The Stranger

by The Doctor

You’ve probably seen the story over and over in dozens of Hollywood movie westerns.

The plot usually goes like this: you start with a small town in the old west. The town is hot, dry and dusty; tumbleweeds roll lazily across the landscape while player pianos drone on endlessly in the background. Everything is peaceful until… The Bad Guys show up to rob the bank, hijack the stagecoach, shoot up the saloon and generally make life miserable for everybody.

Things look pretty bad because there’s no one to help the people in this little town until a lone stranger rides in on his horse to save the day. The stranger comes in, stands up to The Bad Guys, defeats them and drives them out of town. And so the little town is saved through the heroic actions of one lone man. The stranger then rides off into the sunset to find some other little town to save as the credits roll and the movie ends.

Now you don’t find any stories like that in the Bible… or do you? Well, take a look at this passage from Luke 7:11-16…

“Not long afterwards Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, with the usual great crowd at his heels. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The boy who had died was the only son of his widowed mother, and many mourners from the village were with her” (verses 11-12).

After leaving his home base of Capernaum, Jesus traveled to a town called Nain. Nain was a small village located about 25 miles (40k) southwest of Capernaum and this is the only time that this place is ever mentioned in the Bible. Now “Nain” means “the place of pleasantness or beauty” but there didn’t seem to be much pleasantness going on when Jesus arrived.

We’re told that Jesus showed up at the town gate just in time to meet a funeral procession. In those days most towns had walls and a gate for protection against intruders and Nain was no different. According to Jewish law, a dead person had to be buried outside the city limits and since cemeteries were not allowed inside the city, the mourners were going out to bury this young man just as Jesus was coming in.

Now you can just imagine the pain, heartbreak and distress of the mother whose son had died. We’re told that this lady had already lost her husband and now her only son had also passed away. But in reality, things were really much worse for this woman than simply just losing a loved one.

Remember that there was no such thing as life insurance, pension plans, or government assistance in those days. The loss of both her son and husband meant that this woman had totally lost her financial income- it meant that she was doomed to live in poverty for the rest of her life.

But then -suddenly- she met a stranger coming into town…

“When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with sympathy. ‘Don’t cry!’ he said” (verse 13).

When Jesus saw this woman His heart went out to her. In fact, the original word used here indicates a very deep kind of feeling towards a person. In other words, Jesus felt an intense compassion for this woman and her situation.

Jesus’ reaction to this woman illustrates something that is important for us to remember today. Because Christians are “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), we should never lose sight of the fact that Jesus is with us in every situation. When you hurt, Jesus hurts. When we rejoice, Jesus rejoices. Jesus is with us in every circumstance and situation- but Jesus is not only with us, He helps us, as demonstrated by what happens next…

“Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (verse 14 NIV)

The common way to transport a dead body in those days was on a kind of stretcher, usually with a cloth covering the body. This was something like an early version of a coffin. It’s also possible that this body had no covering at all- perhaps what we might refer to today as an “open coffin.”

Now in this passage Jesus does a couple of things that are “out of order” for a funeral of that time. First, notice that Jesus stopped and got involved in the funeral procession. This in itself was a violation of the custom and tradition of that culture. However, Jesus also touched the coffin which was against the Law.

The Doctor believes that there were two reasons why Jesus did this. First, Jesus demonstrated His willingness to get involved and help people out even in the midst of the most difficult and heart-wrenching situations. But secondly, Jesus stepped in to do something that only God Himself can do…

“…God Himself… makes the dead live again and speaks of future events with as much certainty as though they were already past” (Romans 4:17).

Jesus -being God in the flesh- had the power to give life to the dead. Check it out…

“Then the boy sat up and began to talk to those around him. And Jesus gave him back to his mother” (verse 15).

That sure must have gotten everyone’s attention for we read in the next verse…

“They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people'” (verse 16 NIV).

So what was the end result of this miracle? Well, the obvious answer is that this lady had her son returned to her but there’s something else too. Verse 16 tells us that as a result of what Jesus did, everyone was filled with awe and praised God.

This little sentence tells us something very important about miracles- a true miracle from God will always point towards God and not towards the person who performed it. God is always the one who should get the credit for any miraculous works done through His people as illustrated for us here by Jesus Himself.

So the next time you find yourself in a seemingly impossible situation, now you’ll be able to recognize The Stranger when He shows up at your gate.