Jesus’ connection to God. Jesus is God’s monogenḗs–only begotten son.
Monogenḗs has a special meaning in the Bible. It denotes a unique relationship between parent and child, a special connection.
When Jesus spoke to the young man, the word He used was the Greek word neanískos, (pronounced neh-an-is’-kos). Neanískos was used to refer to a youth under forty. We can assume then, that the widow’s son would have been at an age to be of great help to his mother.
Lessons from the Widow of Nain
What was it about this only son of the widow of Nain that stirred Jesus’ compassion? Did He see shades of Himself in her story? The Bible doesn’t say.
What it does says is that Jesus spoke to the widow, touched the coffin, and spoke to the young man, raising him from the dead. And this interaction between Jesus and the widow of Nain has a number of lessons for us today.
1. God has compassion on us.
This is by no means the first time in Scripture that God has been moved to compassion for His people. The book of Matthew, for example, is rife with examples of the compassion of Christ. But God’s compassion for His people is not a New Testament thing. Since the first moment sin entered the Garden of Eden, God has had compassion on His people and His mercy remains the same (Lamentations 3:22-24).
2. God seeks to be near His people.
When Jesus saw the widow of Nain following her son’s funeral bier, He could have kept going about His business. After all, He and His father had put plans in place for the care of the widow.
You may read Deuteronomy 15:7-11 and Deuteronomy 24:17-21 to learn more about those regulations. Jesus could have walked away and left the care of the childless widow to those in her community. Instead, He stopped what He was doing to offer her a word of comfort.
“Don’t cry,” He said. But He didn’t end the conversation there. He took specific actions to stop her tears, or to at least turn them into happy ones. He spoke life to the widow’s son and raised him from the dead.
3. God would move heaven and earth for us.
In this version of Reckless Love, Cory Ashbury says the way God loves us is reckless in the sense that “He’s completely unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety comfort and well-being” when it comes to loving us (skip to 5:35 if you just want to hear the story).
We see some of that unconcern for Himself in this story. Jesus wanted to impact the widow of Nain’s life in a positive way and He was willing to risk ceremonial uncleanness to do so. According to Mosaic Law, anyone who touched a dead body would be unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11-13). Being unclean meant they would not be able to enter the tabernacle which was a pretty big deal at the time.
But here was Jesus, willing to risk being ceremonially unclean for this widow of Nain. He was not concerned that His actions could lead to Him not being allowed into the Temple. He was concerned with the widow of Nain and her need.
Raising of the Widow’s Son: Reflection
Before Jesus showed up for the widow of Nain, things looked bleak. As a widow, she would have been dependent on her children to take care of her. As we know from this biblical account, she only had child and he was dead. Now the widow of Nain had no one to count on.
In order to support herself, she would have to find someone’s field to glean in much as Ruth did when she and Naomi returned to Bethlehem. Since we don’t know how old the widow of Nain was, we don’t know how difficult that activity would have proven to be for her.
Thankfully, she didn’t have to figure out how she would support herself because Jesus inserted Himself into her story. My friend, God is willing to be a part of your story, are you willing to let Him?
As people living in Western culture, we’re taught to be self-dependent, not to depend on anyone. Unfortunately, this attitude also permeates our relationship with God. We refuse to give Him control of our lives thinking we can handle anything that comes our way.
That is a lie from the enemy who wants to cut you off from your greatest source of help. God is the only being who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present. He knows what you need. Cast your cares on Him today because He cares for you.
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