Luke 7:1-23

 

“Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.  And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick, and ready to die.  And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.  And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:  for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.  Then Jesus went with them.  And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself:  for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:  wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee:  but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.  For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.  When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.  And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.  And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.  Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and much people of the city was with her.  And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.  And he came and touched the bier:  and they that bare him stood still.  And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.  And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.  And he delivered him to his mother.  And there came a fear on all:  and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.  And this rumour of him went forth throughout Judea, and throughout all the region round about.  And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.  And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?  And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits;  and unto many that were blind he gave sight.  Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.  And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

 

“…trip, I’m glad to get back.  This is where I want to be till Jesus comes.  I like this is where I’m supposed to be [applause].  You know, I’ve been there 13, 14 times, it always looks the same.  The part that never looses its fascination on me is Calvary and the empty tomb.  [Must have just gotten back from Jerusalem.]  And the rest of the trip is nice, you know, been to Dan and Joab’s Tunnel and Jericho, and you go there and it’s always the same, been that way for thousands of years before I was born.  And it looks the same every time I go back.  But the empty tomb in Golgotha is always new, every time I go there and I look at that hill, I’m amazed as I look at it.  Because I know that all of my sins were there 2,000 years ago, and paid for.  And every year I go back there’s a few more I didn’t know about that were there the year before, that I recognize the next time I come.  So it’s a joy for me to see the other folks at this time, and to make sure it’s a good trip and they get blessed.  But man, I’ve been getting blessed here.  And I’m glad I’m back.  Let’s pray.  ‘Father we settle our hearts before you, how we love you.  Lord, we look at the world that we live in, and Lord, certainly we do pray for peace in Jerusalem, and the Middle East, Lord. We see the tension with Iraq, Father, and the United Nations and weapons of mass destruction, and all of the lingo that we hear.  [1996 tape]  Father, somehow in the middle of all of this, we know Lord that everything is under your control.  There is no thing out of your control, though things appear to be out of control in so many ways.  Father, you’ve written to us clearly of these days, and that they would precede the greatest moment that human history has ever seen.  Lord, next to your death and resurrection, you coming to set up your Kingdom, Lord, and all of these things hark of your return.  Lord we are here in this Delaware valley, you’ve placed us here.  Lord, in our hearts we desire to be light and salt in the harvest field you’ve placed us in.  And Lord, as we think of that, we are desperately, Lord, in need of your empowering, the filling of your Holy Spirit.  So Lord we sit here before you this evening, Lord we open our hearts, we don’t want anything, Lord, we do as we gather together to be phony.  So many of us grew up in a religious situation Father that was empty, and it was simply going through the motions, going to church.  And Lord, since you’ve touched our lives, there’s so much more, so much more than we’ve ever dreamed of.  And Lord when we gather, what we thirst for is your presence, the reality, Lord, of your love and your grace and your care.  Be with us as we continue to study, Lord, Luke’s Gospel, this seventh chapter.  Lord, you know it, you lived it, you gave it to us.  We look to you and pray, in Jesus name, amen.’

 

The Incredible Faith of the Gentile Roman Centurion

 

