JESUS HAS COMPASSION UPON THE GRIEVING
COMFORTED BY GOD
The story is told of a mother who was trying to calm her fretful little daughter who had climbed up on her lap. Soon her loving embrace and tender caresses quieted the 4-year-old's uneasiness. But the mother herself was grieving and feeling very said, for she had just laid to rest her own dear mother, who in days past had been such a spiritual help to her. Looking up, the little girl saw her moist eyes and asked sweetly, "Mama, do you want to be holded too?" Then the mother's tears began to flow freely, and the child hugged her and whispered, "Mama, God will hold you, won't He?" The woman was both chided and consoled. Looking to the Lord in her grief, she found grace and solace.
It has been said that God often digs wells of joy with the spade of sorrow.
Today we have a story that illustrates the Lord's concern and compassion towards those who are grieving. Notice with me please Luke 7:11-17. Follow along silently as I read this aloud for us.
(Let's begin to explore this narrative by using the format that we have become familiar with.)
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES (OR SETTING).
The events of this narrative take place in a city called Nain. There is nothing particularly distinctive about this city. As a matter of fact, the circumstances here are very normal; i.e. for Jesus. We see Jesus, the multitude, and the disciples. Jesus continually ministered to the multitude and the disciples were continually exposed to the lessons of their training.
What is the repeated activity of your life?
Who is your discipler?
(We have the circumstances, let's move on and consider:)
II. THE CHARACTERS.
(In any narrative there is usually a protagonist, or hero, and an antagonist or villain.)
1. The Antagonist.
This is one of those stories where there is no stated antagonist. Yet, if you look closely, I believe you will see an antagonist materialize before your eyes. Do you see him? I do! His name is Death! Death is an antagonist! Death is an enemy of human beings! I have chosen to personify death, because death is often personified in the Bible and in literature. Death is our enemy from a physical perspective, because he robs us of our life. Death is an enemy from a spiritual perspective, because He punishes us with the outcome of sin. Sin has brought disease, famine, suffering, and death into our experience. And Death is an enemy from a fear perspective. The Bible says that some people are subject to slavery all their lives, through the fear of death. Even though some people today have a flippant attitude about death, the people of Bible times had a great fear of death.
2. The Protagonist.
The protagonist is Jesus Christ. He is portrayed as such by the direct description of the storyteller, the other character's responses and his own words and actions.
(Let's hurry on and consider this portrayal by considering:)
III. THE CONFLICT (ACTION OR PLOT).
There is seen here a spiritual conflict concerning ministering to those who are in grief. Jesus had done much to help those who were hurting and hopeless in other ways, but what could He do for one who was grieving over a loved one? Herein lies the suspense of this narrative. The suspense of this story surely revolves around our curiosity with respect to how Jesus will respond to the widow and the funeral procession.
Notice first that Jesus saw her. Jesus always displayed great insight and foresight. You are probably saying, "He should display these characteristics because He is God!" It is true that He was God in the flesh, but it is not true that He directly used the power of His deity. No, Jesus worked all miracles and did all ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, He is our example of ministry!
We should have our sight and our insight sharpened by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We should clearly see people, their plight, and their pain. We see too little, when we do not see what is going on in the lives of people we come in contact with.
Not only did Jesus see this woman, He felt compassion for her.
felt compassion 4697 splagchnizomai "to have the bowels yearn," "to be moved in the inward parts," "to feel compassion."
splagchnizomai is from
4698 splagchnon "an intestine."
splagchnon "b. the bowels were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence equivalent to our heart, [tender mercies, affections, etc.]."
compassion splagchna "The verb gives the oriental idea of the bowels as the seat of compassion."
Compassion is "a deep feeling for and an understanding of suffering with an accompanying desire to relieve that suffering" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary).
I am so glad that it says He felt compassion. Compassion is a feeling and God has deep feelings for the suffering of people in general, and His children in particular. Jesus had a deep feeling for and an understanding of the pain of grief. "How?" you ask. Jesus had a face-to-face relationship with God from eternity past; but when He decided to come down to earth and die upon the cross to save mankind, He gave up that face-to-face relationship. While Jesus was in the flesh, there must have been times when He felt as if God was dead. We know that He experienced something like this on the cross, because He cried out, "My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?" He had to experience tremendous grief and loneliness while here on earth. Therefore, He knew what that woman was feeling. He could relate, because He was feeling the same thing Himself!!!
His words to her were, "Do not weep." Jesus is the only one in the universe who can say those words to a grieving human being, because He is the only one in the universe who can wipe away the grief. He said do not grieve because of what He was about to do! He was not saying, "Do not weep, because it is wrong to weep." He was not saying, "Do not weep, because you are a Christian." He was saying, "Do not weep, because He was about to raise her loved one from the dead!"
We would have to say, "Weep on, I understand, and Christ cares!"
LOVE AND SORROW
A lady who had lost her husband was questioning her spirituality, because she thought it was wrong to grieve so deeply. Although she was confident that her departed loved one was with the Lord, it was difficult to talk about him without weeping. Then one day her pastor pointed out something that was very helpful to her. "When you love deeply," he said, "you make yourself vulnerable. That's why, when a dear one is taken, the suffering is so severe. But not to love is even worse. You cannot fully live without loving!" Tears flow freely from the fountain of a love-filled heart.
It's O.K. to cry at the passing of a loved one. As a matter of fact, it is therapeutic to cry at the passing of a loved one. The more special the loved one lost, the more tears are likely to flow!
