The President & the Pariah (Part II) ~ August 12, 2018 ~ Luke 8:49-56
Alright friends, we are staying in the gospel according to Luke this morning, the story of Jairus and the woman who had a blood issue for twelve years. So let us join in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God. Let us pray: Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name, amen.
So last week, if you remember, we began with Jairus. Jairus was the president of the synagogue in Capernaum, and Jairus asked Jesus if he would come to see his daughter, because his daughter was sick. Actually, he didn’t ask him to come. It says in verse 41:
Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading… (Luke 8:41)
So it wasn’t a polite ask. He was on his knees begging Jesus to come with him. And this was no small matter. He was the president of the synagogue, falling at the feet of a guy many were calling the Messiah. To proclaim a human being to be God was a crime. It was treason, it was blasphemy; punishable by death. So Jairus, in falling at Jesus’ feet, risked his position, his job, his livelihood, even his life. I mean, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Zealots all surely would not take such a betrayal well. They were deadly serious about such things. Blasphemy, as I said, was a capital crime, punishable by death. Eventually that is one of the charges they would lodge against Jesus himself: blasphemy. But it didn’t matter to Jairus. Not anymore. Nothing mattered to Jairus anymore, other than healing his little girl. That seems to be the case in my opinion. When all else fails, even those who claim to question, who claim they do not accept who Jesus says he is, seem to come to him for help.
In our country, the United States of America which in so many ways has become hostile to God, to Jesus, to Christianity. Nonetheless, when tragedy strikes – when there is a hurricane, or a flood, or a shooting, or a plane crash, or a terrorist attack – what’s the first thing we hear from all of our leaders? “Let’s keep them in our prayers.” We can’t talk about Jesus, we can’t express our faith, we can’t pray in a public square any other time. But when there’s tragedy, when the you-know-what hits the fan, all of a sudden Jesus is okay. In the end, I believe everyone seems to come to Jesus for help.
Whatever the reason that Jairus has for asking Jesus to help, he asks, and Jesus doesn’t care.
He doesn’t care if you’re a Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, rich or poor; he doesn’t even care if the situation you find yourself in is your own fault. If someone is in need of help, he just wants to help. We’re surrounded in our community with folks who are struggling with addiction. In many cases, it’s because of their own poor choices and decisions. Does that mean we turn and walk away? Would Jesus? No. He doesn’t care if the circumstance you find yourself in is your own stupidity. If you need help, call out to him and he will be there.
Think of when Peter, remember, began to sink. He stepped outside of the boat in faith. As long as he had his eyes on Jesus, as long as he was focused on Christ, he was walking on water. He knew, you and I both know, there is no way according to the laws of physics, that I should be able to step on top of water and not sink. But when you’re focused on Jesus, anything is possible. As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus, boom, he began to sink. That was his fault! He was distracted by the things of his world. There was a storm going on, there were waves, and this was not supposed to be possible, so he chose to doubt. That was his decision. And as soon as he chose to doubt, he began to sink. As he’s going under the waves he calls out, “Save me, Lord!” And what does Jesus do? “Well, it was your choice…” No. He reaches down with his hand and pulls him up.
Jesus does not care. He will come if you ask him to come. Now, Jairus and Jesus were interrupted as they were headed toward Jairus’ house by the woman who had had the bleeding issue for twelve years that we talked about last week. And Jairus was there and watched with his own eyes as Jesus did what no other person had been able to do: help her, heal her. What do you think was going through his mind as he watched someone who had a condition that they believed was incurable all of a sudden got cured? What would you think? Would you be thinking, gosh, if he can do that, maybe he can heal my daughter too? Wow. And then, amidst his excitement and his enthusiasm I’m sure, verse 49:
While he [Jesus] was still speaking to her [the woman he had just healed], a messenger arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. He told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” (Luke 8:49)
Friends, I wrote this message like two weeks ago. I can’t imagine being told your child is dead. That’s beyond my comprehension. I did not know those were the words that Winston was going to have to hear last Sunday. There’s no good time. The pain doesn’t hurt any less because the person you love is two months old, two years old, fifty-two years old or ninety-two years old. When they leave to go with God, you’re heartbroken.