Luke chapter 7, verses 1-10, “Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.  And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.”  We looked at a version of his Sermon on the Mount last time we were together.  “And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.  And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:  for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”  We were in that synagogue a week ago.  “Then Jesus went with them.  And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself:  for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:  Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee:  but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.  For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.  When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.  And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.”  One of the key words in this record is that Jesus marvelled.  You have to do something to make God marvel.  I doubt whether I’ve ever made him marvel, not in a positive way.  There’s only twice in the records of the Gospel that Jesus marvels.  He marvels in Nazareth when he comes back and teaches at the synagogue, and it says there that he marvels at their unbelief.  He’s just amazed that they can’t receive anything from him, it means to be amazed with them.  And here he marvels at this centurion’s faith.  Jesus looks at this man, in what he had just said to him, and Jesus, it means to be amazed, it means to be in wonder.  I mean, you have to do something to make Jesus marvel.  So as I read through this, you know, I always take that to heart, and I think, ‘You know, Lord, have I…you know I have kids at home, and they do things that make me marvel, but I marvel why anyone would ever do some of the things they do.  [laughter]  And I may have made Jesus marvel in that sense.  I doubt whether I have ever made him marvel by trusting him the way this centurion did.  Now it’s an interesting circumstance, as we look at this, because this man who Jesus marvels at, is a Gentile, first place.  And in that, he is despised by the Jews.  The Gentiles were despised by the Jews in Jesus’ day.  In fact, the Jews believed that Gentiles had a specific purpose, and that was to be fuel for the fires of hell.  At least that’s a specific purpose.  The Jews believed that that was the only purpose that a Gentile served was to fuel the fires of hell.  Now I don’t know about you, but if somebody has that attitude towards me, I don’t tend to get along with them very well.  If somebody had an attitude towards me that the only thing I was good for was to be, you know, those starter logs for hell, you know, one of those fireplace logs, that’s all I was, you know I tend to have a hard time warming up to that person, no pun intended.  And this man is a Centurion, he’s over a hundred men.  Some scholars say by this time it was probably 75 to 80, but century, 100, centurion, he was over a hundred men.  And Rome in general had a rotten attitude towards Judea, if that was the term, if you had to serve in Judea, you got bad duty, and it was simply because the attitude of Judea towards Rome and towards Gentiles was that, they were good for nothing.  And as Rome rolled over Judea, the Jews had an attitude of that ‘You don’t roll over us, and we don’t recognize you, and our God is going to destroy you, and you are good for the fires of hell.’  And by and large the Romans despised the Jews.  When these Roman soldiers had Jesus and he was blindfolded and they were spitting on him and they were beating his face, they did those things with relish, because it was a Jew.  And one of the remarkable things about this Centurion is that these Jews come to Jesus pleading for this man, saying, ‘He’s worthy.’  Now that’s a remarkable thing for a Jew to say of a Gentile they thought was good for nothing but the fires of hell, unless he was already expressing some personal faith in the God of Israel.  It says ‘He loves our nation, he’s built us a synagogue.’   This is a remarkable man.  Not only that, it says he has a servant, and I read somewhere there were 60 million slaves in Rome.  Four or five to one of every citizen in Rome.  And they were a possession.  You could take your slave in the back yard and kill him if he did something wrong, and nobody minded.  You could trade him for a stereo, he was a possession.  And yet is says this centurion has a servant who he loved, who was dear to him.  It means to be precious.  And he sends word to Jesus, it says, “beseeching him”, not commanding him.  He was a centurion, he could easily have given a command and brought Jesus right to his front door.  But he sends word to Jesus beseeching him.  Now I look at this and I think, man, ‘how well would I be doing in this situation, I’m this centurion, and I live in a land of people that I’m fodder for hell, who really aren’t very gracious to me, would I be there building them a synagogue?’  Would I be the kind of guy who with all that authority yet still finds my servant, somebody whose precious to me and that I love, if I had authority to command somebody in a situation like this who I thought had power to so something, would I be begging or would I be commanding?  You know, to me it’s quite a man, and maybe more of a man than I am anyways, because when I find I’m under pressure not responding all the time the way I know Jesus would respond.  And yet this guy, somehow, is demonstrating remarkable character under the pressure of everything that’s going on.  These Jews then came to Jesus and besought him, verse 4, instantly, as soon as they came into his presence, ‘saying, that he was worthy for whom he should do this’---axion, that he weighed as much as, that’s what “worthy” means when you went to the market place and you weighed something and the weight came up to the weight of the balances on the other side of the scale, that was axion, that meant worthy, weighed as much as.  They’re saying this guy is worthy, he weighs as much as his talk and his walk.  He’s not phony, there’s as much weight behind the man as there is verbiage.  “He’s worthy for whom you should do this, for” now they have their own reasons, “he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”  He could have made their lives miserable.  ‘He’s built us a synagogue.’  “Then Jesus went with them” on his way to this man’s home. “And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord,”---interesting, calling this Jewish rabbi Lord---“trouble not thyself:  for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:”---the Jews said he was worthy.  They’re saying this guy is worthy.  Notice his opinion of himself.  “Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee:  but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.” 

 

The Secret of the Centurion’s Faith---Recognition of the Authority of Jesus

 

And verse 8 gives us the secret of his faith, what he recognizes about Jesus, or what comes forth from his mouth that makes Jesus marvel.  Look at what it says, “For I also am set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” (verses 6-8) And the important word is “also.”  He says, ‘Lord, all you have to do is speak the word, I understand what’s going on with you, Lord.  And the reason that I understand is that I also, like you Lord, am someone who is set under authority.  And because I bow the knee to Caesar, as a Centurion, because my life is submitted to the Roman kingdom, I say to one soldier ‘Go,’ and he goes.  And I say to another soldier, ‘Come’ and he comes, and I say to my servant ‘Do this’ and he does it.  Because I am set under authority, and when I say to a soldier under me ‘Do this’ he does it, because all of the authority of Rome is behind me.  As a Centurion when I speak, I speak on behalf of Caesar.  And when I give an order, I give an order in lieu of the Roman Legions, and all of the authority of Rome is behind me, because that is the throne that my life is submitted to.  I also, you see Lord, am someone who understands authority.  And I see in your life tremendous authority.  And I know you are submitted to a Kingdom and to a throne.  And because I am in a very similar position, and because of the throne that I am submitted to gives me authority to give orders, Lord, the throne you’re submitted to puts you in a position where all you have to do is speak the word, and it will happen.’   Man, he recognizes the authority of Jesus.  And he’s basically saying, ‘Lord, your authority is authority that is worthy of trust, of faith.’   You know, as a matter of fact, the authority of Jesus is the only authority worthy of our faith.  I think as we grow in the Lord, we realize that, I think as we grow in Christ, we learn in increments who he is and what he is, and what he’s done and what he will do, as the Scripture says, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little” the more we learn of him, the more that we know his authority can be trusted.  The more we face a situation where we have a child at home and who we love and we hear that kid cry out in the middle of the night, ‘Mom, Dad, I feel like I’m gonna ‘Blaah!’  and you run, and the flu’s hit or something, and the first thing we do, you know, is call the doctor.  The first thing we do is get out the milk of magnesia, the first thing we do is ‘What kind of antibiotic does the kid need?’  And yet in the middle of all that, we are all in the process of learning that there is another authority, and that authority is over any circumstance in our life.  It is  an authority that goes beyond the authority of the doctor, or the authority of the banker when we have a financial problem, or the authority that we have with a credit card to try to bail ourselves out of a financial problem today so we’ll have one tomorrow.  Or the authority of a counselor, or the authority of a pastor, or the authority of a lawyer.  Are we coming to the place this Centurion who understands authority completely, sees in Jesus such an authority that he says ‘Lord, all you need to do is speak the word and my servant will be healed’? [shifting to our time, and in our lives…] ‘Lord, all you need to do is speak the word, and all the bitterness of my life will be drained out.  Lord, all you need to do is speak the word to my husband, and he can be softened and he can be saved.  Lord, all you need to do is speak the word to my wife, whose been unfaithful, and she’ll come back home.  Lord, all you need to do is speak the word to the heart of my teenager, I love them and I pray for them, but Lord, what they need is from you.  Lord, all you need to do is speak the word, and you can strengthen my body, you know the years are wearing it down, and I’m struggling with one chronic illness after another, but Lord, I recognize your authority, and all you need to do is speak the word.’  It’s only his authority that’s worthy of our faith.  Jesus, responding immediately to the things this man is saying, ‘I am submitted to Rome, therefore all of the authority of Rome is behind me, when I act on behalf of Rome, Lord, I see you also are set under authority, and all you need do is speak the word, and my servant will be healed.  You don’t even have to be there.  The realm that you have authority in is not limited by time or by space, Lord, the authority you walk in, all you need to do is say it, and though my servant is miles away, immediately Lord, he will be healed.’  

