SERMON FOR PENTECOST 3, JUNE 9, 2013
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, there are a number of amazing things in today's Gospel. The funeral was leaving the gates of the city of Nain, at the same time as Jesus was arriving with His disciples. He stopped the procession and touched the casket with His hand. This was out of the ordinary in this culture. Jesus' power to command the body to rise was amazing. The reaction of the crowd and the witnesses was amazing. But another significant thing is that Luke was inspired to write that Jesus felt Compassion.


I don't mean that compassion was unusual for Jesus. It wasn't.  The compassion of Jesus moved Him to do many great things. “Another time when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick. (Mt 14:14)”  It was compassion, that led Him to design this world in such a way that our modern medicine could discover and develop all of the great cures and treatments that we utilize today, which have saved so many from horrible diseases and afflictions.


The feeding of the five thousand was also motivated by compassion. Jesus said ‘I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not wish to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.(Mt. 15:32)’” And So Jesus fed a great multitude with little more than a sack lunch. It is that same compassion which has blessed and guided the agricultural efforts of our modern farmers, causing a variety and overabundance of food for our enjoyment.

Compassion is defined as “Sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; deep sympathy, pity.” Jesus looked on the woman of Nain with compassion. He was moved and felt great sorrow for her, as she has lost her husband and now her only son. He was moved by compassion to confront death and reclaim the boy from its grip, to give this widow back her son.

SERMON FOR PENTECOST 3, JUNE 9, 2013
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, there are a number of amazing things in today's Gospel. The funeral was leaving the gates of the city of Nain, at the same time as Jesus was arriving with His disciples. He stopped the procession and touched the casket with His hand. This was out of the ordinary in this culture. Jesus' power to command the body to rise was amazing. The reaction of the crowd and the witnesses was amazing. But another significant thing is that Luke was inspired to write that Jesus felt Compassion.


I don't mean that compassion was unusual for Jesus. It wasn't.  The compassion of Jesus moved Him to do many great things. “Another time when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick. (Mt 14:14)”  It was compassion, that led Him to design this world in such a way that our modern medicine could discover and develop all of the great cures and treatments that we utilize today, which have saved so many from horrible diseases and afflictions.


The feeding of the five thousand was also motivated by compassion. Jesus said ‘I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not wish to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.(Mt. 15:32)’” And So Jesus fed a great multitude with little more than a sack lunch. It is that same compassion which has blessed and guided the agricultural efforts of our modern farmers, causing a variety and overabundance of food for our enjoyment.


Compassion is defined as “Sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; deep sympathy, pity.” Jesus looked on the woman of Nain with compassion. He was moved and felt great sorrow for her, as she has lost her husband and now her only son. He was moved by compassion to confront death and reclaim the boy from its grip, to give this widow back her son.


Aside from all of the amazing and miraculous things that occurred in today's Gospel, we get a look into at the heart of God. It is easy to imagine, with our world full of heartache and pains, trials and grief’s, that God doesn't really care how we are doing. After all, He is God, and we are merely people. What difference does a little human pain and suffering make to God? After all, look what He did to His own people! Look how His own people suffered persecution and trouble in their lives; look at how the church is torn by conflicts and strife both from the outside and within. Look at the trouble that all of mankind faces in the world today, wars, natural disasters, terrible illnesses which strike down young and old, rich and poor alike. Just like the woman in our Old Testament who said “What have you against me, O Man of God,” at the death of her son. It is easy to fall into the idea that God is outside of it all. That He does not know, or that HE DOES NOT CARE what our lives are like.


Our Gospel demonstrates that any such thought is a lie! Jesus came across this funeral, sees this woman suffering a great personal loss in profound sorrow, and Jesus felt compassion. There is no indication that He might have known this woman personally, there were probably dozens of women in the same situation all over Israel, not to mention thousands of others throughout the world. This woman's situation was not unique. But Jesus came face to face with the Widow of Nain., a stranger, and when He witnessed her sorrow, He felt deep compassion for her. He reached out and raised her son from the grip of death, and He gave him back to her alive from the dead. She receives back her only child with great joy. Yet the reaction of the crowd was one of terror. Those who were taking this boy to his grave are seized with fear.


