Laetare Thursday 2017
St. Luke 7:11-16
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The widow in Nain was a woman of sorrows, deprived of her husband, and deprived of her young son, her only son. As St. Luke presents it, she stands in the midst of a considerable crowd, but she stands alone. There is no mention of sisters or cousins or parents, nor of any friends. This woman has no one left. She is defined by what she has lost. She is a widow and the mother of a dead son.
The word “crowd” is a loaded word in the Gospels. It hints at malice, but mostly the crowds are ignorant and fickle. Sometimes the crowd presses in on Jesus and even when they glorify God in response to one of His miracles, as they do at this end of this account, there is a vague oppression in it. They want to hear Jesus and they want miracles, but they seem to want them on their own terms. At various times, it is reported that some in the crowd believe in Jesus, even that He is the Messiah, and yet they are not His disciples. Nonetheless, or maybe because of their ignorance, the Lord has compassion on the crowds. He desires to teach them even as He desires at times to escape them.
Here, however, the Man of Sorrows has eyes, it seems, only for the woman of sorrows. Luke sees the crowd. It is considerable. Jesus sees the woman and her deep sorrow. He would not have her be alone. He has come to be with her. He has compassion on her. That pronoun should be noted. He has compassion on “her,” single, 3rd person, feminine. He sees her. His heart breaks for her. He loves her. And He says to her: “Weep no more.” In a sense, for Jesus, it as though there is only her.
He doesn’t speak to the pallbearers. He simply touches the bier and they freeze in place. They take not one more step toward the grave. Then He announces to the dead boy what He is doing, “Young man, I say to you: rise.” He sits up and speaks, not to the Physician who has undone death, but he speaks, says Luke, to her.
- Luke doesn’t actually say that. He simply says that the boy begins to speak. He doesn’t tell us what the boy says or whom he addresses. It could well be that his first words are addressed to Jesus or he could just have started in with songs of praise and descriptions of heaven. But I think, having been brought back not for his own need or even for his own particular good but for hers, upon whom the Lord had compassion, that the boy fulfills his duty and his purpose and speaks to her. His immediate and first priority is to comfort her, his mother, and what he says is, “Weep no more, Mother, for I am not dead and I never was.”
I do not want you to be uninformed and ignorant, brethren, about those who have fallen asleep, like the crowd in Nain, wailing and carrying on as though there were no hope, as though your sorrows were unknown to God and you were lost in the crowd, unnoticed. Jesus died and rose again. He has borne your sorrows and our punishments, as though there was only you. His wounds have healed you of your sins and reconciled you to Him. Because of this, by this, through Jesus, God brings to Himself those who have fallen asleep – your loved ones who have departed in the faith and eventually you. Those who believed in Jesus while alive still believe in Him and they are not dead. Comfort one another with these words: Jesus died and rose again. God brings to Himself through Jesus those who have fallen asleep.
Weep no more, Mother, for I am not dead, and I never was. Jesus lives. He was on the cross for three painful hours, yet He is alive for ever. The pallbearers are stopped in their tracks. The stone is rolled away. I am not dead, I never was, and I never will be. Jesus, the One who had compassion on her, lives.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.