 

Jesus Marvels

 

“When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in all Israel” (verse 9).  He marvelled, he was amazed at him, at this centurion.  Jesus stops the whole crowd, he’s on the way to the guy’s house, Jesus says, ‘Hold everything!’  Stops everything, the whole crowd.  He looks around at the people who are following him, and he says, ‘I’m saying to you, I have not found so great a faith, no, not in Israel.’  Israel did not understand the authority of heaven he had come in.  Now, Matthew tells us that Jesus at this point says, “And I tell you the truth, many shall come from the east and from the west, and sit down at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And those of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness”, those, the Jews that should have come to faith.  Many shall come from the east and from the west, that’s us.  We flew east to go to Israel two weeks ago, we flew west to come home.  But we will come from the west when he’s there seated in Jerusalem, setting up his Kingdom, and we will go from the west to the east and sit down at the table, to a dinner that you haven’t dreamed of, with Abraham, great company, Isaac, Jacob, Noah.  You have some questions you want to ask him, don’t you?  [I’m a sub sailor, have lots of nautical questions I want to ask Noah J]  Elijah, Enoch, Adam, David, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Obediah.  Read his book, it’s a little one.  You want to be able to say ‘Read your book Obediahh, it was great.’  [laughter]  [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophets/edom/Edom%20in%20Prophecy%201.html]  Because he had authority over our sins too.  And he has authority if we come and we ask him for forgiveness, to grant to us eternal life, he has authority.  “And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick” (verse 10).  You know I hope somewhere that my faith blesses others.  Does your faith bless someone else?  You know I think that as we walk with Christ and our relationship with him---it’s not religion, but relationship---when it’s something that’s real, I hope it overflows from us to touch the lives of others, that our faith would bless someone else.  Now, I understand why Luke puts this part of the record next.

 

Jesus Has Power and Authority Over Death

 

“And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.  Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow:  and much people of the city was with her.  And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.  And he came and touched the bier:  and they that bare him stood still.”  He came and touched the man that they were carrying wrapped in a sheet.  “And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.  And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.  And he delivered him to his mother” (verses 11-15).  Now that’s what I call authority.  Man, would I like to know what he said.  It doesn’t tell us.  He probably said ‘Get these sheets off of me!’  “And there came a fear on all:  and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (verse 16).  So we come to this next record, this widow of Nain, and her son dying.  Now Luke is the only one who gives us this record.  ‘It came to pass, the next day after he had this conversation and heals the Centurion’s servant, and authority is spoken of, he comes to a city called Nain.  Now Nain means Lovely or Delightful, and I’m sure that Nain had lost all of its loveliness and delight to this woman.  Jesus, of course, would restore it.  ‘Many of his disciples were with him.’  Now again, when we think of the disciples, we think of 12, but Jesus had many disciples.  He had hundreds that traveled with him.  He would call twelve as his apostles.  John chapter 6, verse 66 tells us that when Jesus spoke of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, and then he says ‘These words are spiritual,’ he’s not talking about physically doing it, but it says many of his disciples began to draw back at that point in time, because they said, ‘This is a hard saying.’  But a disciple was just a learner, that’s all it means, and there are many who had made Jesus their rabbi, their master, and were following him.  So he’s coming to Nain with a large crowd.  So we have these two crowds, one crowd following Jesus as he comes, the other crowd following this dead body as they come in the other direction.  And we have these two groups of people meeting. 

