The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50
4. The dawning of the kingdom in the acts of Messiah, 6:12-7:50
iv] An escape from death - the kingdom's promise. 7:11-17Synopsis
In this passage Luke records the raising of the widow's son, a miracle which takes place at Nain, a village located a few kilometers south of Nazareth overlooking the valley of Jezreel. As Jesus approaches the village, he and his disciples came across a funeral procession. It was bad enough that a mother's son had died, but in this case the woman was a widow. She now had no one to care for her in her old age. In the death of the son there was the death of the family line and inevitably her own death. Without being asked and without any demonstration of faith on the part of the woman, Jesus acts to bring to life the dead son. Both compassion and power are demonstrated in Jesus' act of kindness.
The Resurrection of the Widow's Son teaches that the dawning kingdom of God means nothing less than deliverance from death itself.
i] Context: See 6:12-16. The raising of the widow's son in Nain serves as the fourth episode of the fourth section of Luke's gospel, The dawning of the kingdom in the acts of Messiah, 6:12-7:50.
ii] Structure: This passage, The raising of the widow's son, presents as follows:
A funeral in Nain, v11-12;
Jesus' healing, v13-15;
Response of the crowd, v16;
News spreads abroad, v17.
When we come to interpret and apply a miracle story like the raising of the widow's son, we can, of course, approach the task in a number of ways. We may take the view that the incident simply teaches us about the person of Jesus. So, in raising the dead Jesus demonstrates his divinity, along with his love toward broken humanity. We can interpret the incident literally, arguing that since Jesus raised the dead then his disciples can do the same (as long as their faith is up to it!!!!). We can take the "moral" line; Jesus demonstrates in this incident his care and consideration for the needy and we should do the same. We may even choose to go for a "spiritual" interpretation; since Jesus gave new life to this young man so he will give new life to us.
Although at times cumbersome, the interpretation of gospel stories is best undertaken by the application of Biblical theology. The incident before us reveals the mission of Messiah as he sets out, as corporate Israel, to inaugurate the kingdom of God. The inauguration of the kingdom of God, in the historic nation of Israel, initially came about by the mighty and powerful intervention of God in the release of his people from their slavery in Egypt. Yet, as the prophets proclaimed, this imperfect shadow but imaged a future perfect reality. The kingdom is finally realized in the person of Jesus - in his words and his deeds. Yet, the kingdom's realization has little to do with the popular expectation of the people of Israel. They see its coming in the terms of political release and physical blessings. The dawning of the kingdom of God, inaugurated in the mission of Jesus the Messiah, achieves a far grander release. It is release from the captivity of eternal death. The unfolding purpose of the kingdom of God is to bring life eternal, a purpose revealed in the release from death of a widow's son, a purpose realized in the gift of eternal life. The extent of this release from death, this life eternal, moves beyond our present domain to the ends of the cosmos.
Sadly, Jesus' own countryman miss the significance of the miracle. The crowd sees but a prophet, not a Messiah; they fail to recognize the one who inaugurates the coming of the kingdom of God. Jesus is seen as someone who raises the widow's son in like manner to Elijah of old. This confusion continues to spread and prompts, in the next incident, the question by John the Baptist, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 7:11
The raising of the widow's son, v11-17. i] A funeral in Nain, v11-12: Luke happily links the raising of the widow's son with the previous miracle story, the healing of the centurion's slave, although they are probably not related in time. As Jesus came near to the village, with his disciples and a large group of "sight-seers", he came upon a procession for the burial of a widow's only son. Probably the whole village is in the procession as it headed toward the local cemetery. As was typical of the time, the man was probably wrapped in a linen cloth and carried on a plank of wood, a bier, a kind of stretcher.
