Part 1 - A Place Where Needs Are Met
“A PLACE WHERE NEEDS ARE MET”
Jesus: Head Of the Church – Part 1
In my 25 years of ministry I have done many wedding ceremonies, and I have witnessed many things. I mean, I have seen a fainting groomsman. I had a bride one time who was so nervous that she giggled all the way through the vows. When I asked one groom to repeat after me, “I take you to be my lawful wedded wife,” he was so nervous that he said, “I take you to be my awful wedded wife.” Now he said it was an accident, but I told him it wasn’t a good start to a relationship! I’ve about dropped the rings numerous times. My wife, who was the maid of honor in one of the ceremonies I performed, actually lost a ring somewhere on the way to the platform! I’ve seen brides almost catch themselves on fire by getting their veils too close to a candle flame. I’ve seen almost everything.
I’ve seen just about everything, that is, except for one thing. And that is, I have never seen an unattractive or ugly bride. It’s amazing how they give incredible attention to their makeup, and how every hair is in place, and how meticulously manicured their nails are. The care and concern is so evident. Everything is color-coordinated. They have their outfit planned months in advance. I’ve never heard of a bride waking up on the day of her wedding and saying (through yawn), “Hmm, I wonder what I’ll wear this afternoon?” No. They have it all planned out.
Well Jesus says the church is His bride. Isn’t that a vivid word picture? And the Bible says the bride is “blameless, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). Jesus loves the church, just as a groom loves to see his bride coming down the isle. And we should too.
Today, we begin a new series of messages entitled: “Jesus: The Head Of the Church.” And the messages we’re going to be considering over the next several weeks will be focused upon the church—the Bride of Christ. You see, Jesus Christ is the head of the church and He should dictate our decisions. Now the elders lead here, the Sr. Minister (me) serves as a teacher and spokesman, the staff helps to facilitate our mission, but Jesus Christ is the head of the church.
Well what does that mean? What are the implications of that? Well, that’s what we’re going to study in this series. Today we look at how Jesus responded to the needs of a woman in the synagogue. We’re going to learn how the church—the Bride of Christ—is to be a place where needs are met. And we’re going to learn some lessons from the story of this healing that takes place in the synagogue of how we should respond to the needs of others in our church, as well as in our community. You see, one of the main reasons for our existence as a church is to go out into the world as witnesses and to minister to the needs of others.
In Luke chapter 13, we read about this healing that takes place. And it’s really kind of a strange story. Because after Jesus heals this woman the church leaders are all ticked off and upset with Him. They are majoring in minors. Our goal, though, is to imitate Jesus Christ and to be His bride, and for this church to be a place where needs are met. So let’s see how Christ met those needs and let’s make four different observations.
I. AWARENESS NOT APATHY. (vv. 10-12)
The first observation I want us to make is that Jesus had awareness, not apathy.
Look at Luke chapter 13, verses 10-12: “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’”
The first thing that we can do as a church is to notice those who are in need. This passage tells us that Jesus “saw” this woman. In other words, He was on the lookout. If some asks you, “What’s the opposite of love?,” oftentimes people will say, “Well, the opposite of love is hate.” But I would disagree. I think the opposite of love is indifference. It’s apathy. It’s an attitude that says, “I really don’t want to get involved.”
And there are a lot of people with special needs that come to the church. There are people who are grieving. There are people who are struggling with chemical dependency. Some have just moved to this community and they don’t know a soul. Many are having problems at work, or problems at home. Maybe it’s a rebellious child. Or maybe it’s some mistakes they’ve made in their marriage. But most people, when they have needs like that, it’s easy to turn those thoughts inward. And as a result they can become isolated and alone. And those folks desperately need a friend, or someone who will just notice them and listen to them. Mother Teresa said, “What the poor need, even more than food and clothing and shelter, is to be wanted.”
Now I doubt that this woman that Jesus sees has felt very wanted or cherished during the past 18 years of her illness because communities can be cruel to those who are less healthy, or less attractive, or less affluent. And so can churches at times. But as Christians, our antennae must be up and we must be on the lookout to help those who are in need. How can you go out of your way to express kindness to someone?
