Several years ago while I was leading a tour to Israel, we were in the old city of Jerusalem and we were just about ready to go out St. Stephen's Gate or the Lion Gate as it's often called. And as we were ready to go out, all of a sudden there was a big commotion from behind that was so big that we stopped.
We just kind of froze in our tracks. And we turned around and looked and here was this funeral coming through the streets of old Jerusalem headed towards the Lion's Gate. Now it was not like a funeral that you've probably ever seen before because it wasn't like one I'd ever seen. At the head of this funeral was some kind of clergy person.
I don't have a clue what kind of clergy person it was. But anyway, and he was with the widow and then right behind them was the body. Except it wasn't in a casket and it wasn't in a hearse or anything like we would think of. It was right out in the open on a flat pallet. It was wrapped up in white cloth, the body was.
It kind of looked like a cocoon made out of white gauze. And they wrapped it all up and it was sitting up on top of this open pallet. And there were poles through the two ends of the pallet and the pallbearers had the pallet up on their shoulder. And they were walking and carrying this body through the streets of Jerusalem. And immediately behind them was a group of friends and relatives who were crying and mourning and wailing.
This dead person and then they had symbols and they had noisemakers. And this was the most incredible procession I ever saw. And they marched right by us, right down and out of the gate of the city and towards the graveyard as we stood there mesmerized by this funeral. Now the reason I bring all this up is because we're going to see that almost two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ found himself face to face with just such a processional. The only difference is he didn't stand there and do nothing and just watch it go by like I did. But rather Jesus reigned all over that parade.
And of course that's good because a funeral is a great parade to rain on if you're going to stop it. And that's exactly what Jesus did. And so we're going to look at Luke Chapter 7 and we're going to study what he did. And then we're going to ask really the most important question and you know what that is. That is what? So what? You're right.
Okay, let's look together. Verse 11, Chapter 7. Soon afterward, the Bible says, you say, wait a minute, soon afterward what? Well, soon after he healed this servant of the centurion that we learn about in the beginning of the chapter, which was happened up in Capernaum. So a few days later, a week later, two weeks later, something like that, Jesus went to a town called Nain.
And his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. Now Nain was about 25 miles south of Capernaum. It was a little itsy bitsy little town, kind of like a hiccup in the road is about all Nain was. And so he said, well, why in the world would he have gone there?
Well, maybe he went there just for this meeting that he's about to have. Anyway, he went to Nain and when he got there, verse 12 tells us what he found. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out, the only son of his mother. And she was a widow and a large crowd from the town was with her. Now, when you read this, you kind of get the sense that this is very similar to what we saw in Jerusalem that day. And from studying historical and archaeological records, we know that it is because we know that ancient funerals in Israel were just like that one I saw in the modern streets of Jerusalem.
The mother walked in the front and she normally would have her clothes ripped as a sign of anguish and grief. Immediately behind her would be the body up on a little flat pallet in the open, just like we saw in Jerusalem. And then behind them would have been probably the entire town moaning and wailing and crying over this dead person. And as Jesus approached the town, this is what he saw. He might say, man, what a coincidence that Jesus got there right when this was happening.
Well, I don't believe it was a coincidence and I hope you don't. I think Jesus was right on time. He wasn't early, wasn't late. He was right on time. And maybe you feel like in some area of your life there's a funeral going on and Jesus hadn't shown up yet.
Well, let me just encourage you. Jesus is never late and he's never early. He's always right on time and he was right on time for this one. And look what happened. The Bible tells us that this wasn't just any funeral of any person, but rather this was a funeral of a woman's only son and she was a widow. Now, in Israel, that was a really bad combination because in Israel, being a very male centered society, this woman, having lost first her husband and then her son, she would have had absolutely no way to support herself. And remember, in Israel, there was no life insurance. She did not have a piece of the rock. Remember, in Israel, there was no government assistance.
There was no Social Security survivor benefits. This woman's friends and family had come to see her, but they were all going to go home. And when they left and went home, this woman was going to be left all by herself, pending us and with no way to make a living. She was probably too old to get married again. Her son was a grown man. She was probably too old to have any more children.
