Episode 16 – The Gospel of Luke – Chapter 7 Part 2
“Resurrection at Nain”
In Luke 7, we read that John the Baptist sent word to Jesus, asking if Jesus was the one “who is to come”. We know from Matthew 14 that John was imprisoned for chastising Herod about his unlawful marriage to Herodias. In his desolation, John wanted to know if Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Having just performed many miracles, Jesus responded by saying “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them” thus fulfilling the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah 35. Going further, Jesus told the crowd that John was not a “reed shaken by the wind.” That is, John was a man of serious conviction, the messenger sent to prepare the way for Messiah, fulfilling the prophecies of Malachi 3 and Isaiah 40. Jesus also said that “among those born of women no one is greater than John, yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Who is the “least in the kingdom of God”? We read in Philippians 2 that Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” Jesus, the most humble in the kingdom of heaven, was baptized by John, the greatest born of women.
Going further, we then look at the somewhat mysterious verses about the analogy of children in the marketplace, who played a dirge yet no one wept and played the flute, yet no one danced. This passage alludes to two major life events: weddings and funerals. John played the “funeral dirge” of repentance, while Jesus played the “wedding march” of salvation. Yet the Pharisees refused to listen to either.
Returning to the beginning of Luke 7, we read of the healing of the Centurion’s servant. We repeat the powerful words of the Centurion just before receiving communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” The Centurion understood the nature of authority, and willingly submitted to the healing power of Jesus’ Word. Reading about the Centurion reminds us that Israel was under Roman rule at the time of Jesus. Prior to his assassination in 44 BC, Julius Caesar appointed his nephew and adopted son, Octavius, to succeed him at his death. At the time of Julius’ death, a great comet appeared and was seen as a sign in favor of the deification of Julius, who was ultimately declared a god. Augustus reigned for 40 years, ruling at the time of Jesus’ birth as described in Luke 2. After expanding his empire, Augustus was able to maintain a period of political stability known as Pax Romana. Thus Augustus was not only titled the “son of god” but also the “prince of peace” at the time of Jesus’ birth and childhood. At the time of Jesus’ adult ministry, Tiberius Caesar was the Roman emperor and Herod the Edomite was the puppet king of Israel who collaborated with the occupying Romans. The Roman army was made up of legions of 6000 soldiers and a centurion was a veteran soldier in command of over 100 men. Commensurate with their position, centurions were paid well which explains why the centurion mentioned in Luke 7 would have the resources to build the synagogue at Capernaum.
The story of Jesus raising the son of the widow of Nain is found only in Luke. This recalls the resurrection stories of Elijah, who raised the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17), and Elisha, who with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, performed double the Old Testament resurrection miracles. Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4). Also, a dead man was brought back to life when his body touched the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13). The city of Nain was in close proximity to Nazareth, the hometown of Mary and Jesus. We can imagine that at Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary may have recalled the raising of the widow of Nain’s son, giving her hope for the resurrection of her own son.
The lecture draws to a close with the story of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus as he dined at the house of Simon, the Pharisee. Jesus was able to read the harsh heart of Simon and teach him a valuable lesson: he who is forgiven much loves much. Redeemed sinners have the grace to love lavishly.
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Sharon Doran serves as the teaching director of “Seeking Truth.” An experienced Bible Study teacher, Sharon has a passion for scripture that will motivate and challenge you to immerse yourself in God’s Word and apply His message to your everyday life.
For more in this series, visit the Seeking Truth with Sharon Doran Discerning Hearts page.
“Seeking Truth” is an in-depth Catholic Bible Study commissioned by the Archdiocese of Omaha in response to John Paul II’s call to the New Evangelization as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation for all Catholics to study scripture. To learn more, go to www.seekingtruth.net