Soon afterward He was on His way to a town called Nain. His disciples and a large crowd were traveling with Him. 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. A large crowd from the city was also with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said, “Don’t cry.” Then He came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And He said, “Young man, I tell you, get up!”
In this story we see Jesus, along with his disciples and a large crowd, once more traveling through the countryside. Upon entering the town of Nain they encounter the funeral procession of a widow’s only son. This death not only grieves the widow to the core but also leaves her destitute. With no man in her life she is hopeless and heartbroken. Jesus feels her pain and has compassion for her.
Then we have the short sentence that is the heart of the story but easily overlooked in our day and culture, Then He came up and touched the open coffin. It is common, perhaps expected, of us to touch the coffin and even the body of our deceased loved ones. We reach out for one last touch before their bodies are gone forever. But in Jewish culture Jesus’s touch is verboten, forbidden, unexpected and unimaginable. Whoever touches the dead or anything they are touching is ritually unclean until they go through a cleansing ceremony. Jesus’ spontaneous, compassionate response stops the pallbearers in their tracks.
As you meditate on this passage today ask God to fill you with this compassion for the lost and hurting around you. Ask God to show you how you might follow Jesus’ example by responding in unexpected ways to show God’s compassion for the people around you. Ask him to show you how you might reach out in compassion and touch death.