And she probably would have been reduced to begging for survival as the only way of making it. So is it any wonder that this woman was walking at the front of the funeral, the Bible says, weeping, partly because of the loss of her son, and partly, I'm sure, in fear and anxiety about what the future might hold for her. Jesus said, Ma'am, I want you to stop crying.
Look what happened. And when the Lord saw her, verse 13, he says his heart went out to her and he said, Ma'am, stop crying. I love it when the Bible says here that Jesus's heart went out to this woman when he saw her.
If you're reading the King James translation of the Bible, it will say that when Jesus saw this woman, he had compassion upon her. And the Greek word that's translated have compassion or his heart went out to her is the same Greek word. It comes from splognos. Splognos in Greek means your guts, your bowels, your intestines.
And you say, what a weird word to use. Jesus's intestines went out to this woman. Well, but listen, in ancient Hebrew culture, the Hebrews believe that the seat of a person's emotion was not their heart. You know, in America, we talk about a person's heart being the place where they feel everything.
The Hebrews didn't talk about your heart. They talked about your gut. When you felt something, you felt it in your gut.
And isn't that true? When you're really angry or you're really upset or you're really fearful or you're really under stress, where do you feel it? Don't you feel it kind of down at the pitiest stomach in your gut? And so that's why in Hebrew idiom, the Bible really says here that when Jesus saw this woman, he was gripped in his gut for her. We would say in English idiom, when Jesus saw this woman, his heart ached for her.
Same feeling. Now, why was Jesus so touched by this woman's plight? Well, I have two thoughts.
Number one, because he was God and he had the heart of God and the heart of God hurts with every pain of every person who's ever lived and includes you. But there's a second reason I'd like to suggest to you here, and that is, don't forget, Jesus lived with a widow. You say, who? Well, his mother. Say, oh, really?
Sure. His dad, Joseph, was dead. We don't know when his dad died, but we know he was dead by now.
And he probably died when Jesus was a fairly young man. And so Jesus knew all about the struggles of a widow trying to live in Israel. He knew all about the stresses of a single parent mom. He knew all about the despair of a woman who now had nobody to provide for her because he had had to go out and begin working as a young man to support his mother and support his family because his dad was gone.
He understood what this woman was facing. And this is a good time for me to stop and say that if you're here and you're a woman and maybe you've lost a husband or maybe you're a single parent mom or maybe you're single and you just feel like you're in this thing all on your own. And people have said to you, well, you know, you need to take those feelings to Jesus and you need to pray about them.
And maybe you've been a little cynical and your attitude has been taken to Jesus. He's a man. What's a man going to understand about what I'm going through?
I'd like to suggest to you that this passage says you're wrong. He understands perfectly what you're going through. He grew up in a family that faced everything that you're facing. And he understood right where this widow was. He understood right where his mother was. And he understands right where you are.
And you can trust him. Jesus said, stop crying, ma'am. I'm going to do something to help you. And I'm sure the people standing around got very cynical and went, all right, he's going to do something to help her. What's he going to do? Raise her kid from the dead? Well, that's exactly what he had in mind, to be honest with you.
Let's look. Verse 14. And the Bible says that then he went up and touched the coffin and those who were carrying it stood still. And he said, young man, I say to you, get up. And the dead man sat up and began to talk.
And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Wouldn't you have loved to have been there and hear what this guy had to say? Maybe he sat up and went, whoa, you would not believe the dream I just had. You wouldn't believe where I've just been.
You wouldn't believe what I saw. Wouldn't it have been cool to be there and hear what he had to say? Well, Bible doesn't tell us what he said. But the Bible does say Jesus raised him up from the dead, just like that.
And the Bible records it with such simplicity. I mean, it's like Jesus raised him from the dead. I mean, he just raised a dead person. I mean, you would think the Bible would have gone, da da da da da da da, or something, but it doesn't. He raised him.
Why? Because even though this was the first dead person Jesus raised, it's not going to be the last. In the next chapter, he's going to raise Jairus' daughter. In John chapter 11, he's going to raise Lazarus. And in all four gospels, it records he raised somebody else. And you know who that was?
