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Words Of Faith
- December 15, 2005
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Stopping the Procession|
 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.
 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.
He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. For Jewish people, it was an act tantamount to putting one's hand into a fire. It was an act so unusual that it stopped the entire funeral procession. No one could believe it.
To touch the coffin was to touch death. It broke the Law and caused one to become ritually unclean. This was not a coffin like we think of it. It was a litter or stretcher used to carry the body to either a grave or a tomb. According to rabbinical law anything that touched a dead body was unclean and anyone that touched this stretcher would become unclean. There were likely special cloth barriers for those carrying the stretcher. Jesus broke this barrier of ritual uncleanness when he deliberately touched the stretcher. He spoke to the young man to get up and he did.
This was a remarkable miracle that made a statement about who Jesus was. There is also a powerful image here that speaks to the core of what it means to have new life in Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 2 the Apostle Paul describes our condition without Christ as death. "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient" (Eph. 2:1-2).
The Word of God tells us that we are all born into a death procession, a march toward a grave that is for eternity. When Jesus comes along this road, He is on a LIFE procession that is on a collision course with the DEATH procession. The raising of the widow's son tells us that Life is more powerful than death. Jesus was not afraid that death would make Him unclean. He knew that Life will overwhelm death. It is death that needs to be afraid when Jesus in town! Jesus will not move out of the way no matter what the religious rules might say!
The reality is that every person is now or was on a death procession. The only alternative is for Jesus to stop that death procession and speak words of Life to us calling us to rise up. The Greek word used here is a powerful one. It is different from the word more commonly used for "resurrection". This word means to waken or rouse from sleep or from disease or death. It can also mean to rouse up from obscurity, inactivity or ruins. Life is about so much more than just breathing.
We need the word of grace by which Jesus calls us to new life but we also need the grace of Jesus that stops the funeral procession. He stops the wailing. We need the grace of Jesus that touches the stretcher that carries us along, the bed of death that is carrying us toward a grave. You see Jesus was not afraid to touch the stretcher because he knew that while people feared the uncleanness of death would rub off on them in reality the LIFE of the Son of Man would transform this place of death into life.
The powerful image here is that unless Jesus touches that place of death the bed of death that carries us along we will not find Life. Jesus touches the trappings of death that we lie in and calls us to rise up from the ruins. Our litter or stretcher of death may include many things for us, perhaps a series of bad decisions or a particular lifestyle, a group of attitudes or a protected secret. It may be a job or vocation that has been stealing you away from God. It may be a circle of friends and influence. The death march can seem very reassuring and comfortable. It may seem to have purpose and momentum such that it is very hard to stop. A funeral procession is very hard to stop but Jesus can do it.
The church is called do exactly this... STOP funeral processions. We are afraid to do that. We are afraid to offend. We are afraid to break tradition. We are afraid to TOUCH what is unclean. It does not do enough to just try and shout above the wailing. We must touch the unclean and know that life goes forth from us.
Part of the problem is that the death marches accepted by our culture. Some people are sold out to corporate greed and ambition. Some are focused on themselves and materialism. Even the church can become a death march when it blesses a sinful lifestyle or give false comfort and security. It is the call upon the church to touch, stop and speak. Far too often the church is silent. The Body of Christ-- the procession of life-- pulls to the side and fails to touch the places of death to speak the Words of life.
Where are you today? Are you being carried along on a litter of death? Spiritually dead? Jesus is here right now to STOP your funeral procession. Jesus is here right now to TOUCH whatever stretcher has been carrying you along toward oblivion. Jesus is speaking to you, Young man, get up! Young woman, get up! Join the procession of LIFE.
Where are you today church? Are you just standing by and watching the funeral processions all around you? Afraid to TOUCH for fear of getting "unclean"? Afraid to have compassion? Afraid to CALL PEOPLE TO LIFE? Afraid to cross the cultural boundaries and norms. Afraid to break the religious rules? We must touch the pain in order to share the promise. We must stop the funeral in order to share the life. We must speak the truth of Jesus.
Father God, I give thanks for the Lord Jesus who stops funeral processions with the power and message of Life. Give me the courage to touch the places of death and share that same message. In Jesus' name.
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)
2820 Business Center Blvd.
Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200
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