Superficially, today's Gospel (Luke 7:11-17) tells the story of what seems to be a pretty straightforward miracle: the resurrection of a dead man by Jesus.
Sidestepping the issue of whether or not we believe in miracles for a moment, I propose that this passage is not that straightforward after all.
The problem is this: who is the miracle actually happening to in this passage? Who, for lack of a better word, is the recipient or beneficiary of the miracle?
I think most people would say that the resurrected man is clearly the person upon whom the miracle is "performed".
But read the passage again: "When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep”(13, italics mine).
Without one mention of concern for the dead man, the motivation for the miracle was actually Jesus' compassion for the bereaved widow, and she is essentially the recipient of the miracle.
Widows had a particularly tough time in Jesus' day. As women could rarely retain property and wealth of their own, a widow who had no male children to support her in her old age could find herself destitute. So Jesus' miracle of resurrection is less for the sake of the dead man, but much more about her. Christ was concerned for her well-being and security.
What can we learn from this passage? Perhaps a number of things. First that God is not only a principle of life, but also a principle of compassion. God embodies that principle of concern and compassion which we all should show to one another.
Granted, no one I know can bring people back from the dead, but we can support one another in our times of grief and sorrow, equally in times of joy.
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