Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As 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. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. (Luke 7:11-17)
It is a touching and yet frightful scene that Luke presents us in this passage. And surely, if we were into such things we might even say that it has something that is worthy of the big screen. Two large crowds approaching one another, one coming from the town with the words of death on their lips, singing songs of lament over the son of a widow. The other crowd, walking towards the town where death has taken place, is led by someone who many believe might just be the prophet foretold by Moses (Deut. 18:15). It is a meeting worthy of notice, a showdown worthy of an aerial shot that can be captured by the camera.
And yet, while this is no West Side Story where the conflicts very often come to a climax with a song, it is in fact the Word that is on display here. After all what can Jesus do in the face of death? The Old Testament states that anyone who touches a corpse will become unclean for seven days (Num. 19:11). The power of God’s prophets though are well known to the Jews, and if Jesus is who they think He is then perhaps they are in for quite the spectacle. Elijah, that great prophet, handled a corpse as he pleaded with God to restore life to a dead boy (1 Kings 17:20), but Jesus, with a mere touch from His hand and a word from His mouth shows everyone that He far greater than Elijah still. When Elijah succeeded after many prayers to bring the breath of life back to the boy, he was praised by the child’s mother for having the Word of God in his mouth. No such praise is needed of Jesus, although they do recognize Him as a prophet. No, the Word will instead be in the man brought back to life, and oh how I would love to know what those words would have been.