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July 2, 2006 (Sunday 13 • Time after Pentecost)
Pastor Bruce P. Craft
Lamentations 3:22–25; Mark 5:21–43
Sometimes life is a big, huge struggle! We are faced with illness, our own or someone dear to us. Or death, either someone near to us or even our own. We could be faced with the break up of family, the loss of our job, or troubling financial problems. If these difficult and trying times are happening to us, they are often accompanied by feelings of failure, despair, and loneliness.
At times such as these we are often encouraged by well meaning friends to “have faith” and every thing will work out. But often that is not what happens, at least to fit our need or schedule.
The truth is that for many of us “Faith” is a mysterious word which we really don’t understand, but as a good Christian we are supposed to have it. I remember long ago in my college days that I was overcome with anxiety and stress, so I decided to go see the college chaplain. Well, that didn’t help, as he told me that I needed to “have faith, ” and he was “surprised that I didn’t have it,” and then I was dismissed.
Is it any surprise that I still have a need to talk about faith?
To set the tone I would like to share the first stanza of the hymn, “Jesus Savior, Pilot Me” with you.
Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal;
Chart and compass come from thee.
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
My simple understanding of faith is that it is a relationship based on trust. In this instance, my relationship with Jesus. Like any relationship, it needs to be developed over time and is deepened by frequent and shared communication. There is a name for this kind of communication; it is called prayer.
Let us look at today’s Gospel for help in understanding the mystery of “Faith.” Our story begins in Mark, chapter 5, verse 21. We see here that, as was often the case, Jesus was surrounded by a great crowd. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came begging Jesus to come and heal his little daughter who was at the point of death. The Bible simply says, “So Jesus went with him.”
So, what is happening here? Well, for one thing Jarius as a leader of the synagogue was a powerful and respected person of the community. It is very likely that in his position he must have regarded Jesus as an outsider, as a dangerous heretic, as one to whom the synagogue doors were closed, and one whom anyone who valued his orthodoxy would do well to avoid. But, Jarius was a big enough person to abandon his prejudices in his hour of need.
For prejudice really means a “judging beforehand.” It is a judging before we have examined the evidence. When we have a prejudiced mind, we shut out many a blessing.
So, as we attempt to face life’s desperate times we must remember that in faith we must abandon our prejudices and our preconceived notions and open ourselves up to fully hear and follow the lead of Jesus.
Secondly, we see that Jarius, this man of power and respectability, literally threw himself at the feet of Jesus. His dignity and any sense of self-importance that he might have had were forgotten. You see, it frequently happens that when we stand on our dignity or our own sense of importance, we fall from grace. So for us, it means that in faith we come to Jesus just as we are, and he accepts us, just as we are.
It must have taken a conscious effort of humiliation for this ruler of the synagogue to come and ask for help from this Jesus of Nazareth before God and practically the whole town gathered here at the seaside. You realize that Jarius had left behind any sense of self-pride. It is true to say that no one wishes to be indebted to anyone else. We want to run our life in our own way. Perhaps, the very first step on the journey of Christian Faith is to realize that we cannot be anything other than indebted to God.
Often times Faith involves risk. It can also mean a letting go or forgetting things that are important to us. Here, Jarius took such a risk. He was willing to forget his self-importance, his power and respectability, self-pride, his own agenda. He forgot everything except that he wanted the help of Jesus, and just because he forgot, Jesus accepted this as faith and went with him.
While on the way to making this house call, Jesus was interrupted. A large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much, spent most of her money on doctors and she was no better, but rather grew worse. Her condition not only affected her health, but in her religious community, it also rendered her continuously unclean, and shut her off from the worship of God and the fellowship of her friends as was prescribed in Leviticus 15.
Here was a woman who came to Jesus as a last resort; having tried every other cure that the world had to offer she finally tried Jesus. In her desperation she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” With every ounce of her strength and faith she touched Jesus and was healed.
This part of the passage, verses 30-34, tells us something about Jesus and the nature of faith. And that something is the cost of healing. Every time Jesus healed anyone it took something out of him. Here is a universal truth of life. We will never do anything of real value unless we are prepared to put something of ourselves into it.
You see the greatness of Jesus was that he was prepared to pay the price of helping others, and that price was the empting of His very life. We only follow Jesus in His steps when we are prepared to spend, not our substance, but our souls and strength for others. That is the nature of Faith. Faith is not something warm and fuzzy, not some magical power that keeps away failure and danger, but faith is walking with Jesus in this life, which in itself could prove to be very costly. Faith is, no matter what the situation, being in a trusting personal relationship with Jesus.
These verses also tell us something about the woman. They tell us of the relief of confession. Her illness was not only difficult; it was also humiliating. But once she had told the whole truth—that it was she who touched him and why—it was as if all the terror and the trembling were gone and a wave of relief flooded her heart. And when she had made her honest confession, she found him to be very kind. In fact, his words to her were very affirming, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
This point is essential to our understanding faith and that is: even when we are in relationship with Jesus, we can still do or say terrible things. We are still capable of great sin, but if we truly make an honest confession and repent, we too can hear Jesus affirm our faith and tell us to go in peace, for he has healed us.
While Jesus was still speaking, messengers came from the home of Jarius to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to this leader of the Synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
The remainder of this passage tells us about Despair and Hope. There is the contrast between the despair of the mourners and the hope of Jesus. “Don’t bother the teacher,” they said. “There is nothing anyone can do now.” And Jesus words, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” In the one place, it is the voice of despair that speaks; in the other, the voice of hope. Faith is always the fountain of hope!
Here is the contrast between the unrestrained distress of the mourners and the calm serenity of Jesus. Why should there be such a difference?
The difference simply was because of Jesus’ Faith, his perfect confidence and trust in God. The worst human disaster can be met with courage when we meet it with God! They laughed at Jesus because they thought that his hope was groundless.
But the great fact of the Christian life is: that which looks completely impossible to us humans is very possible with God! That which on merely human terms is far too good to be true is indeed very true when God is there. They ridiculed Jesus, but their ridicule must have turned to amazed wonder when they realized what God can do.
Faith in Christ is nothing more than facing the struggles of life knowing that nothing—not even death—can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now, I would ask you to close your eyes and meditate on these words written long before the birth of Christ about the nature of Faith. They are from our first lesson today.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
The mercies of God never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore in the Lord I will hope.”
The Lord is good to those who are patient,
To the soul that seeks after God.
Copyright © 2006 Bruce P. Craft
Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org