Himself. Right. So even though the Bible records it with some sense of ordinariness, I mean, I don't think raising people from the dead is ordinary, do you? You say, Ah, Lon, it's just a hoax. I don't know what happened here, but this was a hoax. I mean, nobody goes around raising people from the dead.
You understand what I'm saying? There had to be some kind of tomfoolery going on. This guy was either in a coma or he had a high fever or he was hypnotized or something. But dead?
No way. And that's what a lot of scholars say. But folks, think about it for a minute. Jesus did not do this in some secret chamber where only the initiated were looking on. And then they all came out and said, you wouldn't believe what he did. He just raised him from the dead. And Jesus didn't do this in some secluded gathering where only his followers were there and were willing to go along with some kind of hoax. And Jesus didn't do this in a seance where he hypnotized the guy and everybody else so they'd be willing to believe this.
Jesus did it in the street, in the open, right in front of the town, not only in front of the crowd that he had brought with him, but in front of the entire city who turned out and was marching in this funeral. And they didn't believe that this kid was in some kind of a coma. They didn't believe that this man was in some kind of some catatonic state because of a fever. They believed this man was dead.
They had him wrapped up and were headed to the graveyard with this guy. And they've seen lots of dead people. They've seen more dead people than you've seen. People die in hospitals today. People didn't die in hospitals then.
They died right in the home. They knew dead people when they saw them. Isn't it amazing that scholars living two thousand years later think they know more about what went on than the people who were living there at the time?
Amazing. I mean, they may be smart, but they're not that smart. And these people said this was a dead person. And he just rose from the dead.
Look, you can tell it by the response they have. Verse 16. And when this happened, they were all filled with awe. And they said, isn't it great he just woke up from his coma?
No, this isn't a coma. Look. And they said, a great prophet has appeared among us and God has come to help his people. We just saw a man rise from the dead. And this news about Jesus spread throughout all Judea and the surrounding countryside as well. See, they were so excited about what they saw that they didn't keep it to themselves. They didn't sit on this news. They went everywhere they could think of telling people, you will not believe what we saw. We saw him raise somebody from the dead.
Can you believe that? It's interesting, in Luke chapter 23, you know, when Jesus is handed over to Pontius Pilate, that Pontius Pilate sends him to Herod Antipas. Now, Herod Antipas was the ruler of the other side of the Jordan River, where we think of as the modern country of Jordan is in Iraq. He didn't even live on the Judean side of the Jordan River. But he was in Jerusalem visiting and Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to him. Listen to what Herod said. Luke 23. When Herod saw Jesus, he was excited because he had been wanting to see Jesus for a long time, since he had been hearing about Jesus and was hoping to see Jesus perform some miracle for him. Here's a guy who lived on the other side of the Jordan River, who was a Roman, wasn't even a Jew. And he had heard all about Jesus's miracles and the fame and reputation of what Jesus was doing, had taken a boat and crossed the Jordan and gone to the other side so that this king had heard about it on the other side and been waiting to meet Jesus because he wanted to see Jesus do one for him.
Listen here, folks. Sometimes we have the idea that the Jewish people who lived in Jesus's day, that these poor people didn't make the decision to accept him as their Lord and their Savior and their Messiah because they just didn't have enough information. I mean, they didn't have the New Testament. They didn't have Christian bookstores. They didn't have Christian radio. They couldn't watch Billy Graham on television. And so these poor people, I mean, how could we ever expect them to have really known who Jesus was without having all these modern miracles that we have? Let me tell you something. Just the contrary was the case. These people living in the time of Jesus had an enormous familiarity with who Jesus was, what he was claiming to be, the miracles he was doing, and yet very few of them gave their life to Jesus Christ.
You say, why? Because, listen, salvation is a matter of the heart, not the intellect. You know, it does not take a whole lot of information to become saved and give your life to Christ.
Did you know that? I look back in 1971 when I became a Christian. I'd never been in a church. I'd never studied the Bible. I didn't know but one Christian in the whole world, and he lived eight miles away, and I didn't have the slightest idea how to get in touch with him.
