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Luke 8:40–56 (ESV)
C.S. Lewis once wrote a letter to a budding author on the art of storytelling. He reminded the young writer that the author should not have to continually ask the reader: “Gentle reader, do you feel amazed? Gentle reader, do you feel astonished?” A story, if it is written well, will have that effect naturally if its news is astonishing.
I wonder if we have all heard the accounts from Luke’s Gospel so often that we fail to be amazed by what we encounter. Luke, you remember, is writing to Theophilus and he writes his Gospel accounts so compellingly that he doesn’t need to ask the reader to react in certain ways because the sheer wonder of Christ’s work in the lives of people speaks for itself.
Last week, Bob Rumbaugh taught on the healing of the Gerasene demoniac possessed by legions of demons. It is very telling that after the display of Christ’s authority and power, the entire city begged Christ to leave them.
As we pick up at verse 40, Christ just returned to Galilee and He was welcomed by a throng of people. Pressing through the crowd came a desperate man. His name was Jairus and he was a ruler of the Synagogue at Capernaum. Every synagogue was ruled by a board of elders and this was a man of high position. In Capernaum, Christ had healed a paralytic as recorded for us in Luke 5. Also in Capernaum, a Roman Centurion had sent request that Christ heal his servant and Christ had marveled at the faith of this God-fearing gentile who was a benefactor of the Capernaum synagogue. Surely, then, Jairus knew of Jesus’ power and authority and came to Christ and in an act of self-humiliation before Christ threw Himself at the Master’s feet.
Where the people of Gerasene had pleaded with Christ to leave them, Jairus pleaded with Christ to come to his home to heal his twelve year old daughter who was sick and near death. A father’s affection and desperation poured out of him. This was his only daughter. He called her “my little daughter” in Mark 5. She was his girlie and she was dying. He pleaded that Christ would come quickly.
Now we know that Luke wrote his Gospel not as one who had seen the events but as one who had carefully interviewed hundreds of eyewitnesses and put them into an orderly account. This account is written as if we’re reading the whole thing through the eyes of Jairus and I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a man who desperately loves his daughter and wants to get the Savior to her as quickly as possible.
As they went to the house, the going was slow. Crowds were pressing in on Jesus and suddenly Jesus stopped. I can only imagine that Jairus was several feet ahead of Christ and looked back and thought “…why is He stopping, doesn’t He realize my little girl is dying?”
But Christ was looking around and asking “Who touched me?”
Who touched you? Are you kidding me? There are people pressing in on you and you ask “Who touched me?”
Leave it to Peter. He’s like you and me. Peter tells Him what is obvious to the naked eye: “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!”
It’s so easy for us to criticize Peter because we don’t realize that he was a better man than we are. If you’ve never been baffled by the way of the Lord then I would suggest you don’t know the Lord very well. We are so blind to spiritual things and assume all the time that what we see is how the Lord sees things.
But Christ knew better. As He was pressing through the crowd, a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years snuck through the crowd. She thought to herself that if she could just touch the tassels of his garment that she would be healed. The crowd was so large that she thought she could just brush him unnoticed.
You and I read this and we think to ourselves: “OK, a flow of blood for twelve years” but, beloved, those were twelve long years for this woman. She had exhausted every penny she had on physicians to heal this affliction. It’s not as if she simply had to deal with the physical discomfort of this sickness but this flow of blood made her ceremonially unclean according to Lev 15. This meant that not only was she not permitted to worship with the people of God but it also meant she couldn’t even come near them or they too would be ceremonially unclean. This meant that this woman had lived twelve long and painful years in the solitude of ceremonial uncleanness.
Bavinck writes a beautiful account of the creation of the first woman and how much the first man needed companionship. What is true of man is true also of woman and I want you to hear what he says about Adam after he named the animals and couldn’t find a helper suitable for him: “Though formed out of the dust of the earth, Adam was nevertheless a bearer of the image of God. He was placed in a garden which was a place of loveliness and was richly supplied with everything good to behold and to eat. He received the pleasant task of dressing the garden and subduing the earth, and in this he had to walk in accordance with the commandment of God…. But no matter how richly favored and how grateful, that first man was not satisfied, not fulfilled. The cause is indicated to him by God Himself. It lies in his solitude. It is not good for the man that he should be alone. He is not so constituted, he was not created that way. His nature inclines to the social — he wants company. He must be able to express himself, reveal himself, and give himself. He must be able to pour out his heart, to give form to his feelings. He must share his awarenesses with a being who can understand him and can feel and live along with him. Solitude is poverty, forsakenness, gradual pining and wasting away. How lonesome it is to be alone!
