Even Greater

Even Greater | Mark 5:21-24, 34-43

“When Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him while He was by the sea. One of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at His feet and kept begging Him, “My little daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay Your hands on her so she can get well and live.” So Jesus went with him, and a large crowd was following and pressing against Him… “Daughter,” He said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be free from your affliction.” While He was still speaking, people came from the synagogue leader’s house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher anymore? ” But when Jesus overheard what was said, He told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” He did not let anyone accompany Him except Peter, James, and John, James’s brother. They came to the leader’s house, and He saw a commotion — people weeping and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” They started laughing at Him, but He put them all outside. He took the child’s father, mother, and those who were with Him, and entered the place where the child was. Then He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, get up! ” ). Immediately the girl got up and began to walk. (She was 12 years old.) At this they were utterly astounded. Then He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this and said that she should be given something to eat.” (Mark 5:21-24, 34-43 HCSB)

Faith and Fear. Are they opposites? Maybe not in the secular realm, but certainly in the spiritual realm they seem to be. When the disciples were on that storm tossed boat (a few weeks ago in our study, but only a few hours earlier in our story) they had been very afraid and then they experienced Jesus’ power in a way that shook them to the very core of their being. As you’ll recall, it left them asking “Just who is this man that commands the wind and the waves with His voice and they obey Him?” Now they encounter a man whose fear has driven him to his knees before Jesus begging for Jesus to save his daughter’s life. That’s fear! Very, very real fear.

When does fear exhibit itself in your life? I hope you’ve never been enveloped with the fear that your child might die. While neither my daughter nor my sons have ever faced a situation where their lifes were at risk, we have faced that fear with my granddaughter. In early March of 2016, my youngest granddaughter was at a robotics competition with her friends and teammates and began to feel ill but we just thought it was stomach bug. She went to sleep that night with what we assumed was just a virus or the flu, but we knew something was seriously wrong when she wouldn’t wake up the next morning. When Her mother called me at church that Sunday morning seeking my advice on what to do, I immediately told her to get the child to the Emergency Room, as quickly as possible.

The doctors at the ER determined that my granddaughter was in a diabetic coma and was very, very sick. She would need to be immediately transferred to a larger hospital that was better equipped to handle the situation and her condition. At that point, the fear had not quite gripped us because we knew so little about the condition but when they started talking about a life flight helicopter for the hospital transfer, we realized just how sick she really was. I went with her to the hospital while her mom and dad went home to grab some clothes because this was turning into much, much more than a quick ER visit. What we had initially thought was just a stomach bug has now turned into a life threatening condition and she was still in a very deep coma.

We spent the next week dealing with the fear that she might not survive at all or, if she did, she might have ongoing disabilities from the coma. The fear-filled hours passed very slowly and then the hours turned into long, fear-filled days as the coma persisted and she didn’t wake up. I had immediately turned to prayer when I received that call from my daughter on that Sunday morning, but my simple prayers early on had become much deeper, more quiet and strained and much, much more fearful. The reality was that I found myself falling before Jesus in prayer for my granddaughter’s life much like this man in our focal passage did, crying out for His mercy and His help in saving her life. While I know how He responded to my cries, let’s listen to how He responds to this man and learn something from it…

As I mentioned last week, Mark has sandwiched the previous story into this one. We first learn that Jairus, one of the leaders from the local synagogue, came to Jesus seeking His help because his young daughter is not only sick, but facing imminent death. As Jairus comes to Jesus, he falls at His feet and keeps begging, “My little girl is at death’s door. Come and touch her so that she can get well (or be rescued – see last week’s notes) and live.” Notice, this girl is at death’s door and the situation is urgent. But, just as Jesus begins to go with Jairus, He is interrupted by the woman with the bleeding disorder. This entire exchange causes just enough of a delay to have a significant impact on this very sick girl’s condition and she dies. Just as Jesus is telling the woman from last week’s story that her faith has made her well, Jairus gets word that his daughter has died. As this woman’s life is being rescued and restored the little girl’s is being taken away… or is it?