 

A Look At Death And How We Deal With It

 

Now, you will be somewhere, unavoidably in verses 11 or 12, you will either be in a crowd that comes following Jesus, or you will be somewhere in verse 12.  “Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man…”  You will play the role someday of the dead man in verse 12.  He was being carried out, the funeral.  You will be involved in a funeral, funerals are strange things.  They don’t come that often.  When they come, death is a foreign thing to what God intended for us, and they are difficult to deal with.  And when someone dies, their loved ones, like this widow, we’ll be in her role, no doubt, at some point loosing a loved one.  You know, we dredge way down inside ourselves trying to find the right emotions to deal with death, and they’re not there because when we see the Kingdom is set up, there’s no death there, no curse, no suffering, there’s no sorrow.  [He’s not talking about humans living on earth in the Millennial Kingdom of God when Jesus and we are reigning there, although there will be far less death and sorrow for those folks.  He’s talking about all of us who rise in the resurrection to immortality, now blessed with immortal spirit bodies.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/corinthians/cor15-16.htm]  God had never intended us to have to deal with death.  He dealt with it.  There’s a dead man being carried out, “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow:  and much people of the city were with her.”  Now things are hard enough for her.  She’s a widow, she’s lost her husband.  Evidently her son is called a young man, the idea is, maybe he’s twenty to thirty years old.  And I think any time in life, even if we’re married, it’s difficult to outlive our children.  I think for a forty-five year old parent to lose an 18 or 20-year-old child is incredibly difficult.  I think for a twenty-year-old parent to loose a one-year-old baby is incredibly difficult.  I think it’s difficult enough to loose a child who doesn’t come to term that we never know.  I think it’s difficult for an 80-year-old to loose a 60-year-old child.  And in this situation, this is a widow.  She’s already lost the man that she loves.  Now, her only son, who is also her only means of sustenance, there were no welfare programs in that day, she wasn’t on social security.  [Comment:  there was a welfare program written into the law, called 3rd tithe.  But the people of Israel had probably given up on observing it by then.]  Now her son, her only son passes off the scene.  And it says he’s being, or behold, very interesting verse, it says “behold… a dead man”  and he’s being carried out.  Now that’s what we do with dead people, we carry them out, we put them somewhere.  We put them in a black car.  Even if it has windows on the side, it’s smoked so you can’t see in.  We put ‘em in a box, we take ‘em away somewhere, we bury them under the ground.  We don’t like to look at death, we don’t like to face death.  We do it very neatly, very discretely.  You know, people do not like to deal with death.  I heard one philosopher say ‘That the reason that we all sing Old Langsyne so loudly on New Year’s Eve is because we’re trying to drown out the macabre sound of grass growing upon our graves.’  I thought, what an outlook on life.  [laughter]  You see people when they get into a mid-life crisis, whatever that is, they’re jogging, now they’re running from death, you know, they decide somewhere between 35 and 50 that they’d better do something, because the body’s starting to go, so then the vitamins come, and then the health club, the carrot juicers, the jogging, and we’re running away from death.  We know it’s comin’ and we know it’s catching up, but we don’t want it to catch up as fast as it needs to catch up, if we can get a little head-start on it.  And at 40-years-old we start drinking carrot juice, start going to the gym, start doing…and wear out our rotator cuffs and then we need to go see a chiropractor…I mean, we don’t like to deal with it.  We don’t like to deal with it.  It’s unpleasant.  But there’s only one way to deal with death, and that’s to meet it head-on, face-to-face.  It’s unavoidable.  But with Jesus Christ, it becomes a rite of passage, not an enemy.  The Bible tells us that we should walk worthy of the vocation that God has called us to.  And part of our vocation is passing.  It isn’t just to serve Christ in this world and live with integrity.  Certainly it’s that, to be light and salt in this world, certainly it’s that.  But the reason we’re to be light and salt in this world is so that we might infect someone else so that they don’t face death without Christ.  The reason we’re to be a witness is because there is a way through death.  The reason that we are to live our lives for Christ is because the world is lost and in darkness.  And the reason that they’re supposed to see something real and genuine in us is so that they can be saved and experience what we’re experiencing.  And the only way to deal with death is with Jesus in our heart and meet it head-on and see it as a hallway that leads to heaven [the kingdom of heaven, which will end up on earth at Christ’s 2nd coming], and not as a hopeless black-hole that robs one generation after another of life, and steals away with another loved one, never to be seen again. 

