When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 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. Luke 7:13-15 (NRSV)
As part of seminary education a student is required to take classes in pastoral education. The classes include making visits and then writing up a recollection of the visit, especially the conversation that took place. One of the main objects of this exercise is to make sure you took the time to listen to the person you were visiting, rather than just coming with your own agenda. Jesus had the right characteristic to be a good pastor for we are told he had compassion on the widow who was burying her only son. But Jesus’ comment to her would have been criticized by the pastoral education professor. Most students know that you do not go into a room of a woman who has just experienced the death of a son and tell her not to cry. It is just not appropriate. Rather you sit with the woman and take time to listen to her grief. But Jesus was more than just a human pastor. He knew that he had the power to give life and that is just what he did. He took away the widow’s tears by bringing her son back to life. We as pastors do not have the power that Jesus had. We cannot bring dead people back to life. But Jesus does give us a gift that we can bring to those who are in grief, that is the message of life eternal with Jesus Christ. l still remember a funeral I attended some years ago. The message by the pastor and all of the eulogies given were on how great the deceased was. They highlighted all his accomplishments in life. Afterwards one woman made the comment to me that she felt no comfort from the funeral service. I explained that the service centered on what the deceased had done rather than what Jesus had done. When we ignore Jesus’ power over death we fail to bring comfort in a time of loss. As a pastor I need to take the time to sit, hear the sobs and listen to the grief of a person who has lost a loved one. However, if I do not share a message of the hope of eternal life that comes through Jesus’ death and resurrection sometime during the visit, than I have failed as a pastor. My actions would be no better than Jesus telling the widow not to cry and then failing to bring her son back to life.