Andrew Davidson, of Colgate Rochester Seminary, tells of a time when he was privileged to go and spend three days with Dr. Albert Switzer right in the very area where his jungle hospital was set up. He said, “I learned a great deal from spending time with Switzer.” But what stood out even more in Davidson’s memory was one day in the terribly hot sun, approaching noontime, watching all of their group walking up a hill, when all of a sudden Switzer noticed a woman carrying a load of firewood up the other side nearby. And Switzer left their group and went over and grabbed the wood from her shoulders, carrying the materials up to the top of the hill. At the time, Albert Switzer was 85 years old. And when they met back together, the group kind of looked at Switzer and kind of implied that because of his age, and in light of the heat, that he really shouldn’t be doing things like that. And Albert Switzer looked back at the group and pointed to the woman, and he said, “No one should ever have to carry a burden like that alone!”
And that’s the way the church is supposed to be. The church is supposed to be a place where needs are met, where no one should have to carry a burden alone, by themselves. Awareness, not apathy.
II. COMPASSION NOT COMPETITION. (v. 13)
The second observation I would make is that Christ showed compassion, not competition.
You see, the religious leaders and the Pharisees were involved in a competitive spirit with Christ. They were bothered that He was getting more of the attention, that He was gaining popularity. But Jesus was eager to show compassion. He wasn’t wrapped up in the popularity, He was wrapped up in trying to help people and meet their needs. He did more than just look, He followed up.
Have you ever been in a worship service and during a song, or during the message, someone near you is overcome with emotion and they start to cry? And you sit there and you say to yourself, “Boy, I hope that after the service is over somebody will say something to them. I hope somebody will reach out to them.” And we’re completely oblivious to the fact that we could be that person who encourages. That we could be the one to reach out to them and express compassion.
You see, the Pharisees were jealous of Christ’s popularity and power. They were in competition. He was hurting business for the religious leaders. He focused on love; they focused on the law.
But notice what Jesus did. First, Christ expressed compassion through touch. Luke 13:13: “Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Wow! Think of what that must have been like, to see a person who has suffered for some 18 years be miraculously healed in a matter of seconds.
Counselors will tell you that inappropriate touching can be powerful. It can wreak havoc physically and emotionally for years. But by the same token, appropriate touch can be affirming and encouraging. And from a physiological perspective, touch is very healthy for a person. So never underestimate the value of a handshake with an enemy, or a hug with a friend, or an overdue kiss from your spouse. In fact, if you study the gospels, especially in Mark and Luke, there are several occasions where kids are brought to Jesus. And do you know why? Because they wanted Him to touch them, to bless them. They saw the value of it.
Did you know that 1/3 of our 5 million touch receptors are located in our hands? And studies show that a touch can lower a person’s blood pressure. And researchers have proven that babies who are handled often develop better emotionally than babies who are not. Through cuddling, and holding, and kissing a child, it helps the child to feel loved for a long time—even before they really understand the meaning of the word love.
Jesus was always reaching out and touching those in need. And the church needs to be the same way. Maybe it’s an elderly person that you reach out to. Maybe it’s a disabled person. Maybe it’s a widow. Maybe it’s a squeeze of the hand, or a meaningful embrace, or an arm about the shoulder. You see, the world is a competitive place where everyone is looking out for number one. But the church should be just the opposite. Compassion always involves a risk and a reach. So Christ expressed compassion through touch.
But Christ also expressed compassion through time. He got involved. He spent some time and energy. Peter Ustonoff said, “Charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible; compassion is time consuming.” And verbal affirmation is good. It can lift a person’s spirit. But usually the time or the energy expended is much more beneficial for the person in need. And Jesus excelled in these areas.
Remember when Christ spoke with the woman at the well, back at a time when you really didn’t even talk to a woman in public? And yet, Christ spent time with her, and He shared with her and listened to her. Jesus spent time, three years of His life, pouring His life into twelve men—not only teaching them, but also serving them.
I heard of a mother who was preparing pancakes for her sons. Kevin was 5 and Ryan was 3. And the boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Well their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. And so she said, “Now if Jesus were sitting here He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’”
And Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”
Well Satan loves to whisper, “Let somebody else do it.” And oftentimes we look around and we say, “Hey, you be Jesus. You meet this need. You fill this void.” And yet, Christ is counting on us to get involved in the lives of those who have needs that need to be met.
