Luke 8:40-56 [Audio Link at Bottom]
Everyone is dying:
Scripture connects the stories of this young girl and elderly woman. The stories are weaved together intentionally. They are both battling illness. They both touch or are touched by Jesus and are miraculously healed. They both are called daughter. The number twelve is associated with both, yet in different ways. The young girl has lived twelve years in the vibrancy of youth, yet here she is on her deathbed. The elderly woman on the other hand has barely survived the last twelve years. She is destitute, poor, and alone. Although living, she may as well have been dead - the text says she spent her living (not only money). Here’s the point - whether we find ourselves in the vibrancy of youth or face the immediacy of death, we are all dying.
I know you don’t like to be told that, to be reminded of your mortality. Its a holiday weekend. The second time I heard the gospel, I rejected it because who wants to think of death and dying and all that - I was only a teenager.
Responses to the ideas that everybody is dying:
- YOLO: You only live once. Canadian rapper Drake in his song “The Motto” used the motto YOLO to justify his outrageous lifestyle based in drugs, making money, and using women. YOLO is cynical hedonism. It’s not new. Book of ecclesiastes.
- YOLO: In response to Drake’s song and the YOLO phenomenon, Andy Samberg from Comedy show Saturday night live also released a youtube video, a parody which actually well represents another response that we have as human beings in the face of death. In Samberg’s version, YOLO stands for “You Oughta Look Out.” Since you only live once, life is not to be toyed with but preserved at all costs, so stay away from stairs and cars and trains and the sun, and really just don’t ever leave the bomb shelter in your back yard, and kids (cause their hair is filled with lice).
there’s another way to live. Here’s the problem: YOLO is not true. You do not Only Live Once. the great theologian and pastor Jonathon Edwards when he was 20 years old wrote a series of resolutions that chose to base his life upon and read them every week of his life for 35 years til his death, more than 1800 times.
- Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
- I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.
Jesus is Our Only Hope:
Notice that the response to Jesus in these stories is that they fall at Jesus’ feet.
- The man because he was desperate: The man falls at Jesus feet because he is desperate. Now look at this man. He’s the leader of the synagogue. Synagogue leaders were powerful, well respected men in the town. He’s be like a town councilman or like a mayor. He would not be in the practice of falling down at anyones feet much less a homeless travelling preacher. But he’s desperate. Often before we come to Christ we must hit a place of desperation. This informs my prayers for the lost. Parents, your praying for your kids who are walking away from the Lord? There is nothing wrong with praying that they would hit a place of desperation. I recently sat with a man who asked me why it he seemed to be hitting walls in everything in his life. It was because sin had led him to bang his head against those walls, until in desperation he would turn around and see the way back to Christ. Rich Mullins: Surrender don’t come natural to me. I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want, than take what you give that I need. And I beat my head against so many walls, now I’m falling down, I’m falling down on my knees.” Another song, “I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led”
- The woman because she was dirty: Now don’t get me wrong, this woman was also desperate. She had, spent her life on doctors who gave her no hope. Yet that itself didn’t lead her to fall at Jesus feet, that led her to touch his robe as the crowd pressed around. She was healed by her faith before she fell at Jesus feet. So what led her to fall at his feet? She felt shame. Jesus asked who touched her, knowing that the Holy Spirit had worked through him to heal someone. When Jesus said “Who touched me?” look at verse 45: all denied it. Why would this woman deny touching Jesus? Why? Remember why this woman touched Jesus. She had been bleeding for 12 years. According to Jewish law, she was ritually unclean and would have been isolated from the crowds of people. Moreover, she would have been set apart so that she wouldn't contaminate others. Most definitely she was not to touch anyone, for then they would also be unclean. So why wouldn’t she want to admit to touching Jesus? She only knew shame her whole life, and admitting that she had touched Jesus would have been like yelling fire in an auditorium. For she did not only touch Jesus. Luke notes twice how the crowd was pressing around Jesus. This unclean woman would have touched dozens, if not hundreds of people to get to Jesus. With the crowds pressing around, this woman had a choice to make, would she confess Jesus before the crowds and risk shaming herself more, or would she let the crowds choke out her faith, like the thorns choked out the seed in the earlier parable. Yet listen, Jesus drew her out of her shame. He did not let her cower and withdraw. “Someone touched me. who was it?” Verse 47: And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. Did you get that? In the presence of all the people she declared why she had touched him and that she had been healed. She falls at Jesus feet because she believes she is dirty and feels great shame. How will Jesus respond before this crowd? “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Its beautiful. Jesus calls this woman, probably older than him, daughter. He not only heals her and declares her clean before all the people, but speaks to her as his own family. Remember what he said before, “He who hears the word of God and does it is my mother and my brothers and my sisters. And my daughter.
