District Apostle J Kriel conducted a divine service in Bloemfontein on Sunday morning 8 March 2020, and the broadcast was made available to watch in selected congregations via the NACTV network. With all church activities currently suspended until further notice, the broadcast was made available on Wednesday 25 March at 7 pm for all members to watch.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
"When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, 'Do not weep.' Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise.' So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother." (Luke 7:13-15)
My dear brothers and sisters, the choir sings – My soul truly waits on the Lord - and with these words, it’s perhaps a good idea for us to focus on what our true purpose in life is: our God wants to give us His kingdom and the kingdom of our Father is not prepared for flesh and blood but for the soul of man. And that is the nucleus of our existence. We develop around everything else that happens in our life so that the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise may take place on all of us. Before the divine service, the choir also sang “Abide with Me”, and dear brothers and sisters I appeal to all of you: don’t let anything move you; the Lord called us – stay here! And we say: no matter what, we will not be moved – we stay; we’ve committed. Just as our confirmands said: I renounce Satan and all His work and ways – don’t be moved from that. That is our commitment we gave to God, and our God will keep His commitment to us. Let us not be moved; let us remain.
We have a Bible word that speaks about Jesus coming into the city where there was a funeral procession. Here, a widow was to bury her only son. In that period, being a widow in Israel was not easy. The woman’s future looked hopeless. Nobody could provide for her – her son had to do that. She would be lonely; she would be destitute – a life without her son; alone, without her husband. This sort of life was not appealing at all. You can only imagine what her feeling must have been. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion upon her. A multitude of people had gathered at the funeral, and some of them must have wondered what this woman did wrong – why is she being punished in this way? But we know that the Lord does not punish anyone. The Lord came, and He knew what He was going to do. He touched the coffin – and the boy came back to life. Jesus did not ask the woman if she knew who He was. He did not ask her if she believed. He did not ask if the young man did good works or if he was a bad person. He had compassion and mercy – he brought the boy back to life, gave the boy to his mother meaning her future was now secure. She did not become rich after that – but at least she could survive. She was no longer alone – she had what she needed – and that was given to her by Jesus. Here Jesus restored that which was lost. In the next verse, we read: and fear came upon all, they glorified God saying, ‘God had visited His people’. They acknowledged that God came into their midst and restored peace and joy.
We can learn many lessons from this encounter. In this encounter, Jesus shows that He is the Lord over the dead and the living – He is the One who was sent – He is the Resurrection and the Life. Man was doomed to spiritual death because they entered into sin. But Jesus and God did not give up on us. Jesus gave His life so that man could have salvation and enter into life with Him. At this event, the people could experience the power of Jesus and that He was, indeed, the Son of God – the One who wants to give life to mankind and to open the path of salvation to all.
We also see that Jesus had compassion upon one who was sad and sorrowful. And that, dear brothers and sisters, is also an important lesson for us. We must ask ourselves: does my neighbour’s burden bother me? Does my neighbour’s sadness move me? Do I try and see what I can do to bring about comfort? Jesus had compassion – and he was qualified to have compassion. Jesus didn’t only have sympathy – He also had empathy. He could feel with others because He went through so much. He suffered, He was tempted and because of this, He could help those who were tempted. Jesus was exposed to many things – He was a poor man – He didn’t have a house to live in. Jesus was a refugee – He had to flee for His life with His parents. Jesus was also betrayed. How often have we been betrayed? Jesus knows how we feel, and He empathises and brings us comfort. Jesus knew pain and death. Jesus knew how it felt to be disappointed by others. God gave His Son to become a human being so that He could feel with us. Jesus feels with us, and He has sympathy.
In our Bible word, it says, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, 'Do not weep.'” He didn’t say this to imply that He thought nothing of her sorrow – He didn’t belittle her suffering. Instead, He said these words in a comforting way. No matter what we have lost – there is gain at the end of this all. In our circumstances, the Lord calls us all today and He embraces us. No matter what sufferings we go through – the Lord has suffered it too. Don’t weep; don’t give up. Arise! There is much that is awaiting us. Get up and continue the journey – let nothing stop you. Just as Jesus comforted the widow, so too, He comforts us.
The church is often referred to as the mother, and today we also hear people asking: what’s happening to the church? We also hear things like: people don’t come to church anymore. The church has become empty – the followers decrease in number. One can almost say that Christianity is in a funeral procession. And just like the people wanted to know about the widow’s suffering: who is to blame for this? And everybody has differing views and opinions on this question. The Lord comes to Christianity – the Lord comes to the church and says: stop this funeral procession – I am here – I am the Resurrection and the Life! Because I live, you will also live. Jesus and God have indeed come to His people. He wants to revive us. He wants to remind us that this procession ends at the grave – but our lives do not. Our lives are with Him in His Father’s Kingdom. We need to remember God’s purpose with us: God has gone to prepare a kingdom for us, and He is creating a new Adam within us - don’t be moved from that. Dear brothers and sisters, we want to remove ourselves from the funeral procession and be part of the life and rise above the circumstances. We want to focus on that which God has promised us. Just as the young man got up and spoke, we too want to get up and speak!
God did not promise that everything would be great. He did not promise that the church would flourish in all aspects. He said those who endure and persevere until the end will be deemed faithful. That tells us that we need to stand firm and arise. In the end time, the church will face many dangers. The evil one wants to destroy what our God has built up – but nothing will change His mind – He is still the Resurrection and the Life. He will still fulfil His promise. Dear brothers and sisters, we all have to fight for survival. We do not suffer alone – each of us has to overcome obstacles and suffering. Jesus says, “young man, I say to you, arise”. Dear brother, dear sister, dear child; I say to you: arise – our God is here! Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle JL Kriel