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Sermon blog: Faith that counts

May 4, 2016

Mark 5:21-43

This is one of those stories. If you were brought up going to Sunday School, this story would have been heard often. This was one of the really big stories of Jesus. On a Jesus miracle scale 1 to 10, this was an ELEVEN.

There were many amazing miracles and healings recorded in the gospels but there were three that stood high above the rest.

The ULTIMATE.

Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter and that other chap. These were the big ones.

Raised from the dead.

You don’t get any bigger and better than that.

We could almost have managed without reading this passage today.

We could have relied on all the old Sunday school pupils here who would have reeled off the details.

  • Jairus
  • Synagogue ruler
  • Daughter dying
  • A crowd following Jesus
  • Their journey interrupted by a sick woman
  • That she suffered from bleeding
  • The touch of Jesus clothes
  • The sense of power going out of Jesus
  • The disciples apparently telling Jesus not to be stupid
  • The fact that Jairus’ daughter died before Jesus got there
  • The mourners who cried…
  • …and then laughed when Jesus said she was only asleep
  • The fact that this girl with no name was 12
  • That the first thing she needed to do was have something to eat

There are many things we could focus on this story, but what we can see in this incident, is what it means to have faith.

So what is it we learn from this passage about faith and how it operates?

Different Christians have different perspectives on faith it seems to me. At the top end of the faith spectrum, faith is the total absence of doubt.

It is bold brash total certainty. God will do everything you want. All you have to do is ask. Believe and do not doubt.

Those of this persuasion might look at today’s passage and say “Jesus raised the dead – go and do likewise!”

Let this week be a catalogue of miracles for everyone you come into contact with, with your faith strengthened by today’s lesson in Jesus’ power.

Let nothing worry you.

There is an emphasis on faith in this story, but it is not seen here the story ends. Mark does not comment in any way on how these miracles affected the faith of the woman or Jairus and his family.

They must have felt like they could do anything, with Jesus on their side. Faith is not shown as the end result, but rather is demonstrated to be the key to unlocking Jesus’ miracles.

Let me say straight away, not wanting to sound like Hot Chocolate, but I believe in miracles. I believe God is in the business of healing. We worship and serve an almighty God. I am convinced we can trust him to work miracles in and through us, but I believe that in this passage the emphasis is not on miracles.

Even the most spectacular of all.

The emphasis is rather on the faith of the people involved.

And that faith is not bold and brash and without doubt.

But it is faith that makes a difference.

Jairus and the woman who was healed faced different but difficult circumstances and in both cases they saw the answer in Jesus.

The story is full of people. Jesus is surrounded by crowds of people but the focus is on the faith of one man and one woman.

Both came from the direst of circumstances.

Jairus was clear that his daughter was dying. That is the blunt truth portrayed by Mark’s words.

The woman had tried everything to sort out her medical problem. No national health service. She has spent all her money on the private specialists and nothing could help. In fact the suggestion is that the doctors made her worse.

Jairus had little time, the woman had no hope. But for both there was Jesus.

Their last hope, but hope there was.

Jesus specifically mentioned faith as vital to the unfolding events, certainly as far as the woman was concerned and I am sure that Jairus too demonstrated his faith by his actions.

Faith is something that will express itself, it is not a private thing. In his letter James reminds us that faith will show itself by the things we do. It will be evident in our actions and in our devotion to God.

Faith is not just an idea or a belief.

Jesus said it plainly “Daughter, your faith has saved you”.

What can we learn of the faith of these two people?

FAITH showed itself when it counted.

In the moment of their greatest need, they reached out to Jesus. It is invariably in the darkest times of our lives that our faith is tested.

Sometimes there can be a feeling of peace in the face of suffering, sometimes faith can just as easily be a sense of holding on in desperation, when everything is telling you to give up.

Both Jairus and the woman had good reason to resign themselves to the worst but they still dared to believe. It is when we are up against it that our faith can crumble or it can rise to the occasion.

FAITH showed itself, without fear of the reaction.

There are some questions you should never be foolish enough to ask in life.

  • Would a Manchester City fan cheer for United in his spare time?
  • Did David Cameron vote Labour in the council elections this week?
  • Would a synagogue ruler go to Jesus for help?

Of course not – the very idea is nonsense.

To most religious people of the day Jesus was at best deluded and at worst a blaspheming liar.

For them Jesus was public enemy number one. He needed getting rid of.

There was nothing good about him.

Jairus would be ridiculed and would potentially become an outcast, but he was desperate and somewhere in him was a small germ of faith. His peers didn’t worry him.

The crowds surrounding Jesus did not put him off. “Jesus, my little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live”.

A desperate situation demanded a simple prayer of simple faith. Sometimes as for Jairus faith is spelt R I S K.

FAITH showed itself in simple quiet trust.

The brisk walk to Jairus’ house is interrupted by the woman. She does not call out and confront Jesus as Jairus did.

