Five miles southeast of Nazareth
A young man drew his final breath,
And perished in his mother's arms.
She stared across the olive farms
South to the Plain of Esdraelon;
And back and forth she rocked her son,
Her only son, and held his head
Against the breast where she had fed
Him with her bitter milk and tears.
For dark and bitter were the years
When he was born. His father died
Before the child could walk. His bride
Of twenty months had buried him,
With help from friends, out on the rim
That falls steep toward Samaria.
And spices from Arabia
Were given by the neighborhood,
As everyone agreed they should,
Because she had no other family.
But yet there was the son, and he
The widow's only hope.
They lived together, and her fears
Grew less as he became a man.
And then the dread disease began:
At first the intermittent cough;
And then the puzzling fever off
And on; and then the constant wheeze;
And then the nights upon her knees:
"Almighty God of Abraham,
Take pity on me, Lord, I am
A widow; he's my only son.
If he should die I am undone!"
And then the purple spit appeared,
And all the worst that she had feared.
To fight his final fears she tried
To hold him tight until he died.
And back and forth she rocked her son
Above the Plain of Esdraelon.
Her friends made fit the burial place
Out on the rim, and made a space
Beside his father, and prepared
The body while his mother stared
Across the Plain, too stunned and weak
To work or cry or even speak.
But then, come burial day, at length
She summoned up her little strength,
And with the child and crowd and pain
She led them out the gates of Nain.
And now, behold, the Word of God!
The rock- and ocean-splitting rod!
Along that very road there came
A band of men, and One whose name
Is Jesus Christ the Lord. They bowed
Politely to the grieving crowd,
But one: the Lord had fixed his eyes,
As though he heard a thousand cries,
On her. And when she saw his face
She stopped, and silence filled the place.
A strange and awesome feeling fell
Upon that crowd, and they could tell
That this exchange was very deep.
And then he spoke and said, "Don't weep."
And something happened in her heart
That made the heaviness depart.
And then he motioned to the men
Who held the box, and when
They looked at her and saw her hope,
They set it down and loosed the rope.
As gentle as a hand could be,
He made the coffin cover free,
And then with father-fingers lay
The strips of facial shroud away,
And spoke with passion in his eyes:
"Young man, I say to you, arise."
And he arose. And Jesus placed
Him in his mother's arms, and faced
Her one last time. Perhaps the two
Of them alone were all who knew:
Two short commands were all he said—
Two people quickened from the dead.
Who can withstand the word of Christ!
It has for ages now sufficed
To bear the universe it made!
Come let the glory be displayed
Of Jesus Christ's triumphant voice!
The dead rise not by their own choice,
And none of us would live at all
But by the Lord's triumphant call!
This is the truth of candle two:
The call of God makes all things new.
©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org