Twelve years this woman had wasted away in solitude. Perhaps she had gone to the Priest: “Is there any way for me to approach the people of God that I might worship and fellowship with them? Is there nothing you can do for me?”
But the Priest could only administer the Law. The Law had no remedy for her. The Law could only command that she stay away.
Numbers 15 commanded the men of Israel to wear tassels on their garments to remind them to keep the Law of God. Christ was the only man to ever remember to keep that Law perfectly and this poor woman reached out and touched that reminder.
And she was instantly healed!
Jairus was probably getting impatient at this point. Christ was standing there asking who had touched Him.
Finally, when she realized she could not conceal what she had done, she stepped forward. Women didn’t call attention to themselves in that culture and the tale of her sickness would have been embarrassing as she recounted it but, glory be to God, she had been healed!
Christ had outed her for two reasons. First, He is such a compassionate Savior that He wanted it to be a public testimony that this woman was now healed. She was now clean. She could be restored to full fellowship. Christ was not so busy or so important that He couldn’t stop and take the time to restore her to her people. It was the end of her physical affliction and also the end of an unbearable loneliness.
Secondly, Christ called her out so she would understand that it wasn’t the tassel of His garment that had healed her but it was His power and His authority that had healed her. Her faith had been somewhat superstitious. Her faith had been somewhat weak in looking to a physical object to heal her. But Christ rewarded even a feeble faith and reminded her that it was He who rewards. It was Christ she had received.
In verse 48 He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace. Can you imagine receiving a benediction to “Go in peace” from the God-Man who grants peace with God?
Now we don’t know how long they had lingered, but, while Christ was still speaking, someone came from Jairus’ house saying: “Your daughter is dead; don’t bother the Teacher anymore.”
How many of you have seen your child close to death as I have? Can you imagine, even if only a little, how Jairus felt at that moment.
But Christ ignored the messenger. He turned straight to Jairus and told him: “Fear no longer; only believe, and she will be made well.”
Hold on to me Jairus. Do not fear.
How often do we need to hear that from God and how often does He tell us that in the Scriptures because we do fear.
When they arrived at the house, Christ allowed no one to come in except Peter and John and James, and the child’s father and mother. It doesn’t say that there was no available space to fit more people but, rather, that Christ would not permit anyone else to come in.
Meanwhile, a crowd of mourners had already gathered and they were weeping and wailing over her. Christ commanded them to stop weeping for, He said, “she is not dead but asleep.”
But, the text says, that the crowd laughed in Jesus’ face because they knew she was dead.
But Jesus didn’t invite these scorners into the room to see what happened next. That’s not me. I’d want others there. I’d want the world of mockers to see what Christ did. I’d want them to see for themselves how foolish they are.
But Christ kept the scorners outside the room.
And this is so beautiful in verses 54 and 55. Christ spoke to this girl in the way a Jewish mother might wake her child in the morning.
My child, get up!
This was not a request. This was not a suggestion.
The Son of God, by whom all things were created, speaks with power and authority. Death itself had no authority in the presence of such a command. The God who speaks things into existence commanded the child to get up.
And verse 55 states that her spirit returned and she got up at once.
Death surrendered its prey at the word of Jesus.
And, once again, we witness the compassion of the Savior as he directed them to give her something to eat. I know if my daughter had just been brought back to life that I would be so ecstatic that feeding her after a long illness might be forgotten.
Verse 56 records something remarkable. I think the common view of Christ is that, if He could, He would do anything to convince people to believe in Him. Instead of a Christ who is desperate to convince all scoffers, verse 56 gives us a frightening warning. Hear this again:
Her parents were astonished, but he instructed them to tell no one what had happened.
Of course they’re astonished. Their daughter was dead and is now alive and was made alive simply by the word of Christ.
But Christ forbade them from telling anyone what had happened.
Nobody who had laughed at Christ would receive testimony about this sign. Christ’s sign was not for scoffers to be amazed at power but to confirm the faith for those that desired to receive Him for Who He was.
