We are starting a new sermon and devotional series: Dignity Restored. Its a look at the ministry of Jesus to restore… restore broken bodies… broken hearts. Its really about Jesus’ mission to restore our humanity… restore our dignity.
Fundamentally, that restoration has its grounding in the life, death and resurrection of Christ: the atonement, forgiveness, justification and all the benefits of redemption. Much of Christian ministry in Evangelical America has focused on that spiritual grounding, but restoration is not just for spirit but of physical existence as well. This is demonstrated powerfully in resurrection
We see it as well in Jesus’ own announcement of his ministry in Gospel of Luke. In this series through Luke, we will see how Jesus comes to restore… dignity!
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
There are many indignities in this life. The Prophet Isaiah mentions a few of them: poverty, incarceration, oppression. But I wanted to talk about the indignities of disease and death.
The indignities we endure when we have a simple slip and fall can be strange and perhaps a bit funny. We suffer a broken wrist or a fractured hip… the next thing we know, a stranger is giving us a sponge bath! Of course some things are far more serious… like cancer.
Cancer: its not for the faint-hearted, is it? There is the pain of surgery, the sickness from chemo treatments or the radiation sunburn. I won’t tell any specific stories here. Its all perhaps a bit too close to home for too many of us. But there is no dignity in any of it. The glory is in its defeat! As with all illness, healing is a glory, even if its only temporary.
In Luke, we will see Jesus restoring glory… dignity… in healing and even in raising dead: wonderful and powerful accounts!
… but in the end, we all die from something.
There is little dignity in death. It robs us… of joy… of love… of life… dignity. Death: an undignified, uncompromising period and the end of our sentence.
Or is it?
When Jesus preaches that his ministry will proclaim:
18 “…recovery of sight for the blind…”
Recovery of sight is miracle reserved on for the Messiah: the one anointed by God to put all things right. In scripture, only Jesus performs such a miracle. With mastery over blindness, Jesus demonstrates mastery over all physical malady. Even death!
Other prophets raised the dead but only Jesus cured the blind. Among the prophets, only Jesus was raised himself! And his resurrection was different than others raised from the dead. They all died again. Jesus was raised to everlasting life… dignity restored in totality! That’s what is promised to us.
In this life, we can become… discouraged. We feel like we have little impact or are making little progress. Saying: “Life is ________. Then you die.” So, is that the truth?
The chief end of humanity is to glorify God… to reflect back to Him His own glory that he has invested in us. What greater story could we have than to see that glory renewed? To see that dignity restored in us for our good and His praise?
I think of the majesty of the stars or the pictures of the moons of Jupiter orbiting the gas giant or a nebula serving as stellar nurseries. I think on the majesty of it all and I am… overwhelmed. But it pales in comparison to the glory being renewed in you!
C.S. Lewis put it well in his essay, The Weight of Glory:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
You are no ordinary person and you are on a journey to glory… to dignity… restored! We will see in Gospel of Luke Jesus’ mission of dignity restored and Lord willing you will not only see yourself in these stories, but also find a place in the story of others as you help them on this journey. You matter! To others… to the Lord!