11Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him.12As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.13When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”14Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!”15The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.16Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!”17This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
Last Sunday, we talked about a simple faith of a centurion in Capernaum who asked Jesus to heal his servant. Even though he did not have any chance to learn Jesus’ teaching or any idea about theology, he had a simple faith in Jesus, the faith that Jesus could heal his servant who was close to death. Jesus was amazed by his faith and said, “I have never seen such faith in all of Israel.” I challenged you to have this kind of simple faith in your spiritual lives.
Today’s story is the scene after the story of the centurion. Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd followed him. As he approached the gate of the town, he encountered a funeral procession that is on its way to a place of burial outside the city. Jesus saw the woman who was deeply sorrowed by the loss of her only son. I will tell you a poignant story and that will help you more clearly understand the feeling of the woman in today’s text.
A mother lost her soldier son. The news came to her in dispatches from the war. He had fallen fighting nobly at the head of his regiment. She was inconsolable.
“Oh that I might see him again,” she prayed, “if only for five minutes-but to see him.”
God answered her prayer. “For five minutes, you will see him, but remember, he was a grown man. There are thirty years to choose from. How would you like to see him?” And the mother paused and wondered.
God asked, “Would you see him as a soldier dying as a hero at his post? Would you see him again on that day at school when he stepped to the platform to receive the highest honor a boy could have?”
The mother’s eyes lit up.
God goes on to ask, “Would you see him as a babe at your breast?”
And slowly the mother said, “No, I would have him for five minutes as he was one day when he ran in from the garden to ask my forgiveness for being naughty. He was so small, and so unhappy, and he flew into my arms with such force that he hurt me.”
The one thing that the mother wished above all to recapture was the moment when her son needed her.
In today’s text, which is found only in Luke, we see a woman like the mother in the above story. She also lost her beloved son. We are not told how sad she was. But we can imagine how great her sorrow and pain was.
The death of the son was particularly grievous because the dead man was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. Since the woman had already lost her husband, the loss of her only son is not only a second family tragedy but also ends her main economic support. At that time, a son was a widow mother’s lifelong protector and her ultimate social security. For the woman, the loss of her only son was too great.
Jesus saw this woman filled with sorrow and fear. He had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep!” Usually in the miracle stories in the Gospels, people come to Jesus and ask help, but in this story, no one asked any help from Jesus to raise the dead young man. Jesus saw the sorrowful widow and filled with compassion. He approached the body of the young man and commanded it to rise. That is, this event was initiated by Jesus who was filled with compassion for the widow.
Compassion. This is the key word of today’s sermon. The word “compassion” comes from the Greek “splanxna,” which means your bowels, heart, lungs, liver or kidneys, which were regarded as the center of human emotions in that day. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus proves that he is a man of compassion. Compassion is a key word defining his life. Also, this word is highly valued in the Gospel stories. The two most famous parables in the Gospels are about compassion. In contrast to the insider religious professionals, the outsider Samaritan had compassion on the man beaten by thieves. Jesus calls him the Good Samaritan. While the prodigal son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. Also, in the story we read last Sunday, the centurion had compassion for his servant. Compassion is one of the key concepts in the Gospels for us to understand and to practice throughout our whole lives.
Here is my own experience for compassion. When I was 11 years old, I really wanted to have a video game console, but my parents never got it for me. So, one day, I successfully stole it from a toy store. For my defense, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to have the game console. I really loved it. A few days later, my mother found me playing the game. She asked me “Where did you get it?” I told her “I found it somewhere on the street.” She didn’t buy it. She spanked me and asked me to say honestly. I was very afraid but I told her the truth. She spanked and I cried. And then, a little later, she also cried and hugged me. It was very warm. I have never forgotten the moment when she showed me her deep compassion. Of course, I returned the game console to the store with sincere apology and since then, I have never stolen. My mother’s compassion was deeply incised in my mind.
Compassion has the power to change people. Also, compassion has the power to move God. Again, look at today’s story. Jesus had compassion for the widow and he revealed his power to raise her son from the dead. Due to Jesus’ compassion, great amazement and rejoicing fell upon the crowd gathered for the funeral. Fear seized all of them and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This news spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country where compassion was needed.
In Psalm 146 that we read this morning, we are reminded that there are millions of people in the world who need compassion- the oppressed, the hungry, prisoners, the sick, and so on. Our God upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. Our God sets prisoners free and gives sight to the blind. Our God lifts up those who are bowed down, and loves the righteous. Our God watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow. Our God reigns forever and for all generations because our God has deep compassion for us all.
Preparing today’s sermon, I had a chance to enjoy a poem that I found in a website and I would like to share with you this beautiful poem. It is all about compassion.
“Compassion flows like a gentle river with the power of a flood
through a marching band in step in random clown’s feet.
Compassion flows to counteract pain’s presence
loss’s agony with a song for the heart and a hope reborn.
Compassion flows with an invitation to risk joining
leaving expectations behind.
Compassion flows toward emptiness touching what is not there revealing restoring
Compassion is the power of God, the antidote against pain’s presence, and the way to reveal and restore God’s presence in our lives.
Let me wrap up today’s sermon. Compassion is a practice that we need to keep developing to enhance our relationship with the Divine. I call this compassion “Divine Compassion” and it is what God wants us to have. Our God is amazed and moved by our compassion for ourselves and our neighbors. Living with compassion is the way to connect ourselves to God and neighbors. Having compassion is required for us to live under the power of God. I pray that God gives us wisdom and courage so that we can act with this divine compassion.
Let us pray.
Dear Lord, we worship and praise your name and give thank to you for the message given for us. Now we ask that you help us practice compassion for ourselves, our neighbors, and all you have created. Bless us to live with your wisdom and power generated by this compassion. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.