Jesus in the midst of trouble

Jesus in the Midst of Trouble: The Widow of Nain

Luke 7.11-17

I should wear a badge that says “of a sensitive disposition”, because I have a terrible aversion to violence and injury in other people. This had led me into some predicaments, needing stitches to my head after passing out in a violent film at the cinema, and being  taken for dead in Transylvania!

I was on an exchange trip from college at Mirfield to learn about the Romanian Orthodox Church. Having been to the most wonderful service at Sibiu Cathedral one of our party tripped over a sign on the pavement, as I went to help him up, we realized that he had broken his ankle. As I thought of the pain he was in, my legs buckled and I went out like a light. My face went the colour of the pavement. When another fellow student who used to be a nurse could not find a pulse he decided that I had suffered a cardiac arrest and banged me on the chest very hard, completely unbeknown to me. (I later found out that this could have proved fatal). I came to and when the ambulance came they put me on board thinking I was the reason for the call.  Eventually my injured colleague was loaded on too, and how I got through  that ambulance ride with him shouting with pain, in his Yorkshire accent “It’s dangling, it’s dangling,” I do not know.

I expect that in the time of Elijah and Jesus many people were taken for dead when that was not the case. In Nain, a town just a few miles from Nazareth, it is for real.  

The healing that Jesus performs is unusual, because  usually the person in need of healing seeks Jesus out, is taken to him or asks to be healed. It is faith that helps the sick  achieve their miraculous cure.But here Jesus is passing by and he notices this funeral procession, and especially he takes note of the widow who has lost not just her son, but her means of survival,  she has lost both breadwinners, her husband and her son. And Luke says he had compassion for her, not for the son, but for the mother. His concern was to give her back what she needed most badly, her one and only son, saving her from the threat of destitution.

The healing of the widow’s son is further proof of the divinity of Christ. He did not perform the miracles so that people might see that he was God, he healed the sick because it was what he could do, and time and again Jesus was moved with compassion to heal the sick and raise them up.

We believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, that the Jesus who walked the earth and healed the sick is the same Jesus who rose again and is now in heaven with God the Father. We may ask, if he raised the son of the Widow of Nain why did he not save my son, my daughter, my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, my friend?  Why, when I prayed so hard did he not save them?  I have prayed hard for friends and I have known miraculous cures that defy explanation. I have also known many good people who have died too young when what was asked for did not happen.

With God all things are possible, and nothing is impossible, but that does not mean that all things will turn out as we expect. Many holy people have screamed at God. He is big enough to take it, and Christ himself cried out in agony on the cross, he did not get down from it, but went through what he had to go through.

We might well question, Bishop Tom Wright in his ocmmentary on this passage (In Luke for Everyone) invites us to approach this event from another perspective. He says to picture yourself there in that funeral procession with all the weeping and wailing and commotion, and see Jesus appear and intervene. Then imagine a scene in your own life, an event that you are dreading in the near or distant future. Imagine the emotions and feelings you would experience, how it would feel to be in the middle of it: the sorrow, the bitterness, the anger, the frustration, the helplessness.

Then watch as Jesus comes to you in the middle of it. Let him approach and think what he would say to you.  He may not do what you want or say what you would expect, but if his presence is there with you then that is what you most need. Once you can see Jesus there in the middle of what you fear, you will be able to pass through it no matter how awful or impossible the situation might appear. Just like the Widow of Nain.


Fr Adrian Ling