I’ll never forget visiting an elderly man in the hospital at my previous church in Maine. He was ninety-two years old, and he knew his time was running short, and we began to talk about the things of his life, and reminiscing, and he mentioned that he had lost his son. I asked the question that naturally probably all of you would ask, because as he’s talking about losing his son, he’s wiping tears from his cheeks. That’s tough to sit there in a room with a ninety-two-year-old man. So I asked him the question that probably popped into your mind: How old was he? He said, amidst his grief, “Seventy-five.” Now here I am thinking, seventy-five, that’s a relatively good run, seventy-five. His heart was destroyed because he outlived his child, and we’re not supposed to outlive our children. So I can’t imagine what my brother Winston’s going through. I can’t imagine what Jairus was going through. What was going through his head now, was it shock? Was it sadness? Was it anger? Why did you stop and deal with this lady you could have healed at any time, and you didn’t get to my house? Maybe all three of those things. I would be numb. I simply cannot imagine being told those words. But then, in verse 50:
When Jesus heard what had happened, he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:50)
What? She’s dead! What would you do then? How would you react? Jairus had faith. How do I know that? Because he kept going with Jesus. He kept walking beside him, following him to his home. Verse 51:
When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone go in with him except Peter, John, James, and the little girl’s father and mother [Jairus and his wife]. The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but Jesus said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him because they all knew she had died. Then Jesus took her by the hand and said in a loud voice [in Aramaic, “Talitha cum!”], “My child, get up!” And at that moment her life returned, and she immediately stood up! Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were overwhelmed, but Jesus insisted that they not tell anyone what had happened. (Luke 8:51-56)
Jesus has power over death; over illness, over death, over everything. The tough part for us is sometimes he says, “Talitha cum, my child, get up!” here on this earth, and sometimes he says, “My child, get up, join me in Skittle land, in heaven.” But in both cases, Jesus rises them to life again.
Now, I’m only guessing here, but my guess is the president of the synagogue and the pariah (the woman with the bleeding issue who was an outcast and marginalized by society) probably didn’t travel in the same circles, would you think? But they did have a couple of things in common. Number one, they both needed help. You see, I know to us it seems unfair, and maybe it looks that way, but in this fallen, sinful world, death-row inmates get cancer, and so do twelve-year-old little girls.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:45 that God…
… sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45)
Meaning when it’s raining, everybody gets wet. Bad things happen to everybody, whether you’re good or bad. Good things happen to everybody, whether you’re good or bad. It’s not a perfect world. It was when God created it, it hasn’t been since we’ve wanted to rule it ever since. Rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. I know, I have heard it so many times, I’m sure you have too, “But she was such a good person, why her?” In this fallen world, tragedy doesn’t discriminate. It hits us all.
The president and the pariah both needed help. They both sought the one person who really could help them. The other thing they had in common was they were both willing to risk everything, including their very lives, to publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ. When the moment of reckoning arrived, that woman, surrounded by a hostile crowd that if they knew who she was surely would have stoned her to death – when the moment of reckoning came, she fell at Jesus’ feet, confessed her faith and told him, “I believed all I needed to do was touch the fringe of your robe, and because of who you are, you were going to heal me.” In the midst of that atmosphere, she proclaimed her faith. Jairus, same thing. Jairus, the president of the synagogue, the leader of the synagogue in Capernaum, he was facing ridicule, expulsion, or worse. Still he sought out this wandering rabbi from Nazareth and fell on his knees and said to him, “I believe. Can you come, please come and help me?”
Even after he was told his daughter was dead, and those in the household were laughing at them, mocking him, Jairus still believed.
