Sermon: The Compassionate, Competent Savior

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The Compassionate, Competent Savior
John 11:17-44
April 5, 2020

Who will care for you when you are suffering?  Who will care for you if everyone is suffering?  Who will care for you when care and connection and human touch are being restricted by governmental controls?

We are not the first people to ask that question.  So some innovative people have attempted in the past few years to come up with some solutions:

  • To comfort people with dementia, Paro was invented. Paro is described as “a white-furred baby cyber-seal that responds to sound and touch, makes cute seal noises when stroked and turns its dark, appealing eyes towards your face. A sort of pet…without a living animal’s drawbacks…”
  • A few years ago, Dan Chen invented the “End of Life” machine; it’s not as ominous as it sounds. As a patient is nearing the end of life, he lies next to the robot and places his arm under a caressing mechanism.  As the patient slips out this world, the robot gently strokes the person’s arm while speaking to the patient:

“Hello Susie, I am the last moment robot.…

“I am here to help you and guide you through your last moment on earth.

“I am sorry that (pause) your family and friends can’t be with you right now, but don’t be afraid. I am here to comfort you. (pause)

“You are not alone, you are with me. (pause)

“Your family and friends love you very much, they will remember you after you are  gone.  (pause)

“Time of death, 11:56.”  (pause)… “Good-bye, my friend.”

Chen has said that he didn’t make the machine to actually serve dying patients, but to see what the response would be to such a device and whether we are moving towards too great a dependence on machines; he “has been disconcerted when people have asked him where they can buy it.”

Suffering isn’t easy.  And suffering provokes questions.  In the midst of suffering, Philip Yancey (whose books are not always helpful) suggests that there are three questions that the sufferer is inclined to ask:

  • Is God listening to me?
  • Can He be trusted?
  • Does He even care?

It is that last question that I want to address this morning as we prepare for Easter Sunday next week and as we think about Covid-19.  It is the question many in our world are asking, and it is the question that these inventors were addressing:

  • Does God care?
  • Does God care about our suffering?
  • Does He care what Covid-19 is doing?
  • Does He care about our inconveniences and trouble with Covid-19?
  • Does God care about the death of our loved ones?
  • Does God care about our death (or potential death)?
  • Does God care about our suffering and sorrow as we approach death and walk through death’s valley?
  • And what will God do for us if He cares?

To answer the question about God’s compassion, I want to turn to the familiar story of Lazarus in John 11.  It is a story about death, and it is a story about Christ intentionally letting a man (Lazarus) die, so He could reveal a particular truth about death and even more, so He could reveal particular truths about Himself.

The story of Lazarus is not just a story about death — it’s a story about resurrection.  It begins as a story of gloom and a story in which the compassion and abilities of Christ are questioned; it ends as a story of hope in which Lazarus is resuscitated and the ultimate resurrection is promised and anticipated.

It is a story that reveals the compassion of Christ — and also the competency of Christ to do something about His compassion towards needy people.  We might summarize the passage this way:

Christ cares about death and people who die.
Christ is powerful to do something for those whom He loves.

  1. The Compassion of Christ: Does Jesus Care That People Die?  (vv. 17-37)
  • Jesus and Martha — a compassionate word (vv. 17-27)
  • Jesus and Mary — compassionate tears (vv. 28-37)
  1. The Competence of Christ: Can Jesus Do Something About Our Suffering? (vv. 38-44)
  • The resurrection reveals the glory of God (vv. 38-40)
  • The resurrection reveals the unified purpose of God (vv. 41-42)
  • The resurrection reveals the power of Christ (vv. 43-44)

Download the rest of this sermon on John 11:17-44.

The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.