 

What Death Is For The Believer

 

Paul tells us that death has been abolished through Jesus Christ.  You have to understand that, what it means for us.  You know, when we’re in the world and we don’t know Jesus Christ, death becomes the end of relationships.  It’s one of the sad things about it, people stand around the coffin or go to the grave and have vigils, they mourn and weep.  No, you know for the Christian it’s not the end of relationships, because we are expecting to see our loved ones in the morning, on the other side, forever.  So, for you and I, that facet of death has been abolished.  For the unbelieving human being, death is the end of hopes and dreams.  What a sad thing, he was in the prime of his years.  He was still healthy, he was 65 but he was as strong as a horse, never sick in a day of his life.  It’s the end of hopes and dreams.  No, no, not for me, it’s the beginning of hopes and dreams.  All that I live for and all that I expect is ahead of me.  There is no thing behind me that I’m trying to hold onto.  There’s plenty behind me that I’m happy to leave behind me.  But it’s not the end of hopes and dreams.  As a Christian it is the beginning.  Streets of gold, walls of jewels, a Kingdom and a City [cf. Hebrews 11:8-10; 12:18-23; Revelation 21:1-23], with Christ seated upon a throne in the center, the cherubim and the angels and the saints gathered round [cf. Revelation 4].  That’s not the end, that’s the beginning.  The only way to face death is to face it head-on with Jesus.  If you don’t know him, you need to ask yourself if you’re ready to do that.  Because a lot of people go to church, they call themselves Christians, but what they have is they have religion, they don’t have relationship.  And because all they have is religion, a belief system, they’re not genuinely ready to face death.  But when you know Jesus personally in a relationship, and the Bible says that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, he’ll also quicken your mortal body too, that then we are ready to face death head-on.  The Bible says this, “Forasmuch then as children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same”, the incarnation, Jesus coming in human form, “that through death he might destroy him that has power of death, that is the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”  It says people without hope their entire lives ‘are subject to the bondage of the fear of death.’  There’s no way to escape it, we know it’s coming, it comes to every human being.  We try to do our best, we get health insurance, we join the health club, we do one thing, we do another, we drive carefully, defensive driving, you know, you do all of these things trying to avoid premature death.  But nobody likes to talk about on-time death.  We don’t want premature death, but we don’t have many conversations about on-time death, dying on time.  And we’re all going to do it.  But it says Jesus came in human form, God left his throne, took on the form of human beings to be with us.  You know, if you were somewhere and you saw this ant-hill ready to be destroyed, you knew they were going to turn on the fire hydrants and the ants were all going to be drowned, how would you communicate to those ants, so that they would get out of there?  You know, if you just ran up and stood over the ant-hill and you went ‘Whoa!’ they’d all get heart attacks and die, they’d all fall over.  What would you do?  What you need to do is you become an ant, and then you warn them.  Now that’s a poor analogy, because you and I becoming an ant is way less of a step-down than it was for Jesus [as Yahweh] to become a human.  He really stepped down.  But it says that, he took on our form, so that he could deliver us from the fear of death.  That’s why I say, that empty tomb always blows my mind, always blows my mind.  He’s risen.  And clearly, if the same Spirit that raised him from the dead dwells in you, the Bible says that Spirit will also quicken or bring back to life your mortal body.  That’s the hope of resurrection.  [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/corinthians/cor15-16.htm] 

 

Jesus Raises the Widows Son From the Dead

 

