Faith and Freedom
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
"Faith and Freedom"
During World War II, a General and one of his Lieutenants were travelling
from their base to a base in another state. They were forced to travel with civilians aboard a passenger train. They found their compartment, where two other folks were already seated. There they found an attractive young lady and her grandmother. The four of them had a friendly visit for most of the trip, at least until the train entered a long and rather dark tunnel. Once inside the tunnel, the passengers in this particular car heard two distinct sounds: the first was the smooch of a kiss; and the second was the loud sound of a slap.
Each of the four travelers aboard the train had a different perspective on what happened. The young lady thought to herself how glad she was that the young Lieutenant got up the courage to kiss her, but she was somewhat disappointed at her grandmother for slapping him for doing it. The General thought to himself how proud he was of his young Lieutenant for being enterprising enough to find that opportunity to kiss the attractive young lady, but he was a little bit flabbergasted that she slapped him instead of the Lieutenant. The grandmother was flabbergasted to think that the young Lieutenant would have the gall to kiss her grand-daughter, but she was proud of her grand- daughter for slapping him for doing it. The Lieutenant sat there trying to hold back his laughter, because he found the perfect opportunity to kiss an attractive young girl and slap his superior officer all at the same time!
As most of you know, sometimes it's all in how you look at something that gives it its meaning. That's partly what this passage is all about. This passage has often been called the healing on the way to a healing and you can see why. What takes place in the lives of the folks involved, gives them each a new perspective on the meaning and purpose of life.
I. JAIRUS'S CRY FOR HELP:
A. The events told here by Mark are high drama, in every sense of the word. This is the morning after one of the strangest nights in the history of the ten cities. If you remember, Jesus calmed the wind and the waves of a sudden storm while he and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee. Then he healed the man possessed by a Legion of demons. After having been asked to leave town, Jesus and the Disciples have crossed back over to the other side. Again, it didn't take long for the crowds to begin to gather. They probably saw his boat coming and met it with cheers and adoration, waiting expectantly for the next great thing to happen.
And it did, not just one, but two things, nested together. Jesus was there by the sea, getting ready to preach and teach again when along came Jairus. That was no small feat for Jairus. Jairus had to put aside his personal pride, dignity, and his prejudices to come to Jesus. You see, he was a leader of the synagogue. Sort of the Lay Leader and Associate pastor all rolled into one. He was in charge of the good management of the synagogue and the conduct of its services. He was one of the powerful people and under different circumstances, he probably would have been part of the contingent questioning, ridiculing and opposing Jesus that day.
But on this day, we see him throw all caution to the wind. He throws out all accepted standards of behavior. He throws out all of his built in prejudices against this upstart preacher and falls at this stranger's feet. Jairus didn't know Jesus. He didn't know if all the things he had heard were true or whether Jesus was a charlatan with a good side show routine. But none of that mattered at the moment. Something far heavier outweighed caution, pride, dignity and social standing. And what was it?ü
The only thing that mattered to Jairus at that moment was the fact that his daughter was desperately ill, sick unto death. Jairus was no longer concerned about the social amenities. Jairus was only a desperately worried father seeking help and healing for his little girl. As the scripture says, he fell at Jesus' feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."
B. You can hear the anguish in his voice. I remember when our oldest son, Paul was seven. He had received an Evel Kneivel bicycle with all the trimmings, including a speedometer, for his birthday. The parsonage was at the top of a hill on a gravel road. Paul decided he wanted to see how fast he could go on that bicycle. He was paying more attention to the speedometer than he was to where he was going and he hit a deep chuck hole and wrecked. Two young women saw the wreck. One of them came to the door and told us what had happened.
I know our memories play tricks on us sometimes, and sometimes we only
remember the impressions of the event or what we want to remember. In my mind I can still see her carrying Paul's limp body up that hill. I really don't remember if Paul was really unconscious or not. All I really remember is the blood. His chin was busted wide open.
I don't even remember who drove, I think Mary did, with me holding Paul but it might have been the other way around. I do remember the emergency room and the anguish I felt as I held Paul's head, praying and giving him word's of comfort and encouragement while the doctor stitched up his chin. I know how Jairus felt that day. You could have put all the things on my wish list, everything that I had ever dreamed of owning, in front of me at that moment and I would have walked right past them. All I could see was that my son was hurt and needed my help.
That's how Jairus felt. That's why he fell at Jesus' feet. Jesus felt the anguish that Jairus felt. He felt the desperation in his voice and saw it in his eyes. Jesus heard Jairus and without a question, without a moment's hesitation, Jesus went with him. You see, that's the nature of Jesus. That's the nature of our Savior. In His great compassion, Jesus enters our hurt and our need. Jesus entered Jairus need and off they went.
II. THE INTERRUPTION OF THE WOMAN:
A. Filled with both anxiety as well as a bit of joyous relief, Jairus set off at a pace that was close to running. It was hard though, because the crowd was so large and pressed in so close. As the crowd opened a path and they moved toward Jairus house, someone else was moving toward Jesus. Jairus was so distraught that you can bet he didn't want any interruption.
As they moved through the crowd, a woman, a woman desperate for healing moved toward Jesus. Her self esteem was so low, her sense of who she was was so poor that she didn't want to bother Jesus at all. She thought to herself, "If I could only touch the hem of his robe." And why was she so desperate? For all intents and purposes she was an outcast, she was unclean in the eyes of Jewish law. For 12 years she has suffered from a non-stop menstrual cycle.
