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Luke 7:11-17 – A Widow’s Son Returned to Life

Summary

Jesus travels to Nain, where his compassion for a grieving widow leads him to return her only son to life.

Analysis

Many aspects of this story direct readers' attention to the widow. Without a husband or any sons, she likely faces a dangerous and vulnerable future, because in her culture women usually relied upon male relatives for their social and economic well-being. In restoring her son, Jesus not only soothes her grief, he also restores her chances of surviving within society. There is no indication that the miracle has anything to do with anyone's faith; Jesus is motivated simply by compassion for a widow facing a future of jeopardy.

Luke clearly crafts this episode to resemble the story of Elijah and the widow in Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:8-24. Elijah prays to God for this widow's dead son to return to life, while Jesus effects the miracle in Nain on his own. Both miracle stories conclude with the statement, "He [the miracle-worker] gave him [the son] to his mother." These similarities are not lost on the crowd that witnesses Jesus' miracle outside of Nain's city gate, as people proclaim Jesus to be a "great prophet" in 7:16. Their statement is not wrong, for Luke often emphasizes Jesus' similarities to the prophets in Israel's history. In Acts 3:22, Peter even identifies Jesus as the "prophet like Moses" spoken about in Deuteronomy 18:15.

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son at Nain

11 Soon afterwards* he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12As 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. 13When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ 14Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ 15The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus* gave him to his mother. 16Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favourably on his people!’ 17This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

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10 February 2011

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