A Study of Luke 7, 8, and 21
This is a message about two large crowds. The church has a crowd. The family of God on earth—the church of the Lord Jesus Christ—is larger and stronger than ever before. For example, multitudes of people inside Iran are reportedly turning to Christ. God is at work around the world and the church has a huge crowd, which represents life.
The devil has a crowd. There’s never been a time when earth was populated by so many pagans. The population the world was 2.6 billion when I was born. Now it’s 7.7 billion. Global population has tripled in my lifetime. Most of these people are as hopeless and lost as sin. The world has a crowd, which represents death.
1. The Ministry Jesus Gives
What happens when a large crowd of people representing life comes face to face with a large crowd representing death? Well, anything can happen. But look at a specific example in Luke 7:11-17.
Verse 11 says: Soon afterward Jesus went to a town called Nain….
This is 25 miles from Capernaum. Notice the next phrase: His disciples and a large crowd went along with Him.
Jesus had an entourage, a large crowd. These people were used to traveling long distances by foot, donkey, and oxcart. It was a large enough crowd to raise a cloud of dust.
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.
Another large crowd! There was a pitiful widow who no longer had a husband to care for her. But she had a son, and he worked hard and came home every night to care of her. But he’d gotten sick and died. His aged mother had wailed with a broken heart. She didn’t feel she would survive the loss. Everyone heard of the tragedy and came to help her bury him. They represented those without hope, the non-Jesus Crowd.
There are really only two crowds in this world—the Jesus Crowd and the Funeral Crowd. Which are you in? Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit and divine instinct, led His crowd into this town at the very moment the widow was leading her crowd out of it, and the two crowds met at the gate
It’s funny how that happens. Timing was no accident. God schedules our moments and days, and there are no accidents. He synchronizes everything by sovereign providence. That day Jesus gave this woman three things, which He also gives you and me.
A. Jesus Gives Us His Heart (verse 13)
First, His heart. Verse 13 says: When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, “Don’t cry.” The heart of Jesus refers to His love, concern, sympathy, emotions, compassion, kindness – and His heart is an infinite heart. There are no limits to His love. And the heart of Christ goes out to you too. When you’re the lowest, the most grief-stricken, the most depressed, the most discouraged—at that moment the Lord comes into your town and sees you and His heart goes out to you. The Bible says we can cast our cares on Him because He cares for us.
B. Jesus Gives Us His Hope (verse 14)
Look at verse 14: Then He went up and touched the bier 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 have him back to his mother.
In the Bible, there were eight specific people who died and who were brought from death to life.
- The son of the widow of Zarephath, brought to life by Elijah in 1 Kings 17.
- The son of the Shunammite Woman, brought back to life by Elisha in 2 Kings 4.
- The man at the tomb of Elisha who came to life in 2 Kings 13.
- Jairus’ daughter, whom Jesus raised in Luke 8.
- The young man in the village of Nain.
- Lazarus in John 11.
- In Acts 9, there was Dorcus, who Peter raised back to life.
- In Acts 20, Eutychus died in the fall. Paul raised him back to life.
Spurgeon said, “This was a rehearsal upon a small scale of that which shall happen by-and-by, when those who are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and live—then shall the last enemy be destroyed.”
Now, all eight of these people died again. But when Jesus was resurrected on Easter, His resurrection was qualitatively different from the others. His body was transformed, glorified, eternified. That’s the pattern of our own resurrection bodies. One day the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible. That’s our sure, certain, solid, unassailable hope! Jesus gives us His heart, His hope—and His help.
C. Jesus Gives us His Help (verse 16)
Verse 16 says: 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.”
- Deuteronomy 33:29 says there is no one like God who rides across the heavens to help us.
- Psalm 28 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.”
- He is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46).
- Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you.”
- Romans 8 says the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.
- Hebrews 4 says we can approach the throne of grace with boldness, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need.
Here were two large crowds—one representing life and the other death; and when they met, the world learned that Jesus had come to give us His heart, hope, and help.
2. The Support Jesus Receives
But let’s ask a practical question. Where did Jesus get the money needed to sustain His movement? He was no longer occupied as a carpenter. His disciples were no longer making a living as fishermen. Where did they get the financial resources to sustain their ministry?
A. From Some Special Women
Luke tells us in the next chapter, Luke 8: After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom several demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
These were Gospel patrons. One of the underreported secrets of the work of the church is this: Great Kingdom initiatives have almost always been funded by Gospel patrons—wealthy people to whom God gave the ability to make large sums of money for His Kingdom.
- William Tyndale was able to translate the Bible into English, get it published, and have it shipped because of the financial backing of a businessman in London named Humphry Monmouth.
- Evangelist George Whitefield brought revival to America in the 1700s, and his ministry was largely financed by the wealthy British woman, Lady Huntington.
- In early American history, a pair of brothers in New York, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, gave great sums of money to help launch the American Bible Society, the American Sunday School Union, the American Missionary Society, and the American Tract Society.
- During the latter 1800s, evangelist D. L. Moody conducted tremendous campaigns, backed by businessmen like John Wannamaker and Cyrus McCormack.
- In the middle of the 20th century, a very successful Chicago businessman named Herbert Taylor gave vast amounts of money for launching ministries like Youth for Christ, InterVarsity, and Child Evangelism Fellowship.
- When my wife, Katrina, lived in Palm Beach, she met Billy Graham, who would often fly in and out to meet with wealthy patrons who backed his work. Katrina worked for a wealthy lady and could see the generous support taking place behind the scenes.
God is still raising up wealthy believers to finance major expansions of the Gospel. Hobby Lobby, Tyson Foods, Interstate Batteries, Chic-fil-A, Timblerland Shoes, Auntie Anne’s pretzels are all led by Christians. The Lord wants to raise up certain men and women with a gift of giving to be major patrons of His work. It might as well be you.
B. From Another Special Woman
According to Luke, another women supported the Lord’s work, and her story was different. Look at chapter 21.
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” He said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
It isn’t only the wealthy who finance the Lord work. It’s everyone. My friend Leonard DeWitt who lives in Ventura, California. Years ago after he came to faith in Jesus Christ, he applied for admission in a Bible College in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and he started saving money for the expenses. One Sunday at church, the pastor spoke about the biblical practice of giving ten percent of our income to the Lord. Leonard decided to do that. The next week, he got his check, paid his room and board and a few other expenses. Then he looked at his checkbook and there wasn’t enough left to tithe. He was frustrated by this.
He said, “Lord, I’ll do better next week.” But the next week the same thing happened, and the week after. He was frustrated, and he said (I’m paraphrasing), “Lord, you know I want to give you a tenth of my income. I want to tithe. But there’s never enough left over.”
The Holy Spirit whispered, “Give the tithe first.”
Leonard did that. And many years have gone by, and he says that from the very first time there has always been enough to take care of his living expenses and some left over.
Conclusion: The church isn’t simply an organization. It is the continuation and the extension of the ministry of Jesus Christ on this planet. The Holy Spirit came down from heaven to fill us with the living presence of Jesus Christ, who wants to live His life and do His work through the church. We’re here to bring the heart and the hope and the help of Jesus Christ to those who need it.
We are a large crowd of God’s people meeting a large crowd of people suffering death and despair. We have to fund the work of the church, both locally and globally. God wants to raise up wealthy businessmen and women to help underwrite major initiatives, but He desires all of us to support His work with our copper coins, with our tithes and offerings, with our gifts and contributions.
And somehow the lost are found, the sick are touched, the downcast are uplifted, the dead are raised, and the world has the Gospel preached to them.
And that’s why we love the church.