Recently a dear friend of mine enlightened me to an incredible reality pertaining to the story in Luke 7:13 when Jesus raised the widow’s only son from the dead.
The scriptures describe the young man being carried in a coffin or a bier and being followed by a large procession. According to Roman history, the only time a large procession with a body being carried would have taken place in Nain would have been in the circumstance of the death of a Roman officer. Thus, the widow’s son was likely a Roman officer.
Here is the crazy thing: Roman officers had a formal burial that consisted of removing the liver, spine, brain, heart, tongue, eyes, and spinal cord. These parts were sun dried for 20 days, then carried by the Roman Senator during the procession. The body itself was embalmed for 30 days before being carried by the Emperor’s guard to the district seat of Scythopolis, 12 miles from Nain.
There were strict rules that accompanied the solemn procession. Nobody was allowed to speak, but even more, the procession could not stop for ANY reason. Apart from the guards that carried it, nobody was allowed to touch the bier where the body lay. This was Caesar’s Processional of Honor and to violate any of the above commands was as though someone had defiled, attacked or molested Caesar himself and that person would be put to death immediately, no matter who it was. Many people stayed away from this event just in case they accidentally did something that was not allowed.
Enter Jesus. He sees the heartbroken widow. His love and compassion for her overrules any self-preserving thoughts He may have had, and He walks up to the procession. He not only speaks the most wonderful words possibly ever spoken, “Don’t cry” with such incredible gentleness, but He reaches up and touches the bier, thus stopping the procession. Jesus’ love wasn’t only supernaturally gentle and loving, but it was wildly risky and heroic. He put His life on the line to raise this widow’s only son.
Jesus knew the man was embalmed and that his organs had been removed and sun dried for 20 days. He knew He shouldn’t speak during the procession, but love compelled Him to speak life to the widow. He knew that He shouldn’t approach the body, but love compelled Him to move forward. He knew if He stopped the procession He could be put to death for it, but love compelled Him to act anyways. He knew He shouldn’t reach out to touch the bier, but love compelled Him to choose someone else’s life over His own.
And despite the organs of the young man being carried in a container by the Roman Senator nearby, despite the body having been dead for 30 days and embalmed, that young man awoke when Christ touched that bier. The scriptures say that he was raised, then started talking, despite the fact that moments before he had no tongue. In other words, in one moment God instantly grew back every organ and body part that had been removed, including a tongue to speak with.
Jesus is the ultimate hero. He was reckless in His faith because He was possessed by incredible, supernatural love. It is this kind of love that made a blameless Man willingly die for others on a tree. It was this love that caused a sovereign, all powerful God to leave raw bliss and come to a broken earth to selflessly take on the form of a human, incarnate, then to top it off, be killed on our behalf. The Gospel is not fair, it is wildly unfair in our favor. Jesus is the hero.