14 November 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ ...and the bearers stood still

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. (from Luke 7)
I've always thought of her as the Widow of Nain.

There are a lot of nameless widows in the Bible - at least that is my general impression. To tell the truth though, I've never taken the time to work my way through the Bible and actually make a thorough count.

This Bible miracle story (there are a lot of those as well... a lot more than I can count) that stands out to me. I'm not particularly sure why except that I immediately feel for a poor woman who has lost her husband and now her only son. In the past, I've always focused on the widow... the woman... as I've read this story. And Jesus.

But today, as my eyes skips across familiar words, one particular phrase literally leaps off the page:  "...and the bearers stood still." That's happened a few times before. One time, in particular, was as I was studying Jesus' miracle at the wedding in Cana. There was something about one phrase, "but the servants knew," that captured my mind, my heart, my soul - and didn't let go until God communicated a message I needed to hear, take to heart and then apply in my life.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I'm learning to still myself ...and listen ...and hear. When a phrase pops off the very pages God has inspired and preserved, it is always worth it to take the time to prayerfully consider, study, meditate... to literally breathe those words He breathed into others... at least for a time.

Resurrection of the Widow's son from Nain, altar panel by Lucas Cranach the Younger, c. 1569, in the Stadtkirche Wittenberg.

Jesus is heading into the city at the same time a funeral procession is leaving. What would that procession have looked like? Sounded like? Smelled like? Felt like? According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the women walked before the bier, or funeral bed. Traditionally, it's said that that was because Eve invited death into this world. In reality, it probably had more to do with the women weeping and/or chanting a mournful dirge as they led the procession. Next in line would be the "kattafim," or shoulderers, who carried the bier. Friends and relatives would then follow the body-laden litter held high - and any stranger who saw the procession typically joined in, and this joining in was expected, for it showed respect and honor to the deceased and to those bereft by the death.

Just who were those bearers? 

Well, they were the ones carrying the bier, and there were likely several sets of them, all typically walking barefoot, all taking turns. They would change places frequently, thus allowing many the opportunity to honor the one who had died as well as to share the burden among many. Those bearers might be family members. But they might also be others who wanted to encourage the family... or others who desired to tangibly demonstrate the value they placed on the dead person, his family, his life, his contribution to their own life - anyone who wanted to announce his appreciation for one whose earthly life was now ended.

Here's how I picture these events, in my mind.

Jesus' group approaches the city, a large number of people celebrating miracles Jesus has done, recent teaching and truth He has shared. Maybe they are asking questions of the Lord. Most of them are, quite possibly, so involved in their own conversations and ruminations of earlier things ...their own albeit good, worlds... they do not take note of the very large funeral procession crossing the perimeter of the city and heading their way. 

Jesus, however, takes note.

He walks into the first group in this procession: the women. There, He sees the widowed, grieving mother? He speaks to her. Did He walk right up to her and say something softly? Did He speak with a commanding voice that pierced right through the weeping and wailing of the women? Did He breathe audible words of assurance deep into her heart? Any of those could be possible, but I tend to believe it was the first, and in that case, I would guess that the bearers did not hear Him address her. The other women continuing their sorrowful song and weeping would have droned much louder than His gentle command. We aren't told the widow's first moment response to Jesus' directive. We are only given what Jesus does next.

Jesus continues deeper into the procession moving right up to the bier, the dead (and profaned) body and the bearers. Jesus touches the bier. Most commentators I've read do not believe this touch was a touch of healing. Rather, it was a touch of communication, telling the bearers to stop. The bearers stopped because He touched that which they were bearing. I'm guessing that their stopping... their stilling... their standing without removing the bier from their shoulders where it rested... prompted a similar reaction from the rest of the funeral procession. Others would have looked to see what had happened, to determine why. As all eyes turned toward the bearers bearing the body on a bier from their downward glances of sorrow, pity and pain - they would have seen that Jesus said something to the dead young man... who promptly sat up and began to talk.

As I've read these words describing this miraculous event several times over the past two days, I keep thinking about those burdens I'm bearing, some of which I'd love to be carrying out of town to entomb or to bury in a deep place. They may be  burdens that are deeply personal to me... or ones that I'm willingly trying to help carry for someone I love. But still, that's my trajectory, and when I'm on a "mission," I can easily miss the quiet touch of Jesus telling me to stop, to still. 

I noted that Jesus didn't say anything to the bearers - not a word to still them, no command telling them to lower the bier off their shoulders. So let's say I do catch on to Jesus' quiet indication to cease moving. Sometimes, I'll want to jump right ahead of him and toss some proverbial burdensome monkey off my back and hope He'll catch it. If I was one of those bearers, that bier would have immediately dropped low to the ground. But if I toss off my burden, then all people see is me tossing that burden. If I allow Jesus to speak, then others can see Jesus taking that burden... taking something which seemed dead weight and bringing it back to life. 

And He's the One getting the glory.

I ask myself today, "Is Jesus stilling me with a quiet touch to the litter of some burden I'm carrying?

How about you?

A much longer than 5 minute write that just sort of exploded out of 
today's Five Minute Friday prompt.

Head on over to Kate's, if you want to join us.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post! Isnt it amazing how the Holy Spirit stills our heart and has phrases or words jump out of a text for us. I never really noticed that line about being still in this text before either.


Stop in for a chat! I love to hear what you have to say ~


Related Posts with Thumbnails