And if you'd have taken everything I knew about Jesus Christ and put it in a thimble, it wouldn't have filled it. But I knew I was empty and I was lonely and I was hurting. I knew my life was a wreck. I knew I had no resources for living. I was scared to death of dying. I knew if there was a hell, I was headed there. I had no basis on which to build a life.
I knew I was in trouble. And when Jesus Christ presented himself to me, even though I had only that much information, I grabbed him. And, folks, if you've attended this church one time and heard me speak one time, you've got more information about what it means to accept and know Jesus Christ personally than I had when I got saved in 1971. But, you see, it doesn't take a lot of information. Many people that I meet say to me, Well, Lon, I just need some more info. I need some more data. I need some more proof. I need some more evidence. You give them Josh McDowell's book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, that's about that thick. And they read the whole thing and say, I don't know.
I still think I need more evidence. Folks, listen to me. This is not the truth. Actually, in many cases, this is just a big smokescreen for a stubborn heart, a heart that refuses to knuckle under and surrender to the living God. What these people need is to make a decision to bow their stubborn will and heart before Almighty God. And, friends, look, the Jews of Jesus's day refused to believe in Jesus, and they had more information than you or I will ever have.
They actually saw him raise people from the dead. Now, you're never going to get that kind of information or proof. And yet they still wouldn't believe because believing is not a function of information.
It's a function of the heart. And if you're here and you've never trusted Jesus Christ in a real and personal way and you're saying, I just need more data. I need more information. I need more time. I need to read the Bible more. I need more proof.
That's probably not so. The issue is your heart, whether or not you're willing to humble yourself before God or whether you're going to do it your way. And I hope you're willing to humble yourself before him because the heart is the key to this thing.
May God help you do that. Well, that's the end of our passage for this morning. But it still leads us to ask a question, and that is? So what?
Right. Now, let me ask you a question. What is the driving piston of this passage? I don't know what you mean.
Well, what is it that really makes this passage cook and make it work? I don't know. OK, look, verse 13. Verse 13. When the Lord saw her.
Right. Look, his heart went out to her. He had compassion upon her. Friend, Jesus Christ did not raise this man from the dead because he wanted to enhance his reputation. You say, but he did enhance it.
That's right. But that's not why he did the miracle. He did not raise this man from the dead because he wanted to impress the crowd. You say, but he did impress the crowd.
I know. But that's not why he did it. Nor did he do it because he wanted to make some kind of statement. He did it because he saw a woman, a woman whose heart was broken, a woman whose future was wrecked. He had compassion on that woman, and therefore he raised her son. It's compassion that is the driving force behind what Jesus Christ did here.
Do you see that? And that's what we want to talk about, the compassion of Jesus Christ. You say, well, what is compassion anyway?
Well, that's good. Let's define it. It comes from a Latin word compasio, which means to suffer along with somebody. Compassion means that you really care about other people, that you're touched by their struggles and their hardships and their pain. It means asking somebody, how you doing?
And really caring what they answer. I called a guy up on the phone this week and I started off by going, how you doing? And he responded by saying, you don't really want to know. And I said, well, I thought I did. And I think I do.
Give it a shot. So he told me how he was doing. And I listened and I was interested.
But, you know, most of us, we walk around and that's just a little American idiom we toss around. How you doing? How you doing? How you doing? How you doing? When you toss around how you doing and somebody actually stops you in your tracks and begins to tell you how they're doing, we get all irritated and we go, I can't believe this guy's standing here telling me how he's doing. I got my own problems.
I don't have time to listen to this guy and all this problem. What's he doing telling me how he's doing? Well, you ask him, didn't you? How you doing? He told you. If you don't want to know, don't tell him.
Don't ask him. Don't go by and go, how you doing? Go. I don't care how you doing. God bless you. At least be honest with the guy, right? Compassion says we ask people, how you doing?
And we really care how you doing. I cut an article out of the New York Daily News told about a fellow named Michael Klein. He was 31 years old. And back on September the third of last year, he was murdered during a robbery attempt in the Bronx in New York City. His mother, Linda Klein, who lived in New York all her life, decided to write a letter to Mayor Dinkins of New York City after this happened. And she wrote and told him how her children had been pleading with her to move out of New York City. But she'd been resisting them and saying, no, I'm not going to do it because I love New York City. But she wrote now and said, and I quote, I too will be leaving New York as soon as I can, because this city has become a large sewer.