The rest of the story of that town isn’t told but, knowing human nature as I do from the Word, I’m convinced that later on that day those very people that laughed at Christ to His face were telling one another: “Oh, she wasn’t really dead, she was just sleeping.”
This passage has been searching me out over the last couple of weeks as I’ve been meditating on it. I want to share a few observations.
First, it is plain to me that Christ doesn’t need our help with the skeptics. As the Apostle Peter commands, we ought to always be ready to give a defense for the hope that lies within us and that hope is the person and work of Christ. We ought to unashamedly present and testify to the work of that Savior. But there comes a point when people want to insist that God be their show pony and prove something to them that they can see with their eyes and touch with their hands.
God gave them life and breath and testifies to Himself all around them in the things created. Our testimony of Christ’s death and resurrection is further historically verifiable testimony of Christ’s authority. Beloved, those who hear that news and still use the gifts of their intellect, given them by God, to turn around and slap Him in the face do not deserve anything from God. We can be sorrowful for them. We can continue to pray for them. But, if you’re one of those who is blessed enough to hear God’s Son and His power confirmed to you every week and you still laugh at Christ, do not presume that He who sits on high owes you a single thing.
Secondly, I’m repeatedly amazed at how often Christ made Himself ceremonially unclean in order to get near people and heal them. Not only did He ceremonially defile Himself in touching an unclean woman to heal her but He touched the dead hand of a little girl that He might command her to come to life.
Sinclair Ferguson recounts a friend of his who was once addicted to drugs. He was a hard-corps addict whose life was on the brink of destruction.
But Christ found him and healed him and he is now a preacher of the Word.
He says this: “For something unclean to become clean, something clean has to become unclean.” Hear it again: “For something unclean to become clean, something clean has to become unclean.”
Christ was willing to become ceremonially unclean for these two sufferers because He came into the world out of sheer force of the Love of God to do something much harder. He became Sin, who knew no Sin, that we might become His righteousness.
While we were dead in our sins and trespasses, while our righteousness was like, as Isaiah put it, a used menstrual rag, Christ hung between heaven and earth and bore the wrath of His Father in our stead. He suffered the full weight of our uncleanness so that we might be clean and can stand boldly in the presence of our Father.
Finally, I have been meditating on the Lord’s timing in giving us exactly what we most need.
Did you feel the angst of Jairus as he waited on Christ to come and heal his little girlie? Yet, Christ made Jairus walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Christ made Jairus suffer the news of the death of His daughter so that He could allow Jairus to trust Him during the walk to his home and see that Christ answers those that plead with Him. It was not what Jairus wanted but what he needed. It was Christ’s timing and not Jairus’.
God allowed a woman to suffer twelve years in the agony of isolation and sickness that He might display His mercy for all to see and that she might have a personal assurance from Christ that she now had peace with God. How long do you suppose she had prayed for healing? Do you suppose, in glory, she regrets one day of her suffering on this earth as centuries later the story of her healing has converted countless souls to the Gospel? God didn’t give her what she wanted earlier because He had appointed a day when He would gloriously fulfill her need in a way she could never imagine.
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV) — 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Yesterday, I was privileged to listen to Ravi Zacharias talk about Christ and our culture. He concluded with a story that is fitting on the timing of the Lord.
Ravi was ministering in Vietnam in 1971, and one of his interpreters was Hien Pham, an energetic young Christian. He had worked as a translator with the American forces, and was of immense help both to them and to missionaries.
Shortly after Vietnam fell, Hien was imprisoned on accusations of helping the Americans. His jailers tried to indoctrinate him against democratic ideals and the Christian faith. He was forced to read only communist propaganda in French or Vietnamese, and the daily deluge of Marx and Engels began to take its toll. "Maybe," he thought, "I have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist. Maybe the West has deceived me." So Hien determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or think of his faith.
The next morning, he was assigned the dreaded chore of cleaning the prison latrines. As he cleaned out a tin can overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what seemed to be English printed on one piece of paper. He hurriedly grabbed it, washed it, and after his roommates had retired that night, he retrieved the paper and read the words, "Romans, Chapter 8." Trembling, he began to read, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:28,38,39).
This was to have been the first day that he would not pray; evidently God had other plans.
Beloved, isn’t our Savior amazing!