Jesus overhears the message that Jairus receives and tells him, “Don’t be afraid, believe!” Jairus had known his daughter’s death was imminent but he had clung to the hope that Jesus might come, now He has. There seems to be little doubt that Jairus has been deeply impacted by the things he’s been hearing and seeing regarding Jesus. He is not only among the synagogue leadership, he’s also specifically named in this story and this indicates that he is known and respected by Mark’s readers. Why is that important? Most scholars believe that Jairus was named not just because of his leadership role but also because he likely remained a disciple of Jesus in the intervening years and also following Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. In other words, Jairus’ faith wasn’t just in Jesus’ ability to heal in the moment but was faith in who Jesus was and why He came.

Is that important? I believe it is very, very important and is at the very heart of Jesus’ command: “Don’t be afraid, believe!” Jairus wasn’t just coming to Jesus as a miracle worker or healer. Go back and notice what happens when Jairus comes before Jesus to ask for His help… he falls at Jesus’ feet. This is the response of a man who holds a spiritual leadership role in his synagogue. This is the response of a man who has vowed to serve God alone. This is, in many ways, Mark’s response to the disciples’ question: “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

Comedians say, “timing is everything.” Well let me tell you, anxious fathers would say the same thing. Timing IS everything. Jesus had returned to the area at just the right time. The girl is at death’s door and Jairus has no time to waste. But just as things begin to look positive for Jairus, Jesus gets delayed. I’ve mentioned that Mark has a purpose for sandwiching these two stories together and this just might be it. While they do share some essential story elements, the focus here is that Jairus’ daughter dies as the other woman is rescued. Mark wants us to see that Jesus is Lord over unclean spirits, He’s Lord over the wind and the waves, He’s Lord over disease and ritual/spiritual uncleanness but He’s also, and most importantly, Lord over life and death. This delay wasn’t an untimely coincidence, it was divine providence. God was answering the question, “Who is this man?” He’s no mere man, He’s the Lord of life and death.

Jairus had fallen before Jesus as Lord, but notice what the “servants” say, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher anymore?” There is absolutely no expression of hope or faith in that statement and based on who they thought Jesus was, their statement is really expected and entirely appropriate. Leave him alone. He’s just a teacher and the girl is dead, there’s nothing more a mere man can do. THAT’S why I think Jesus’ words to Jairus are SO important. “Don’t be afraid, BELIEVE!” You don’t have faith in just a man, just a religious teacher, or even in a prophet when your daughter dies because there’s NOTHING they can do about death. But who is this man? This man who commands demons and they flee. This man who commands the wind and the waves and they obey. This man who is touched by the sick and they are made whole. This isn’t a mere man. This is ONE who speaks hope in the midst of death…

Mark tells us that Jesus overheard what they told Jairus and He responds. The word that’s translated as “overheard” (Greek: parakousas) could also be translated as “take no heed, ignore” but because Jesus responds then they feel “overheard” is more fitting for the context. I’m not so sure. I think Jesus heard them say, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?” and He does ignore them as He tells Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, believe!” Jairus, don’t listen to them. Take no heed of their words, ignore them. Don’t listen to them. Jairus, you’ve declared your faith in God as you defied other religious leaders and fell at Jesus’ feet. IGNORE them! Don’t let your faith be overwhelmed by your doubts. Don’t let it be drowned out by your fear. Ignore them, BELIEVE! In many ways, that’s what we need to do. We might overhear what our world says about our lives, about our circumstances, about the obstacles blocking our path to obedience of God, but Jesus calls us to “ignore” them and to place our faith in Him.

Next, Jesus only allows a small group to accompany Him as He continues the journey to Jairus’ home – Peter, James, John and Jairus. As they arrive, the mourners have already begun weeping and wailing and the whole house is in a commotion. Just for reference, even the poorest people were expected to hire at least two flutes and one mourner as the family mourned a death. Jairus had already indicated his daughter was “at death’s door” and so this was entirely expected. However, Jesus questions them and says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” They began to laugh and ridicule Him, but He makes them go outside and He takes the child’s parents and those He brought and goes in to where the child was laying.

She’s not dead, just asleep… we’d probably laugh, too. We might say, “I know what I know and I know what I saw. What do you mean she’s asleep? She’s dead. There’s no doubt about it. Who do you think you are?” You turn to someone else, “Just who does this guy think he is? Ha!” You look back at him, “She’s dead, buddy. Are you blind? Don’t you understand? Do you know what dead looks like?” Imagine that, they ridiculed God. They questioned the one who created life as to whether He could recognize life in a little girl or not… but the source of all life said, “She’s not dead, just asleep.” Yeah, let that one sink in a bit. Every scholar I’ve read on this passage says that Jesus is being metaphorical when He says these words: “The child is not dead but asleep.” Let me remind you of something I said last week, faith is simply the visible reality of an invisible hope, belief or trust. Faith is acting in the confidence of what you know to be true regardless of what your senses tell you. I don’t think “asleep” is a metaphor, I think it was the confidence of what Jesus knew to be true regardless of what His physical senses told Him.

