Date: June 29, 1997
Theme: Jesus gives us life
Text: Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43
Jesus gives us new life
Today's message tells the story of a father's love for his dying child. It is also a story of hope, and a story of the love and compassion of our Heavenly Father. It is a story of new life in a situation that seems lost and hopeless.
As we re-acquainted ourselves with the story of the healing of Jairus' daughter, we are invited to get in touch with the issues in our lives which are in need of the Master's words of life. The Good News for us is that, no matter how deep our trouble may be: Jesus gives us new life.
This day had started out as a regular day at the office for Jesus and his disciples. As often before, a large crowd had gathered to hear about the Kingdom of God from Jesus and to bring their sick to be healed. In the midst of this, Mark tells the story in 5:21-24a,35-43
Jairus was a Ruler of the Synagogue... a rather prominent person in Jewish society. He would have been the person in charge of the worship services in the synagogue. His duties probably included some form of administration, scheduling the readers from the Book of Moses, and in general to look after the orderly function of the activities in the synagogue.
As we look at the meaning of his coming to Jesus for help we remember that the Scribes and Pharisees did not see eye to eye with Jesus. And by the nature of his work, Jairus would have been part of that camp.
Now, here is a man from the religious elite of that day, coming to Jesus... falling on his knees before him and begging for help. That must have taken some nerve... and also a lot of faith. In order to open himself to Christ's work in his life, he had to put aside his tradition, his rank, his prestige, and possibly also his friends. But he is willing to give it all for the sake of his teenage daughter who lies at the point of death.
The story tells us that he pleaded earnestly. His concern for the life of his precious child was profound. And no cost was too great to try and save her life - not even his pride.
As we look at our own life situations, there are times when we are at the end of our rope. For one person life may have become mundane, boring, tiresome, even purposeless. For someone else there may be the loss of health - as with the girl in our story. (And we know of people in our congregation who have experienced some loss of health in the last while). For yet another person there may be the pain of a broken relationship. A friendship lost, or even a marriage that's hanging on to survive. For many children there is the confusion of being sent off to the "other" parent for a week or two. And for teens and young adults the pressures of exams, choosing a career and a satisfying job, or also dating and finding the right partner for life.
You see, in most cases we may not necessarily fear for the life of a loved one, as Jairus did. But, everyone of us has our own unique worries and fears.
Among other things, what this story says to you and me today is, that Jesus gives us new life. When our hopes and dreams are shattered... When we have to swallow our pride and eat our own ego... when we have given up in despair... when our worst fears become a reality... when we, like the messenger, say to ourselves, "Let's not bother the Master any longer - there is no more hope"... It is THEN that we are open to hearing God's words of grace and compassion: "Never mind the messenger... Just believe!"
Let us hear the Master's words of Life: "My friend, have faith and expect a miracle! Brace yourself for the impossible! Anticipate healing in your body, soul and spirit! Open the door, because your long lost child is coming home! Hear the whisper of life eternal at the open grave of a loved one! Let us hear the words of Jesus - even in the depth and darkness of a life of sin: "Take my hand... and get up!"
There is a touching little story of a boy who experienced new life as a result of new hope through an unsuspecting school teacher.
"A teacher who was assigned to visit children in a large city hospital received a call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy's name and room number and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, "We're studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I'd be grateful if you could help him with his homework so he doesn't fall behind the others." When the visiting teacher got to the boy's room she realized it was located in the hospital's burn unit. No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She felt that she couldn't just turn and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, "I'm the hospital teacher and your school teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs." The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, "What did you do to that boy?" Before she could finish a profusion of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: "You don't understand. We've been very worried about him, but ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment . . . it's as though he's decided to live." The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears he expressed it this way: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?"
There are times when all of us need to be brought back to life. We need to know that the sleepless nights won't last, that the days consumed by despair will become easier again, that the world goes on.
There are many agents of resurrection active in our lives today. New life often comes in quiet ways. Perhaps there is a phrase in a conversation with a friend that all of a sudden opens up a way that wasn't there before. There is the relationship, broken for years, that somehow finally finds the grace to start to heal.
There are Resurrection moments when the gift of life comes from one who speaks your name when you were sure he had forgotten it. The one who comes and finds you when you've locked yourself up inside your fear. The one who follows you down the road until you recognize that he's not a stranger but your best friend. These glimpses of God's grace are often so much a part of ordinary life that we could miss them if we blink. This is the gift of life restored. This is the gift of our Risen Savior.
Just as Jesus entered into the room where the lifeless body of the young girl lay, he comes into our situations of hopelessness and despair. And he takes us by the hand and says in a quiet yet convincing voice: "My child, get up!" "Break free from the chains that hold you captive." "Rekindle your love and commitment to God." "Live again!"
Jesus raises us back to life. We know this because that is what he has done for us in the past. Remember an event in your own life when you thought you had nothing more to live for. Remember a break-up with a special friend... the loss of a loved one through death or other life-circumstances... Remember... and you will see that it was Jesus who took you by the hand and invited you to new life.
As we remember God’s faithfulness in the past, we will trust that God will help us find a path around the obstacles on our way to Jesus: around our pride, around the pressure from our peers, around our position of prominence in the community, or whatever the obstacles may be. We will humble ourselves before the Lord of Life and plead earnestly for new life in our situations. And we will hear the compassionate words of Jesus: “Do not fear - just believe.”
I don't know about you - but I wonder what else may have taken place in the house of Jairus after the healing took place. Mark says, that the girl got up right away and walked around - as if nothing ever happened. I wonder if the father, who loved his daughter so much as to ignore all the religious etiquette and who risked his position to find help with a well-known friend of sinners, would have been able to contain his joy. I wonder if, in addition to their initial shock, the family would not have organized a huge backyard BBQ to celebrate their daughters new lease on life.
And, I wonder how you and I will respond to Christ's gift of new life to us.
In the last line of this story it almost sounds as if Mark had already put down the "Schlusspunkt", then picked up his pen again and wrote: "O yah, give the poor kid something to eat." I assume that everyone was so shocked that Jesus had to bring them back to reality. "She must be starving, what have you got in your fridge?"
Jesus encouraged Jairus and his family to remember God's gift of Life. He instructed them to nurture their child and also their faith. Similarly, when Christ bring new life into our situations we are encouraged to feast in the experience of God’s life-giving intervention in our lives. We are invited to fill our hearts with the promises of God's grace and forgiveness. We are invited to celebrate, to rejoice and to make it count...