At dawn one morning, Jesus was teaching in the temple courts. People gathered around him. He taught them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery. There seems to be no question about it. It was against the law. There seems to be no question about that either. The punishment for such an act was death by stoning. There doesn’t seem to be any question about that. They said to Jesus, what would you do? Jesus said nothing. He simply bent down to write in the sand.
What must have the woman thought? Caught in the act. Clearly a lawbreaker. Facing a crowd that seemed to be bent on stoning her. Maybe she had heard about Jesus. Maybe not. But in that moment, Jesus must have seemed like her only hope. Her hopes must have been dashed as Jesus simply bent down and began to write in the sand. She must have thought that she was doomed. No way out.
Lazarus was sick. His sisters, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus to let him know. They hoped, of course, that Jesus would come and make him well or at least come to be with them. He didn’t go right away. He stayed where he was for two more days. Then He decided to go.
Mary and Martha probably looked out onto the road or out their door looking for Jesus. Their brother got sicker and sicker. I’m sure that near the end, with no Jesus in sight, the hope they had of their brother’s recovery was dashed. No more time.
When Jesus got there, it really did seem hopeless. Jesus learned that Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days already. Martha went out to meet Him first. Then Mary went a little while later. Both of them said, “Lord if you had been here he wouldn’t have died.” They would have thought…it’s done.
Danny is not in the bible. He was in North Carolina. Married, two small children. He was watching TV on a Saturday afternoon. A weather alert came across the screen. Tornadoes in the area. He didn’t pay it too much attention. He gave a casual glance out his front door. Very quickly, the sky grew very dark and he could hear the wind blowing violently outside. The weather alert let him know that the warning was for his area. In fact, his house was right in the tornadoes path. It was a new house, a one-level ranch. No basement. He thought about putting his family in a car and taking them to safety. He got them all together then he looked out the front door again. There was no time. He heard it first. Then saw it. He watched it completely destroy his closest neighbor’s house. It was now headed for his. He huddled his family in a back corner, bedroom closet. They cried. He prayed even though it had been years since matters of faith mattered to him at all. Certainly God would not regard his prayer. As he heard his roof being literally torn off his house, he had zero hope. It was over. They were done for.
You know the story of the adulteress. I don’t know what happened to the woman. But I know that what she experienced was a complete reversal. Jesus turned her circumstances upside down. At least in that moment, as her accusers walked away, hope replaced hopelessness.
You know the story of Lazarus too. Jesus said, “Where have you laid him.” He wept. He said, “Lazarus, come out.” And out he came. He still had the grave clothes on. Jesus said to take them off and let him go.
A total and complete reversal of a seemingly hopeless situation. Upside down. From physical death to physical life.
Danny picked through the splinters that was once his house in an effort to salvage anything. There was nothing really. The house was completely demolished – literally splintered – the only things standing and intact were the four walls of a back bedroom closet where Danny had gathered his family and prayed.
I don’t know for sure what happened that day – whether it was divine intervention or just the physics of house construction and the position of the closet and the direction of the tornado. That’s not important.
What is important is that Danny’s life underwent a reversal. Where there was no faith there is now great faith. Where there was no hope there is now hope eternal. Where there were years of indifference there is now powerful, willing testimony.
Now most of us have never faced a crowd bent on stoning us. Neither have we been raised from the dead. Some of you may have lived through a tornado ripping your house from around you while you were in it.
But every single one of us was once without any hope at all until Jesus turned things upside down in our lives.
To me, the most hopeful words ever put together in a sentence are…”Born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Hope.
Johns Creek Baptist Church