As Jesus and his disciples approached the town of Nain they were met by a funeral procession. It was an especially sad affair because the deceased was the only son of a widow. When Jesus saw the mother, his heart was moved with compassion. Reaching out, he touched the coffin and the procession came to a stop. Jesus simply said, “Wake up,” and the corpse sat up and began to talk. Then Jesus presented the boy to his mother and the crowd could scarcely believe what they were watching. They raised their voices in prayer and news of this event spread like fire throughout the countryside.
Two things are important: the first is Jesus’ compassionate reaction to human sorrow. The mother had lost her husband and this made their son the only family she knew. Now he was gone and she was alone. Jesus saw the sadness in her eyes and was deeply touched by her anguish. This personal concern alone is an example of tender compassion for the heavy of heart, but it didn’t stop there; he hadn’t yet done all that he could. Reaching out, Jesus touched the coffin and the procession came to a halt. Then Jesus told the dead son to rise to life. He did and Jesus presented this “newborn” to his mother. The emotion Jesus displayed was not for the effect it might have on those watching but was a genuine reaction to her need.
This brings a second observation: genuine compassion led to action. Emotion is not for the benefit of the one responding but is the inevitable response to need wherever it occurs . One cannot care yet stand idly by in a time of misfortune. If compassion is nothing but an emotion then it has been stripped of its essential meaning.
What if we were part of a funeral procession like this? Would we speak kindly to the sorrowing mother? Would we check to see if her every day needs were being take care of? Would we drop by to spend a bit of time with her? Would we make sure that she knew we would be praying for her in her time of bereavement? If so, then our compassion would be real and we would be doing what our mentor Jesus would.