Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. (Luke 7:11-17)
Have you even known anyone who has outlived her children? It is really tragic. We normally expect to go and be with the Lord long before our children do. It is very sad in our day, but it was devastating to a widow in Jesus’ day. We have social security and welfare and maybe even a caring church family. In the first century, a widow who lost her only son was destitute. There would be no one to provide for her.
As Jesus was approaching the city of Nain He saw the funeral procession. No one came up to Him and asked for help. Jesus saw what was happening and immediately had compassion on the widow as He did for so many women.
Jesus walked up to the widow and said, “Do not weep.” When He touched the funeral bier, the bearers stopped. Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” Everyone who was watching was amazed to see the young man sit up and talk. This miracle reminds us of others that Jesus did when He raised someone from the dead. When the person was raised they immediately were able to carry on as if they had not died. When Jesus healed a person, or raised them from the dead, they were completely healed.
This young man was the first person that we read about in the Gospels that Jesus raised from the dead. Jesus’ compassion was very personal and touching – He gave the young man back to His mother. We can only imagine how happy and how grateful this widow was to the Lord Jesus.
The crowd was no less thankful. Luke goes on to tell us that those who saw the young man raised from the dead “glorified God”. This widow was probably their neighbor or friend. They were no doubt very happy for her. They may also have realized that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They said, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” The people then went around telling everyone about this miracle.
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
This story is one of the most famous in the Gospels. Everyone loves the story of this special woman. She was just another poor widow, but Jesus made her special by singling her out from among all of the thousands of people who were streaming into the temple just before Passover.
We all know the story – very many rich people were there putting in large amounts of money. Not only that, but they made a big show of putting their large bags of coins in the money box hoping that people would applaud them for their generosity. The disciples were there too and Jesus took this opportunity to teach them a lesson about real giving. The widow had only put in two coins, but they were her whole living. She wanted to honor God so much that she gave Him everything. She must have had great faith. She left the temple destitute, but she knew that God would provide for her. Jesus honored her greatly for this.
This humble old woman did not come to the temple thinking that anyone would notice her. But the Lord of glory did notice. We should learn from this modest woman that we do not do deeds of charity just to get noticed, but Jesus does notice. All acts of kindness, no matter how small, will be rewarded when we see Jesus.
And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
The very first widow that Jesus encountered was Anna the prophetess. Of course He was a tiny baby at the time and did not interact with her the way He did when He grew up and helped widows during His ministry.
This story takes place when Jesus was about forty days old. His mother, Mary had to go to the temple for her purification as commanded by Moses. Mary and Joseph had Jesus with them. On this occasion the prophet Simeon blessed the child. He spoke to Mary and told her about all of the things that would happen to Jesus.
While Simeon was blessing the Child, Anna walked up.
In our last two stories we saw that widows could be very poor. Anna’s story is a bit different. We are told that Anna was a widow, and very aged. Widows had a very tough time in Israel. They were virtually guaranteed a life of poverty. So Anna must have been living just on charity or perhaps very frugally on the remnants of her family’s inheritance. Either way, she led a chaste and sober life, praying and fasting day and night.
Luke tells us that Anna “never left the temple” (Luke 2:37) Apparently she lived right on the temple grounds. There were apartments in the outer courts, sometimes used as temporary housing for priests who were doing their annual service. Perhaps Anna was permitted to live there because of her lifetime of faithfulness and her steadfast devotion to the Lord. The people had also recognized her spiritual gifts and seen how she had been using them in the Lord’s service.
God graciously answered her prayer that the salvation of God’s people would come. When she was walking in the temple and overheard “at that very instant” Simeon blessing the child, she knew at once that the baby in Simeon’s arms was the promised Messiah. She began praising God. She did not stop there. Her message for the rest of her life would be that the Messiah has come! She thus became one of the first witnesses for Christ!
We really don’t know what became of Anna after this. She probably did not live long enough to see Jesus during His ministry. But we can be sure that this elderly, dignified, quiet, devoted woman proclaimed Christ for as long as she lived