Jesus walks into this scene in Nain, where there’s this widow, whose broken-hearted.  Her son is being carried out, the city is there, many are with her, they’re mourning, weeping.  “And when the Lord saw her” it means to set his gaze upon, he looked at her, he set his gaze upon her “he had compassion on her.”  Her pain was in his heart.  Very interesting.  He had compassion on her, and you have to realize, she never read the chapter, she never read it.  Here she is, leaving Nain, you know, in those days you buried them on the same day, because they weren’t embalmed, everything you do today.  I’ve been in Israel, and going around the streets in Jerusalem and see the Orthodox Jews carrying someone who just died.  They wrap them in a sheet, do what they need to do, they get them in the ground right away, because the humidity and the temperature over there is normally warm, they put them in a sarcophagus, sarcophagus means “flesh eater,” because of the moisture in the limestone deteriorates [them] very quickly.  They put someone in a sarcophagus, they come back two or three years later, the flesh is gone, the bones are there, they scrape the bones into a pot, put that on a shelf, then they can use the sarcophagus again.  And they use it over and over for generations, because the flesh is eaten away, the bones are preserved and put somewhere in a pot.  Thought you’d like to know that.  [laughter]  So this guy hasn’t been dead that long, wrapped in a white sheet, they’re carrying him out, the grief is fresh on his mother’s heart, she’s thinking ‘My husband’s gone, my son’s gone, I’m alone.’  And Jesus walks up to her with another group of people and says, ‘Don‘t cry  “And he said to her, Weep not.”  What is that, cruel?  She must think, ‘That’s easy for you to say.’  She never read the chapter.  Jesus says ‘Stop weeping.’  ‘Why?  Why are we here, what’s it all about?  Why do we die?  What are human beings?  What do you mean, don’t weep?’  “And he came and touched the bier [the pallet that they’re carrying him on]:  and they that bare him stood still.”  So Jesus comes up, puts his hand on this body as they’re carrying it.  “And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.”  Now notice, you have to notice this, this guy did not die and become a part of some great karma field, some big Ouoooom out there in the universe, and waiting to be reincarnated, come back as a cat or something, he wasn’t some life-force that was absorbed by the universe.  Wherever he is, he still has identity.  Jesus says to him, and he’s dead, ‘Young man,’ wherever he was, he could hear Jesus, he was still a person, and so will you be, on the other side of death.    Jesus says this in John, “Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death to life.  Verily, verily I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.  Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good, to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation .”  [“damnation”: Greek krisisdecision.  Damnation is a very poor translation of krisis]   Jesus says, not just to this man at Nain, everybody’s going to hear his voice.  [Comment:  This passage in John 5 (esp. verses 28-29) is Jesus’ listing the two major resurrections to occur in the future, the 1st resurrection to immortality (cf. 1st Corinthians 15:49-54) and the second or general resurrection of all mankind that didn’t participate in the 1st resurrection to immortality. Within the body of Christ there are various differing beliefs about heaven and hell, and where you go when you die.  To read about some of these, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/plaintruth/battle.htm]  Not just this young man, everybody’s going to hear his voice.  The whole procession stops, Jesus says, and there’s a tenderness here, “Young man” the key phrase of course is “I say”, because if it was me that stopped him and I said it, nothing would have happened.  I’d have said, ‘Young man, young man, young man!’---nothing!  The key there is “I say”, who was speaking.  “I say unto thee, Arise.”  And I wonder what the people were thinking?  “And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.”  Now I’ve gotta believe the pall-bearers head for the hills at this point.  They must have dropped him on the ground.  That’s probably the first thing he said, ‘You dropped me!  I can’t believe you dropped me!’  What would you do?  You’re carrying this guy, somebody walks up, he’s dead, says ‘Wake up’, and this dead guy on this white sheet sits up.  I know you’d be outa there, don’t tell me you wouldn’t, you’d be running.  You five guys hold it, you can do it, you’re strong.  I remember seeing on America’s Funniest Home Videos, they had this routine where this guy in a hearse made believe he was broken down on the side of the road, and said the coffin fell out of the back, and he had it there on the wheel, people were walking by, he said, ‘Do me a favor, the car’s broken down, I feel terrible, this fell out of the back,’ he said, ‘Stand here and watch it for a minute while I go down to the Seven-Eleven and make a phone call.’  And of course it was a set-up, somebody was inside the coffin that was alive.  And the people are standing around and you watch their faces, and the guy walks away and they’re joking, ‘Oh boy, guarding a coffin, this is weird,’ and all of a sudden the lid goes ‘Errr’ and those people were gone!!!  The cameraman could not film them all, they all headed in different directions!  [laughter]  And I know you’d be doing the same thing, this guy hit the ground.  “Arise.  He that was dead sat up, and began to speak.”  I think it’s amazing that Luke writes that, and doesn’t tell us what he said.  You know when we go to heaven [in the resurrection to immortality, rising to the ‘Wedding Feast’] that’s one of the things you’ll want to do, when we sit down at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the widow’s son from Nain, you’ll want to say to him ‘What did you say, anyway?’  “And he delivered him to his mother.”  Jesus delivered him to his mother.  And there came a fear on all:  and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen among us; and, That God hath visited his people.” (verses 15b-16) Now it’s phobos, you know what a phobia is.  I’m sure the six guys carrying him had a phobia, they were having dreams for awhile.  “There came a fear on all:  and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen among us;” the idea is like Elijah, remember?  He prayed for the widow’s son, three times.  “a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.  And the rumour[the logos, word] of him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about” (verses 16-17)---over sixty miles, and throughout all the region round about.  Now that’s something, without televisions, without telephones, without fax machines, word spread for over sixty miles around.  And that will happen when you tell someone whose dead to get up and they get up. 

 

John the Baptist Doubts Jesus’ Messiahship

 

“And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things” (verse 18).  Now, the disciples of John tell John all these things.  John (the Baptist) is at this point in time, in the fortress of Marcarus, which is on the other side of the Dead Sea in the area of Jordan today.  And he’s in the prison, in the basement of this fortress.  Now, he’d been there for about ten months by this time.  And interestingly it tells us in Matthew that when Jesus heard that John was put into prison, it says he left the region and went into Galilee.  Now I’ve gotta believe that when John is put in prison, it’s no big deal [to him], because he’s thinking ‘Messiah’s here, I saw him, saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove abiding on him, I know who he is.  Before I was born, in my mother’s womb, I heard his mom’s voice and I leaped for joy in the womb, I’ve known him from before I was born.  He’s here, winnowing fork’s in his hand, taking away the sin of the world, no problem.  Lock me up, I’ll be here a day or two, he’s gonna spring me.’  Well the first bad news he gets is Jesus leaves the area, when he gets locked up, and goes to Galilee.  Now he’s been there about ten months, and he’s starting to wonder.  I think it’s important for us to look at this.  “And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should came? or look we for another?  When the men were come unto him [to Jesus], they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?  And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.  Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.  And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (verses 19-23)  Now, you know, here is this scene.  Here’s John the Baptist, we know, people go through all kinds of struggles here.  Is he really doubting?  What is he really saying?  Some try to make excuses and say ‘Well what he’s doing is he knows he’s decreasing and Jesus is increasing, so that is a way for John to get his disciples to go to Jesus, like he needs to deceive them to get them to go to Jesus.  No, I think what’s happening is John is stumbling, John is doubting, John’s asking a question, ‘Are you the One?  Or do we look for another?’  It tells us in Luke 16:16 that the prophets prophecied until John.  Luke tells us in 16:16 that John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament Prophets, a long and noble line.  It tells us in 1st Peter chapter 1, verses 17 and 18, that the Old Testament Prophets when they prophecied ‘They spoke of things that were spoken to the heirs of salvation, that didn’t really concern them, and it says they longed to look into the very things they prophecied.’  So, John the Baptist in the long line of those Old Testament Prophets has said things about Christ, ‘his winnowing fork’s in his hand, he’s going to thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor, gather the wheat into the granary and burn the chaff with an unquenchable fire, that he’s the Lamb of God that’s taking away the sin of the world, you know, I’m not worthy to unloose his sandal, this is the One that should come, the One that baptizes with the Holy Ghost and with fire…’ and now he’s having a hard time putting together the pieces of the puzzle.  He’s saying, ‘OK, are you the One, or is there someone else?  Are there two people fulfilling this, what’s going on here?’  But it’s borne out of, the important thing for us is, that it’s borne out of a struggle. 

