Jesus was Deeply Moved by a Widow and Her Dead Son

Jesus was Deeply Moved by a Widow and Her Dead Son

Jesus was Deeply Moved by a Widow and Her Dead Son.

“Jesus went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a large crowd went along with Him. As He approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her (splagchnizomai) and He said to her, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” (John 7:11-15).

splagchnizomai  (splawnk – NITZ – oh – mi). Don’t let that strange Greek word put you off. It turns out to be one of the most meaningful ideas in the gospels, and it describes Jesus to a T. Most Bible versions translate this word to mean “moved with compassion.” But somehow that translation doesn’t quite do it justice. One might even say it doesn’t go deep enough. The literal meaning of this word is “to have one’s bowels yearn,” which makes sense since the root word for it is “intestines.” Since the innermost organs were considered at that time to be the seat of human emotions, and since love is the emotion being implied, splagchnzomai could be understood as an experience in which true compassion has its beginnings from down deep in the gut. This word points to an intense emotional experience that is felt in the pit of one’s stomach. This profound compassion is not superficial by any means, not casual, not distant. This compassion is immediate and so deeply felt that it demands action. This compassion is so visceral that it must find an outlet, a target, in doing something physical and helpful.

As we deepen our union with Christ, as we live into His reality and character, we also live into His compassion, into being deeply moved to our very innards. As theologian Jeff McSwain once said, “If we truly are ‘in Christ,’ then just as we’ve been given the mind of Christ, we’ve also been given the ‘gut’ of Christ.” Every Christian, being a little Christ, will live into the possession of the sensitive gut of Jesus.

According to the Law of Moses, to touch something associated with death brought ceremonial defilement. If one touched a corpse, one had to go through a purification process to become clean again and restored to fellowship under the Law. Jesus once again was walking through the towns and villages, and He sees a dead man being carried out through the outer gate of Nain for burial outside the town. The coffins then were pretty much open stretchers, a litter with the dead person laying on top where everyone could see him. This particular dead man was a widow’s only son, her only means of support. She would now have to rely on people in the village or perhaps extended family to provide what she needed to survive. If that didn’t work, she would have to resort to begging for her food and living on the streets. Jesus knew all of this, and He “had compassion” on her and her predicament. The Greek word here means that Jesus felt this situation deeply, He was deeply moved.  Jesus’ grief for this widow went all the way to His gut, His deep innards, and He felt it in the pit of His stomach.

Jesus witnessed all this and immediately walked straight to the coffin and touched it while the pallbearers stopped and wondered Jesus was doing. Everyone knew that those who were carrying the coffin, and now Jesus, and everyone else who either touched the dead son or the coffin would have to be declared unclean for seven days, and then go through the purification process in the ritual baths and the priest. Jesus was now considered unclean in the eyes of the religious establishment, but that didn’t stop Him. At the same time He was touching the coffin, Jesus directed the dead man to get up, and he did. He even started talking as soon as he was raised back to life. I wish that had been recorded. I wonder what he said? The people witnessing this resurrection were of course astounded, and they felt the reverent fear of God. They glorified their Lord God and declared that a great prophet had come among them. The word of the resurrection spread like wildfire, of course, reaching the entire region and even into all of Judea. Even after all the touching of the unclean throughout His ministry, there is no report of Jesus ever entering the purification process. His Life overpowered death, His purity couldn’t be made unclean. There was no need to be cleansed from anything.