A WOMAN WHO EXPERIENCED DIVINE COMPASSION (Lk 7.11-17)
The compassion of the Lord: "He had compassion on her" (vv.11-13)
Verse 11 draws our attention to the timing of this incident: "It came to pass the day after". Gods timing is always perfect; never too early, never too late! Sometimes it may appear that He delays, but He is working to His own plan and purpose. For example, in John 11.6 "He abode two days still in the same place where he was" even though He knew that Lazarus was sick.
Why does the Lord do this? First, so that there may be an even greater display of the glory of God. Second, to teach us patience to wait His time. Third, to cause us to be more dependent upon Him and to increase our faith.
Note that He does not always come at the same juncture! Jairus only daughter had just died when the Lord arrived; the widow of Nains only son was on the way to the burial place; and Lazarus, the only brother of Mary and Martha, had already been dead four days and had gone into corruption. At whatever point the need is encountered the Lord has the power to overcome. No occasion presents any difficulty to Him. Thus we need to place our confidence in Him that He is able and that He will act in His own good time to answer our need.
The trial of the widow seems especially cruel. Having lost her husband she is now bereft of her only son and her means of support. She was a widow indeed! How solitary death is and what lonely moments it brings! She no doubt had the sympathy of others as "much people of the city was with her". However, numbers soon dwindle and cannot fill the chair that is empty or mend the heart that is broken!
At the right moment she came face to face with the Son of God. Luke emphasises three things in v.13.
His Vision: "When the Lord saw her". Not the cortege nor the crowd but "her"! When we think that no one notices us or pays attention to us, remember we are in the line of His vision and can never be out of His sight. God said to Moses in Exodus 3, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people" (v.7) and, "I have also seen the oppression" (v.9). So, whatever our circumstances today take comfort from the truth that He sees and He knows!
His Compassion: "he had compassion upon her". He also cares, as is demonstrated in His compassion for the woman. It was so with the Samaritan in Luke 10.33. When he saw the traveller stripped, wounded and left for dead he had compassion on him to go to where he was, bind up his wounds and take care of him!
It is that same compassion in Luke 15 that caused the father, when he saw the returning prodigal yet a great way off, to run and fall on his neck and kiss him! This compassion speaks of how the inner feelings of Christ are moved towards the woman; there is warmth there and His inwards are stirred! Surely this is priestly feeling. He is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Heb 4.15). We are upon His heart like those precious stones on the breastplate of Israels high priest in Exodus 28. Four rows of precious stones engraved with the names of Israels twelve tribes. If we are Christ-like and priestly we will have compassion on the ignorant and those that are gone out of the way!
His Communication: "he said unto her, Weep not". Note His communication to the sorrowing woman: "Weep not". He took account of her tears. On two further occasions in Luke He uttered the words, "Weep not" - "And all wept, and bewailed her (Jairus daughter): but he said, Weep not" (8.52); "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves, and for your children" (23.28).
He knows our hearts and whether that which moves them is ritual or reality! He knows the future that lies ahead for every one of us. He who saw the tears of the widow wept tears Himself (Jn 11.35), and He knew that her tears came from a loving heart that was broken: " when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Heb 5.7). As the psalmist has said, there will be an end to our tears: "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Ps 30.5). Thank God for that day when "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Rev 21.4). It would be presumptuous for anyone else to say, "Weep not", but He had the power to defeat death!
The resurrection of the son: "Young man, I say unto thee, arise" (vv.14-15)
The next little section deals with the resurrection of the widows son and we are immediately arrested by His touch: "And he came and touched the bier" (v.14). What a difference it makes when Jesus comes. He touches the receptacle of death! Let us never forget that He tasted death in all its reality and lay in the grave for three days before he rose in victory! The Hebrew writer reminds us that it was "through death he might destroy him that had the power of death" (2.14) and deliver us. Thus He declares, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore" (Rev 1.18).
Notice the effect that His touch had: "They that bare him stood still" (v.14). Death brings restlessness into the hearts of those who are bereaved, but His touch creates stillness! So it was in the storm when He said, "Peace, be still and there was a great calm" (Mk 4.39). If we need to know stillness amidst the storms, let us seek His touch upon our lives.
We have His triumphant command: "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise". What power is in His word! In Luke He calls, "Maid, arise", and "she arose straightway" (8.54-55). In John He cries, "Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth" (11.43-44). Soon He will say to His bride "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away" (Song 2.13). Then sleeping saints will be raised and together we will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4.17).
Observe the result in v.15.
"And he that was dead sat up ": elevation to life. He was raised from the place of death.
" and began to speak": expression of life. Where there is life there will be evidence in what is said and done. If this is true of natural life it is also true of spiritual life.
"And he (the Lord) delivered him to his mother": restoration through life. The motherly need for affection and care, tenderness and nurture are all necessary to provide for those who have new life.
The visitation of God: "God hath visited his people" (vv.16-17)
Notice that "there came a fear on all". Such was the effect of the Lords miracle. What a need there is today for reverence towards God! Everywhere, there is the promotion of the unholy and profane and we, as Gods people, need to be careful to retain in our hearts a healthy reverence for the presence of God and the things of God.
They rendered glory to God for what had been done: "They glorified God". This ought to be the object of our living, that God in all things might be glorified.
They recognised that this was a visitation from God Himself! As we look at the various problems in the testimony today, the answer to these is divine visitation. Is it not the case that we are concerned about the lack of fruitfulness amongst us? We could say that barrenness is the blight of assembly testimony at the beginning of the twenty-first century! It is interesting that the very first mention of divine visitation in the Scriptures is in Genesis 21.1 and deals with the very problem of barrenness. "And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken." What God did for Sarah He also did for Hannah. No doubt our minds immediately think of Samuel, the son for whom she prayed, who became so prominent for God. However, we read that "the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bear three sons and two daughters" (1 Sam 2.21). Because she gave back to God the firstfruits of her increase the Lord made her even more fruitful. The Lord knows today that not all our spiritual sons and daughters are meant for the public place, but they are all vitally needed to fill the ranks and support the testimony. May we learn again the principle that we never lose what we lend to God.
Another prevalent problem today is that of backsliding. Remember that what drew Naomi back from the fields of Moab was divine visitation - "she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread" (Ruth 1.6). The God who is able to visit widows with compassion, and barren wombs with fruitfulness is able to visit assemblies today with His mighty power and transcending presence. May it be so for His glory.
To be continued.