Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity September 30, 2001
Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us’; and, ‘God has visited His people.’ And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region. Here ends our text.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our “Great Physician”, Dear Fellow-Redeemed,
You probably watch a fair amount of television. Can you answer this question? What is “the number one painkiller”? “Hmmm,” you’re thinking to yourself, “I know I’ve heard that somewhere. Is it Anacin, or Excedrin, or Bufferin—Or is it one of those non-aspirin drugs—Tylenol, Advil, Nuprin—? I know it’s the one two out of three hospitals use. Or is it the one doctors recommend most?” The question is confusing, because there are scores of drug companies that are trying to convince you that their product is the “number one painkiller.” And that’s sort of misleading, because most of these products aren’t pain-killers at all, but pain-blockers! They don’t take away the pain of a headache or muscle-ache or arthritis, they merely set up a roadblock in your nervous system, so that your brain can’t receive the message of pain.
The whole multi-million dollar ad campaign is kind of ridiculous anyway, when you think about it. As if your life will be entirely pain-free as long as you’ve got a bottle of “Anacin III” in your medicine cabinet! The fact is, that headaches and “nervous tension” are not the biggest source of pain in our lives. REAL pain is what you feel when a loved one is ill—when your business collapses—when your marriage is in trouble—when your family runs out of money—when you’re growing old, and nobody seems to care anymore. That’s when you need a REAL pain-killer, and all the “Extra-Strength Excedrin” in the world isn’t going to do you a bit of good! What will? God tells us, in our text for this morning. Our theme is:
We’ve all seen funeral processions—it’s a pretty gloomy sight. Well, a Jewish funeral procession in those days was even gloomier. The family members of the deceased would walk slowly along in front. Behind them on the dusty road came the pallbearers with the coffin. Following them marched friends and relatives. The women would be sobbing and weeping. The whole procession was accompanied by the sad sound of a flute as it wound its way out of the city to the graveyard. This was the mournful sight that met Jesus that day as he and his followers arrived at the town of Nain. As they were approaching the gates of the town to go in they met this sad, slow procession coming out. One poor woman was walking, all alone, in front of the casket.
And here’s where the first miracle of our text occurs, because Jesus knew exactly how alone she was! Jesus knew, without being told, that her husband had already died some time ago. Jesus knew, without being told, that the young man in the casket had been her only child. Jesus knew, without being told, that on top of her other sorrows, the widow now faced almost certain poverty with no male family member to provide for her.
There’s an old negro spiritual that goes, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen; nobody knows but Jesus.” When you’re going through a painful experience in your life, sometimes the worst part about it is that nobody knows about it! No one really knows how you’re suffering. Lots of people will say, “I know just how you feel,” but they don’t, really. They can’t—after all, they’re not omniscient. But God is! Jesus once told his disciples, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, therefore…” Matt 11:29-31. God knows about every little sparrow that dies out there on the prairie. He certainly knows all about you, right down to the number of hairs on your head! Jesus is the TRUE number one Painkiller, because only Jesus knows exactly how you feel all the time.
Yes, Jesus knew all about this woman. He took her entire situation in at a glance. And now comes the second important lesson of our text. “When the Lord saw her, HE HAD COMPASSION ON HER.” Do you think Jesus said to Himself, “Oh well, I guess this is as good a chance as any to show My divine power. I may as well raise her son from the dead”? No! Jesus had compassion on her. He FELT her sorrow. He FELT her tears. He FELT the same empty loneliness that she was feeling at that moment.
There’s a true story about a young country boy who had lost his right hand in a farming accident. He felt so terrible about it that he didn’t want to see anybody. His father came into his room and told him that the minister was there to see him, but the boy refused. The father brought the minister in anyway, and when the boy looked up, he saw that the minister had no right arm; there was just an empty sleeve. The minister said, “I haven’t any hand, either. I lost mine when I was a boy, and I know how it feels.” After that, it wasn’t hard for the boy to talk to the minister who “knew how it felt.” Jesus lived on this earth just like us. He suffered for us, and HE FELT THE SAME THINGS WE FEEL! His heart goes out to us in our pain, just like it went out to that poor widow woman in Nain. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When you’re going through weakness, pain, temptation, suffering—Jesus does sympathize with you! He’s the true number one Painkiller, because He CARES about your pain!
I’ve often thought that the most useless words in our language are the two words, “Don’t cry!” I’m sure we’ve all had that awkward feeling of helplessness when someone we know is hurt and upset, and all we can do is mumble, “Don’t cry.” That’s because, often, there’s nothing we can do to help. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t cry! With Jesus it’s different. When He went up to that widow and said, “Don’t cry,” it was for a very good reason. Because in a few seconds, Jesus was going to turn her tears of sorrow into tears of joy! “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.”
What an amazing miracle! Jesus actually brought a dead person back to life! You don’t look too amazed—It’s kind of hard to imagine Jesus’ miracles, isn’t it? They happened so long ago, and far away. Well, imagine this happening in your town, today—then maybe it will be easier to picture! Better yet, think of a couple of the miracles that have happened in your life. I’ve had a few, I know that. What about you? Jesus’ miracles are His way of showing us that He really is God, and that He really can do something about our problems. Jesus is the true number one Painkiller, because He GIVES REAL RELIEF for our pain!
You say you can’t think of many miracles happening in your life lately? When’s the last time you asked for one? When we’re suffering, all the power of almighty God is at our disposal. He wants us to use that power. To look for, and find, relief in Him. Jesus isn’t far away in the pages of history. He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” 24 hours a day, He’s standing right next to you, just as He stood next to that widow at the gates of Nain. He is your “Great Physician” who knows exactly what’s best for you. And He’ll answer your call for help any time of the day or night. He’ll come with just the right answer, just the right medicine, just the right RELIEF for you at just the right time!
There was once an old man named Douglass in a small town in Scotland. The business he ran was going downhill, and his friends feared he might be nearing financial and physical collapse. One day his pastor came to visit him and said, “Mr. Douglass, your friends are worried that you might be about to break.” “Aye,” he said, “I’ll break, alright. I’ll break when the Fiftieth Psalm breaks at the fifteenth verse, where God says, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me!’” May we have the same firm faith in God. In the midst of our suffering, may we have the same unwavering trust in Jesus, THE TRUE NUMBER ONE PAINKILLER! In His saving name, Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.