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(Chp 12) More than just a Wonderful Story

March 17, 2008, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Luke 7:11-17) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: The Jesus Creed
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service

Tags: Jesus Creed, Luke

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Sermon based on Chapter 12 of Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed

Title: More than just a wonderful story (Luke 7:11-17)

This is a wonderful story. Wonderful! Isn’t it wonderful? A feel-good story. I feel really good! I bet you feel good too. It started with a sad situation. Death! Death to an only son. Death to the only son of a widow. This was not just sad, it was a tragedy. But Jesus came along. Jesus! Jesus the loving Son of God! Jesus the powerful healer! WWJD, what would Jesus do? Do you even have to ask? Jesus did his mumbo jumbo. The dead came back to life, and the people praised God. Praise ye the Lord! The dead came back to life, and they lived happily ever after. This is a wonderful story with a happy ending. I feel really good. Jesus is good. Jesus comes, Jesus transforms and Jesus leaves happy endings. This is the wonderful story of life with Jesus, where sad situations become happy, and everybody feels good. The story of my life with Jesus.

Hey, wait just a minute. This is not the story of my life?! My life is nothing like this. My life is not wonderful, it sucks. My life doesn’t feel good, I feel miserable. My life doesn’t have an ending yet, but it sure doesn’t look very happy. There is something wrong here. I think I have been shortchanged somewhere. The people I visit continue to be sick, the youths I counsel continue to be rebellious and the same sad situations in broken families, poverty and depression, well they continue on. Whatever happened to the wonderful story of life with Jesus? My life is nothing like the story I have just read. Jesus came, I believe, and that’s pretty much it. I think I got shortchanged, I got imitation Jesus wannabe instead. I see no miraculous transformation, and I certainly do not have anything worth giving thanks for. I think I better check for the 30 days money back guarantee since my current life is nothing like the wonderful life with Jesus that I signed up for. Jesus the miracle worker is malfunctioning in my case.

Hey, wait just a minute. Maybe before I send back imitation Jesus wannabe, I better check the product clearly. ‘Cause, you know, it would look really silly if there is nothing wrong with what I got, but rather that I have been using it wrongly all this while. It is like complaining about my toaster not heating up, when all along it is a mini refrigerator. That would be embarrassing. Maybe there is more to the story than just a wonderful story that makes you feel good about this miracle worker Jesus. Let me check the context to get a clearer picture. (checks) Oh no. This story comes after the choosing of the disciples and then the famous sermon on the plains, which is known as sermon on the mount in Matthew. You know what? That means that prior to our story today, Luke was talking about disciples and discipleship. Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God and the people of God. Let’s read even more in depth. Read Luke 6:46-49.

46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

You know what I think? I think the story we have read in the beginning is not a wonderful feel-good story at all. I think the story was a continuation of the sermon on the plains. The sermon was about the kingdom of God, and the story that followed is the kingdom of God actualized. Jesus taught about the expectations on the people of God in chapter 6 and in chapter 7, he lived it out. Jesus was being a living model of how the people of God are to live in the kingdom of God. So this story isn’t so much about what I should expect Jesus to do in my life, but rather it is about what Jesus expects me to do in the lives of others. He who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice is like a man building a house on firm foundation. Gotcha!

This understanding helps to solve a problem of mine. The problem it solves is that I now know why Jesus doesn’t solve all the problems of the world by himself. Surprise, Jesus the wonderful miracle worker doesn’t just wipe out all the problems I see! Before I came to a proper correct understanding, I was Jesus’ superintendent. Hey Jesus! I have a sick person here, can I get some healing here quickly? Hey Jesus! See that teenage delinquent over there, discipline him a little will you? Hey Jesus! That man is beating his wife again, for your information and transformation. Hurry up. And also by the way, clean up both the Jubilee services of all the late comers, the tardy place is a shame to your work. I was looking around, and finding fault with God’s not-so-perfect miraculous work. His good work was far short of even my standards, the miracles I needed to see happening were just too few and too late. But now I understand. Jesus is not here to be my handy miracle worker to deal with all the issues. Jesus is here to show how we can all do likewise as children of God. The story today is not for us to marvel at Jesus. It speaks to us saying, “you see what I’m doing? This is what it means when God helps his people, and now, it’s your turn.” This correct understanding helps me solve the problem of wondering why God hasn’t solved all difficulties in life through miracles from Jesus.