Note the similarities with 1Kings 17:8-24, and with Peter's raising of Dorcas in Acts. The evident power of God in these parallel miracles witnesses the realization (inauguration?) of the kingdom of God, not the identification of Jesus or Peter as prophets like Elijah.
kai egeneto (ginomai) aor. "-" - it happened [in the subsequent time]. Often used to introduce a new literary unit; "and it came to pass the day after", AV.
en tw/ eJxhV "soon afterward" - on the next. Temporal use of the preposition en. When used with the feminine article, the more specific "on the next day" is intended, but with the masculine article, as here, a more general "afterward." A feminine articled variant does exist, but the more indefinite reading is probably intended, so "thereafter", "afterward", as NIV. See Metzger.
kaloumenhn (kalew) pres. pas. part. "[a town] called" - being called. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "town".
Nain "Nain" - A village related to Nazareth and Capernaum, probably originally sited near the modern village of Nein, although the actual site is still open to speculation.
suneporeuonto (sumporeuomai) imperf. "went along with" - were travelling along with. The imperfect is used to express the accompanying circumstance of Jesus going (aor. "went") to Nain.
autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after a sun prefix verb.
wJV "as" - Temporal, rather than comparative, use of this conjunction; introducing a temporal clause.
hggisen (eggizw) aor. + dat. "approached" - came near to. "Just as he drew near the gate of the town", Cassirer.
thV polewV (iV ewV) gen. "the town" - [the gate] of the town. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
th/ pulh/ (h) dat. "gate" - Dative of direct object after the verb "came near to." Usually a defensive gate, but in a small village, just the entrance to the village, possibly a decorative entrance.
kai "-" - and. Untranslated; introducing the apodosis of the first clause; "as he approached ...., then, a dead person ...."
exekomizeto (ekkomizw) imperf. pas. "was being carried out" - The imperfect tense is durative, the procession was in progress. A technical term for carrying a dead body, used once only in NT.
teqnhkwV (qnhskw) perf. part. "a dead person" - having died. The participle serves as an indefinite substantive, as NIV.
monogenhV adj. "the only [son]" - Used by Luke for an only child; "he had been his mother's only son", Barclay.
th/ mhtri (hr troV) dat. "of his mother" - The dative is adverbial, reference/respect; "the only son with respect to the mother" = "his mother's only son."
iJkanoV adj. "a large [crowd]" - sufficient, able, worthy. Here with a quantitative sense; "many people from the town were walking along with her", CEV.
thV polewV (iV ewV) gen. "from the town" - The genitive is ablative, expressing source/origin, as NIV.
sun + dat. "with [her]" - Expressing association.
ii] The healing, v13-15: Luke, giving Jesus his authoritative title, "the Lord", makes a point of noting Jesus' driving motive, his compassion, along with his authoritative word of command, "do not go on weeping." Halting the procession with a touch of his hand on the stretcher, Jesus commands the widow's son to wake up. Pulling himself up on the stretcher, as if waking up in his bed, the young man begins speaking. Jesus then presents him to his mother.
idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when [the Lord] saw" - having seen. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV.
oJ kurioV (oV) "the Lord" - This authoritative title for Jesus is particularly used of him after the resurrection. Here Luke is recounting a resurrection story and so, looking back, gives Jesus the name that is above all names.
esplagcnisqh (splagcnizomai) aor. pas. "his heart went out [to her]" - he had compassion [upon her]. This motive is ascribed to Jesus on a number of occasions; "he felt sorry for her", NJB.
ep (epi) + dat. "to" - upon, over, on. Spacial. Usually with the accusative.
mh + pres. imp. "Don't [cry]" - This negation, used with the present imperative, expresses a command to cease an action already in progress., "stop crying", "do not go on weeping", Plummer.
proselqwn (prosercomai) aor. part. "then he went up" - having approached, come to. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV, or just attendant circumstance; "and he went up and touched the bier."
hJyato (aJptw) aor. "touched" - he touched. An important observation, since by touching the bier Jesus has made himself ritually unclean. Nolland and Plummer suggest that the gesture serves to stop the procession. "Laid his hand on the bier", REB.
thV sorou (oV) gen. "the coffin / bier" - the bier. Genitive of direct object after the verb aJptw, "touch". Once only use in the NT. Properly a plank of wood on which the body is laid, wrapped in a linen cloth. "He went up and touched the bier", NJB; "stretcher", CEV.
oiJ ... bastazonteV (bastazw) pres. part. "those carrying" - the ones carrying. The participle serves as a substantive. "The bearers", Barclay.
soi dat. pro. "[I say] to you" - Dative of indirect object. The position is emphatic - "to you I say."
legw "I say" - Virtually "I command."
egerqhti (egeirw) aor. pas. imp. "get up" - be raised up. The passive is being used with active force and so this is not a resurrection event as such. As in the sense of calling someone back from the dead, thus Phillips "wake up."
