The Widow of Nain
This talk was delivered in the Grandview 10th Ward on Mother’s Day of 2021.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this Mothers’ day. I express my love and gratitude to my wife, Susan, whom I consider to be the perfect example of a Christ-like mother. I have taken the liberty of choosing the name “The Ultimate Mothers’ Day” for my few thoughts today. I hope to combine the magnificence of our Savior with the sacrifices and joys of motherhood. First, a few words to describe the setting for an unforgettable experience in the life of a mother and the Savior. On a given day in the very busy ministry of the Savior, he delivered what some have referred to as the greatest sermon ever delivered, the Sermon on the Mount. Imagine how spiritually taxing and exhausting it must have been, even for the Lord, to deliver that supernal sermon. On the same day, following the sermon, he moved back into the city of Capernaum, which bordered the Sea of Galilee. He was immediately approached by friends of a Roman centurion soldier. These friends had been sent by the centurion, imploring the Savior to heal the centurion’s servant who lay close to death. Jesus agreed to help and left immediately for the centurion’s house. As Jesus approached the house, the centurion begged Jesus not to come closer, for he considered himself unworthy to have the Lord come under his roof. He instead asked Jesus to simply say the words, and he knew his servant would be healed. Jesus, sensing the incredible faith of this man, complied, and the servant was healed at that very moment. Remember that this healing took place without the Savior ever seeing, touching, or talking to the servant. Imagine how spiritual taxing and exhausting it must have been, even for the Lord, to perform this act of mercy and love. Now, remembering how taxing each day of the Savior’s ministry was, we move to the very next day. Where do we find the Savior? Approaching the small and remote city called Nain, just as a funeral procession is moving out of the city and towards a burial plot. A grieving widow was about to bury her only son. The scripture states that much of the city was with her. The cause of the son’s death is not mentioned in the scripture. Jesus approaches the funeral bier on which the young man lay, which was being carried by several men. The men stopped, and Jesus simply yet profoundly says seven words, ‘Young man, I say unto thee, Arise’. Immediately, instantaneously, the young man sat up, and began to speak. Can you now appreciate why I have referred to this experience as ‘The Ultimate Mother’s Day’?
I invite each of you now to mentally place yourself into that setting, into that miracle, as if you were there, in the crowd, witnessing this unspeakable manifestation of the Savior’s love, as we speak of six lessons to be learned about Christ and how He feels about mothers.
1) Effort – Remember the Savior’s day in Capernaum, and that the very next day, He is in Nain. Nain is about 30 miles from Capernaum, lying in the hills above the Sea of Galilee. Thus, Jesus, after an exhausting day, walked 30 miles uphill, to arrive in Nain. No horses, no mules, no chariots, He walked. To put this fete into perspective, Heber City is 29 miles from Provo. Can you imagine walking during an afternoon, an evening, and a night to arrive in Heber City? Would any of us even consider doing such a thing? Yet the Savior did that very thing. He was willing to put forth that effort to bless the lives of two people, a grieving mother and a grateful son. What about us? What amount and type of effort are we displaying toward our mothers? Perhaps a worthy thought to consider on this Mothers’ Day.
2) Attitude – What underlying attitudes and attributes did the Savior possess that would cause Him to bless this sweet mother in this way? The scripture tells us that Jesus ‘went about doing good’. Every day, in every way, He did good. Godliness, charity, humility, diligence, brotherly love, kindness; He was the embodiment of these traits. Can we imagine His prayers each morning? Father, today I will be out among the people. There will be many who need what I have to offer. Please help me know them, discern them, bless them. I will build, I will inspire, I will lift, I will encourage. There will be no ‘inconvenient’ time, Father. Where there is a need, I will go. The scriptures do not tell us who this widow was. Did the Savior know her before? It seems unlikely. Through inspiration, however, He knew there was a need; He responded. Oh, Father, Nain? Thirty miles uphill? I’m very tired. Is there someone else? Never! When ye are in the service of your fellow being, ye are only in the service of your God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Is our attitude conducive to blessing our mothers? What Christ-like attributes do I need to develop or increase to serve my mother and others? Perhaps another question to ponder on Mothers’ Day.