(Let's move on to:)
IV. THE CLIMAX OR CULMINATION.
Jesus said, "Do not weep," then He raised the young man from the dead! The compassion of Jesus consisted of more than a deep feeling for and an understanding of suffering, it consisted of a conscious desire to relieve that suffering. And since Jesus was the Lord of Life, He gave life back to this young man. This is instructive and encouraging to those who have lost love ones and personally to each believer who must face death -- if the Lord delays His coming in the clouds. Earlier I alluded to the fact that the Bible personifies death as an enemy. Once this occurs, in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Paul personified death and treated him as an enemy that would one day be overcome through faith in Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57, "`O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
If your loved one was saved, death cannot defeat him/her. If you are saved, death cannot defeat you! The sting of death is sin, but death cannot sting you, if you have been forgiven from your sins.
The power of sin is the law, but death has no power over you, when you trust in Christ; because Christ is the end of the law to the one who believes in Him.
THE BEE STING
One day a man was walking on his property with his two sons. While they were walking, a bee from one of the man's hives made a beeline for the oldest boy and stung him just above the eye. He quickly brushed it away and fell down in the grass, kicking and screaming for help. The bee went straight for the younger son and began buzzing around his head. The next thing he knew the younger son was also lying in the grass, yelling at the top of his lungs. So he picked him up and told him to stop crying. "That bee is harmless," he assured him. "It can't hurt you. It has lost its sting." He took the frightened lad over to his elder brother, showed him the little black stinger in his brow, and said, "The bee can still scare you, but it is powerless to hurt you. Your brother took the sting away by being stung." Then he explained 1 Corinthians 15:56 by telling them that the sting of death is sin. But our Elder Brother the Lord Jesus hung on the cross and took the sting out of death by dying in our place.
So, one day Jesus will give us complete and final victory over death. But until that day, we still struggle with death.
We can see through the actions of Jesus that compassion towards the bereaved is important. He did several things that were unnecessary as far as I am concerned. First, He touched the coffin. In my mind, there is no reason for Him to touch the coffin. He was the Logos, the Word, Wisdom, Reason and Speech of God. He could simply speak and life would flow back into the body of this lad, but instead He touched the coffin. I believe that this personal touch was for the Mother. He handled her situation with personal, tender care.
We must come to minister to people with the personal touch. I want the ministry of this great church to become synonymous with the personal touch. Reach out and touch someone! Reach out and love someone!
The second action of Jesus, that drew my attention, was the action of giving this young man back to his mother. He didn't say get out of the casket and live. He didn't direct those carrying the casket to help this young man out of the casket. It seems that He personally helped the young man out of the casket and literally carried him back to his mother. This may not be literally true, but the narrator goes out of His way to mention this detail. I sense great tenderness involved in giving this young man back to His mother. What a compassionate Savior we have!!!
Once again I implore us to center our ministries in compassion and the personal touch. I call pastors, staff, nursery workers, hosts and hostesses, parking lot attendants, ushers, every department, department heads, members, etc. to give people compassion and the personal touch.
We don't have the faith or the prerogative to bring loved ones back to life and return them to the grieving, but we do have the faith and the prerogative to extend to them the compassion of Jesus Christ!!! We must extend Christ's compassion to those who are in grief. How can we do that? Well, let me offer some practical advice.
"Don't wait a long time before you make your initial contact.
Don't try to minimize their pain with comments like,
`It's probably for the best.'
`Things could be worse.'
`You're young, you can always have another one.'
`You know God is in control.'
Comments like these might be an attempt to offer hope, but to a hurting person, they sound as though you don't understand the enormity of what's happened.
Offer simple, understanding statements such as:
`I feel for you during this difficult time.'
`This must be very hard for you.'
`I share your feelings of loss.'
`I wish I could take the hurt away.'
Comments like these let the person know you acknowledge their pain and it's okay for them to feel their pain.
Don't say, `I'm so sorry,' and end the sentence. Your hurting friend is probably sorry, too, but he/she can't respond to that kind of comment.
Say, `I'm so sorry,' Then add, "I know how special he was to you.' `I'll miss her too.' `I've been praying for you.'
Don't say, `You shouldn't feel that way.'
Agree when the individual expresses their feelings. Say, `Yes, what happened to you isn't fair and doesn't make any sense,' whether or not you share the same perspective."
Simply be there in silence, if you don't know what to say.
At the appropriate time, people can be helped greatly by becoming aware of the grief process. The grief process is God's gift to human beings to us deal with loss. We go through this process when we lose anything large or small. The larger the loss, the longer the grief process takes. At the greatest lost, which is the death of a spouse, grief work can take up to two years if you do it right; longer if you get stuck. The stages of grief are;
1. Shock and denial.
2. Bargaining (guilt).
3. Anger (with God and others around him/her).
4. Grief (deep depression like death).
We can see from the life of Jesus Christ that compassion to the grieving is an important aspect of Christian ministry.
This is an admiration story. You must admire a God who is so tender, compassionate, and personal with those who lose loved ones.
If you want to be admired also, emulate the compassion of God that was demonstrated through Jesus Christ.
The detail which adds to our understanding of the story is the fear that gripped them all. Here is an undeniable witness to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Very God of Very God. Who else can bring the dead back to life? Because of the compassion and miracle of Jesus Christ, they began to glorify God. Through this one act Jesus is accorded the status of prophet; God is seen as visiting His people; and the report of this event went out all over Judea and the surrounding district. This is also a miracle story. The miracle that Jesus performed authenticates His Messiahship.
Let me reiterate the fact that we may not be able to raise anyone from the dead, but if we demonstrate the compassion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, God will be glorified; We will be accorded prophet status; God will be seen as visiting His people; and the report will go out all over Northeastern Ohio.
(Now is the day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
Call to Discipleship
 Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nineteenth Zondervan Printing 1978, pp. 584-585.