The Context of Jesus’ Visit to Nain

15 Jul

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Previously, we left Jesus approaching Capernaum from Cana[1] when he healed the servant of the centurion, but the healing took place at some distance from where the dying young man lay (Luke 7:2-10; cf. John 4:45-54), so Jesus was probably as some distance from Capernaum and not in the city. We know this, because the father of the young man immediately left Jesus when he was told that his son was healed, and he found Jesus’ word to be true when he met his own servants who told him his son was healed at the 7th hour the previous day (John 4:53). Immediately after healing the young man, Jesus retraced his steps to Cana on his way to visit the town of Nain, just 6 miles southeast of his hometown of Nazareth, and Luke tells us he didn’t arrive until sometime the following day (Luke 7:11).

Whether or not the nobleman (John 4:46) and the Jewish emissaries (Luke 7:3-4) arrived in Cana at the beginning of the day or near the middle or even the end of the day, the Gospel records don’t specifically say. Nevertheless, Luke implies it was probably near the end of the day. This is understood in the fact that the centurion was made aware of Jesus’ intention of coming to him, and the centurion was able to contact Jesus a second time, before Jesus was able to come to Capernaum (Luke 7:6). The phrase “not far from” (Luke 7:6) is a relative term. Actually, 20 miles is not far from Capernaum, but a distance of 20 miles was about a day’s journey either by horseback (25 to 30 miles per day on a fresh horse) or by foot (15 to 20 miles per day).[2] Therefore, the nobleman and the Jewish emissaries probably arrived in Cana near the end of the day and Jesus spent the night at Cana before embarking for Capernaum at first light.

The centurion was made aware of Jesus’ intention when the messengers returned to him during the night. The messengers returned on fresh horses and found Jesus about half way to Capernaum from Cana at about the 7th hour of the day (approximately 1 PM as modern time is reckoned—see John 4:52). The father of the young man arrived in Capernaum after a full day’s journey. It was also after sundown or when the next day began, and his servants met him to say the fever left his son about midday the previous day (approximately 5-7 hours earlier).

Therefore, Jesus began his journey to Nain with about five hours of daylight left and approximately 20 miles yet to travel (Luke 7:11; cf. John 4:52).[3] With only half a day’s worth of daylight left, Jesus must have stopped for the night upon arriving at Cana and then left for Nain in the morning. If he set out on his journey at the break of day, he would have arrived in Nain about noon or shortly thereafter to witness the funeral procession, coming from the city (Luke 7:11). The mother of the young man would have led the procession with the bier behind her and the mourners following the bier.[4]


[1] Cana of Galilee is about 20 miles from Capernaum. Actually, there are two villages of Galilee that are candidates for being Cana of Galilee. They are: Kefr-Kenna, which is about four miles north-east of Nazareth, and the other is Khurbet-Kana, which is about ten miles north of Jesus’ home town. Most scholars today consider Khurbet-Kana to be the New Testament’s Cana of Galilee (see Popular Commentary).

[2] James S. Jeffers: The Greco-Roman World; Inter-Varsity Press (1999), page 37.

[3] If Jesus was 10 miles from Capernaum when he healed the young man, unless there was a shorter route to Nain, he had to travel 10 miles back to Cana which was about 4 miles from Nazareth, which was another 6 miles from Nain or about 20 miles in all.

[4] Alfred Edersheim: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah; “Sketches of Jewish Social Life”; Chapter 10.

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Posted by on July 15, 2019 in Gospel of Luke


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