When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

The King Stops a Funeral

You remember that Nazareth was in the midst of the hills, and that on the south lay a wide plain. From the Nazareth heights, across the plain, one could see the white houses of a village called Nain, built on a hillside. In this village there lived a poor widow with her only son. One day this son, his mother's consolation and hope and support, fell sick and died. It was very sad, and everybody in the village was full of sympathy for the mother, so that when the day came for the funeral there was a great company of people to join their tears with hers.

The word Nain means "pleasant;" and pleasant it was, indeed, amidst the trees, looking out north and east and west toward the high mountains, and even having a glimpse, when the sun was shining, of the blue sea. But the poor mother did not look at the view, nor did she know whether the sky above her head was black or white. Everything was dark before her eyes.

A rough, steep path led up the hill to the village. And down this path came the funeral procession: first mourning women making a loud lamentation, then young men carrying the body on a wide flat board, then the mother, and after her the people of the town. But as they started to go down, another and very different company started to go up. There was quite a crowd of these people, some from Capernaum, some from the country round about, fishermen and farmers in rough clothes, and among them one who was dressed as they were, but to whom they all gave reverence. And as they went he talked, while they all listened eagerly. And there they met, on the side of the hill, in the middle of the rocky path,—the procession of mourners and he who came, as he said, to bind up the broken-hearted. So our Lord saw the poor mother, and was very sorry. And immediately he said what we all say when we see any one crying. He said, "Don't cry;" only, when we say that, our friends go on crying just the same, and we cannot do anything except show our sympathy. When our Lord said, "Don't cry," he knew how to change tears into smiles. For he put out his hand and touched the bier; he touched the board on which the dead man lay. And they who bare him stood still. And the mother stopped in her sad journey, and looked up to see what it all meant, and the people of the two companies crowded around. And our Lord said, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise." And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. What did he say? Did he finish some sentence which death had suddenly interrupted? Or did he greet his mother as one who comes back from a strange journey? Or was his first word a thanksgiving to the one who had thus enabled him to go on caring for his mother? It is all unknown to us. It is all a mystery; both the words which he spoke, and the power which made him able to speak.

jesus raising the widow of nain's son


But this we know: that our Lord cared. Sometimes death comes in such a way that it seems as if God does not care; when the young and strong, who are so much loved and so much needed, are taken away. Then we may remember that day at Nain. God does not stop the funeral, but he cares. He is sorry for those who mourn. For he who came up the hill at Nain was in God, and God in him; and when we know him, we know God, as he said. And this, too, we know: that every morning God raises us from the death of sleep to the light of a new day; every morning he gives us back our life.

What did the young man of Nain do with his new life? Our Lord told him what to do with it, for he delivered him to his mother. It was like that day on the cross when he said, "Son, behold thy mother." He meant that the young man was to be a good son, obedient and loving, better than he had ever been before.

So the procession turned straight about, and all the mourning women stopped their crying and wiped their eyes; and the sky overhead was blue, with the sun shining in the midst of it; and the people glorified God, some saying, "A great prophet is risen up among us," others, "God hath visited his people;" and the mother and her son walked side by side, and Jesus was with them.