When we are in need, in pain, in sorrow, He is still watching us, and His compassion continues. Jesus is filled with such compassion toward us just like the widow of Nain, that He rules on our behalf and in our favor. Even when we cannot conceive that God is watching over us or taking care of us, when life seems to drag us through this valley of sorrows, it is then that Jesus petitions the Father on our behalf.


Compassion had so much to do with all of what Jesus did. It is what led Him to the cross. He walked on earth as a man to reveal God to us, and then He died on the cross to accomplish an even greater work of compassion – the work that His heavenly Father had planned from the very beginning of time, Our Salvation. This is not natural for man to know or understand as St. Paul said “For this is not man's gospel.... But I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Jesus went to the cross on account of your sins and your guilt, and endured the wrath of God against your hard, rebellious heart, so that your sins might be forgiven, so that you would not need to face the pains and sorrow of hell. 


When I say “might be forgiven,” I don’t want you to misunderstand.  He did not die for the possibility of your forgiveness, but in order that your forgiveness would be established.  “That you might be forgiven,” actually means, “your sins are now forgiven!”  His mission was accomplished, and it was a complete success.  When Jesus feels compassion, He does things, He doesn’t merely wish them.  That success is what the resurrection on Easter shows us.  Your sins are forgiven, “That he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.”


When the people who attended the funeral that day, witnessed a miraculous act of compassion they cried out “God has visited His people.” They were right. He had come in the flesh and blood and He still does, in with and under bread and wine. He visits us risen from His grave and brings forgiveness and life. He visits us and gives us strength and faith, peace and love, and He claims us as His own.


Our Gospel this morning certainly teaches us that Jesus has the power to raise us from the dead, but it also teaches us that Jesus has compassion. It teaches us about the caring of Our Lord. This is something that we often forget because life has bumps and bruises that we perceive as normal. We have to deal with pain and tragedy. But God has compassion which moves Him, so that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”


The Greek word in our Gospel for compassion means moved in his guts. Our Lord's compassion is not some abstract notion, but the same sort of compassion you feel when you when a family friend loses a child. Or when you see someone in their vulnerable stage struggle with something that you and I take for granted each day. 

 

This Gospel tells us that Jesus knows how we feel. He understands our hurts and the source of our fears. In all of our troubles and grief’s, He is there. He knows our pain and is watching over us, petitioning the Father on our behalf. For He takes no pleasure in our pains and suffering, which is why He died for us, to spare us the greatest suffering of all.  It is comforting when you remember that Jesus was under no particular obligation to stop and care for the pains of this widow woman.  But Jesus felt compassion, and He acted to console her pain and meet her needs.


Jesus meets our greatest need as He gave to us new life just like the widow's son. Not by touching our casket but by his calling us to grace through the washing of rebirth. That gift comes with certain troubles in this world which are guaranteed, but it also comes with His compassion, guaranteed.  Those troubles will come because the world hates Christ, who has clothed us with His own righteousness and made us his own. When those times of trouble come, we have the promise of God that He is with us every step of the way. And so Jesus comes here today, risen from the grave, in flesh and blood, to make His church a procession of life in this world of death by his compassionate life-giving forgiveness and feast.


So when the devil the world and your sinful nature press in trying to take your life, you can find great comfort in knowing that Jesus feels compassion for you, just as He felt compassion for that woman who lost all that she had, her son.  He acted, miraculously, to help her and comfort her – and He will act on your behalf and for your comfort and blessing.  He has already acted, in redeeming you, and He continues to act for your comfort and strengthening.  And He will continue to act in your daily life by means of our brothers and sisters in the Christ, and by means we may not imagine.


But be of good cheer.  In every situation, you may trust that our God is aware and is working things out for your good and blessing, for Jesus feels COMPASSION!

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