Commentary on Luke 7:11-17
This story is only found in Luke. It is one of only three stories in the Gospel where Jesus is described as bringing a dead person to life. The most dramatic is the story of Lazarus told in John’s gospel. There is the also the story of the synagogue leader’s daughter although it is not categorically certain that she had actually died. She might have been in a coma or catatonic state.
In the thinking of the time, the scene is particularly sad. A woman, who has already lost her husband, has now lost her only son and the only means of her support. She is on the way to bury him.
The lot of the widow, in those days often a relatively young woman, was particularly difficult in a society where the married woman was no longer the responsibility of her own family and who, after the death of husband and children, was no longer the responsibility of her husband’s family either. She was largely left to her own devices in a society where social welfare of any kind was unknown.
Jesus himself is deeply moved at her plight. At this point, for the first time, Luke refers to Jesus as “Lord”, a title reserved for God himself. He approaches the litter (not a coffin as we know it) carrying the dead man, tells the bearers to stop and then orders the young man to rise up. As in other similar stories, the word “rise up” is the same as that used to describe the resurrection of Jesus. “I have come that they may have life.”
The reaction of the people around is one of awe and admiration. “A great prophet has risen among us and God has visited his people.” They had no doubts about the origin of what they had seen taking place; it was the work of God. Not surprisingly, the story spread like wildfire all through Judea and beyond. The episode prepares the way for Jesus’ response to the disciples of John the Baptist a little later (but which is not included in our Mass readings at this time).
This story should help us to look at our own situation and see, first of all, how alive we really are.
Let us look around and see how many people need to be lifted up and helped to find new life. Maybe we can do something for them.