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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 7:11–17

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. (NRSV)

When we read this passage, it is tempting to focus on the fact that Jesus raises a man presumed to be dead and was headed to his burial. The story is certainly dramatic: Jesus and his followers, fresh from Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s servant, meet a funeral procession at the gates of the town. The deceased is his mother’s only son and her sole support, as his mother is a widow. Jesus speaks to the man and the man sits up, risen from the dead. It is truly a miracle.

The promise of this passage, though, is not that God will raise our loved ones from the dead. Rather, the promise of this passage has to do with God’s compassion for us. Luke tells this story (which does not appear in the other Gospels) to show Jesus’ compassion for the grieving widow. Unlike others in the Bible who seek assistance from Jesus, the widow in this story is so caught up in grief over her loss and over the uncertainty of her future that she does not ask Jesus for help. Moved by compassion, Jesus reaches out to her before she says anything at all. He tells her not to weep and restores her son to her.

But what does that mean in the context of a world where we sometimes feel surrounded by loss and violence? The promise of this passage is that God is aware of our needs before we even reach out to him. He sees our situation, understands our grief, and promises us his grace, his support, and his love. And he promises to create a better world for us as we seek to do his will here on earth. While we may not receive the immediate relief that Jesus provided for that widow at the gates of Nain, we have God’s presence, compassion, and love, always.

Dear Lord, help us to remember your promise of compassion in a world where many are suffering and whose problems can seem to overwhelm us. Remind us of your abiding love for us and all your people, and help us as we seek to spread your love in this world. Amen.

Written by Julie Crabtree, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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