Sermon Illustrations

The late Henri Nouwen, a great theologian and priest, retells an old story in his famous book, The Wounded Healer: “One day a young fugitive, trying to hide himself from the enemy, entered a small village. The people were kind to him and offered him a place to stay. But when the soldiers who sought the fugitive came and asked where he was hiding, everyone became very fearful. The soldiers threatened to burn the village and kill every man in it unless the fugitive was handed over to them before dawn. The people went to the pastor and asked him what to do. The pastor, torn between handing the young man over to the enemy or having the people killed, withdrew to his room and read his Bible, hoping to find an answer before dawn. After many hours, in the early morning, his eyes fell on these words: ‘It is better that one man dies than the whole people be lost.’ Then the pastor closed the Bible, called the soldiers and told them where the young fugitive was hidden. And after the soldiers led the prisoner away to be killed, there was a great feast in the village because the pastor had saved the lives of the people. But the pastor did not celebrate. Overcome with a deep sadness he remained in his room. That night an angel came to him and asked, ‘What have you done?’ The pastor said, ‘I handed over the fugitive to the enemy.’ Then the angel said, ‘But don’t you know that you have handed over the Messiah?’ ‘How could I know?’ the pastor replied anxiously. Then the angel said, ‘If instead of reading your Bible, you had visited this young man just once and looked into his eyes, you would have known.’”

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).