Sunday, 9 June 2013
SUNDAY SERMON: THE GOD WHO MAKES HOUSE CALLS
The God Who Makes House Calls
By T. Michael Crews
Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the debate between an atheist and a Christian. The atheist begins, “I can sum up the truth with one simple statement” He walks to a board and writes this “GOD IS NOWWHERE.” As he sat down the Christian stares at the board and replied, to the audience’s shock, “I think I can agree with my friend here, at least on this statement.” He walked up to the blackboard and added one small change and now the sentence read "GOD IS NOW HERE."
One of the great doctrines of Christianity is the idea that wherever we are, God is now here. Theologians call this doctrine the omnipresence of God, and it is found over and over in the words of Scripture.
Ps 139:7-8 7Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
The Bible makes it clear God is everywhere. But at the same time, the Bible speaks of God “visiting” people at specific times, in specific places---people like Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, King David, and even the entire nation of Israel. These “visits” seem to be special times when somebody needs God’s help, when God, in a sense which I will explain later, God makes a “house call.”
I want to look at one of God’s “house calls” He makes in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ this morning. I want us to look at this incident because I believe God still makes house calls this morning, and that perhaps you and I need Him to come and pay us a visit today. This particular incident occurs in Luke 7: 11-17.
The story opens with a large crowd of people traveling down a dusty road from the city of Capernaum to the small town of Nain. In the middle of this crowd of travelers is the man Jesus, surrounded by His disciples and others who tag along for various reasons, listening to Him teach, maybe looking for another miracle, maybe just wanting to be part of what was going on.
As Jesus and the crowd get to the gates of the city, another crowd meets them coming out. They are led by one lonely, weeping woman, leading a funeral procession for her one and only son. They are headed out to the cemetery for the burial, and then the final goodbye.
Today if you meet a funeral procession on the highway, you pull over out of respect. In Jesus’ day if you were walking and met a funeral leaving the city, you stood to the side of the road with your head bowed, and waited out of respect. Often you might join the procession if you wanted to offer even greater respect. So I imagine when Jesus’ crowd realizes what’s happening, they stand over to the side to let the funeral procession through.
But Jesus doesn’t stand aside. He stands in the middle of the road, staring at this weeping widow. Luke is very specific in vs. 13: the Lord saw her…
With all those people crowding around him, all that crowd following her, Jesus zeroes in on this grieving mother and He sees her, and,Luke tells us He had compassion on her…
Commentator William Barclay elaborates on what Jesus felt:
Jesus was moved to the depths of his heart. There is no stronger word in the Greek language for sympathy and again and again in the gospel story it is used of Jesus
What did Jesus see as He looked at this widow?
Maybe He sees the burden of grief she still carries for her long dead husband, how maybe the only thing that helps her survive after he dies is reminding herself over and over again at least I still have my boy! Perhaps He sees the worry she feels when her son takes ill, how she does everything she knows to nurse him back to health, but he just gets worse and worse. Maybe He sees that last night, as she prays for a miracle, holding him in her arms, begging God to spare him, begging him not to go, until finally he breathes his last breath, his body goes limp, and she knows he is gone.
In one moment, Jesus sees this woman’s grief and felt it in His own great heart. And His heart breaks for her.
Have you ever noticed how Jesus seems to be drawn to broken-hearted people? Lepers, prostitutes, sad, sick, or sinful shattered people. That ought not to surprise us, because the Bible says in
Ps 34:18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.(are crushed in spirit)
Remember when He quoted the prophet Isaiah to describe His mission?
Lk 4:18 The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…
Jesus seems to have a soft spot for hurting people—people like you and I. And when you are hurting, when you are grieving, when your heart is crushed under the burden of grief He sees you.
Sometimes you can get lost in the crowd, feel as if nobody really knows or cares what you’re going through. But just as Jesus saw this poor widow in her pain, Jesus sees us when we hurt. He knows your pain, and even shares your pain. In fact, He is probably closer to you when you’re hurting than anybody else.
Someone once said, Sympathy sees and says, "I’m sorry." Compassion sees and says, "I’ll help."
This is just what Jesus does. He makes this “house call” not just to be sympathetic, but to actually help this poor woman (v. 13) I can see Him walking up to this heartbroken widow with tears in His own eyes and saying Don’t cry.
Now don’t misunderstand Jesus’ words here. He’s not one of those well-meaning folks who scold mourners at funerals. Have you ever met those folks? Don’t cry. You know they’re in a better place. I’ve heard some people talk as if somehow it was almost a sin to cry.
The Bible says there is a time for weeping, and surely the death of somebody we love is the right time for tears. Even Jesus wept at the grave of His friend Lazarus.
Jesus isn’t telling this widow to buck up and smile and ignore her grief. No, He is speaking like a gentle parent to a child, as He looks deeply into her eyes as if to say Don’t cry. I’m here now to comfort you.
Jesus compassion moves Him to give comfort to this hurting woman. What kind of comfort does Jesus offer this bereaved woman? A comfort far beyond what she can possibly imagine. (v. 14-15)
Jesus moves from the grieving widow to the pallbearers carrying the body of the dead man. They’re ready to move on. Hurry mister, this body isn’t getting any lighter. What’s He doing?
Their eyes grow wide with wonder as Jesus speaks to the dead man. Young man, get up!
And he does.
I wonder if anybody screams? Do they drop him? Do they go running? Imagine being a pallbearer at the funeral and the corpse sits up and starts talking! What would you do?
The widow stands there in shock, as Jesus presents the son back to her. Can this really be happening? Is he really alive? She never even dreamed of asking Jesus to raise her son from the dead. But here he is—alive and well, talking up a storm. She grabs her son and holds him tight, tears of joy, flooded with the comfort of knowing her son is really alive again.
