Since this account is peculiar to Luke, not found in Mark, the form critics, who believe that the early church composed the Gospels for Christian instruction, search for sources. Others resort to 1 Kings 17:23 and 2 Kings 4:36 for sources. Others claim that the writer found a "form" in contemporary Hellenistic parallels in which eminent people supposedly raised dead people, but really didn't. Now, if that is true, wouldn't the writer have called the Lord the Messiah in verse 16? If the forms, composed by the early church (which cast grave doubt on the historicity of the account) were to teach people who Jesus really was, then the writer of this account really failed. More on this at the end of the notes.
A comparison of verses 1-10 and 11-17 is really remarkable. In the former account Luke speaks of a slave at the point of death but the main point is the humble faith of his master. In the latter account we read of a dead man but nothing is said of faith. Jesus takes the initiative.
"Nain" appears only here in the New Testament.
We note that there is present a large crowd. Jesus was still quite popular at this stage.
What is important at the gate? Two large crowds meet. At the head of one is the Lord of life and death and at the head of the other is a victim of death.
"Only son" perhaps means the mother had no other children, but that cannot be proved. By the way, in John 1:14 the term means "only begotten." In Hebrews 11:17 contextually it means "only son of promise." A word has meaning only in context.
The woman is a widow. This was at least the second funeral she had attended. She was destitute. The fact that the crowd with her was quite large might indicate the people's sorrow for her. But their sorrow was of little help.
Jesus was fully aware of this widow's destitution. For the first time in this Gospel the writer calls Jesus "The Lord," though this is the fortieth occurrence of this word in Luke. It has been noted that this title is never found in the narrative of Mark and Matthew. It has peculiar fitness here for Jesus is Lord of life and death.
"His heart went out" is a verb peculiar to the Synoptics, and, except for the parables, is used only of Jesus. His compassion was genuine and effective not like that of sinful human beings which is often faked and ineffective.
"Weep no more" practically contains a promise for, as an ancient commentator has said: "Who but a mad man would tell to mother not to weep at the funeral of her son?"
Jesus is the Lord of life and death and He takes the initiative. No one had made a request.
There is nothing magic about His touch. It was an indication that they should stop.
In every recorded raising of the dead, Jesus always addressed the individual.
We must remember, look at Luke 10:22, that, in Jesus' case, divine qualities and attributes were given to His human nature. All the people saw was that a MAN raised a dead man.
"Dead man" practically means "corpse." For a corpse to sit up and speak is truly remarkable. Perhaps this anticipates what is said in verse 22. John 5:25-29 ought to be read at this point. By His Word alone Jesus raised at least three dead people in His life while on earth. Look at Luke 8:54 and John 11:43. The dead truly heard His voice. By His Word alone Jesus converts the spiritually dead. And by His Word alone Jesus will raise all the dead on judgement day.
Compare the faith of the centurion (7:8) in Jesus' Word.
Verse 15b shows that Jesus "repossessed" this dead man and, therefore, gave him as a gift to his mother. By the way, Jesus always gives unconditionally. It is true that God gives what we call "rewards of grace" for deeds which Christians have done, but they are never conditional to their salvation.
"Awe" is an unearthly amazement. Their praise came out in words. They recognize Jesus as a "great prophet" but obviously not as THE Prophet of Deuteronomy 18.
Their first remark emphasizes the human person of Jesus; the other, the divine event. One answers the question: "Who is this person?"; the other, "What has God done?"
But the commentators are unanimous in observing that these people did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.
Hendriksen: Jesus performed His marvelous deeds of power and compassion not because of the recognition He received, but in spite of the fact that He failed to receive what was His due. This enhances His greatness. It causes His glory to shine froth even more brilliantly.
Since Jesus is here in Galilee, it is abundantly clear that "Judea" is used in the wider sense of "Palestine." The "surrounding country" must mean the confines of the land of Israel.
If mere human beings, in the early church, composed this account, peculiar to Luke, as a form from Hellenistic sources, they would likely not have written it in such a simple, unadorned fashion. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the One who is called the Lord in verse 13 would surely have been given more credit than Jesus is given in verse 16.
Plummer: It is worth noting that nearly all recorded instances of raising the dead were performed for women, see 1 Kings 17:23; 2 Kings 4:36; John 11:22 and 32; Acts 9:41; Hebrews 11:35.
Not only does this miracle prove that Jesus is the Lord but it also shows His great compassion for the destitute.
Luther: But look at the glorious and joyous procession of the Lord Christ, who does not go with the dead out of the city, but confronts death, because He does not come with such thoughts as if He must be afraid of it, and be under its power; but opposes death as the One who has the might and power over it.