Note Elijah's actions of raising the widow's son as compared to Jesus' word of command, cf. 1Kings 17:21. See also for Elisha, 2Kings 4:35.
oJ nekroV adj. "the dead man" - Adjective used as a substantive.
anekaqisen (anakaqizw) aor. "sat up" - The word is only used here and in Acts, in both cases of a person restored to life and therefore particularly of a sick person sitting up in bed.
laleiV (lalew) pres. inf. "[began] to talk" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "began". The talking indicates the healing is complete.
edwken (didwmi) aor. "Jesus gave [him] back" - he gave [him]. cf. parallel "he gave him to his mother", 1Kings 17:23. "Jesus presented him to his mother", Peterson.
th/ mhtri (h roV) dat. "to [his] mother" - Dative of indirect object.
iii] The response of the crowd, v16: Given the cues in this miracle story, it is no wonder the crowd thinks they have a new Elijah type with them. Even John the Baptist is confused, cf. 7:18-35. Yet, the miracle is actually a messianic sign for those with eyes to see. "Messiah's mission now is revealed as one that will deliver Israel, not from the Romans, but from the captivity of death", Ellis.
elaben (lambanw) aor. "they were [all] filled" - [fear] took, seized [all]. The classic response to messianic signs - fear and amazement takes hold. "They were all awestruck", Barclay.
edoxazon (doxazw) imperf. "praised" - they were glorifying, praising. The imperfect is possibly inceptive, "they began to praise God", Williams; but a durative sense may also be intended where the "awe and respect", Bock (= "fear"), prompts ongoing praise.
oJti "-" - Here twice used to introduce a dependent statement of direct speech, expressing what the people said, although they may be causal, esp. the second; "not the content of the praise but the reason for it", TH.
megaV hgerqh "a great prophet" - The absence of the article indicates that the crowd is not saying that Jesus is the long awaited revived Elijah; nor is their declaration messianic. The people aren't quite sure who Jesus is.
hgerqh (egairw) aor. pas. "has appeared" - was raised up. The passive possibly indicating a recognition of divine action in Jesus' ministry in the village.
en + dat. "among" - in. Here expressing association; "a great prophet is here with us", CEV.
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "they said" - saying. Attendance circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they were glorifying"; "they glorified God and said."
epeskoyato (episkeptomai) aor. "has come to help" - has come to visit. Used of God's visitations to his people, usually with the consequence of blessing - care, salvation. So NIV. "God has come in kindness to his people", Barclay; "God is back, looking to the needs of his people", Thompson.
iv] The news spreads abroad, v17: The news of God's visitation through a prophet spreads far and wide. As a consequence, the news reaches John the Baptist in prison. John had thought that Jesus was the messiah, not just a prophet. Could the Baptist be mistaken?
oJ logoV outoV "the news" - this report. Possibly generally, "this story about the healing of the widow's son", but probably more specifically the opinion that a prophet was again present in Israel. "And this view of him", NJB.
peri + gen. "about [Jesus]" - concerning [him]. Expressing reference / respect; "this report with respect to Jesus."
exhlqen (exercomai) aor. "spread" - went out. "The news of him (concerning Jesus the Saviour), and of this event, filled every city, village, and home in Judea", Junkins.
en + dat. "throughout" - in [all Judea and the surrounding countryside]. Expressing space/sphere, here with the sense "into". "Judea", probably taking a regional sense and therefore including Galilee, so "Palestine". The second clause, Plummer suggests, takes on an augmented force, "and what is more, in the region round about." The point being that John the Baptist hears of the "prophet" at work and, as a consequence, is confused.