Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
11. And it happened, when he departed, that he went into a city, which was called Nain, and many of his disciples, and a great multitude, went along with him. 12. And as he was approaching to the gate of the city, there was carried out a dead man, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and a great multitude from the city was with her. 13. And when the Lord saw her, he was moved with compassion towards her, and said to her, Weep not. 14. And approaching he touched the coffin, (and they who were carrying it stood still,) and said, Young man, I say to thee, Arise. 15. And he who was dead sat up, and began to speak, and he gave him to his mother. 16. And fear seized all, and they glorified God, saying, A great Prophet hath risen up among us, and God hath visited his people. 17. And this report concerning him was spread throughout all Judea, and all the neighboring country.
Luke 7:11. And it happened, that he went into a city. In all the miracles of Christ, we must attend to the rule which Matthew lays down. We ought to know, therefore, that this young man, whom Christ raised from the dead, is an emblem of the spiritual life which he restores to us. The name of the city contributes to the certainty of the history. The same purpose is served by what Luke says, that a great multitude from every direction followed him: for Christ had many attendants along with him, and many persons accompanied the woman, as a mark of respect, to the interment of her son. The resurrection of the young man was beheld by so many witnesses, that no doubt could be entertained as to its truth. There was the additional circumstance of its being a crowded place: for we know that public assemblies were held at the gates. That the dead man was carried out of the city was in accordance with a very ancient custom among all nations. Jerome says that, in his time, the city of Nain was still in existence, two miles below Mount Tabor, in a southerly direction.
12. The only son of his mother. The reason which induced Christ to restore the young man to life was, that he saw the widow bereft of her only son, and had compassion on her: for he did not withhold his favor till some one requested it, as he did on other occasions; but anticipated the prayers of all, and restored the son to his mother, by whom nothing of this sort was expected. We have here a striking emblem of his freely bestowed compassion in raising us from death to life. By touching the coffin he intended perhaps to show, that he would by no means shrink from death and the grave, in order to obtain life for us. He not only deigns to touch us with his hand, in order to quicken us when we are dead, but, in order that he might raise us to heaven, himself descends into the grave.
14. Young man, I say to thee. By this word Christ proved the truth of the saying of Paul, that God calleth those things which are not, as they were, (Ro 4:17.) He addresses the dead man, and makes himself be heard, so that death is suddenly changed into life. We have here, in the first place, a striking emblem of the future resurrection, as Ezekiel is commanded to say, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord, [Eze 37:4.] Secondly, we are taught in what manner Christ quickens us spiritually by faith. It is when he infuses into his word a secret power, so that it enters into dead souls, as he himself declares,
The hour cometh, when the dead shall hear the voice of
the Son of God, and they who hear shall live, (Joh 5:25.)
16. And fear seized all A sense of the divine presence must have brought fear along with it: but there is a difference between the kinds of fear Unbelievers either tremble and are dismayed; or, struck with alarm, murmur against God: while devout and godly persons, moved by reverence, willingly humble themselves. Fear, therefore, is here taken in a good sense, because they gave the honor which was due to the power of God which they had beheld, and rendered to God not only homage, but thanksgiving.
God hath visited his people I understand this to refer not to every kind of visitation, but to that which would restore them to their original condition. Not only were the affairs of Judea in a depressed state, but they had sunk under a wretched and frightful slavery, as if God were not looking at them. The only remaining hope was, that God had promised to be their Redeemer, after they had endured very heavy calamities. I have no doubt, therefore, that they were excited by the miracle to expect an approaching restoration to prosperity: only they fall into a mistake as to the nature of the visitation Though they acknowledge and celebrate the unwonted grace of God in this respect, that a great Prophet hath risen up among us, yet this eulogium comes very far short of the dignity and glory of the promised Messiah. Hence it appears that the faith of that people was, at this time, exceedingly confused, and involved in many unfounded imaginations.