End of quote. And then she poured her heart out to the mayor about the loss of her son and what that really meant to her. She sent him the letter. Six weeks later, she got a letter back from Mayor Dinkins.
She was all excited. She hurriedly opened up the letter saying, isn't this great? The mayor wrote me back.
And here's what she read. Thank you for your letter, it said. I regret that you did not enjoy your visit to our city. Cities are not always able to exemplify the true spirit of our residents.
I hope that you will give New York City another chance someday. And then it wasn't even signed by the mayor. It was one of those little stamps, you know, that they put in the thing and stamp your signature on the thing. And that's what she got back. And the lady said, and I quote, I don't think it was very nice of him not to even read my letter. It's hard enough to cope with losing a son without the mayor making it so obvious that he doesn't even care. In direct contrast to Mayor Dinkins, the Bible presents to us Jesus Christ as someone who really does care. As a God who's moved by every pain we have, as a God who's touched by every heartache that you and I suffer, as a God that says, hey, you come and you write me a letter and I'll read every word of it. You pour out your heart to me and tell me what you're feeling and I'll listen to every syllable of it. You cry and I'll tear up and cry right along with you.
I really care how you do it. And the Bible tells us over and over and over again that this is the way God is. This isn't the way God had to be. God could be any way he wanted to be. But the neat thing is that God is really this way.
He really cares about us. I want to show you a couple of passages. Let's turn to the back of the New Testament. First Peter, chapter five. If you're using our copy of the Bible, it's page eight hundred and fifty nine. First Peter, chapter five. Verse seven. First Peter, chapter five, verse seven.
Here's what it says. It says that we should cast all of our cares upon him, upon God. Why? Well, look at the reason. Because he cares for us. Boy, in that simple little sentence. What a powerful truth.
He cares for us. Every time I read this verse, I think of James Taylor's great song, You've Got a Friend. You know that song? You've got a friend. Well, I can't do it.
But anyway. And every time I hear the song and every time I read this verse of scripture, I think about the fact that, hey, you know, most of us go through life wishing that we had a friend like he sings about in this ballad, a friend who's always there with you, a friend who never let you down, a friend that no matter how bad you blow it or how bad you mess up or how much you even hurt them, you can always count on them. They'll never be too busy. They'll never be in too much of a hurry.
You'll never have heard them too much. They've always got time and they're always there for you. What a great song. And whenever I hear it and think about this passage, you know what I think of? I think of Jesus Christ. Because he offers to be that kind of friend to you and to me if we'll simply embrace him as our Lord and our savior. I think of the hymn that says all your anxiety, all your care. Bring to the mercy seat.
Leave it there. Never a burden he cannot bear. Never a friend like Jesus. This is the way God is.
He cares for you. And in light of that, God has an action plan for you and me. I want you to look at it. It's back in the book of Hebrews, a couple of books back. Hebrews chapter four, page 848.
If you're using our copy. Hebrews chapter four, verse 15. Hebrews four, verse 15. For we do not have a high priest, meaning Jesus Christ, who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.
Oh, no. But we have one who's been tempted and who's been through struggles and who's been tried in every way as we are going through, yet without sin. Now there's the compassion.
Now look at the action plan. Verse 16. Therefore, what do you mean therefore? Well, therefore, in light of the fact that this is true, in light of the fact that this is who Christ is and this is how he feels about us. Therefore, let us approach his throne of grace with confidence that we may receive mercy from him and find grace to help us in the time of need. My dear friend, no matter how burdened down you may be, there is a place God has created where you can take those burdens, a place where you'll always find a sympathetic ear and an understanding heart and an interested friend, a place where you can lay those burdens down and where you can exchange them for the sweet peace of God that you'll never find anywhere else on the face of this earth. You won't find it in alcohol, you won't find it in drugs, you won't find it in power or fame or money or achievement, but you'll find it at the place God has created. A place of comfort and reassurance and release.
