Archive for the ‘Luke 7:11-17’ Category

Christ’s Compassionate Touch

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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 “The unthinkable!  My son is gone!  My only son is ad and I am alone.  Why has God done this to me?  Now who will take care of me?  I have….no one.  Is their truly a God who loves me?” 

While the Bible is silent on the worries and concerns of the two widows in our scripture lessons, it makes two things clear:  They were widows, and their only child had just died.  In the Jewish culture, they were considered abandoned to the charity of others.  They couldn’t work, because they were women.  We assume that because the Bible does not mention any other relatives, they were essentially left alone. 

Do you think that these two woman were feeling abandoned by God?  Let’s turn to our gospel reading and see if we can empathetically relate to them.  Jewish custom dictated that when a person dies, they must be buried as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours.  The widow in our gospel reading is alone.  With no other family, the task of preparing her son for burial was hers and hers alone.  You see, Jewish custom also dictated that if anyone had contact with a dead body, they were ceremonially unclean for seven days.  There were no morticians in those days.  Preparation of the dead always fell upon family members.  And so this heartbroken mother had to wash the cold, lifeless body of a son who was not just her pride and joy, but her very life.  His hair and nails had to be trimmed, and the new suit of clothes she made for his future wedding, would finally be worn for the first and last time.  Her very pride and joy was gone, indeed the hopes of her entire future lay lifeless on the floor. 

We can only imagine how much sorrow this woman was going through.  Our text tells us that “she was a widow.” Think of it; this was the second time the crowd had carried out a dead man from her home—the first was her husband. After that sad day, she had only one comfort left, she had her son. But now her son, her only source of support is gone as well. No wonder “a large crowd” had gathered to accompany her out of the city to the cemetery; they felt sorry for her. But this sympathy couldn’t make-up for her terrible loss!  We can imagine that this poor woman was left faithless and broken… that is until Jesus touched her son’s coffin with His hand and his dead body with His life-giving Word.  “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  Yes, that mother needed the touch of Christ!

I. Who Else Needs The Touch Of Christ?  Well anyone separated from God by sin and the brokenness of sin.  What kind of sins?  Well how about pride.  “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”  (Prov. 16:5) “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.  (Prov. 18:12)  Or perhaps sexual sins are the cause of someone’s separation from God.  “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” [Heb. 13:4]  But wait, what about greed and theft?  “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.  Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”  [Prov. 23:4,5]  Then there are always those who put their best strength and energy into chasing after the pleasures of this world.  “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  [1 Cor. 6:9,10]

But it isn’t just those burdened by sin that Jesus wants to touch; He also wants to touch anyone burdened by the troubles and sorrows caused by sin!  He calls out to anyone who is suffering from the death of a loved one or the reckless life of a family member who seems to have lost their Christian faith that they were taught as a child.  Jesus reaches out to touch anyone who has been scared by tragedy, sickness, and financial worries.  But He also reaches out to touch any of you who have lost your passion for Christ.  Listen: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” [Rev. 2:4,5a]

II. How do we receive the touch of Christ?  In your baptism, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” [1 Cor. 6:11]  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” [Rom. 6:3-4]  You see, “in Christ Jesus you are all (children) of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” [Gal. 3:26-28]  The truth is friends, in your baptism; Christ touched you in a way that no one else could ever touch you.  In your baptism, Christ gave to you His entire suffering, death, and resurrection, so that He might bring you to God.  Your baptism has put to death your flesh and made you alive in the spirit.  In your baptism, Christ not only touches you but He saves you! [1 Pet. 18-21]

 III. What Happens When We Live Out The Touch Of Christ?  Well, our old way of thinking and living dies more and more every day.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)   But we also begin to experience what Jesus calls rebirth.  “Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)  When you begin to live out these spiritual realities, God’s Word promises that you will experience a powerful renewal.  “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”  (Acts 3:19,20)   And after God renews you, He promises just one more surprise… restoration!  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)

IV. Why Does Jesus Want To Touch Us?  Because God loves to decorate our hearts.  Let him live long enough within you, and your heart will begin to change.  Portraits of hurt hanging upon the wall of your heart will be replaced by landscapes of grace.  Walls of anger that once stood strong will be demolished and your shaky foundation will be restored.  God can no more leave a life unchanged than a mother can leave her child’s tear untouched.  It’s not enough for him to win you; he wants to change you.  Where you and I might be satisfied with an unfurnished studio apartment, he refuses to settle for any dwelling short of a mansion.  After all, our bodies are His temple.  No attention to detail is skipped and no corners are cut.  “Oh, the utter extravagance of his work within those of us who trust in Him.”  (Paraphrase of Max Lucado)  Why is that?

Because our God is a God of love and compassion, and because He has come to us in our flesh and lived as one of us, He is sympathetic to each one of our pains, worries, and fears.  He “is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. [2 Peter 3:9]  So Jesus wants to continue His touch.  Touching you in baptism is not enough for Him; He wants to embrace you throughout your entire life.  And He does this by inviting you to daily to live out His touch by staying centered in His Word.

V. What Happens After Jesus Touches?  Lives are changed.  Hope is restored.  Faith is increased.  Love is increased.  We serve the Lord with Joy and we become living examples of Christ’s love to others.

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four-year-old child, whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

Both of the widows in our readings this morning must have longed for the touch of their sons just one more time.  Instead they got the touch of God!  Therapy, psychoanalysis, ignoring, forgetting just can’t give you what God wants to give.  Our liturgy, hymns, and prayers, our music, art, and architecture are all designed to help us see God’s touch; a touch that confronts the terror of death with the hope—the beautiful dream—of first His resurrection and then our own resurrection.  This is the true balm of Gilead… the balm against deaths mortal wound!

While both widows had their son’s returned to them, the truth is, those boys would die again; sin would once again have its way with them.  But the touch of Jesus, the living Word of God wipes away all of our fears about this ever present enemy   You see dear friends, just when all seems lost to us, the Living Word of God speaks to us and teaches us that God’s own Son rose from the dead and promises us that because He has touched us… because He has touched our loved ones and neighbors, each of us will experience the exact same thing… eternal victory over death!

CONCLUSION: At the end of our Old Testament reading, the widow says a strange thing.  She says to Elijah: “Now I know that you are a man of God and the Word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”  The widow knew the truth when she saw it!  Her son was dead, but now he was alive.  Dear friends, that’s not just truth, that’s eternal truth!  And that eternal truth calls out to us today: “The Word of the Lord in your heart and in your mouth is truth.”  It’s the Word of the Lord you hear in your Baptism; you have been buried and raised with Christ.  It’s the Word of the Lord you have at His table in, with, and under the bread and wine; this is my body and blood given for you for the forgiveness of your many sins!  You hear it in the Absolution; your sins are forgiven!

Dear friends, the Lord wants you to receive this truth, because within it you receive His touch… a touch that promises you not just forgiveness of your many sins but the certainty of your resurrection and the gift of eternal life!  I pray that you will not reject this touch.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!