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Sermon Text: Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43
Date: July 4 & 5, 2015
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
Mark 5:21–24 (NIV84)
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him…
While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
“Don’t Be Afraid; Just Believe.”
1. Trust your prayers are heard
2. Trust your prayers are answered
If we understand “faith” and “belief” as simply “trust,” we recognize very clearly that faith and belief must have an object. There must be something that we trust. We cannot simply trust in fantasize and assume that our faith will bring them into reality. We can’t will something that is fiction to be true; we can’t make something impossible happen by simply wanting it to happen. But, if our faith trusts in the God who can make the impossible happen, then the impossible is no longer impossible.
In our Gospel this morning we have the account of Jairus a man who helped govern one of the synagogues in Galiliee. Synagogues were like “little temples” that sprang up around the world during the 400 or so years in-between the Old and New Testaments. The Jewish people were undergoing something known as the diaspora, that is, they were no longer localized in the Promised Land nor centered around Jerusalem. There were significant Jewish populations in most major cities around the world at Jesus’ time, and these synagogues allowed the Jewish people to worship regularly even when they weren’t in close proximity to the Temple in Jerusalem.
We don’t really know anything about Jairus other than what we’re told here, and we don’t need to know anything else. We was a dedicated Jewish believer and a loving Father who was looking for help in solving his daughter’s illness that seemed like it was going to result in death.
As a leader of a synagogue, undoubtedly this man would have had contact with some of the Pharisees and Scribes who had clearly set themselves against Jesus. He would’ve heard all the rumblings about Jesus. He would’ve heard the accusations that he was in league with the devil. He would’ve heard that Jesus was a scam, a fraud, a trickster. When the time is ticking away very quickly for the daughter he loved so much he’s not going to waste time with someone or something that couldn’t help. In the few hours he had left he was going to find a solution that would work. He would’ve heard a seemingly unending stream of bad (and clearly false) information about Jesus that would’ve painted speaking to Jesus as a waste of time, and yet still he comes.
And what would this mean for this man’s future and career? He was clearly picking a side in a debate that was gaining more and more steam every day. Whether Jesus was able to or willing to do anything to help his daughter or not, merely asking him for his help probably put his entire line of work in jeopardy. And yet, career on the line, still he comes. He comes to the crowd by the lake with trust that Jesus will listen to his request: “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
Do you pray to a fraud? Do you pray to a scam? There are plenty of people more than willing to tell you that you do. “Why do you waste your time with church?” they ask. In an era where atheism and worship or self replaces any notion of God more and more, those who legitimately put their trust, their faith, in what God has said and done are laughed at, ridiculed, and thought simple- or closed-minded.
Is there someone listening when you pray? Well, yes, but that wasn’t only the case. God makes it clear that sin is like a sound-proof box that surrounds us. When we are in that sealed cell of sin, no sound gets out, no prayers are heard; in sin, we cannot pray to God. In order for God to hear our prayer, sin has to be removed; we have to be set free.
And Jesus, the very one who answers our prayers, was the one to remove that sin. Taking that sin on himself, he sentenced himself to be cut off from being heard by his heavenly Father. As he was on the cross, enduring hell for us, his prayers were not heard which brought about the cry of “Why have you forsaken me?” which, too, fell on deaf ears. Why did the heavenly Father forsake Jesus? Because he was taking your place and my place and the place of every person who has ever lived. The one who had no sin became every sinner, every human being, and was cut off from him.
Because of that, now you and I who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, in whom God has created saving faith, can cry out to God on the day of trouble and know that we will be heard. We don’t need to be afraid that we’re just crying out into the ether with no one around to hear what we’re saying. We’re paying to God that can, will, and even wants to listen to our prayers. How do we know that? You don’t hand yourself over to death for people you don’t care about. We are loved and will always be loved.
After some time dealing with other issues in the crowd, on the way to Jairus’ house, the crowd receives some stark, blunt, and sad news. Some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Jairus knew Jesus was powerful, loving. He knew that he a miracle worker: the healer of the sick and the feeder of the hungry. But death? Death was a totally different animal. He knew Jesus could just lay his hands on the girl and she’d be healed. But how this news must have sunk his heart. He had trusted, he had believed, but now things were over.
Can you even imagine what Jesus’ eyes looked like as they met Jairus’? As the eternal God who created us as his children to live forever, met the mortality of this man’s little girl head on, did tears perhaps well up in his eyes as he did at other times? Jesus ignored what they said, perhaps he put his hand out to dismiss the well-intentioned messengers and to isolate Jairus from their bad news. He creates a safe place for he and Jairus and he has very simple and direct words to this newly grieving father, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
They reach Jarius’ home and the funeral is already in full swing. The people are wailing and crying as they seek to begin to cope with the death of this small child. And let’s give the people here some credit for being able to tell the difference between when someone is sleeping and when someone is dead. Let’s assume they’re able to tell the difference. And undoubtedly, in the tragic case of the death of this little girl they checked, rechecked, and triple checked. She was dead. She was gone. So certain were they of her death that Jesus’ mere mention that she was but sleeping elicited laughter from those who moments before had been wailing bitterly. She was dead; she wasn’t asleep. But for the almighty God, there is really no difference.
Jesus sends every distraction away and there, with just her mom and dad, Jesus takes the hand of that little girl and says, “My little one, get up.” There is no pause, there is no second try, there is no uncomfortable silence while those gathered wait and hope. “Immediately,” we’re told, “the girl stood up and walked around.”
That, my dear brothers and sisters, is the God to whom you pray. That is your Savior who has promised that he will not just hear but answer your as well. Maybe the answers to our prayers are not always what we hope they will be. Sometimes God’s answer is, “Yes!” sometimes his answer is, “No,” and still other times his answer is, “Actually, I have something better planned for you.” Think of Jairus: he came looking for a healing and was given a resurrection.
I read a story this week about a family whose youngest daughter, six years old, was found to have a inoperable tumor in her brain. This type of tumor carries with it a 100% mortality rate. The family is Christian and in their story, while they did not rule out the chance of God opting to work a miracle and save her life, they were clear that they were preparing for what seemed like a logical conclusion to a battle with such a disease.
Will God work a miracle for that little girl? Perhaps. He’s certainly able to do just that. But in her illness, and perhaps even in her death, God is working for the good of his people. It’s given her dad another opportunity to share his faith with the world. It’s given their family an opportunity to refocus their priorities. It’s given even that little girl time to be reminded that she is Jesus’ little lamb, that when her short life (be it 6 or 90 years) is ended, she will be attended by her Savior’s angel host, and ever in her Good Shepherd’s arms to rest.
God has the power to do exactly what you need him to do. He also has the wisdom to do exactly what is in your, and everyone else’s, eternal best interests. Jairus could never have dreamed that Jesus would raise his little girl from the dead, but Jesus used that to show his immeasurably great power and has allowed it to be a part of why centuries of Christians have put their complete trust, their complete faith, in him as Savior and Protector.
So bring your thanks and praise to God; bring your requests to God. He will hear you; he will answer you. We can’t even imagine the good God will work from it all both here and eternally. Amen.