Luke 17: 11-15 Soon afterward, 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 and he said, “Do not weep.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers 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.
Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone. Well, if that isn’t the truth. As for me, I am one of those extremely weird people who want to cry alone – yep! If and when I have to choose between sharing my sorrow and keeping it to myself, I will most often choose to keep it to myself. When I do share, I do so because I know it is the right thing to do, out of a sense of duty.
Wanting the world to cry with us, of course, makes us vulnerable. It forces us to say things that can be painful. The first time I realized this was at the time of my father’s death when my lack of public tears caused my supervisor to ask my best friend whether she thought I had a good relationship with my father – yes, I did and had deeply treasured it and was devastated by his death!
The second time I realized my ‘weirdness’, I sat at the funeral of my best friend and a woman he and I had jointly counseled, made a point to come to the funeral, find me and sit next to me. Half-way through the service I allowed myself to cry. The lady reached over and touched my hand in a clear sign of deep Christian care and concern. My response was confounding to say the least: “Don’t, please, don’t.” I saw her face flush with embarrassment and then she responded by saying: “I am so sorry; I didn’t mean to offend you; I just saw how much you are hurting.” She was right, of course, and, after the funeral I apologized for my uncourteous, rude response. I knew she remembered the many times my friend and I had sat with here and watched her be dissolved in painful tears – she was returning the favor at a time I truly needed it even if I could not admit it.
Do not weep – Jesus instructs a widow who is in the funeral possession of her only son. Excuse us! This was tragic beyond words. A young person, his mother’s only support system we shall assume, had died prematurely. Was Jesus annoyed? He was coming into town with his own entourage. Funeral possessions in Nain, by definition, had to have been loud with wailing and hollering. This does not sound like the compassionate Jesus we are used to! You would think Jesus would embrace the mother with a kind word. But then Jesus does the unthinkable and touches the stretcher with the dead man and bids him to get up. The rest is biblical history!
Now we understand a bit more. There is no reason for weeping any longer – other than tears of joy. Was that Jesus’ plan all along? Remember, the mother had not asked for this miracle; she did not beg, steal or borrow for her son’s life. She only cried.
Perhaps this story is about grace; clear un-adulterated grace. The raising of the son does not happen because he is worthy or because his mother is so faithful (we are not told) but because Jesus had compassion. This was a gift. The gift of life. Jesus turns weeping into laughter. Death into life. Because he can and because he so chooses. Following his own Resurrection, this is a gift of compassion that all of us will be granted as we place our faith in him and him alone. Do not weep – as impossible as that sounds – is as life-giving as it can be. Christ is Risen, He is Risen, indeed – and he will raise us to live with him. Amen