For her it is quiet, perhaps slightly fearful.

Her faith is certainly not loud, but it is real. Quiet, but actually believing “If I just touch his clothes I will be healed”. Another definition of faith which I believe could well have fitted this woman is “Feeling afraid I trust Him”.

Not bold and brash but quiet trust.

Perhaps you are not sure if Jesus can really help. But where else can you turn? Jesus promise is to be there for you as you call to him.


 

FAITH showed itself in spite of religious prejudice.

The fact was that, due to this woman’s medical condition, according to Jewish laws, she was unclean. She should not have been coming into contact with people, let alone Jesus, a so-called Rabbi.

She faced disapproval and being shunned by the religious people if they knew her problem. But she came and she reached out in faith, through the barrier.

It is all too easy for us as Christians to give the impression that some people are beyond the love of God. The way they look, the way they speak, the way they behave. But we are reminded often by Jesus and here again, that the sort of love that he demonstrates to us, has no barriers.

His love has no exceptions.

The woman didn’t want to share her story but in the end she had to.

For Jesus the healing was not enough. She was not just going to slip away there was something that needed to be said. “Your faith has healed you”.

She went away healed and with a new peace.

You may feel that religion is not for you.

You may feel that religious people will look down their noses at you.

Sadly us Jesus followers are often not the people we should be.

Jesus longs to meet your need.

FAITH showed itself when all hope was gone.

Jairus must have been desperate as these events unfolded. His disciples must have wondered what was going on.

There was no time. They had to hurry and here was Jesus healing a woman with a serious but not life threatening condition, and then stopping to discuss the details.

The delay was fatal. The girl was dead.

Imagine if these two had been side by side in a hospital ward. A doctor who ignored the girl to care for the woman might well be called negligent.

Nothing Jesus can do now.

“Jairus, just thank Jesus for his time and willingness to help and go home to arrange the funeral.”

But Jesus spoke words, surprising words to Jairus.

“Don’t be afraid, just believe”.

Jairus could have said “Believe what? What can you possibly do now?”

But somewhere deep down he knew that all was not lost. Even in the face of death itself Jairus welcomed Jesus into the situation, not knowing what the outcome would be.

It occurs to me that in the darkest of times it can never be a bad thing to welcome Jesus into your home. Whether ultimately you experience his power in healing or his comfort in the darkness. That’s faith.

FAITH showed itself as a response to the voice of Jesus.

Jesus had spoken so Jairus believed. A belief I am sure mixed with doubt.

But the synagogue ruler had come a long way.

Pressing on through the crying, and then laughing mourners Jesus did the ultimate and told a dead 12 year old to come back to life.

Actually he put it differently to that. He told the people that the girl was only sleeping. When he knew full well she was dead.

Just sleeping.

And he spoke to the girl in those terms.

“Come on sweetheart. Time to get up”.

That’s Jesus. He shows his divine credentials. To him death is just as sleep. In him the ultimate enemy of us all is defeated.

The girl is handed back to her parents – a reward for a father’s faith that literally gave up at nothing.

And so the story ends quietly. A meal and an order to the parents to tell no one. But surely you’ve got to tell everyone!

Imagine what this will do for the neighbours – imagine even more people following Jesus. But as so often for Jesus the emphasis was not on the miracle.

To follow Jesus is not simply based on the extraordinary deeds of a miracle worker it is a matter of faith. Jesus never wanted people to follow him because of his miracles, but simply to follow him as saviour and Lord. Ultimately his way was not the way of the miraculous, but was the way of sacrifice and death.

FAITH shows itself not in the highs of life but in the lows.

It shows itself when times are hard.

We may cry out, we may grit our teeth, but we keep walking Jesus’ way. We keep following him for all we’re worth. For all He’s worth. Sometimes the rewards of our faith will be to see the miraculous answers to our prayers. Sometimes the darkness will not be lifted but it will be enough for us to know that Jesus is with us.

For as this story reminds us, death is not final.

Jesus by his sacrificial death and resurrection has won an eternal future for us. Jesus is someone who deserves to be the object of our faith.

For us, as with Jairus and the woman, he gives us more than we can ever ask or imagine.

Jairus got more than he bargained for. Instead of healing, resurrection.

For the woman not just healing but peace.

Are you ready this morning to receive all that Jesus has for you?

But he may ask more of us too. Jairus had to face death before he saw Jesus work.

The woman had to face embarrassment in telling her story so that she could experience all that Jesus had for her.

Jesus felt power go from him at the woman’s touch. He became weaker so that she could be well.

For us he experienced the weakness of the cross so that we can be whole and forgiven.

And such is his work on the cross, and such his resurrection that Jesus proves the master of death. So that death can be defeated in us too.

So where is your faith today? How will it show itself?

Jesus is the one you can truly trust.

 

 

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