Several years ago (1997), Guidepost magazine told the story of Elizabeth Sherold, from Chappaqua, New York, who was working at her computer one afternoon when all of a sudden she saw a skunk stumble across her front yard wearing a yellow helmet. At least it looked like a helmet. But in reality it turned out to be a plastic yogurt container. And it was stuck on the skunk’s head and the skunk was frantically running around trying to get it lose! But it couldn’t get the thing to come off and it was just blindly running everywhere because it couldn’t see or breath. So Elizabeth Sherold called the Department of Wildlife and asked what she should do. And the man told her what she needed to do was to pull the yellow yogurt container off the skunk’s head!
“What if it sprays me?” she asked.
And the guy said, “If a skunk can’t see you, he won’t spray you.”
And she said, “Yeah, but what happens when I pull the container off?”
And the guy said, “Make sure he doesn’t feel threatened!”
Well she thanked him weakly, hung up the phone and went outside, but the skunk was nowhere to be found. And disappointed, she was about to turn and go back when all of a sudden a black and white streak suddenly emerged from the bushes and ran straight toward her. And forgetting the implications, she stooped down to grab hold of the container, pulled with all of her might, and she pulled it off the skunk’s head. And suddenly Elizabeth Sherold found herself staring into two alert black eyes a mere two feet away. And she held his gaze for a full 10 seconds before he turned, ran a few yards, and then disappeared down a culvert.
Now listen to her summary of that encounter. She writes:
A timeless parable played itself out, I thought. For this skunk was all those needs that I hesitate to get involved in. You know, involvement takes time. And I have deadlines to meet. I probably can’t do anything anyway. And somebody else with more expertise can probably handle it better. And besides, involvement can be ugly, and the stench may rub off on me. And all of those things, of course, may be true, but I’ve got a yellow pencil holder on my desk—a rather scratched and battered one—to remind me that every now and then God’s answer to a need is me.
III. BOTTOM LINE SOLUTIONS, NOT BAND-AID REMEDIES. (vv. 14-16)
Then there’s a third observation I want us to see: Bottom line solutions, not Band-Aid remedies.
Christ always focused on what was best for the individual for the long haul—what could help them out long term, as opposed to the short term solution. Luke 13, verses 14-16: “Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath (that’s why they get ticked off), the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’ The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’”
You see, the religious leaders saw healing as work because healing was part of a doctor’s profession. I love what the Life Application Bible says. It says, “The Pharisees hid behind their own set of laws to avoid love’s obligations.” And the religious leaders were ticked about the breaking of the Sabbath. And ironically, according to the law they could help an animal out on the Sabbath; they just couldn’t help out a person. You see, they were majoring in minors, and as a result of it they missed out on the miracle. And if we’re not careful we can do the same thing.
Christ, though, always centered upon, not just the physical, but He also looked at the spiritual. Remember what we learned back in Luke chapter 9, verses 1 and 2, several weeks ago. It says, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” They were to preach and to heal—spiritual and physical. And Jesus was able to heal this woman. Now you can’t miraculously heal someone like Christ can, but determine that you will do what you can to minister to the person who is hurting. We are called to be ministers of Christ.
Now having said that, it’s so important that the church and the community realize that the church can’t meet every need. There are so many legitimate needs that we can’t begin to cover them all. So we have to make referrals when necessary. And we try to be wise and to be good stewards. So instead of starting our own Christian mission, we try to pour resources into programs like that that are doing a great job and are exalting the name of Christ. We try to give and to volunteer to help out, to give a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus. We’re not Jesus—we can’t do everything. Sometimes that requires planning for the long haul, rather than thinking just short term.
And while it is out of our grasp to be able to heal, we can pray to the Great Physician. And while we can’t meet every need, we can meet some. And we can pray that God will meet the needs that we can’t. And some day He will. Paul writes in Philippians chapter 3, verses 20 and 21, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” You see, sometimes God chooses to heal people; other times He has us wait, and wait, and wait until that day when they will be made perfect. And there’s a common thread throughout all of Christ’s ministry, and that is that there is something much more important than a person’s physical condition—it’s their eternal condition. And Band-Aid solutions are temporary, they don’t last. That’s why our goal must be to introduce people to Christ.
