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Apr 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 1, 2018 – Luke 7:11-15

“Don’t Cry”

Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Luke 7:11-13

Intro: People were constantly coming to Jesus for a miracle

Some of them hoped he would heal them
– others begged him to heal a friend, a servant, a child
• in this same chapter a group of Jewish elders argued on behalf of a Roman officer,

If anyone deserves your help, he does, for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us (vv. 4-5)

• when John describes first miracle Jesus performed in Cana,
◦ it is as if his mother Mary practically had to coerce him to intervene
– however, when Jesus saw this widow, no one had to ask for his help
• his own heart compelled him to go to her
◦ he did not need to hear her story
◦ she did not need endorsements
• he could see her desolation
◦ and his heart would not allow him to leave her in that condition
◦ he was right there, he had to do something

We have all heard someone say, “Don’t cry”

What logical assumption would a person have for saying this?

  1. If crying weren’t necessary
    (the situation is not as bad as it looks)
  2. If your circumstances are certain to change
    (everything will soon be better)
  3. Or the opposite
    (if everything could be a lot worse)
  4. A lame attempt at comfort
    “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what else to say”
  5. If there is no use in crying
    (“It doesn’t help to cry”–although we knot that’s not true)
  6. If someone think’s the other person needs to toughen up
    (typically, these people don’t know the difference between tough and strong)

In this instance, the logic of Jesus is this:

“Don’t cry, because I am going to remove the cause of your sorrow”

– Jesus is only person in world who could say this to her

This year, March has been a harsh month

I met Bill Goodrich when he was caregiver to a quadriplegic man
– later we worked together
• Bill became a good friend to myself and my family
• he joined us on mission trips and Israel tours
◦ he worked the entire time that we travelled
◦ Bill and I also worked on lots of projects
(more than once working through the night)
– two weeks ago I learned he was killed in an automotive accident
• he’s been living in Thailand for the last couple of years
• the last time we corresponded he told me about his fiance
◦ together they were saving enough money to come to the States
◦ he asked if I would perform their wedding while here

RJ Prescott and his wife Polly were bikers
– one Sunday morning they rolled into the parking lot of our church
• they were the perfect illustration of “Don’t judge a book by its cover”
◦ the looked “biker bad,” but they were loving, generous people
◦ they were also very smart people
• RJ, Polly and their daughter Lindsey knew hardship and physical pain
◦ but through everything, they remained deeply devoted to God
◦ did a special favor for me by sharing their story publicaly
– Polly died last year, and RJ followed her last week

I learned Friday about another person,
– whose name I will respectfully keep to myself
• he was also involved in a church I once led
◦ his wife worked with us on staff
◦ my oldest daughter was close friends with one of his daughters
• he died unexpectedly a few days ago

I am grateful to put the month of March behind me
– but I will never forget those who have passed

A friend of mine sends me poems occasionally

It’s not unusual to receive one from him around the holidays
– this week, Ed Northen included a photo with this year’s Easter poem
• it is a rather bleak black and white photograph of cemetery in Maine
• a few trees grow separate and lonely across an uneven terrain
where weathered gravestones jut up from the soil

“Easter Walk”
I wander through a cemetery
among the sepulchers
where the dead are encased

Among edifices of angels
stone markers
etched with epitaphs
of lives lived
of hope in something more

This is the home
of the dead
even strong desires heroic efforts
cannot bring them back

Two become one flesh
and live out their long years

A son or daughter
sacrificed to a war

A child lost
to accident or illness

This is the country
of our mortality
our final resting

Until corruptible
becomes incorruptible
until hope buried
is no longer contained

Until the graves
and the sea
give up their dead

Until the earth
and heavens split
and paradigms are obliterated

Until resurrection

© 2018 Ed Northen

There is this hard edge to life

We come up against death as an impenetrable wall
– Jesus’ crucifixion is on the sharp line of that hard edge
• it was wrong, it was excruciating, it was a gross injustice
• the hard edge of life is perfectly outlined in the geometry of the cross
– I look for a similar hard edge in Jesus’ resurrection,
• but I cannot find it
◦ not in our Christian tradition, with it’s bright colorful banners and cheerful hymns
◦ certainly not in secular culture with its chocolate bunnies and dyed eggs
• the edges of resurrection seem soft
◦ like the pastel grey sky that melts into the sea where there should be a horizon
◦ the edges of resurrection are blurred

We have experienced death,
– but we’ve never encountered someone who died,
• and then returned in a new and glorious body
– years ago, a physician described the physiology of crucifixion
• that part of the story can be explored by science
◦ but resurrection defies scientific investigation
◦ it belongs to another order of reality, one where science cannot go
• we don’t believe in death, we know it as a certainty
◦ we can know resurrection only by faith

We may find it hard to believe in resurrection

There’s no need to be upset with ourselves if we do
– Jesus told his disciples repeatedly, he would die and rise again
• they did not believe or even understand him until afterward
◦ and even then, when women came from the tomb and told the disciples Jesus had risen, it

sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it (Lk. 24:11)

◦ later that evening when Jesus showed up were the disciples were ensconced,

the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost (Lk. 24:37)

• and of course there is Thomas, who said,

I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side (Jn. 20:25)

◦ for him, Jesus’ death had hard edges that could be seen and touched
◦ but Jesus’ resurrection sounded like a fairy tale
– however, there are analogies – things we take for granted
• when we buy grass seed for our lawns or flower seed for our planters,
◦ what we get is a dead shell – but inside the shell there is a spark of life
• and that spark will reach for moisture
◦ the life is so strong that it breaks through the dead outer shell
(that Jesus’ resurrection coincides with spring is no surprise)

Jesus is the life so strong that it breaks through death
– Peter preached that death could not keep its grip on him (Acts 2:24)
– and in one of the most thrilling lines in the Bible,
• Jesus at the grave side of Lazarus announced,

I am the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25)

Conclusion: Two more statements from Jesus should wrap up this Easter message

To his disciples:

Since I live, you also will live (Jn. 14:19)

To the crowds:

those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life (Jn. 5:24)

We wait for the the final resurrection, but as we wait
we have already had a partial experience of it

There is no greater proof for an individual
than his or her personal experience
This is why we hang on to the resurrection
even though it has no hard edges (yet)
We are like the blind man,
who was told that Jesus was a sinner, responded,

I don’t know whether he is a sinner. But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see! (Jn. 9:25)

To finish our story in Luke:

Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:14-15

All I really wanted to say to you this Easter is, trust that touch

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