For the last few weeks, I've been listening to the book of Luke when getting ready for work. It's been a refreshing way to focus my heart and my mind in the mornings and to get an eternal perspective on the day.
One of the things I have appreciated in hearing the Gospel stories is the breadth of ways that Jesus ministered to people. Sometimes during an encounter, Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and other times He said, “Go home.” Sometimes He said, “Tell everyone,” and other times He said, “Tell no one.” Sometimes He honored people who "Gave," and other times He honored people who "Saved."
While on the surface, one might initially assess His instruction as inconsistent, the deeper reality is found in Jesus's own words, "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" [John 5:19].
Jesus's actions were a result of was being obedient to His Father and to the Holy Spirit. And in His oneness with the Father, every circumstance into which Jesus spoke was unique, based on what the Father was doing.
Reflecting on this both/and-ness of God, a door of hope opened as I listened to an encounter in Luke chapter seven. "Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he 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. And when the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, 'Don't cry" [11-13].
Here amidst the chaotic merging of two crowds, one celebrating miracles and the other consumed in grief, Jesus sees the grieving mother. Isn't that amazing? This one, lost in grief, was not lost in the crowd. Not only did Jesus see her, but also, we are told "His heart went out to her." And as if that were not enough, He then spoke to her!
Now, one might think that Jesus would do what He did at other times in the Gospels: reach out, touch the boy's hand, and resurrect him. But this both/and One, "went up and touched the bier that they were carrying him on, and the bearers 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" [14-15].
Did you catch that? This follow/go, everyone/no one, give/save Jesus... this One who touched the untouchable, this time, touched the bier! He didn't ask the bearers to lower the body so He could take the hand of the dead son, instead, He touched the very circumstance that held the son in death.
If I may be transparent... I know we are overcomers, victors, conquerors, and more than conquerors. And, I also am aware of moments when broken, surrendered, and humble, I feel very much like the boy on the bier carried along in chaos, paralyzed in strength, and numbed by seemingly unchangeable circumstances. Both... and.
Can you relate? Perhaps you, even as you're reading this, are screaming on the inside, "Yes, me, too!"
May I share with you the hope that has opened the door of possibility in my own life? What if, like with the boy on the bier, Jesus could actually touch the circumstances that seem like they are killing me? What if Jesus could touch the situation where I feel like I am trapped and dying? I mean, if God touched the waters of the Red Sea and spread them so Israel could pass through, couldn't God touch the conditions and the events of my life and resurrect me? Absolutely! That thought has shifted my prayers. Or, better put, has added to my prayers. And while things are not completely settled, my faith is rising, and hope is displacing despair. I am filled with thanksgiving that the God of both/and is touching me and touching my circumstances.
Perhaps you would want to join me in that prayer. "God of both/and, touch the bier. Resurrect me to my full purpose and destiny, to Your glory, honor, and praise."
As we rest in hope, know that "God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us" [Ephesians 3:20 MSG]. Amen.
Wondering what a bier is? Here is the entry in the Strong's Concordance. And... a little more about a bier.
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