The Widow at Nain: A Focus on Mothers

The Raising of the Widow's Son in Nain – Jan Verhas 1860

We have to shift perspectives – Jesus is with us! What is impossible to us is possible to God. We have a Saviour who can overcome with just a word. Who can speak the dead to life.

Jacqueline Marie | May 14, 2023

A few years ago, I was on the directing team for The Badlands Passion Play. Other than the small core of professional actors, the cast of 200 people was made up primarily of volunteers. For 3 months, people volunteered to spend their weekends in the sweltering desert dressed up as Bible characters.

A couple of the volunteers were cast in named roles, often consisting of only a line or two. But the act of being named, having a role in the story…was deeply personal to them.

They knew the man playing Jesus was just an actor, but, like looking at an icon with flesh on, it powerfully pointed them to the deeper reality of the Gospel. Exemplified in the response of the volunteer who played the Widow of Nain when she held up her script and exclaimed, “Jesus speaks to me!” (Luke 7:11-17)

Which brings me to Mother’s Day. 

The Gospel of Luke recounts a widow in the town of Nain who loses her only son. She is mourning in the funeral procession when Jesus hears her. “When the Lord saw her, his heart was filled with pity for her, and He said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” Then Jesus touched her dead son and said “arise.”  

Badlands Passion Play (Web)

This Mother’s Day, think of the value that Christ placed on that mother in the village of Nain. Her pain mattered to him. Losing her only child, especially as a widow, now meant she was completely alone. Her identity as mother gone. Her loss of both husband and son (the Greek word “neaniskos” Indicates that he was a young man, likely as an age to help provide) would have meant that her economic and social status would also deteriorate. 

Miracle at Nain, Mario Minniti 1620

The Widow at Nain is a woman who has lost everything.

In parish renewal, the first step that often leads people to connecting with DR is facing their holy discontent, admitting that there is a problem in their parish. For some, with churches closing or parishes amalgamating, it feels like there is nothing left to do but throw up their hands and mourn for what was, like a mother’s despair over a lost child.

From the widow’s perspective, new life was impossible. From our perspective in the trenches of parish renewal, we too can experience this.

Jesus saw the mother’s grief and brought resurrection in place of desolation.

We have to shift perspectives. Jesus is with us! What is impossible to us is possible to God. We have a Saviour who can overcome with just a word. Who can speak the dead to life.

This Mother’s Day, you may feel like you are in your own desert. But remember the words of the volunteer who played the widow’s role: She lived in the desert just for the moment that “Jesus speaks to me.”

Hear Him say “arise” – as he speaks the dead to life.