Examples of that kind of faith are inspiring. I tell you, they make me check my own faith. Would I have that sort of faith? I hear these stories, I read these stories all the time. I get a publication – it’s free – called “Voice of the Martyrs,” and it’s a magazine. It’s not even that long, it’s probably six, seven, eight pages max. It comes every month. You can subscribe on persecution.com. And it tells the stories, the testimonies of brothers and sister in Christ all over the world who are being persecuted simply for proclaiming their faith. And yet they still proclaim their faith, knowing that government officials at any moment could burst through that door and arrest us all, they still gather for worship. That’s what you were talking about in India. There are still places in India where it’s dangerous – either from the government or from other people in the community – to be identified as followers of Christ. I read the stories of the persecuted church all the time, and they are inspiring. Stories like Hea Woo in North Korea. [Shows video: Stories of Christian Persecution | North Korea]
It’s hard to even imagine, isn’t it? That there are places like that still on the earth. I know we fight in our country, in our schools, a lot of bullying, right? And it leads kids to do a lot of things that they wouldn’t normally do. This is bullying on a scale you can’t even imagine. Just rounding people up and throwing them in prison for the simple reason of proclaiming their faith in Christ. He asked, “What makes a seventy-year-old woman put her life at risk like that?” Same thing that makes this woman who had been bleeding for twelve years put her life at risk. Same thing that makes Jairus put his life at risk. We are so blessed so far. To this point we do not risk imprisonment for our Christian faith. Yet. My heart is troubled because I do not have confidence that I will be able to say that my entire life. I got this weird feeling that before I go to see Jesus, this won’t be too unfamiliar to us. I’m scared of that. I pray against that. But for now, we don’t risk persecution on that level. The worst we face? Banishment. Being mocked. Being shunned. Being made fun of by our friends. Not being invited to that cookout or that camping trip or that concert or that Christmas party. That’s the worst we have to look forward to. Friends, family and co-workers that tease us, “Oh, listen to you, you Jesus freak. You think you’re better than everybody else?” We don’t face that. Can you imagine – I can’t – standing before the Lord (on that day when we’ll have to stand before the Lord) and have him ask me, “Why did you ignore my commands? Why did you reject my holy and inspired Word?” And I’m not gonna be able to say to him, “Lord, but my nails were being ripped from my hands! My feet were being beaten with rods!” I’m not gonna be able to say that. The best we’ll have is, “But Lord, they were gonna unfriend me on Facebook! They weren’t gonna invite me! They weren’t gonna include me! They were gonna tease me! They were gonna bully me!”
Hea Woo’s story, and stories like hers – I don’t know – for me, it’s a gut-check. I wanna have that kind of faith. Oh, that Christians in America today would stand strong for a biblical faith, and not bow to the pressures of our culture who want us to do things that are antithetical to what God teaches. If we would, what incredible things we would see. We would see healings. We would see miracles. We would see the dead coming back to life. What amazing miracles would take place if we had that kind of faith. The president or the pariah. God didn’t care. We will never impress God with our job. Don’t ever think, when you get to the pearly gates, that you’re gonna hand Peter your resume. He doesn’t care. You’re not gonna impress God with your job. You’re not gonna impress God with how much money you have collected, how much you have earned. You are not gonna impress God with your collection of stuff. What impresses God – the only thing that impresses God – is faith. All you have to have is the faith of a mustard seed. But faith. The willingness to stand up in that crowd like that woman and say, “I believe in him. I trust him. Do with me whatever you want.” Jairus: “I’m gonna fall at his feet and ask him for help, I don’t care if I lose my job or my life.”
Faith. Faith like when Gideon marched his 300 warriors out to face an army of 135,000 Midianites. 300 to 135,000. Faith like when David walked out into that field to face a nine-foot Philistine giant when none of the men had enough faith to do so, with only a sling and five smooth stones. Faith like when Peter looked at the water and lifted his leg outside of that boat and stepped on the water. Faith like when someone turns away from drugs or turns away from alcohol, and has the faith to ask someone for help, the courage to make a change. That’s faith. Faith like when a woman chooses life for the baby in her womb, even though she doesn’t know how she’s gonna do it. Faith like when a child, when a young person, chooses to stay in school and out of a gang.
See, Bible says in Hebrews 11:6:
It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Like Jairus and that woman. Clearly, God is saying here, no matter who you are, president or pariah; no matter what you do; no matter how bad things seem to be in your life right now, if we have faith like that woman, if we have faith like Jairus, if we are willing to stand out in a crowd, to stand up to a culture that is pressuring us to conform to its fallen ways – if we are willing to be identified as followers of Christ, nothing is impossible. He can overcome sickness. He can overcome death.
You might be a president. You might be a pariah. Or at some point in your life you may find yourself in either one of those situations. I might find myself in either one of those situations. More than likely, most of us are somewhere in between. But it doesn’t matter to him. With this kind of faith, nothing is impossible. Would you stand and pray with me, please?