Luke 7:11-17 Here is Hope
There is an old story of a servant of a wealthy merchant who sees death coming toward his master’s house. He runs to his master and says, “Sir, death is here for me, what should I do?” The master said, “Quick, take my fastest horse and flee to Bagdad.” The servant did. Death came into the room and the master asked him, “Why did you surprise my servant so?” “Surprise him”, death replied, “He surprised me. I could not understand why he was here when I have an appointment tonight with him in Bagdad”.
Folks, there is no human way to escape death. It is appointed to us all to face this ancient foe. Earnest Becker, in his Pulitzer prize winning book, The Denial of Death, points out that in all of creation, only humanity is aware of our mortality. We all live with the knowledge we are going to die. The anxiety of this knowledge is part of the curse/Fall.
Yet, within the pages of this book, from the very mouth of God, we are given the opportunity to gain an understanding that can take the anxiety of death away. This is not an act of psychological repression, the “no fear” illusion that humanity may try to embrace, but a comforting power that allows us to trust not in our own ability to overcome this foe, but to have confidence in the promised made by the one whom even death will someday bow.
In our passage today, we find Jesus and his disciples encountering the funeral procession for a young man. When Jesus sees the mother, the Scripture says His heart when out to her. Other versions say He had compassion on her. The word used is a word which indicates a strong feeling acted on Jesus. He felt her pain.
This is an essential truth of the faith I proclaim. It is the foundation of all true Christian theology. Our God is a God that cares about humanity. Our God is a good who can feel compassion, who is moved in his deepest parts by our suffering and our condition.
OK, they why does he not stop it? How many other mothers lost sons? How many others have felt the deepest of pain and sorrow and yet God did not come and end their pain. Why this widow? Folks, we ask this question out of our own finite-ness. They cannot be answered by the reason or logic of men. We question why God does or doesn’t do this or that. We want God to fit into our understanding, into what we think ought to be without realizing how arrogant we are. We are like the flea on the back of an elephant who whispers in the elephant’s ear, “boy we make the ground shake when we walk!”
Jesus compassion, his heart going out, is an act of grace, an act of caring. This woman has not sought him out. She has not travelled with him. She does not know him, until that moment and from then on she will never forget him. She is a widow, this was her only son. Yes there were people there for the funeral, but in those days, the only future this widow had to look forward to was poverty and more suffering. Who would care for her? What kind of hope could she have?
In a way, this woman represents us all. All of us are going to be hurt by the loss death brings. All of us hang dangerously on the edge of being alone with no one to care. We have been very blessed in this country so far, but as the last few years have shown, our comfortable lives can be drastically changed by circumstance beyond our control.
What are we to do when such things come our way? Are we to cry, scream, or throw a fit? Do these thing help? Will they make the problem, the pressure, or the pain go away? No, they do not. However, what we can know is that Jesus has made a promise. He will come to us. He will go with us. He can make a difference in our lives. His brings life, and in his Word there is hope no matter what our situation.
Note what the passage tells us. Jesus went to her. He comforts her. This is the nature of our God.
No, the Lord is not pleased with our sins. No he is not pleased when our lives are distant from him. But he is even less pleased when he sees in creation in pain. He gets no satisfaction from our suffering. 2 Samuel 14:14 tells us: Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. Did you catch that? God does not take away our loved ones. The curse does that. The Fall does that. This is why God sent Jesus. This is why we are saved by grace through faith and not by our own works. This is why we have hope.
I am so thankful that no matter what the circumstances are, I know God cares. He may not make it rain pennies from heaven or sprinkle twinkle dust to make it all better, but I know He has compassion. I know his heart goes out to us. I know he is moved by our plight. I know he will come to us and he will touch us. I know he desires to walk with us and will do so if we but ask. How do I know? I know from experience, from testimony, and from God’s very Word.
Look what happens next! Jesus goes over to the boy’s lifeless body. He touches the coffin (this in itself would have been an abomination to the religious leaders of Jesus age). He speaks to the boy, “Young man, I say to you get up”, and the boy sets up and begins to talk. Do you think the people are amazed!
There is a story about a preacher who got fired in Alabama for taking the Lord’s name in vain. It seems that a local fellow died and the preacher was doing the funeral. The family had requested an open casket during the service. As the preacher was giving the funeral sermon, the corpse went through what is caused post mortem contractions. As the preacher was saying, “If Kenneth could set up today and tell us what he now knows”, the corpse suddenly set up. As the corpse set up the church emptied with the preacher leading the pack screaming, God help me, God help me.
I am sure there was a bit of shock and excitement in Nain that day as well. We are told there was no panic, only a sense of awe and praise and the knowledge that God had sent someone to do something great for his people. They were right in this point. Jesus is the greatest gift God has ever given to humanity. God has done something great.
When we are down, defeated, depressed, when we are in the times of trouble, when we feel hurt of the heart in the pit of pain of life in a real a way, Jesus comes. He comes to us with life, he comes to us with a word of hope, he comes to us and says get up. Jesus gives us back to His Father who sent him to us to do just this. If you need hope, here it is.