|Luke 7:11-17||Read Online|
Just as He neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow.
I’m the only child of a single mother. It's been that way since I was a baby. In fact, my mother and I kind of grew up together. Along the way, we also learned together, laughed together, and certainly struggled together.
Mom once told me how she’d stay up all night crying, worried how she was going to buy groceries the next day. She would sit in a rocker and hold me in her arms. I was her center, her reason to try again tomorrow. To this day, my mother is my best friend.
So when I read about a widow who was crying in the street as they ushered her only son's body out of the city, this stopped being just another Jesus story for me. I thought about my mother and how she might feel. This could just as easily be her story—MY story.
I can't imagine the grief of losing a child. Naomi lost her sons, and she expressed her grief passionately. “Call me Mara,” she said, “for the Lord has made me bitter.”
In 1 Kings 17, the widow of Zarapeth had already accepted the inevitability of death from starvation for both herself and her son. But by providing for Elijah, she miraculously maintained a supply of food, only for her son to perish anyway.
“She said to Elijah, ‘Man of God, what do we have in common? Have you come to remind me of my guilt and to kill my son?’” (1 Kings 17:18). But Elijah prayed, God listened, and the boy came back.
“Then Elijah took the boy, brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. Elijah said, ‘Look, your son is alive’” (1 Kings 17:23).
And so now, in Luke, we have yet a third widow grieving over the loss of her son. But this time, God is there in the flesh. The text says Jesus "had compassion on her." The original word is actually “splagnizod,” which is a turning over of the insides, a visceral, physical reaction to what He saw.
“Don't cry,” He told her. What an incredibly touching moment this must have been, even if the widow didn't fully understand why. Here was her Creator coming to her in a very real way during a very real time of grief. He was right there, in the midst of her pain to wipe away her tears. “Don't cry.”
Why was Jesus so moved by this woman and her circumstance? Did it invoke images from the ancient days of Naomi or the widow from Zarapeth? Or maybe when He looked at this woman, He saw His own mother in the days to come.
The whole thing shows a beautiful side of our Savior, the Creator side. We’re His people. He loves us, deeply, splagnizod. And while that particular word may never be cross-stitched on a pillow (and for good reason), the ability of the one who was fully-God and fully-man to relate to our suffering in a very real way is permanently etched across our hearts.
This Jesus who approached a widow in her time of need is the same Jesus who no doubt wrapped His arms around my weeping mother in the middle of the night as she held her only son and waited on God's faithful provision. “Don't cry.”
I love this Jesus, and I know that He loves me.
- How has God loved you this week? It may be hard to see Him through the crowds. But perhaps He was right beside you.
- What loss are you grieving? A loved one, a relationship, a job, or maybe even a dream?
- How honest are you with God (and yourself) about your feelings? We’re not told the widow asked for Jesus’ help, or even that she believed. He was moved by her grief. Whatever our answer to question 2, how have you expressed that grief to God?