The Lord of Compassion (Part 2)

By Joey Fernandez

       Imagine you are traveling down a national road in the province and your vehicle meets a funeral car with a large crowd behind it. How do we typically respond to these common Philippine road scenarios? Many drivers just keep silent and continue driving even if they must stay on the shoulder of the road. Another common reaction would be for drivers to voice out their disagreement over the use of the national highway for these kinds of occasions because it impedes the movement of motorists. In my many work-related road trips, I have 

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yet to encounter a driver or passenger who would take pity on the family of the person in the funeral car. I do not blame them for feeling this way. This was after all, simply a chance encounter, and none of us knew anything about the deceased. No one felt any sympathy towards the family. None of us knew who among the crowd were members of the deceased person’s family and how they would adjust to a life without their loved one. To all passing motorists, these people are all just extras in a sad movie scene, forgotten as soon as the car loses sight of the crowd.


          In this second part of our series on the Lord of Compassion, Jesus is put in a similar situation.


Luke 7:11-17 (NASB)

[11] Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. [12] Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. [13] When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” [14] And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” [15] The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. [16] Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” [17] This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.


          Jesus, His disciples, and the crowd following Him arrived at the city gate as another large crowd was leaving the city. They had no time to ask anyone about what was going on since they had just arrived. Just like our scenario above, no one from Jesus' crowd knew anything about the approaching crowd except that it was a funeral procession. But Jesus knew all about it. The crowd accompanying Him may have felt that this was just a chance encounter, but for the Lord, this was no coincidence. He ordained it, and He knew every detail surrounding the occasion. In His wisdom, He knew that the dead man was the only son of his widowed mother. He knew where the mother was, and not only that, He knew how the mother felt. With no husband to provide for her, care for her, and to spend the rest of her life with, she just also had lost her only son. What a lonely and miserable life lay ahead for this woman. The pain of having no one to provide for you is already too much to bear but it is only second to the pain of knowing everyone you have loved has been taken away from you. The pain in her heart showed as she wept. When Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her.


          Compassion is not just pity or concern. It is feeling the pain of another in your own heart so much that it compels you to act. Jesus not only knew what it was like to endure pain and suffering, He felt the hurt in His own heart. In this widow's case, it was like Jesus losing His own son. His heart broke as He saw the widow and He was moved to compassion. This is just one episode in a series of Christ's compassionate acts throughout the Bible. Before He resurrected Lazarus, the passage in John 11:33 says that Jesus was “deeply moved”. Just a few verses after that, in v. 38, the Apostle John again mentions that He was “deeply moved”.


          He felt the suffering and hurt of a broken heart. He felt the sorrow of the widowed mother. Sorrow was one of His distinguishing characteristics that the prophet Isaiah called Him a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus understands. He feels her pain and decides to comfort her.


          "Do not weep". We say this to kids who cry for no good reason. I watched a child cry when his candy bar fell to the ground covering it with dirt. When he began to cry, his older brother simply said: "Don't cry" and lovingly offered his own candy bar. I witnessed how quickly the boy's sorrow turned to joy. When Christ told the widow not to weep, He confidently said that because He knew no words could comfort her. What could you really say to a grieving mother? For someone who just lost a precious child, nothing anyone says could really help ease the pain. Children are expected to bury their parents, but no parent should have to go through the unthinkable pain of burying her own child!


          In His compassion for the mother, Jesus touched the coffin. It was not a closed casket but a bier (an open coffin) and touching it meant the breaking of traditional Jewish customs. Jesus would render Himself unclean and would be defiling Himself (Lev. 21:1-12). And yet, He was so filled with compassion that He was willing to risk uncleanness just to help her (not to mention the criticisms for breaking protocol He was going to receive). He decides to do the only thing that could comfort her: Give her back her son.

What an incredible act of compassion it was for Jesus to take the dead man and give him back alive to his rejoicing mother! The Man of Sorrows turns her sorrow into joy, her mourning into dancing. Unlike many accounts in the Bible where those who needed healing cried out for Him to heal them, this mother did not ask for anything from Jesus. The passage says nothing about her even opening her mouth except to weep. Jesus just decided to act out of love and compassion because in His great wisdom, He knew, and He felt her pain in His own heart.


          Our response should be the same as that of the crowd who witnessed Christ’s compassionate act:


[16] Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God.


          Fear: Who wouldn’t be gripped with fear if he saw a dead man rise and begin to speak?  That would truly be a frightening scene! However, that is not the kind of fear I am referring to. Rather it is a holy fear that would cause us to turn to the One who could make this kind of miracle happen. It is a holy reverence for the “Great Prophet“(v16), spoken of by the Old Testament prophets, who the Jews had been waiting for, the One who could bring the dead back to life because He alone has power over death. Christ alone!


          Glorify God: Before Jesus resurrected the dead man, He healed a centurion’s slave who was about to die. He performed this healing in a miraculous way: by just saying the Word and without even being there. News of His great power spread quickly throughout the region which is why a large crowd followed Him as they went to Nain. Now, news of His raising a dead man was even more incredible and those who witnessed it made sure that His greatness would spread even more. Let this be our goal: Let the people know of our Savior. Let them know what He has done for us and for them. Let our enthusiasm for His message of salvation burn in our hearts so that crowds will be drawn to Him, know Him and follow Him.


          I pray that this passage leads you to greater faith in Him. I pray that it brings you comfort and peace. The kind of peace that passes understanding. If you are hurting, suffering in great pain, believe that God knows what you are going through and that He hurts with you. He will not withhold His compassion and He will extend it when you need it most. He comes with the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Only Jesus can confidently say “Do not weep”, because only He knows how to bring joy to our heavy hearts.