Following the story of the Centurion’s amazing faith is that of the widow’s son, Luke 7:11-16. Jesus happens upon the funeral procession of a widow’s only son and he has compassion for her, so he brings the son back to life. This is another really odd puzzle isn’t it?
One year on vacation we did a “Ghost Tour” of the local town and one of the fascinating things we learned was that in the 1800s (at any rate, perhaps every-when and every-where) people didn’t always know for sure when someone was dead. Technically even nowadays, with persistent vegetative states and such, perhaps we modern folks don’t either. But they would at least in some circumstances (according to the Ghost Tour) put a rope in the coffin and the rope was attached to a bell up above ground. If the dead person came back to life after being buried, they would pull the rope and then “be saved by the bell”. Which is where that expression came from.
So this story comes to my mind in reading about the widow’s son — literally a last-minute save, literally life-giving, life-changing. We all know how historically widows were so vulnerable — with her only son dead, she might have been in very poor financial situation.
However I like to think that isn’t why Jesus had compassion on her. I like to think he looked into her heart and knew how much she loved him, her only son. That without him the very air was stale, food was ashes. Jesus was amazed by faith in the least likely of persons, a Centurion, and not amazed by his power or wealth or status. Likewise I like that he responded just as powerfully to the honest love and grief of a widow of Israel. Recognizing faith and modeling compassion to us.
There’s lots of other things that could be said about this story — including that what follows is back to John the Baptist (we’ll have to compare with the version in Matthew) — but that’s all for now!