Jesus then took her by the hand and said, “Child, get up!”

He commanded the winds to be silent and the waves to cease and they did. He spoke to the demons/unclean spirits and they obeyed. He’s touched by a woman with a twelve year illness that made her unclean and it was instantly gone and she was rescued. He confronts death, speaks life and it becomes this family’s reality. He tells a dead girl to get up, and she does! Who is this man? He’s not just a man, but God walking around in our midst. Nothing else can explain it. Who else can speak and the elements obey? Who else commands the demons and the unclean spirits and they flee? Who else can cause a crazy, wild man that can’t be bound to sit at His feet in his right mind and desire to become an obedient disciple? Who else can heal a body riddled with disease for twelve years just by being touched? Who else can see life in the eyes of death and call a dead girl back to life?

Certainly not a mere man, He’s greater than that…

Only God does these things. Only God can ignore the critics, only God ignores the jeers from the crowd, only God turns a deaf ear to the scoffer and only God cares enough to call us to do the same and simply believe Him, to trust Him as He comes into our homes and turns mourning into rejoicing. How can He do that? Why would He do that? Because He sees life where others seen only death and He speaks life into the dead and they get up, they walk and they eat! Some will scoff at my faith, my comments here, at my trust in Him but let me remind you: his name was Jairus. This isn’t some fable, some story made up by men who want you to believe so they can lull you into giving them money. Mark tells us this story and calls the man by name! Jesus tells the family to keep these things quiet, but now Mark is telling the whole world and giving names. They were told to keep it quiet, at least for now. But the time to speak out about Him is now, speak up church!

Let me finish my story… my 12 year old granddaughter was lying in that hospital bed for a week in a deep, dark coma while her grandfather prayed like he had never prayed before. My fears were beginning to get louder than my faith. I looked down at her limp, silent body that was connected to more tubes and wires than I’d ever seen and I prayed. I prayed for strength for her mom, dad and for me and the rest of my family. I had prayed for healing, but I was beginning to just pray for strength to face a different outcome, for life regardless of what it might look like mostly because I feared death was a very real possibility. It had been a week with no real signs of life. In fact, that morning they took her for a brain scan. I knew what that meant, they too were looking for some sign of life. As I prayed, I suspect my prayers were much like those of Jairus. Desperate. Pleading. Even bargaining, somewhat. But my fear? Were they faith-filled enough? Was I faithful enough? Would He hear and would He respond?

At times like this, we always ask that question: “Do I have enough faith?” Remember what I said last week about messy faith? Still true. It isn’t really about how much or how good our faith is but it is about who we believe and trust. It’s about Him, the object of our faith and the focus of our trust. He’s not a mere man, He’s the Son of God. He’s God in human flesh and He cares about us. How do I know? How can I be so sure? Because of Mark’s words, “He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this and said that she should be given something to eat.” He didn’t do this for Himself, for fame and riches. Nope. That’s what we would do, not Him. He did it for Jairus and for her.

Oh, yeah… my twelve year old granddaughter in the coma I was telling you about? After that brain scan she had looking for signs of life and my prayers of desperation, something miraculous began to happen. Within a few hours, she began to move and to respond and then she opened her eyes and began to speak. Just like Jairus and his wife, I was utterly astounded, too. Once she woke up she was hungry, she too needed something to eat. Yes, she has Type 1 diabetes and we had to learn how to manage her blood sugar and she had to learn how to test her blood glucose and inject herself with insulin. She’s also learning to take better care of herself and her health but she turned nineteen about a month ago and just last night I was babysitting her 6 month old daughter while she worked.

So, let me remind you of Jesus’ words: Don’t be afraid, believe! Why? Because I have learned the answer to that question, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” You see, He’s not just a man. No man could do the things He’s done and is doing. He’s so much more, so much greater than that. He’s the one God promised would come. He’s Emmanuel, God with us and I trust Him. Will you?

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