You know, some people don’t ask for help. And within the church, they desperately need help but they don’t ask because maybe they feel embarrassed, or maybe they feel guilty or awkward. Or maybe it’s pride and they say, “I don’t need anyone’s help.” But usually I think it’s that they say, “Well, I don’t want to bother the church with that.” But that’s what the church is here for. We are to be a helping and healing station for those who are wounded by life’s trials and storms.
But you know, there are other people who go to the opposite extreme. They demand help. They say, “Hey, drop what you’re doing. You need to meet my needs. That takes priority over everything else. Forget your guidelines, forget what’s going on in your life, because I need help now.” And you wouldn’t believe some of the requests that people can make.
Now in our benevolence program, we try to do our best to screen and to make certain that there are actual needs that are there. We try to be a good steward of the Lord’s money and resources. And I’ve realized something over the years when it comes to this area of Christian benevolence. I’ve realized that for the church to just continue to help people time and time again, especially in financial dire straights, through time we can become an enabler, rather than a minister. And we’ve got to be careful. And we’ve also got to remember what Galatians chapter 6, verse 10, says: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” So we particularly want to take care of the needs of those who are part of this church. That’s a priority.
But it’s easy, if we’re not careful, to major in minors even within the church. And if we’re not careful we can be just like those religious leaders, saying, “How dare you heal on the Sabbath!” And we lose sight of the big picture. A preacher friend of mine told me some time back that on a hot Sunday in June, that the janitor of his church was running around the church building trying to get the temperature down in the building. And as the guy passed my minister friend, he said, “We could keep this place a lot cooler if it wasn’t for all these people!” Well that’s the purpose of the church. That’s why we’re here. And we’ve got to make certain we don’t major in minors. Because if we do, we can become oblivious to the obvious and we miss out on the miracle.
IV. REJOICING NOT RESENTMENT. (v. 17)
Then there’s a fourth observation: Rejoicing not resentment.
While the other leaders resented Christ, Christ saw this as an opportunity to rejoice—and so did everybody else. Luke 13, verse 17: “When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” You see, joy is part of the experience in meeting needs. When people’s needs are met, we should rejoice. And Jesus was thrilled at changing a person’s life; joy was part of His healing. Verse 17 tells us that when this woman was healed, the people rejoiced. And the Bible even says, back in verse 13, that the second it happened the woman “praised God.”
You see, celebration is a part of the abundant life that Christ came to give us. And you need some mountains in order to counteract the valleys of life. So take time to rejoice. Luke chapter 15, verse 10, tells us that when a sinner repents the angels in heaven have a time of rejoicing. Now if the angels take time to rejoice, we need to take time to rejoice as well.
Acts chapter 2, verses 44 and 45, tell us, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Now get this next verse: “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” There is not a more exciting time in the life of the church—more of a time of rejoicing and celebration—then right at its inception. And there they were, giving away all they had and they were experiencing incredible joy through their generosity. You see, we can become so worried about the busyness of our schedules, all that’s going on at church, that if we’re not careful we don’t pause to rejoice, and to celebrate, and to thank God. Our church needs to learn to celebrate when God blesses us or when needs are met. And more and more, our church must become a place where needs are truly met.
Ken Madema wrote about the church and he said:
If this is not a place where tears are understood,
then where do I go to cry?
If this is not a place where my spirit can take wing,
then where do I go to fly?
If this is not a place where my questions can be asked,
where do I go to seek?
If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard,
then where do I go to speak?
If this is not a place where you can accept me just as I am,
then where do I go to be free?
If this is not a place where I can try and learn and grow,
where can I go to just be me?
You see, the church has so much to offer if we follow God’s plan. But there is one thing that the church cannot offer. The church can’t offer forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life, and salvation. For salvation is not found in a place; salvation is found in the person of Jesus Christ. And maybe today the question on your mind is the same one the song writer sings: “Could He be Messiah to me?” And the answer is, “Yes.” And He promises to meet your needs if you only put your trust in Him.
DATE PLACE PREACHED
6/10/2001 Town & Country Christian Church – Bartlesville, OK
11/2/2003 Town & Country Christian Church – Bartlesville, OK
4/17/2005 Oakwood Park Christian Church – Sioux Falls, SD
6/3/2007 Oakwood Park Christian Church – Sioux Falls, SD