Through Jesus, God still makes house calls to bring comfort to us when we are hurting.
2 Co 1:3-4 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
When you are hurting, Jesus wants to comfort you in your tribulation.
But Bro. Mike, Jesus never raised up any of my dead loved ones. That’s a comfort I’ve never had.
Let me remind you that this young man did not escape death—his death was merely postponed. But Jesus does offer comfort through the promise of another resurrection in
Jn 6:40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Jesus Christ comforted this widow through a temporary resurrection of her dead son; He offers us the comfort of a permanent resurrection for our loved ones who believe in Him.
But don’t lose sight of the main point here: when God visits His hurting people, He comes to offer us comfort, not condemnation. This morning, if you are hurting in your heart, Jesus is here to make a house call, to offer you not just His compassion, but His comfort.
That doesn’t mean He expects you to deny your pain, to “buck up” under your grief. He says to you the same things He says to this widow: Don’t cry. I am here to comfort you.
No, in all likelihood, He won’t stop the pallbearers and raise your loved ones back to life. But He will offer us the promise that even though their body is dead, they are alive and well in His presence, and that one day you will see them again.
He won’t always remove the painful memories, but He will comfort you with hope for the future.
He won’t always fix everything that’s wrong, but He will comfort you with the promise that one day He will make everything right.
He won’t sugarcoat your disobedience, but He will offer you the comfort of forgiveness when you confess and repent.
He won’t always take away the pain in your body, but He will comfort you by giving you the strength to endure it until He calls you home where you will never hurt again.
This is the point of these kinds of House calls---Jesus’ compassion moves Him to comfort you when you are hurting. He isn’t here physically, but by His Spirit, He reaches out to comfort you, as surely as He reached out to comfort this grieving widow. You can experience that comfort right now, because by His Spirit, Jesus is still making house calls this.
Do you need comfort this morning? Is their a deep pain, a secret sorrow, a broken heart that needs mending? Bring Him your broken heart today and let Him heal you.
Ron Huthcraft tells this story: One friend of ours told me recently about how his little boy told him, “Daddy, I sure hope Jesus comes real soon.” His Dad asked him why, and the little boy responded, “Well, I’m really looking forward to sitting on Jesus’ lap, and I’ll be seven pretty soon. And if Jesus doesn’t come soon, I might be too old to sit on His lap!” Dad was glad to be able to give his son the good news - “Son, you are never too old for Jesus’ lap.”
Come as a little child, and let Jesus, Whose heart is full of compassion, bring you comfort.
But there’s another side to this coin of God’s visits to His people. Just because He brings us comfort doesn’t mean His presence makes us comfortable. Look down at vs. 16.
The reason why I call this incident a “house call” from God is found in this phrase: God has visited His people. Episképtomai = to look in on, to visit the sick (friends or doctor)-The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
They understood what Jesus did to be a sign that God was making a “house call” on the people of Israel to help them, to heal them.
But notice the result:…great fear came upon all, and they glorified God… This widow was comforted, but everybody else experienced a mix of great fear and worship. Does that seem odd to you? How can you mix fear and worship?
Yet Luke doesn’t seem to think this is unusual at all. In fact, in Scripture, these two responses are pretty typical of what usually happens when God makes a house call: people are gripped with a healthy fear of God, and they glorify Him.
The same thing happened after Jesus healed a paralyzed man in
Lk 5:26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear…
When God steps in and works in our lives, it can make us uncomfortable, and even fearful.
You see it’s one thing when God keeps a safe distance, stays quiet, never interfering with the natural order of things. But when He steps out of the safe box we try to put Him in, things can get a little scary. He grows larger in our eyes, and suddenly we realize what C. S. Lewis writes about Aslan the Lion is true about Jesus, the Lion of Judah: He is not a tame Lion!
Let me suggest to you that is not unhealthy, but healthy for us. One of the elements of worship that is so obviously missing from our worship of the Lord today is an awe, a reverence, a fear of God that characterized so much of the worship in the Bible.
We come to God so casually, praying our little prayers and singing our little songs with no real sense of His great and awesome and fearsome God really is. But what would happen, what would change, if God really visited this place this morning, and we realized we were in the presence of the Almighty Creator, the Holy Redeemer of the universe? I imagine our singing, our praying, our giving, our preaching (and listening to preaching) would be very different! There may be some knees knocking, some hearts fluttering, maybe some of us would fall on our faces, and truly glorify God!
But friends, He is here this morning.
He is not here the way He was in Nain that day, but by His Holy Spirit, He is really here. We know that not by our feelings, but by our faith. God doesn’t make house calls just to give us goose bumps, or to makes us to do weird things. But He is here, and that fact should fill us with godly fear, and make us want to glorify God right now. How?
You may glorify the Lord this morning by repenting of your sins, and committing your life to Jesus Christ. If you fear God, and you haven’t done this, you ought to come to Christ now.
You may glorify the Lord this morning by rededicating your life to Christ. Christian, if you are here and you know everything is not right between you and the Lord Jesus, if you fear God, you need to come and recommit yourself to His will for you.
You may glorify the Lord this morning by bringing your burdens to Him. There may be some pressing need on your heart, some desperate situation that you need His help with, some pain or hurt in you that needs comfort or healing. If you fear God, you know you need His help, you know you need His comfort. Will you come today and let Him show His compassion to you?
Ps 147:11 The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who hope in His mercy.
I am reminded of the quote from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Mr. Beaver describes the might and majesty of Aslan, the lion. When he finishes, Lucy asks, "Is--is he safe?" Replies Mr. Beaver: "Safe? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you." This is our God: hardly safe but thoroughly good. We cling to the King in fear, but much too afraid to let go.
Today God is making a house call, calling out to you to come to Him. Will you hear Him? Will you fear Him? Will You glorify Him?