Listen, here’s the other way to live. Turn your shame and desperation over to Christ.
Our Faith is Often Mingled with Fear
At this moment the story is again interrupted. For the little girl has died and a person came to let Jairus know the devastating news. Yet Jesus says to him, “Do not fear, only believe that she will be well.” What a thing to say to a dad that just lost his daughter. It would be completely insensitive, except for what we have seen in Jesus already in the gospel of Luke. All of these stories, the calming of the water, the freeing of the demon-possessed man, the healing of the woman, have trained us, the readers to expect Jesus to come through, because he always has. We don’t even need to read the rest of the story to know that Jesus is going to raise the girl from the dead, which he in fact does. The problem is that it is easy to read in the Bible about a Jesus who says, “Do not fear, only believe and it will be well,” and to be the one in our situations to hear him say that to us. To lose your family member to illness, to lose a house to a fire, to lose a husband to another woman, to lose a job to a cutback. We’re getting used to Jesus in the Bible doing amazing things so that we expect them, but does it translate into our lives, into our struggles, into our doubt, into our fears?
Here’s the thing. Faith and Fear are two opposite reactions. We often think that the opposite of fear is bravery, but its not, at least biblically. Biblically the opposite of fear is faith. Faith in a God who calms the storm, silences the demons, brings life from death. This is why the most repeated command in scripture is this: not be holy, but this: Fear Not. Fear not. So, one the one hand, biblically faith and fear are at opposite sides of the pole and cannot mix, on the other hand though, they do. They often do. Because faith is much harder than we give it credit for. Just think over this chapter, chapter 8 of Luke. Fear and faith have been the theme of every story and they often mingle in surprising ways:
- The disciples displayed lack of faith when facing the storm, panicking, but learned to fear (respect) Jesus after he calmed the waves.
- The Gerasenes, after Jesus healed the man with demons, feared Jesus (were afraid of him) and asked him to leave them.
- The woman, we saw, trembled before the crowds yet Jesus commended her for her great faith.
- The man feared that the daughter was dead but was instructed to believe - they must have believed a little for they brought Jesus to the house, yet they did not. In fact, when Jesus used a figure of speech to say the the girl was sleeping and would wake again, they actually laughed at him.
Yes, these things are written that we might have certainty regarding the things we have been taught. So that we could have faith. So that we would not fear, but learn to trust Jesus more and more with. Yet, it’s is awesome that the only hero in these stories is Jesus. The disciples go back and forth from fear to faith to fear again, yet Jesus is the constant. Its the same in our lives. Jesus is the constant. Our faith turns to fear and back again, each time in that cycle hopefully getting stronger, yet with each new challenge fear rears its head again and must be beaten back by fixing our eyes on the unchanging, Lord of Heaven and Earth.
- There is proper fear. If you are not a Christian. Fear death. Fear judgment. Everyone dies.
- Jesus is our only hope. Jesu died so that you need not fear death. And if we need not fear death, then what can man do to us?
- What right now in your life is that battle of faith and fear waging over?