Home > Biblical Studies, Homilies > “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

“Young man, I say to you, arise.”

October 18, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.  Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

Luke 7:11-17

The story of the Widow of Nain is one of the most powerful of the Gospel stories about Jesus. As he is about to enter a city called Nain Jesus meets some men carrying the corpse of a young man who has just died. He is told that he is the only son of a widow. Moved by the widow’s grief, Jesus raises the young man from the dead and restores him to his mother. The crowd standing round are terrified, but give glory to God.

There are three points to make about this story. nain

1) The first thing to note is the great compassion that Jesus shows by this and other miracles. Jesus does not need to show by miracles that he is the Messiah and the Son of God (though they do have this effect as well for those who have faith). He performs miracles because he feels sorry for people. The three occasions recorded in the Gospels when Jesus raises someone from the dead certainly show this. Jesus raises the young man at Nain from the dead because of his pity for the widow. He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead because he had compassion on her parents. He raised Lazarus from the dead because he was a very dear friend, and because he felt compassion for his two sisters, Martha and Mary.

It is difficult for us to realise just what effect Jesus’ action would have had on the widow of Nain. For a woman to be left with no man to support her in the agricultural communities of the Middle East in New Testament times was catastrophic. The woman in the story had lost both her husband and her only son, so that there was no one left to do the farm work. Her life would have been completely devastated. Not that the women of that time and place were weaklings. One of their jobs was to fetch water from the well, which often involved carrying huge pitchers of water considerable distances. But the back-breaking farm work, involving long hours in the fields, was definitely a man’s job. In any case, the widow could not have inherited the land. The loss of her only son would have left her dependent on the charity of more distant relatives and neighbours. So she was indeed greatly in need of Jesus’ compassion.

2) This story when combined with the two other Gospel stories about Jesus raising people from the dead illustrates Jesus’ absolute power over death. When he raised Jairus’ daughter she had only just died. She was still on her death bed. The son of the widow of Nain had been dead some time and was being carried to the grave. Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, and no doubt his body had already started to decompose. Yet Jesus raised him too! So however long a person has been dead Jesus can raise him. That is important for us, because besides physical death there is also spiritual death.  But, just as our Lord Jesus Christ can raise people to physical life however long they have been dead, so he can restore us to spiritual life however spiritually dead we may be. We have only to want to be restored. Jesus can save the worst of sinners – anyone who wants to be raised from spiritual death.

3) Jesus raised the young man because he had compassion on the widow, his mother. The wife of Jairus joins her tears to those of her husband. Lazarus is Jesus’ very dear friend, but he is especially moved by the grief of the sisters, Martha and Mary. We find women are also very much involved in stories about God raising people from the dead that are found outside the Gospels. (Jesus raises people from the dead because he is God. It is important to remember that it is always God who raises people from the dead. If there is a saint or a prophet involved, he is only the channel). In the Acts of the Apostles God raises Dorcas from the dead at the request of St Peter, who is moved by the grief of the group of widows. In the Old Testament God raises a widow’s son at the request of Elijah, who is moved by the mother’s tears. At the request of Elishah, God raised from the dead the son of the Shumamite woman who had asked Elishah to help her. These facts are important for us too. They remind us that women as well as men have a part to play in God’s scheme for salvation. In one of the prayers at the Sixth Hour we ask the Mother of God to intercede with Jesus for us, “for the prayer of a Mother availeth much to the goodwill of the Lord.”


Apart from this and our sympathy, we feel ourselves incapable of offe ring anything else to those who are mourning. The power of death has so outstripped our strength that we crawl around like insects in its shadow; and as we heap earth over a dead body, we feel that we are heaping earth over a part of ourselves in the deathly darkness of the grave. The Lord does not say “Weep not!” to the woman in order to show that we should not weep for the dead. He Himself wept for Lazarus (John 11:35); He wept in advance of many who would later suffer in the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44); and lastly, He praised and blessed those who weep, “for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Nothing so calms and cleanses a man as tear. In the Orthodox methodology of salvation, tears are among the first means of cleansing the soul, heart and mind. Not only should we weep over the dead, but also over the living, and especially over ourselves, as the Lord recommended to the women of Jerusalem: “Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children” (Luke 23:28). There is, though, a difference between tears and tears. The Apostle Paul commands the Thessalonians that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13), like the pagans and the godless, for they mourn their dead as utterly lost. Christians must mourn the dead – not as lost but as sinners, and their mourning must therefore be conjoined with prayer to God that He will forgive the sins of the departed and lead them, by His mercy, to the heavenly Kingdom. Because of his sins, a Christian must mourn and weep also for himself—and the more often the better; not as those who have no faith and hope, but, on the contrary, specifically because he has faith in the living God and hope in God’s mercy and in eternal life.

St. Nikolai Velimirović

Kontakion 2

As when seeing the widow weeping bitterly, O Lord, Thou wast moved with pity, and didst raise her son from the dead as he was being carried to burial, likewise have pity on me, O Lover of men, and raise my soul, deadened by sins, as I cry, Alleluia!

Akathist to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ

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Categories: Biblical Studies, Homilies
  1. October 18, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Wonderful idea to make a Christian Orthodox blog in English! Congratulation!!!

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