|Image: copyright 2012, Phoebe Kautt.|
Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 12, 2012
Ephesians 3:14-21, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
What a powerful prayer for the church that Paul composed, when he wrote this letter to the Ephesians! It is a prayer that I pray God would fulfill in your life and in my life, a prayer for full comprehension and appreciation of God’s great love in Christ for His Church, a love that is wider and longer and deeper and higher than we have yet to see! A love that ultimately is mediated by and measured in terms of the Cross.
The love of God, in stark contrast to and graciously offered and supplied in spite of and to overcome our sin, our guilt, our condemnation and even our fully-deserved, damning punishment in hell, is surely one of the favorite themes of every preacher, music to the ears and hearts of every true believer in Christ.
The love of God, how is that love, how was that love made concrete, made tangible, touchable, practical?
Our family received an interesting and eye-catching wedding announcement recently. The notification was from a couple we’ve known for several years, and it included not only the details regarding the wedding, you know, date, time, place, etc., but also a very unique picture of the engaged couple. The photograph of the future bride and groom, shows them making the sign of love, the symbol of love we’re seeing so much of this week, with their hands. Her right hand, his left hand, joined together like this to make the shape of a heart.
I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at it this way before or not, but the hands of Jesus, healing hands, helping hands, merciful hands, nail-pierced hands, what are they? What are the hands of Jesus? They are the means, the instruments through which God has made His love concrete, tangible, touchable and very, very practical! The breadth, the length, the depth and the height of God’s expansive love for His Bride, the Church - do you want this prayer of the apostle Paul to be accomplished, fulfilled, carried out in your life, in your family, in this church? To know this love that surpasses knowledge, to bring this prayerful petition to fruition in you and me, Jesus allowed His Father to use His hands. Take a look with me, will you, please?
The gospel of Mark, the gospel that many have called the gospel, the life of Christ, the portrait of Jesus’ life according to Peter, through his young friend, John Mark. This portion of Scripture provides us with seven powerful illustrations of the Love of God, through the HANDS of Jesus.
Take a look with me, please. Mark chapter one, the love of God displayed and demonstrated through the hands of Jesus, I don’t know if you have noticed this before or not, but God’s love runs on two parallel ‘tracks’, two ‘rails’ set one alongside the other, yet each one with unique and different aspects. The two ‘tracks’, the two ‘rails’ are these: John 3:16, everyone know and praises God for that verse, right? “For God so loved the world…” God’s love for sin-sick humanity, seen, shown, in the gift of His Son, that’s ‘rail’ number one. And, then, there’s ‘rail’ number two: Ephesians 5:25ff - that great passage detailing a husband’s selfless, sacrificial love for his wife. Do you remember the text? What is the basis for that strong and compelling exhortation to Christian husbands? Ephesians 5:32 – Paul says, “This is a great mystery”, a profound truth hard to completely grasp, “but,” he continues, “I am talking about Christ, the heavenly ‘Husband’, and the Church, His ‘Bride’.”
The love of God, in Christ, runs on two somewhat parallel ‘tracks’, His great love for the world AND His great, great, great love for the Church. Notice how that is played out here in Mark chapter one, through the hands of Jesus. Let’s read, beginning at verse 29.
Mark 1:29-31, 40-44, “Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them. Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
How is the love of God made practical, tangible, touchable? In both accounts, you see it, don’t you? God’s love, stretched out in Jesus’ hands, they were cleansing hands. This leper, what did he need? What does the world need, filthy, as it is, impure, unholy as it is, before the holy, holy, holy God? It needs, those ‘lepers’ need, the hands of Jesus! What was it that moved those healing, helping hands? Some would say that it was Jesus’ heart. After all, the text does say that Jesus was “moved with compassion”. But, I would ask you to consider: “is that all that prompted Jesus to stretch out His hands?”
Many a person, many of us, are stirred emotionally, on the ‘feeling level’, by the needy condition of people we see and know. But, how many of us stretch out our hands to help? Notice carefully with me that Jesus’ hands, they came to be stretched out to this man, yes, because of compassion, a heart touched by this man’s need. But, that’s not all! You see it, don’t you, in the man’s pleading, “If you are willing,” “If you have the want-to” we might say, “You, Jesus, with Your hands, you can make me clean!”
What sets apart Jesus and His hands from so many of us and our hands, is that Jesus’ love for this man is more than, goes deeper, wider, longer, higher than mere emotion! No! Flowing out of that compassionate heart was a will, a willingness to stretch out His miracle-working hands and DO.
