God’s unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are. He remembers we are only dust. (Psalm 103:11-14 NLT)
Corporal Annette L. Goodyear is a police officer in Maryland. When she holds up her hand to direct traffic in front of the middle school, drivers usually stop. But last year, one driver didn’t. Goodyear didn’t pursue the reckless driver, instead, she focused intently on the girl crossing the street. Surveillance cameras filmed Goodyear as she pushed Violet Watt (age 11) out of the way and Goodyear was hit by the car herself, landing hard on the pavement. Despite her rough landing, Goodyear was not injured badly. When she left the hospital she immediately went to check on Violet. The young girl was not hurt, but was too shaken up to go to school. Violet was teary-eyed, her dad was also, and so was Corporal Goodyear. They were all so thankful that both the child and the officer were alive and well.1
This true story reminds us that when we put our safety on the line for the benefit of others, we imitate the sacrificial love of Jesus who laid down His life on the Cross for His people, His sheep, His friends, His Bride (His Church).2 Christ’s sacrifice is unique, but He still calls us to be imitators of God by showing compassion.3
Last time we looked at examples of the Lord’s merciful dealings with people in the Gospels and we continue that study. Even if you know this true story, consider it again and let it motivate you to ask the Lord to show His compassion to us and to others, over and over again.
Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son
Christ and His disciples went to the village of Nain, a few miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, and a large crowd followed Him. As the Lord was coming into town, a burial procession was going out. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and others marched and mourned with her. When the Lord saw her, His heart overflowed with compassion and He said, “Don’t cry!” Then He walked over to the open coffin, touched it, and the pallbearers stopped. The Lord said, “Young man, I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus kindly gave him back to his mother. The people praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us. God has visited His people today.” And the good news about Jesus spread even wider.4
A Desperate Situation
Jesus and His followers must have been upbeat as they traveled together. This was the “Year of Popularity” for His ministry. But the funeral procession is gripped by grief and lamenting, sadder than most. This widow has already buried her husband, now her only son was taken from her. At that time and place, without a man in her family, she would likely become poor, unable to earn a living. She is grief-stricken, alone, and vulnerable. She understands too well that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”5 Other people don’t know what to say or do to comfort the mother, but Jesus does.
Christ Overflows with Compassion
When He saw her, Jesus’ heart began to break and He said, “You can stop crying. Don’t weep.” These are not just kind but hollow words; the Lord is going to take action. He turned to the dead boy and commanded him to come back to life again! Talking to a dead person must have seemed crazy to people. But it worked, of course. Jesus is the Lord and Giver of every breath for every person. This miracle certifies that Jesus really is who He claims to be. His miracles were written down in Scripture so that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His name.6 Power and unfailing love belong to God and that’s what Jesus demonstrates here.7
In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah performed a similar miracle for a widow’s son.8 Elijah prayed to the Lord for help and the boy was restored to life. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurcanus claimed that the healed boy was the young prophet Jonah. If that story is true, it means that God rescued Jonah from death at least twice, once in his youth and again as an adult when the Lord delivered him from the great fish. Notice, Jesus does not need to ask God to raise the boy. Christ raised the boy Himself because He is God, equal to God the Father and God the Spirit in power, glory, and eternity.
It reminds us of Charles Wesley’s hymn:
Christ speaks, and, listening to His voice, new life the dead receive.
The mournful broken hearts rejoice, the humble poor believe.
A Pointer to Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
This miracle was real; it happened in history. And it’s also a pointer to Christ’s own life and sacrifice. His mother Mary was a widow and Jesus was her son who was born to be crucified. She was warned of this back when Jesus was a baby. Simeon prophesied to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”9 Wicked and cruel men put Christ to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God the Father and God the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead bodily, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.10 Mary was there at Jesus’ crucifixion and also a witness of His glorious resurrection!
Christ said, For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth….I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.11
The Lord is never out of touch with our reality, beloved. Jesus has suffered human sorrow, grief, weakness, and testing. He has experienced it all, all but the sin. So let’s go to Him in prayer and ask for all the blessings that He is so ready to give. Let’s receive His abundant mercy, peace, love, and compassion. Let’s ask for and accept His help. He is so willing!12
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Notes (various Bible translations used): 1 worldnewsera.com, February 7, 2022. 2 Matt 1:21; John 10:11-18,15:13; Eph 5:25. 3 Eph 4:32; Phil 2:1-4; Col 3:12; 1 Pet 3:8. 4 Paraphrase of Luke 7:11–15. 5 1 Cor 15:26. 6 John 20:30-31. 7 Psalm 62:11-12. 8 1 Kings 17:7-24. 9 Luke 1:34-35. 10 Acts 2:23-24. 11 Matt 12:40; John 11:25-26. 12 Some of these closing thoughts adapted from Eugene Peterson.