12He was his mother’s only son,
Three times Luke speaks of an only begotten child: this son of the widow of Nain, the 12-year old daughter of Jairus, and the boy with a convulsing Spirit whom the disciples could not heal.
There is great pathos in the loss of an only child. And perhaps it is only a storyteller’s device to heighten the wonder of Jesus’ work. But there is something you should know. In Psalm 22, the famous psalm that begins “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”; the psalm pregnant with meaning in light of the crucifixion – “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads,” “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” – this psalm, in the Greek version read by the first followers of Jesus verse 20 has the word ‘only begotten’: “Deliver my life from the sword, my only begotten from the power of the dogs.”
The Gospel of John begins with the declaration “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; full of grace and truth. We have seen his glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.” (1:14)
So now this act of mercy to the widow of Nain echoes with the story of Jesus: the only begotten whom God raises from the dead.
Three stories of an only begotten, three days in the tomb, perhaps it is only chance. Or perhaps it is meant to remind us that Jesus is not just some miracle worker; he is the only begotten who bears away the sins of the world.