Walk His Way

Sermon preached for the Third Sunday after Pentecost on June 5, 2016 at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Sermon text: Luke 7:11-17

How you walk can show something about what’s in your heart. When I’m walking up front of church with my robe on, I’ll tend to walk a

certain way. It won’t be too slow that I don’t ever get anywhere, but it won’t be too fast, either. I don’t want to rush around, but I want to walk in a way that’s hopefully dignified and respectful in leading a worship service. I want the way I walk to show I care about what I’m doing. Plus the fact that if I moved much faster I could easily trip over my robe.

But there are times where different kinds of walks are required. Those who were graduating from our grade school this past Thursday night couldn’t exactly come sprinting in to the graduation service. But at the same time, there might have been just a little bit of excitement in their steps. Graduating from eighth grade is a big deal; it’s on to high school next year! There’s good reason to be excited and happy in how you walk.

And when the last bell rang and the last day of school ended on Friday, I’d imagine a few of the kids—not just those graduating but some from all the classes—might have even gone running out of the school building! After all, class is over! No more classes and textbooks and tests, at least for a few months! Summer vacation! That’s an exciting time! And it might just show itself in how the kids walk.

There are other times of life with a special walk, too. On her wedding day, a bride walks down an aisle like this here in church. And it’s a kind of formal occasion; she’s not rushing. She’s going slow, maybe in time with the music. But in her walk you might see excitement with just a touch of nervousness as she prepares to begin her married life with her husband.

Of course, an aisle like this can be used for a different walk, too. At a funeral, the casket will often get walked down this aisle, with the family following close behind. There’s different emotions going on there, aren’t there? Sure, I pray there’s hope after a funeral here at St. John’s, but there’s also bound to be sadness. There’s that little thought we have that this person we love isn’t going to be walking with us anymore in this life. So we don’t move as fast. Maybe we keep our heads down. Maybe our hearts are just a bit heavy.

Now, the Bible doesn’t say much about how Jesus walked. But in our text for today, we see two groups of people walking who ran into each other. The group that had Jesus in it was full of excitement and joy, and the other group was sad and mourning. By the time the two groups came together and Jesus had a chance to use his power and love, everyone was rejoicing—and I’d imagine their walks showed it.

So today, I want to encourage you to walk his way. I want you to walk, to live your life, as someone who has been affected, heart and soul, by your Savior’s love. I want you to look at Jesus who rules over your life in good times and bad, and to walk rejoicing in his power that enables you to live now and to live with him forever. 

Look How People Walked with Jesus

The time of our text must have been a pretty exciting time to be a disciple. Jesus was going from town to town, and things were happening. In chapter 6 of Luke’s gospel, we see huge crowds flocking to Jesus as he heals diseases and drives out evil spirits. Then he preaches to them, and the crowds are amazed at his teaching.

Then we get to chapter 7 and the text that we heard about last weekend. A centurion wanted his servant healed, and remember how confident that centurion was in Jesus’ power? Remember, he didn’t feel worthy to visit Jesus in person, but he sent someone to say to him, Say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Lk. 7:7-8) And he was right! Jesus didn’t even go to see this servant; he just healed him sight unseen.

So by the time our text starts right afterwards, you can understand that people would be excited. Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. (Lk. 7:11) It wasn’t just his disciples there; he’d gathered a large crowd. And they weren’t there because they were bored; they were there because Jesus was doing and saying incredible things!

So how did this large crown walk with Jesus? I’d like to think they had some spring in their step! Jesus was beyond a celebrity; he was healing people! And his teaching was like nothing they’d ever heard! Did they understand that he was the Savior of the world? Did they understand that he held ultimate power over life and death? I’m not so sure.

But here’s the thing: we do understand that. We know exactly who Jesus is: true God and true man who lived a perfect life, died, and rose again to guarantee that our sins would stay buried forever! He did it all so that we would live in forgiveness now and in heaven for eternity! Jesus did amazing things during his earthly ministry, sure, but those amazing things mean everything to us now!

And sometimes that hits us. Sometimes we realize that and that joy carries over to the rest of our lives. Think about Easter Sunday. You might tend to walk a little differently on that day, right? You can’t help but feel that joy when you know that Christ is risen! and you get to respond that he is risen indeed!