You say, Lon, where is this place? This place is on our knees in the presence of Jesus Christ himself. What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful? Who will all our sorrows share? In his arms, he'll take and shield you.
You will find a solace there. A simple little song, but a very profound message by reminding us in this song of the great truth that God really loves us and God really cares about us. This song gives us the secret as to how you and I can make it through the worst trials this life can possibly bring. Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we don't carry all of our problems to God in prayer. Back in September of this year, I got a phone call from a fellow named Al Jackson. I don't know how many of you know the name Al Jackson. Al Jackson was pastor at Cherrydale Baptist Church right here in Arlington for 25 years before he retired.
He's now in his 80s. And I got a call from him. My mother had died the beginning of September.
My little daughter, who's now 17 months old, was going through horrible, horrible problems with her epilepsy. And it was just it was a horrible time. And Pastor Jackson, who had been one of my teachers in seminary 20 years ago, heard about all of this and he called me up on the phone. I wasn't home. So he got my answering machine. I've got one of those AT&T answering services and he got the answering service and he left a message. And as long as I live, if I live to be 100 years old, I don't think I'll ever forget the message he left on my machine. He started off by reminding me that his own daughter had died of cancer several years before and she had been called home. And then he started weeping on my answering machine. Now, I've never heard anybody weep on an answering machine before.
You know, I mean, can you imagine weeping when you're talking to a machine? But he began weeping on this answering machine. And throughout the rest of the message, this man was just totally broken up. And he said, Lonnie, he said, I just wanted to call to tell you that I really understand what you're going through and I just called to let you know that I care.
He said, I'm sorry I'm all broken up like this and I'm a stop blubbering and hang up because I just want you to know I really care what you're going through. You know, I've got one of those things where you hit three and you erase it or you hit two and you save it. And for 10 months, I've hit two every time I check my messages. You say, you mean you've still got that thing saved on your machine?
I do. Ten months later, I cannot bring myself to hit three and erase that message. Because when I listen to that message, I felt like I had heard the very heart of God calling me on the telephone. I think if Jesus had called me up on the phone, what would he have said to me? I think he would have said exactly what that dear man of God said to me on the phone.
And he probably would have said it the very same way. And so I go back once and twice a month and just listen to it because I need to. It encourages me.
And it reminds me what the heart of God is really like. And my dear friend, if you're here and you're struggling and you're hurting and you've got heartache and disappointment in your life, do you really believe God cares about you? Really believe that?
I sure hope you do. He says he does. But do you really believe it? Do you believe that every pain you have and every tear you shed that Almighty God tears right up and hurts right along with you? He says he does. And he says that if you'll bring those burdens to him in prayer, that he'll share the load with you. No, he won't even share it. He'll take it.
And he'll replace the load with the sweet peace of God. Don't be stubborn. Don't be hard-headed. You can't carry the stuff yourself. I've learned. Believe me.
I thought I had the biggest shoulders in the world and I've learned you can't carry it yourself. It's too much. It's too big. It's too heavy. You can't do it. And people who don't know how to take it to the foot of the cross and exchange it for the peace of God, how do they make it?
I don't have a clue. I don't. But God's given you an action plan so you don't have to gut it out like that. And he's also promised you that if you'll trust him, he'll turn all of those struggles around and make them a blessing. So if you're here this morning and you've got some tough things and you've been trying to carry them yourself, don't do it anymore. Listen to God's action plan.
Take him to the foot of the cross and drop them off. May God help you do that. Let's pray together. Heavenly Father, I want to thank you this morning for what we've learned that you really do care about us. That in every pain and every heartache that we have, you're right there with us.
That you feel in your gut what we feel in ours. And Lord, we we don't know why you're this way, but we sure are glad. And I pray those of us here who are Christians would would humble ourselves and be willing to admit that we can't carry the load anymore. We never could teach us, Lord, to bring it to the foot of the cross and lay it down.
Let you put your big, strong shoulder under it for us. And in exchange, give us the peace of God. We do have a friend in Jesus. Lord, forgive us that we don't take advantage of him more and of his love. But help that change as a result of our being here this morning and hearing from you. We pray these things in Jesus name. Amen. You.
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