Thursday, March 13, 2014


No one asked for his help. No one invited his input. He intruded on their grief.

Jesus and his disciples and a whole other bunch of tag-a-longs came upon the gate of a city just as a funeral procession was passing by. The whole town seemed to be in mourning for the young man who had died, but one woman's wails pierced through the other sounds of sadness. No mother should live to bury her son. This mother was a widow. Husband-less, and now child-less, her future was bleak, for there was no one left to provider for her needs. Her son's death may have well been her own.

Yet, if I know anything about a mother's heart, this woman was not weeping over a loss of means, she was grieving a loss of love--the greatest poverty of all.

The disciples stood by solemnly, accepting the finality of the situation. After all the guy was dead. There was nothing left to do but dig a grave and sing Amazing Grace. 

In his ministry up to this point Jesus had healed paralytics and lepers. He'd given sight to the blind. He'd exorcised demons. Everywhere he went, Jesus was being asked to do miracles. But here in the town called Nain, everyone simply bowed their heads, respecting the dead. No one asked Jesus to do anything because they knew that nothing could be done. Healing is one thing. Dead is dead.

As the crowd processed, propelled by grief, Jesus approached, compelled by compassion.

He goes to the mother, a woman who was probably about my age, and he says, "Don't cry."

Pause. Time out! As a frequent crier, nothing irritates me more than the words, "Don't cry!" Well meaning people who often fail to accurately assess the source of my tears typically say, "Don't cry!" because my weeping makes them uncomfortable. They prefer a stiff upper lip. But Jesus, a man acquainted with grief, was not put off by the woman's tears. Tears are undeniably appropriate in the eyes of a mother on the way to bury her son. His words are not a reproach, they were a reason to hope.

Hope for what? Dead is dead.

As the mourning mother wipes her tears, Jesus stops the processional--the death march halts and the dirge dies down. In an awkward stillness, Jesus speaks to a dead man.

"Young man, get up."

I love how Jesus doesn't mince words. But I wonder what the disciples were thinking, or the crowd, or the mom. Was there a holy hush? a pregnant pause? or a huff of disbelief?

The dead man got up and started talking, and Jesus gave him to his mother, whose eyes were surely brimming with fresh tears.

Dead is not dead. Not for Jesus.

Oh, but I forget. So I pile my disappointments and dire circumstances up on a bier and march them toward their graves. I don't bother to cry out for help. Smug in my sadness, I cling to the finality of death.

Uninvited, the healer comes. Compassion fuels his efforts still today. He dries our tears, and with the power of his word, he brings the dead to life. 

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