 

John’s Difficulty Was Unfulfilled Expectation---Is That Yours?

 

If this is the greatest prophet ever born among women, and he struggles, it means that it can happen to us.  Moses in Numbers chapter 11:11 would  say, ‘Lord, what are you doing?  Why have you done this to me?’  And he comes to a completely wrong conclusion as he doubts God.  Elijah, after the great victory on Mount Carmel, would flee from Jezebel, and he would cry out to God in a cave and say ‘There’s none but me, I’m the last one.’  God would have to say to Elijah ‘I’ve got 5,000 other guys that haven’t bowed the knee to Baal.’  Elijah running from this woman, crying out, wanting to die it says.  Jeremiah, down in the pits, saying to the Lord, ‘I’m never going to say ‘Thus saith the Lord again, I’ve had it, now you have a non-prophet organization, I’m retiring.  I’m not involved in this anymore.’  Paul, 2nd Corinthians, would say that he and Silas despaired of life itself, they wished they were dead.’  And as I look at God’s great men and women, many of them have come to the place where they are shaken, where they doubt, where they stubble.  And as I look at John, and I see him do that, I think, I’m taking notice, because I know there are going to be times in my life when I struggle, when the faith I have presently is not sufficient as it were, and God will be growing me.  You know, God will have all things under control, but I know myself.  And as I look at this, John is not struggling with difficulty, he lived a difficult life.  His parents were ancient, no doubt they died early.  He lived in the wilderness, he ate grasshoppers.  You know, he’s not dealing with difficulty, he lived with difficulty.  He’s dealing with I believe the length of the difficulty.  His difficulty is unfulfilled expectation [I can identify with that].  Jesus is not being the Jesus that he thinks Jesus should be.  And because there is unfulfilled expectation in his life, he’s saying ‘Are you the one?  Or am I supposed to look somewhere else?  Is there more with another?’  His struggle was that of he expected Jesus to be a certain way, and he expected Jesus to do a certain thing, and when it didn’t happen that way, he struggled.  Now that’s exactly what happens in my life.  When difficulty comes or someone I love is sick or someone you love is passing off the scene, or a very difficult situation is evolving in your life, what you find is Jesus is not being the Jesus you expect him to be in that circumstance.  And because there are unfulfilled expectations in your life, then you’re sending word ‘Aren’t you the one I thought you were, isn’t that who you are?  Why is this happening?’  And here’s John, the greatest prophet that ever lived, and because he has an expectation of what Jesus would do and who he should be and it’s not happening, he sends word, asking.  Now I’m glad that he does that, he goes straight to Jesus with his question, and I think we should always do that, whatever prison we might be in, of doubt or of struggle.  Jesus says, ‘You go tell John what you see, the blind are seeing the lame are walking, the lepers are being cleansed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them, and blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.’  You go tell John that the Word of God is being fulfilled, the prophecies in Isaiah [35:1-10] are being fulfilled.  You go tell John that exactly what the Prophets said the Messiah would do is being done.  And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me, who does not stumble, the scandala on the part of the trap the bait was attached to. 

 

‘I Didn’t Come To Be The Messiah That You Think I Should Be’

 

