A few miles south of Nazareth there used formerly to be a city renowned for its beauty and for its delightful situation. It was built on the north side of a hill and was then called Nain – the beautiful.
Could we have stayed there a day or so we should probably have been taken around the hill on which it stood, passing by a number of tombs cut in it, to the south side, to be shown the village of Shunem. For at the village of Shunem lived “a great woman” in the days of Elisha. She provided that prophet with food and shelter, causing a room to be built for him on the roof of her house. In return for her generosity Elisha prophesied that she should have a son. And in the course of time we are told (2 Kings 4:18) how this little lad went out to his father, who was reaping in the field, and was smitten with sun-stroke, of which he died. Then the mother arose, and finding Elisha, brought him back to Shunem, to the upper chamber which she had built for him, and where she had placed the dead child. There did Elisha, through the power which God had given him, bring the child back to life. This is one of the memories of the hill on which Nain is built.
To this hill we travel with Jesus. Only one day has passed since he healed the slave at Capernaum. During that time the twenty-five miles between Capernaum and Nain have been traversed by him and his disciples. They are now ascending the hillside on which the city stood.
As they journey the stillness is broken by a confused sound from within the city. Soon the sound conveys a meaning. It is a wailing. It rises almost to a shriek, then falls to a mournful cry. It is the sound which accompanies a Jewish burial, and as they near the gate of the city the procession issues forth on its way to one of the rock-hewn tombs.
Why is the procession so large? It is a sad death. A young man has just died; his mother is a widow; he is an only son and his mother’s sole support. Many people of the city, having compassion on her, are showing their sympathy by their presence.
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her too, and said unto her, “Weep not.”
And moving a few paces and resting his hand lightly upon the open framework of the bier upon which the body lay, he stopped the bearers.
The procession stops, the sounds of wailing cease, and in the deathly silence which succeeds his voice rings out.
“Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.”
There was a movement on the bier. He that had been dead, sat up, and began to speak.
Then did the bearers hastily lower their burden, and mother and son were once more united. Tears were dried, the wailing ended, and its place taken with cries of joy. They glorified God saying, “A great prophet is risen up among us.” Others cried, “God hath visited his people,” and their thoughts went back to their long past history, when the only son of the woman of Shunem had been restored to her.
The prophets Elijah and Elisha were honoured as the greatest of the prophets because they had been empowered to raise the dead. Here amongst them was one to whom the same power had been given. The story sped from lip to lip, from village to village, from province to province, until not only in Galilee but also in Judea did they know the great deed that had been done.
From The Life of Jesus Christ by W.R. Mitchell