How is it that God makes His love, for the world, for lost ‘lepers’ like this man, tangible, practical? Jesus’ hands! But, then, as I said, there’s a second ‘rail’, a second ‘track’ upon which the love of God travels. And, that is His love for His Church, His chosen generation, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, His own people. That’s what I think we see displayed in the other text we read from a moment ago. Early on in His ministry, Jesus has the opportunity to minister to His own, and on a very meaningful level, at the home of his dear friend and disciple Simon Peter. You see the situation, as it is described there in verses 29 and 30. A woman, who was especially dear to the Galilean fisherman, Peter’s wife’s mother, was in bed sick with a fever. I don’t know how many of you have ever been afflicted with a high fever before, but those things can make you feel terrible! And sometimes they can rage on for hours, maybe even days. What does someone, someone you love, suffering the tormenting effects of a raging fever need, when that temperature is spiking? Two Tylenol, and call me in the morning, right? That’s what the doctor will tell you. No! They need hands, the calming, quieting, healing hands of the Great Physician.
Jesus’ Church, His bride, sick, writing in agony, our gracious ‘Husband’ comes to us, touches us, and does for us what only He can do! Praise God! But, then what? Well, look again at the text with me, will you? The presentation of the life of Jesus supplied here by John Mark, with oversight from the apostle Peter, Mark’s gospel presents Jesus, who He is, in two different, but complementary ways. According to Mark, Jesus is first of all the Servant who Rules, who has authority over leprosy and spiking temperatures. Jesus is the Servant who Rules. But also, if you read on in the second half of this Book, Mark also presents Jesus as the Ruler – Israel’s King – who serves! Mark one, verse 31, what response, on the part of Peter’s mother-in-law, do Jesus’ helping, serving hands elicit from Simon Peter’s wife’s mother?
The apostle John puts it like this: “We love Him because He first loved us!” Mark simply relates that this woman, calmed, quieted, healed of her raging fever, by the hands of Jesus, got up quickly and began to use her hands, to serve Him! There’s a lesson in that, my friends! There is!
How is it that God makes His love for the world, and for the Church tangible, practical?
Mark 5 – one of the most moving accounts of the love of God at work, through the hands of Jesus, is found in Mark chapter five. It’s actually two accounts in one, the record of the woman with the issue of blood, and her desperate attempts to touch Jesus with her hands. And, mingled with it, the account of the raising of Jairus’ little daughter from the dead. We don’t have time to look at the whole account in detail, but notice these few aspects with me, if you would. Once again, like with the leprous man in chapter one, the situation is urgent. Verse 22 and 23, Jairus, this little girl’s father, falls at Jesus’ feet and pleads with Him, “My little girl lies at the point of death. Please come and lay You hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.”
Have you been in the bedroom, the hospital room of a little child, gasping for breath, struggling to hang on, surrounded by weeping parents, and loved ones? Men, this man Jairus, his love, his tenderness toward his little daughter packs a lesson for us also! He cherished her. Couldn’t bear the thought of losing her! But, to put it bluntly, his hands, HIS hands were tied! He needed, his little girl needed Someone whose hands weren’t!
Some time ago I read about a sign in a certain restaurant that made this simple statement: “This is a kid-free zone!” Imagine if Jesus would have put out the word to all the Jairuses around Him, “My ministry helps only those who are at least 5 ft. 3 in., only those who are old enough to get their driver’s license, mature enough to live on their own!” In a couple of other places we read that that was what the disciples wanted to promote and publicize about Jesus. That His ministry was a ‘kid-FREE ministry’, that He was too busy, perhaps too important, to bother with children! Oh, but what do Jesus’ hands tell us here? What do His words show us here?
We have a couple of songs that put it so meaningfully, don’t we? Jesus Loves the Little Children. Kid free? No, Jesus’ ministry was kid-friendly! Little ones to Him belong! Do you remember how this distressed father, Jairus, spoke about his daughter. Verse 23 – “My little girl.” Jairus cherished her, loved her, couldn’t bear the thought of losing her! But, what about Jesus? Two things, take a look. First of all, at Jesus’ words, not Jairus’ the father, but Jesus’ words, verse 41, “Talitha Cumi’ – that’s Aramaic for, “Little girl” “Little one, you belong to Me! And, then, Jesus stretches out His hands and YANKS up that girl abruptly out of that sick bed, right? Sometimes us rough and rude and impatient fathers do that, don’t we? But, not Jesus! Not Jesus! No! Because He is friendlier to children than even the best Chuck-E-Cheese in town. What does Jesus do? Verse 41 – Gently, tenderly, lovingly, He takes her, lifts her, and I suspect, He also holds her, this little girl’s Maker and Healer, with His hands.
How do you know, how can you tell that God loves you? Watch carefully, will you? The Hands, the healing, helping, calming, quieting, compassionate, tender, nail-scarred hands of Jesus, that’s how we know! That’s how we can tell!