Jesus’ attention is so often drawn to women with no way out of their predicament.
As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ (Luke 7:12–13 NRSV)
The narrative’s description of the unnamed woman, bereft now of a son and perhaps of her last reliable companion and provider, leaves her alone in a crowd. The details are both sparse and stark. The dead man had been her only son. Her husband had preceded their son in death.
It is not a stretch to imagine that the crowd that accompanies her and her son’s body out of the town’s gate will, in a short while, go home and forget. She has no such luxury.
Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favorably on his people! This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. (Luke 7:14–17 NRSV)
The moment stands in the gospel tradition as one of Jesus’ great miracles. The close narrative registers that it grew Jesus’ fame disproportionately. In the gospel of Luke it immediately precedes John the Baptist’s query from prison and stands as one part of the evidence that Jesus does in fact fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s large promises, leaving no need to ‘wait for another’.
Yet it is probably significant that, amid all this momentousness, the tradition remembers a lonely woman who had more to lose by her son’s death than any of the crowds, and more to gain by Jesus’ reversal of her loss.
Glory was rising. Crowds feared and saw the strong sweep of God’s hand. Amid it all, Jesus quietly gave a young man—life’s warmth only now returning to his body—back to his mother.