Summary: Jesus is hardly ever more compassionate than we see Him in our Gospel passage read this morning.
Sermon: Jesusï¿½ Calloused Hands
Text: Luke 7:11-17, Eph 3:13-21
Where: Arbor House
When: Sunday, Sep 26, 2004
Occasion: Trinity XVI
Who: Mark Woolsey
I . Intro
Jesus is hardly ever more compassionate than we see Him in our Gospel passage read this morning. Look down the road and see this band of people coming toward you. Even at a great distance you can see itï¿½s not a happy throng. No, they are truding along, heads bowed, feet dragging. As you approach, see the woman dressed in morning, pain etched all over her deeply-lined face. Twice now she has made this journey, taking her beloved on a doleful one-way trip. The heights of her former happiness with her husband and only son now only deepen her slough of despond. When her husband died she didnï¿½t know how she would continue on; and even if she could, where would the money come from? At least she still had their boy. His smile is just like his fatherï¿½s! But now what seems to be wrong with little Johnny? Heï¿½s not getting sick, too, is he? God, how could you strike me twice like this? Yet strike He did, to her very heart. As your own vision blurs at this lacrimonious litter, you are suddenly arrested by a strange sight. A man, obviously a stranger to the funeral procession, stands in the way. His hand, calloused like a carpenter you think, reaches out and stops the bier. This is strange, but then becomes almost mockingly rude. First He addresses the widow mother and tells her not to cry. Sir, thatï¿½s all she has left! Let her grief come out that she may find even one dollop of consolation. Moving from the insensitive "Do not cry" he now mocks her by telling the body to rise! And yet, far from being an attack, our Lord raises the only son of this destitute and berift widow, and restores him to her. Much now could be said about the compassion shown by Jesus, and how He is always looking out for the poor, lonely, and outcast. Preachers wax rhapsodic about how Jesus cares for your every need and wants to help whatever is wrong in your life. They make much of the fact that no one even ventured so much as to ask Jesus to help; He acted without even being asked. Indeed, these sermons can be so surgary sweet as to throw many of their listeners into a diabetic coma! And certainly its true that God is our father and cares for us even more than we care for ourselves. Indeed, as far as I can remember at the moment, in every instance in which Jesus is recorded to have come in contact with a sick person, He healed him. Yet none of us has to think very hard before we remember a time when Jesus did not heal. Perhaps you have a son or daughter that you lost in death and Jesus did not heal him. Perhaps you have lost a husband or a wife, your health, or even your marriage. Where is this kind and gentle Jesus then? Has He lost His potentcy or His compassion? Listen to Charles Templeton, a former preacher with Billy Graham, as he recounts how he lost his faith:
"It was a photograph in Life magazine," he said finally. ... He narrowed his eyes a bit and looked off to the side, as if he were viewing the photo afresh and reliving the moment. "It was a picture of a black woman in Northern Africa," he explained. "They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and I thought, "Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?"
I want to focus on one small part of our gospel story, one little detail that many overlook, yet which can cause even a great man like Charles Templeton to lose his faith if it is misunderstood. In fact, this detail is so tiny, that it is not even explicitly mentioned in the text. It is Jesusï¿½ calloused hands.
II. Jesusï¿½ Calloused Hands
In verse 14 we read that He "touched the open coffin". What did He touch it with? Undoubably, at least at some point He used His hand. Given our cultureï¿½s current religious sentiment, when it does think of Jesus, it usually sees Him as this gentle and kind man that caresses us when we hurt. By extension, His hear often of His "healing touch" and think of soft hands guiding us. Yet consider His occupation when He was on earth in the flesh. He was a carpenter. They are not known for their manicured hands; in fact, they tend to be quite rough and calloused. These hands take an unfinished piece of wood and turn it into a beautiful and functional item for your home. But in the process they get bruised, hit with a hammer, pained with splinters, etc, until they aquire a certain hardness. In fact, it is this very hardness that allows then to produce their greatest works. In the same way, Jesus at times stretches out His hand over us to heal us, yet at other times simply passes over us and allows us to suffer - not out of cruelty or lack of ability, but for His own good purpose. Each of us needs to remember that we are not innocent bystanders hurt by some cosmic war going on, but we are rebels actively taking up arms against our sovereign Lord. Our only right before Him is judgement and death. And yet, as the boy and mother can testify, Jesus still has mercy on some. For all of you who believe in Him, He has had great mercy on you. Just like the boyï¿½s pall bearers, the Law killed you and bore you away to bury you in Hell. Yet Jesus stopped that funeral procession and raised you up. You did not earn that right; you did not even ask for it. How could you? you were dead! Yet Jesus did stretch out His calloused hand to you. Maybe He has since passed over other opportunities to heal or deliver, but know that it is not because of lack of care or ability. There will be a day when He makes all things right. Until then, let us trust in His timing. Indeed, in our Epistle passage we are encouraged "to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph 3:19). Let us today eat of the flesh of our risen Lord, and drink his blood, that we, too, may be filled with the fullness of God.
This is the word of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Soli Deo gloria!