The scripture politely reports that, "She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse." In other words, she had tried everything under the sun. She had seen every physician possible and spent money on every cure imaginable and all that she had gotten for her trouble was poor. Nothing helped. And according to Jewish law, women were unclean at that time of the month. They couldn't be with their husband and they couldn't participate in any religious rituals. In a very real sense, they were untouchable. And everyone needs to be touched and held and feel like they belong.
B. Coming back from a meeting in Waco, one day I stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken to get something to take with me to eat on the way home. The girl who waited on me was one of those friendly, bubbly sorts. I was tired and her friendly attitude was what I needed. She apologized all over the place for my having to wait for my nuggets and her smile made the wait seem not so important. About that time I heard someone place an order through the drive-in. This young lady recognized the people's voice and their order and told the others that she wanted to wait on them. Her words were, "These folks really like me." And they did, you could tell by the way they spoke to her at the pickup window. They really did like that young lady. And at least in part, it was probably because she liked them so much.
We all have a need to be needed. We all have a need to be a special part of someone's life. But unfortunately, for the woman who had pushed her way through the crowd to touch Jesus' robe, that aspect of life had been denied. For 12 years, she had repeatedly been rejected. That is part of what Jesus sensed when he felt her touch. He also felt the power of her healing.
That power filled him with compassion as he asked, "Who touched me?" That wasn't a question born out of selfishness or out of an arrogant, "How dare you!" sort of attitude. It was a question born of Jesus' compassion for our needs and our hurts. The woman poured out her story; purged herself of 12 years of physical, spiritual and emotional pain and discomfort. Jesus listened patiently and then said, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
What Jesus was saying to the woman and to us is that, for whatever reason, we may feel like we have to crawl in the back window or slip in through the back door when no one is looking. But the front door is wide open. It's standing wide open just for us. We may think we've left God's graces, but God has never left our side. The door is still open and God still wants us to enter in to the feast of salvation prepared for us by Christ. The crowd marveled at those words. And when the woman heard Jesus pronunciation and felt his healing power it was like a breathe of fresh air blowing through her spirit. She was set free and healed physically, spiritually and emotionally.
III. AND YET ANOTHER:
A. While Jesus was healing this woman, some of Jairus' friends came and quietly slipped up next to Jairus. The news they bore was like a hammer to his heart. Jesus overheard the friends say, "Jairus, you don't need to bother the Master anymore. We're sorry, but your daughter didn't make it." I would almost bet that the thing Jesus keyed in on, wasn't what the friends had to say, but the deep soul wrenching groan of despair and moan of pain and disappointment of Jairus. One of Jairus' first thoughts had to have been, "Oh God, why did we stop?" But before his thoughts could become accusing and self-pitying, Jesus said, "Do not fear, only believe." And then they took off to the house.
B. When they got there, the mourners had already started arriving and doing their thing, raising a ruckus and a commotion. Jesus asked them what all the noise was about, didn't they know that she wasn't dead, she was just asleep. And they all laughed in his face and said things like, "Yo mama!" and "He's really gone off the deep end now!" But the comments didn't bother Jesus, he gathered Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John and sent everyone else away. Then he looked at that little girl lying there. He looked into the hearts and eyes of that father and mother and saw their desperate expectation and he was filled with compassion. There wasn't anything showy or flashy, he didn't go through some wild incantation or some hypnotic gyrations, he just took the girl by the hand and spoke simple words: "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!"
There were a few minutes of total abandon, tears of joy and sorrow were mingled. There was utter amazement at what had happened. And then there was the shocked silence of reverence. Jesus stunned them even further when he swore them all to secrecy and ordered breakfast for Jairus' daughter.
IV. FROM FAITH TO FREEDOM:
I don't think Jesus did that out of a need to remain secret. He didn't do it as a way to keep his identity a secret from the public for awhile longer. People were already speculating on whether he was the Messiah or not. He was the topic of many a conversation. Instead, the secrecy was part of the healing gift that Jesus gave to that family. By saying she was simply in a deep sleep, the daughter and the family could continue a normal life. They could continue their normal responsibilities without their lives taking on a "freak show" quality. Similarly, when Jesus told the woman who suffered from the hemorrhage, "Your faith has made you well" his final words were for a normal life. He told her, "go in peace." In both instances, Jesus' healing power freed them not only from their affliction, it gave them freedom from social, spiritual and religious ostracism. He gave both the woman with the hemorrhage and Jairus' family the freedom of new life.
An artist was visiting a dear friend. When he arrived, she was weeping. He asked why. She showed him a handkerchief of exquisite beauty that had great sentimental value, which had been ruined by a drop of indelible ink.
The artist asked her to let him have the handkerchief, which he returned to her by mail several days later. When she opened the package she could hardly believe her eyes. The artist using the ink blot as a base, had drawn on the handkerchief a design of great beauty with India ink. Now it was more beautiful and more valuable than ever.
Sometimes the tragedies that break our hearts can become the basis for a more beautiful design in our lives. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective as we come out of the darkness and into the light. Sometimes all it takes is looking through the eyes of faith. Through the eyes of faith, the experience of tragedy can lead us to new life and the feeling of absolute liberty and freedom. Through Christ, a great weight is removed, and you feel the sort of liberty Paul speaks about in his epistles. It is the liberty and freedom of new life and rebirth. The liberty and freedom of discovering the meaning of life through faith in Christ Jesus.
This passage calls us to be patient with the hurts over which we have no control. It calls us to trust God, "fear not, only believe." The tragedies and perplexities of life, when put in Christ's compassionate and healing hands, may actually become a source of healing, help and beauty.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.