3) Timing – Isn’t it remarkable that Christ arrived just at the very moment that His power was needed? Just a happy coincidence? Good luck? When He came nigh unto the gate of the city, a dead man was carried out? A thirty mile walk and he arrives at that very moment? Isn’t it remarkable that the Savior always seemed to be just in the right place at the right time to bless the right person? The daughter of Jairus, the woman with an issue of blood, the lame man near the pool, and many others. His impeccable timing was not happenstance, it was guidance, inspiration, and desire. It was a result of His willingness to always be in the service of others. What about us and our mothers? When it is time to take the garbage out, to unload a dishwasher, perhaps just a smile and an expression of love? How is our timing? Are we living in such a way that the Lord can have us in the right place at the right time? A question to ponder?
4) Countenance – Listen carefully to this passage: “When He came nigh to the gate of the city, there was a dead man carried out. And He came and touched the bier, and they that bare him, stood still.” What? How could this be? Picture yourself as one of the persons bearing this funeral bier or platform with the dead young man on it. Could there be a circumstance more somber, more solemn, more respectful. A total stranger walks up, not a part of the funeral procession, touches the bier, and says nothing. What would be your reaction? Perhaps, excuse me. What are you doing? Have you noticed that this is a funeral, that we are carrying the deceased man on this platform? Will you kindly get out of our way? None of that – when the Savior simply touched the platform, they all stopped. Why? Must it not have been something in His countenance, in His demeanor, in His presence, in His light. He said, “I am the Light and the Life of the world.” His Light intervened, and now Life was going to be restored. What about us? Do we remember Alma’s piercing question: “I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day, having the image of God engraven upon your countenance?” Can we imagine a greater gift that we could give to our mothers than to fulfill that scriptural challenge? “Behold, what manner of men ought ye to be? Even as I am.”
5) Faith – Seven words, “Young man, I say unto thee, arise.” He sat up and began speaking. Do you find that as indescribable as I do? We are all aware that when the heart stops beating and oxygen and other cellular nutrients no longer flow, cells immediately begin to die and decompose. They can no longer perform their cellular functions. This young man had been in that state for some time. The carrying of the body to the grave was one of the last stages of caring for a dead person. The mourning and ceremonies prior to burial could take days. To have the Savior command the young man to arise, and to have him immediately sit up and speak, to have the physiologic capacity to do that after hours or days of death, almost defies description. How is our faith in the Savior’s power to heal? Does He know us personally? Can He intervene in our lives? Bring to pass spiritual, physical, or emotional miracles? Can we imagine a greater gift that we could give our mothers than to exercise that type of faith in her behalf and in the lives of others? Perhaps a further question to ponder on this Mothers’ Day.
6) Motivation – Why did the Savior walk 30 miles to bless a widowed mother and her son? Notoriety? Celebrity? Look at me? Now are you ready to listen to me? Charity, the pure love that emanates from Christ. Listen to the Savior’s words as He first approached the grieving mother, “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.” Coming from anyone else, those words would have been offensive. From Him, those words carried the promise of life and healing and power. Listen to perhaps the sweetest words in this entire miracle, “And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he [Jesus] delivered him to his mother. Can you even imagine? The mother almost in a state of utter disbelief, the Savior helps this young man off the bier, puts His arm around his waist, and delivers him to his mother, whole, healed, alive. Can we imagine the reaction of the people that were witnesses to this miracle? I see them flocking around the mother and the son, weeping, celebrating, embracing, loving. There is no other mention of the Savior’s actions after that. I personally like to think, that, as in other miracles, He quietly and humbly moved on while others rejoiced in His greatness and power. What motivates our actions? Desire for recognition or fame or wealth or reward? The Savior’s example speaks volumes.
On this Mother’s Day, may this Ultimate Mother’s Day experience help us remember righteous effort, Christ-like attributes, spiritual timing, a Celestial countenance, faith in Christ, righteous motivation, and present these as gifts to our wonderful mothers, as Christ did to the widow of Nain. Christ delivered the gifts of life, love, and the Lord. What might he have in store for us?
I bear witness of my love and respect for righteous mothers, and my ever-increasing love and adoration of our Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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