And I think what he’s saying is this.  He’s saying, ‘I’m here to do the will of the One who sent me, I’m not here to do John’s will.  John expects me to be his redeemer, but I am someone else’s redeemer.  John is expecting me to be the Messiah he thinks I should be, and yet I’m here to do my Father’s will, I’m here to do the will of the One who sent me, and have taken his yoke upon me.’  And Jesus is saying, ‘What I’m doing is all that the Prophets and all the Word has said that I would do.  I’m not doing anything different, so blessed is he who is not offended in me.’  Look, in our lives sometimes we think ‘God if you love me, how could you let this happen, you know I’ve thought I had one on the hook here, I thought I was going to be engaged to this guy, engaged to this gal, and another one got away, Lord, if you loved me…’ and we think that he should be the Messiah, the Dating-Messiah, you know.  And because he’s not the Dating-Messiah that we think he should be, then we say ‘Are you the One?’  Or there’s illness in our family or maybe somebody dies, and we say ‘Oh Lord, I’m looking for this American dream life of living without any difficulty and without any injury and without any sickness and without any death.’  The rest of the people in the rest of the world face that on a regular basis.  And the Word of God will come to us and say “I’m the One.  I came to pay for sin.  I came to make a way through death.  I have authority to say to you that if you believe in me, your sins will be forgiven and you have eternal life, and I have come to fulfill the will of the One who sent me, not to be the Messiah that you think I should be, as you write out a script for who I am.  But I already have a script, I come, lo I come in the volume of the Book, it is written of me to do thy will O God, sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire, but a body thou hast prepared for me.’  Jesus says to John, ‘I’m already living a script that is written for me by God the Father.  And it’s the same in our lives.  But the problem is here in America, we have so many charlatans, and we have so many people making false promises in the name of Jesus.  [i.e. the Health & Wealth gospel preachers]  I remember before we moved back here from the West Coast, my wife being sick for months on end, deteriorating, getting worse and worse and worse, and being broke and struggling, and saying, ‘Oh Lord, here I am, I want to move to Philadelphia, and I want to serve you, and this is what I get?  And I’m in this ministry training thing, and I’m teaching the mid-wake study at Calvary in Whittier and I’m doing this, and I’m part of the worship team, and my whole life is falling apart, and this is what I get for serving you?  I’m your guy and look what you’re doing to me.  You’re not living up to the expectations I have for who you ought to be.’   And the Lord said to me, ‘Well, how is this going to effect anything you’re supposed to be saying to people?  What were you going to tell them?  That they’d always be wealthy?  If so, no wonder your theology is being destroyed.  Or are you going to tell them that they’d always be healthy?  Never be sick?  If that was your message, no wonder your theology is being destroyed.’  And he said to me, ‘Or are you going to tell people that if they turn away from their sin, and trust me as their Saviour, they’ll have eternal life?  Because none of this [that’s going on in your life] effects this message.’ And that’s what he’s saying to John the Baptist.  ‘You go tell him what you see, the Word of God is being fulfilled, and I’ve come forth to do the will of my Father, as it is written of me in the book.’   And whatever difficulties we face in life, it says we have hope that’s an anchor to our soul beyond all the present sufferings and difficulties, and that is that our sins have been forgiven, there’s a day coming, either through the passage of death, and Jesus has authority to take us through there, or by another authority, he has the authority at any moment to interrupt human history with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, to catch us away from the face of the earth into the presence of God.  All of that will be fulfilled.  [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/corinthians/cor15-16.htm to read about this event.]  He is being exactly who he is supposed to be.  And there will be circumstances in all of our lives that seem to be out of harmony with his love, because he’s shown such a great love to us.  What the Bible says, that there won’t be a greater manifestation of his love to us than the crucifixion.  In fact, 1st John tells us “God hath commended his love towards us in this, that he sent his Son to die for our sins.”  That’s the love of God. 

 

Do You Have A Religion or Do You Have A Relationship With Jesus Christ?

 

I’m going to challenge you tonight, do you know that love?  Do you have religion or do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ?  Now, if you don’t know Christ personally, what we want to do this evening is give you an opportunity to come down and stand at the altar and to be saved, ask Christ to be your Saviour.  Don’t sit there and say ‘Well I’m not worthy.’  Well that’s what the Centurion said.  He said ‘I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy that I should come to you, and I’m not worthy you should come to me.’  Jesus marvelled at this guy, it didn’t put off Jesus for one second.  Jesus loved this guy’s heart.  The question isn’t whether you’re worthy, the question is, do you believe that all he needs to do is speak the word, and you can be washed and you can be clean?  Do you believe he has that authority?  Do you believe that he has the same authority that he had then, that he could raise to life somebody being carried out on a stretcher that’s dead, ‘Young man, young woman, Arise’, and they’ll get up?  Because he’s going to say that, Jesus said one day is coming, where everybody in their graves are going to hear my voice, and they’re going to respond.  Or maybe you’re mad at him, like John the Baptist, you’re disappointed, you’re struggling, because you think ‘Well if God’s a God of love, how could he let these things happen, how could he let this happen?’  You know, if God wasn’t a God of love he could have let this ball of dirt with 5 billion people on it [now 7 billion people on it] go spinning through space and not even get involved.  The remarkable thing is he came into the world, he died for our sins, he paid the price, he does love us, and he does care, so much so that he got involved in our lives and he paid for our sins so that we can have eternal life.  He’s done that.  He hasn’t stood afar off.  And now he asks for a response from us…[transcript of a connective expository sermon given on Luke 7:1-23 by Pastor Joe Focht of Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia PA  19116]

 

Related links:

 

First Resurrection to Immortality, What Jesus is Offering Us:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/corinthians/cor15-16.htm

 

How Do I Become A Christian?  See:

http://wwwunityinchrist.com/baptism/What%20is%20Baptism.htm

 

and,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/2ndcoming_4.htm

and scroll to the bolded paragraph title “How to Become a Christian” and read from there.