But hold it just a second. This understanding solves a problem, but creates another problem for me! Working miracles and helping people, yes, Jesus can do it, but I, a mere human, cannot do it. You all know the 7 deadly sins. I have 7 deadly excuses. One, I don’t know who to care for. Two, I have nothing much to give. Three, I don’t know what to do. Four, I have enough troubles of my own. Five, what if people reject my help? Six, why can’t somebody else do it? Seven, oh give me a break, I thought up 6 excuses already. Bottom line, working miracles and helping people is God’s job, I cannot do it, and I don’t want to. I have my 7 deadly excuses. They all sound good and valid, but why is it that I cannot shake off the feeling that I am missing something important here. Why is it that despite my formidable wall of 7 deadly excuses, there is something penetrating through that calls out to me? I know what it is. It is the kingdom of God. It is the realm that God is working and things are what they are supposed to be. Jesus describes it to John the Baptist’s messengers who want to know if he is the chosen one:

Luke 7:22b "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." The kingdom of God is here because Jesus is here. In the kingdom of God, God is working and things are made right. The kingdom of God calls out to me, penetrating my fortress of 7 deadly excuses. In their place, I now have 7 convictions to banish my apathy and answer God’s call. One, I want to be part of the action. Two, I want to be blessed. Three, I want to be where God is. Four, I want to experience the transformation. Five, I want to follow and be like Jesus. Six, I want to build on a firm foundation. Seven, I want to be a true child of God. I have no more excuses. To be part of this kingdom of God, I have to live like a people of God. Today’s story can become a reality for me. But it is not a story to make me feel good. It is a story to make me do good.

Thankfully, with Jesus as the model, it is not really true that there is nothing I can do. There are 3 steps to Jesus’ action in this story. The first step is to observe. The Lord saw her. What did Jesus see? Jesus saw a widow whose only son was now dead. She was a woman who had lost her husband and her son. She was now without financial support. She was powerless to fend for herself. She was grieving because she had lost everything, including hope for the future. The first step is to observe. Many times we wonder what God wants us to do. What is God’s plan for us? Who are we supposed to be ministering to? Well, start with step one: observe. Are we too busy to observe? Jesus could have passed by the funeral procession. A mere hindrance along his way to Jerusalem, supposedly his main ministry. But he took time to see the woman. If you want to know God’s plan for yourself, if you want to get involved in the kingdom of God, take time to observe. Stay longer in church to observe. Come early for prayer meets, stay late to fellowship during lunch. Go to cell groups to observe the needs of others. Go for mission trips and see for yourself.

Step one is to observe. But Jesus didn’t just see the woman, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." After observing, you need to feel. Jesus had compassion for the woman. She was weeping, and he felt her sorrow and pain. The most common verb used in the Greek New Testament to refer to God’s compassion is splanchnizomai. This word originally referred to the inner parts of a man, the heart, liver, and so on. But it became common to use this word in reference to the lower parts of the abdomen, the intestines, and especially the womb. Some theologians have felt that this term was too rough or graphic to be used in reference to God’s compassion. However, I think the New Testament writers meant to do exactly this. They were impressing on the readers the power and the force of God’s compassion. They may also have had in mind a physical feeling associated with compassion. Sometimes a sharp pain in the abdomen will accompany intense feelings of compassion or pity for those we love. The choice of such a graphic word served to impress the New Testament Christians that God’s compassion for them was rooted in his deep love for them and his sensitivity to their pain.

The first step is to observe, and the second is to have compassion. And compassion impacts and hurts like a stomachache. These propel us to the final step which is to do. Jesus restored the loss of the widow with a resurrected son returned to her. You might be thinking like me, “I’m not Jesus, what can I do?” First of all, we need to recognize that miracles do happen. We can always pray to God for divine intervention.

Secondly, sometimes Jesus is the answer. And surely all of us have the responsibility to share the good news of Jesus to those that need it. Lastly, but certainly not the least, we the Christian community, the people of God, are instruments of actualizing the kingdom of God. Through the gifts and the strength of God, we bring salt and light into the dying and darkness of others. This is why in the sermon of the plains, Jesus teaches that a good tree must bear good fruits. For it is out of the overflow of our hearts that we speak and act into people’s lives.

So today’s story is an inspiration for us to heed the words of Jesus and do likewise. Like how Jesus encountered the widow who had lost her son, we too must observe, feel compassion and act to restore the loss. This is why after the gospel of Luke that describes the modeling of Jesus comes the book of Acts which describes the corresponding deeds of Jesus’ followers. What loss have we observed, felt compassion and acted to restore? To those in need, we can provide. So feed the hungry, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless. To those who are lonely, give time. To those who are sad, give comfort. But it is not all sweet and sympathetic stuff. Jesus also provides other models of transformation. To those who have lost their discipline, we give rebuke together with acceptance. To those who lose control of their tongues, we give them commands to submit to God’s word. To those who have lost their identity to greed, fame and corruption, we offer a sobering community for them to take refuge. I know of mothers who have lost their sons, and I welcome you into the youth ministry to bring sense to their children. “Young man, I say to you, get up!”

Then people will see and know that indeed God has come to help his people. And this is what today’s story is all about. It is a wonderful story. And I do feel good. But it is more than just what Jesus has done. It is also what I know I will see in my own life, when Jesus works through all of us.

Luke 7:11–17 (Listen)

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

(ESV)