But it’s tough to keep that joy going. Life gets in the way. The work week, the school assignments, the meals to cook, the bills to pay, the sickness to hopefully recover from. It can all add up to our walk being a little slower. We can get a little bit more weighed down by our obligations and responsibilities. Our hearts get heavy when the realities of this world hit us. And even at church, well, it can be a little hard to think, Yes, the Third Sunday after Pentecost!

It doesn’t mean we don’t know the truth. Of course we do! We have it up here in our heads, even if those heads don’t feel quite as connected to our hearts as we’d like them to be. Especially when we run into hardships and sadness.

Look How People Walked without Jesus

Just look how it worked out in our text. There were two crowds that day. One was skipping their way on a stroll with the Savior; the other was trudging in sadness. As Jesus approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. (Lk. 7:12) Many little towns at this time would’ve had essentially a wall around them. So for the most part, to get in or go out, you had to go through the gate. What a contrast we get as these two crowds met at the gate that day!

The crowd from town was sad, maybe even a little angry. Not only was there a death, but it seemed senseless. We don’t know a lot of the background to this case, but it never seems right when a parent has to bury their child. We don’t know how old he was, other than Jesus later calling him a “young man.”

No matter what, this was not a good situation. The woman was a widow; she had previously lost her husband. And now she had lost her only son. There was no social security or Medicare for this woman to fall back on! Things would have most likely been quite difficult for her in the time and place she lived. It didn’t seem fair! Of all the people who had to die, why did it have to be this one? Why did it have to be now?

We have questions like that, too. Why did I have to lose my job right now? Why did I have to get sick? Why did this person I love have to die? Our church and school families have had to struggle with these questions and more this year. And it’s frustrating. And sometimes it makes you a little angry. Why, God?

And this doesn’t mean we don’t know what God has done for us. This doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten Easter or the forgiveness, life, and salvation Jesus has won for us. We know all that. It’s up here in our minds. But again, it can be far from our hearts.

Walk with Jesus

That’s why we need to hear it again. That’s why we need to hear about Jesus’ love, yet again. You know, on a weekend of school graduations, it’s worth mentioning: usually when you have learned one topic, you move onto other topics. That’s kind of how education is supposed to work. But that’s not how we do it in our relationship with God. We keep going back to the same thing. Jesus loves you! Look how much! Look what he’s done! That’s for you! Why do we repeat this over and over again? Because our hearts need it. Our faith needs it.

And Jesus gives us what we need, even when we’re feeling bruised and broken. Just look at how he treated the widow in our text. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” (Lk. 7:13) He wasn’t barking an order at her; he was comforting her. Dry your tears; you don’t need them anymore. Not after what he was about to do.

Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. (Lk. 7:14-15) I can’t get over how fast this all happens. Jesus goes right up to the dead man. Our text says “coffin”, but back then it would’ve been more like what we would think of as a stretcher. It was a way to carry the body that was all wrapped up in burial cloths to take it and lay it in the tomb.

Jesus goes up and touches where the body is; the pallbearers stop, probably out of shock. He tells the young man to get up, and he does! He sits up and talks, and Jesus gives him back to his mother. What a sight! Jesus turned this mother’s pain into joy. He took what seemed like a senseless death and made sense of it—this had all happened so that Jesus could display his power over death. Jesus did this to show that he was true God who would end death forever by his death—and by his life!

And yeah, there might be that part of us that says, “Sure, that’s nice for her! But I’ve still got problems here. Jesus hasn’t made my problems go away; he hasn’t raised the people that I’ve lost.”

But, don’t you see, he has! He has taken those problems away—we just don’t see yet that they’re gone. We live with those problems for a little while now, but we will one day rejoice to see them gone forever. Yes, we’ve lost people we love, but those who die in Christ do not die forever, they live! And so do we! Because Jesus lives, we live.

So, friends, let that truth sink in! Let the Savior’s love that you know up in your mind make it down to your heart! That only happens when you hear the story again. When you learn what you’ve already learned all over again. And what a joy it is when you do! It changed the people in our text: They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. (Lk. 7:16-17)

Yes, Jesus loved changed those people, and it still changes us. And I hope that it changes how you walk. In good times and bad. Whether it’s the last day of school or it’s a funeral of someone you love. Whether you’re smiling or crying, your walk can be different. You can have a spring in your step. You know Jesus’ love. You know his forgiveness. You know his joy is your joy. Walk his way.