6th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “For the living there is hope; for the dead there is none.” That’s a Greek saying from about the 3rd Century BC. Do you agree with it? Is it right? What do you think? Well, although it was spoken centuries ago, the sentiment behind that quote is still very much alive today, isn’t it? The sentiment that as long as the heart is beating, as long as there’s brain activity, as long as there’s a pulse, as long as breaths are being inhaled and exhaled, there’s still hope. Hope that things can get turned around, hope that there might be a cure, hope that things will get better. But then when the time that the breath is gone and the heart quits beating…then that hope fades away. Right? Unfortunately for many that’s their only vain hope. For people who have turned away from the Lord and His Word in the face of death and dying have only tears and despair and vain hope that death ends all and brings their “purposeless” life to a close. Can you even imagine what a sad and miserable experience of suffering at the threat of death for someone like that?!
Yet, whether we like it or not the whole matter of death and dying is a reality that each one of us as Christians also has to face. We all have family and friends and relatives who have passed away. Perhaps there’s a number of us here who have been in situations that could have led to our deaths. So, where is our faith, where is our trust, what is our confidence as we face situations of death and dying?
In our text today Jesus dealt with a loving father who was facing the death of his dear little daughter. This is still rather early in Jesus public ministry and not too long after Jesus calmed the storm like we heard last week. Well, Jesus crossed back over the lake in the opposite direction that he went when he calmed the storm. Perhaps he went to Capernaum, which was kind of his home base for his ministry. While he was there a crowd again gathered around him to hear him preach and teach. At this time there was someone special who came to see him. His name was Jairus. We’re told that Jairus was a “Synagogue Ruler.” Essentially that meant he was a layman who was a member of a board that looked after the administrative things with regard to the local synagogue- like the building and worship things. Kind of like a member of our church council today. Well, he came to Jesus with a purpose. His little daughter was very sick and was near death and he wanted Jesus’ help.
Now try to imagine for a little bit what it must have been like to be this father. We don’t know what this little girl was sick with, but whatever it was it was fatal. Can you imagine the devastation when the parents found out their little girl was sick? Can you feel your heart breaking as you watch her move closer to death? Can you feel the pain when the doctor after trying everything just shakes his head and says, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do.” But wait! There’s one last hope. There’s this man who many claim is a prophet who has done extraordinary things, healed other people, maybe…just maybe… you can convince him to come and help your little daughter.
Now we’re told in Luke’s account of this incident that this was Jairus’ only daughter, the apple of his eye. Can you imagine how difficult that would have been to leave your sick and dying little daughter and find Jesus? Or trying to explain to her that you have to leave her in order to help her all the while she doesn’t want you to leave her side? What if something happens while you’re gone? You’d miss it! But the only help left was Jesus. So he went to Jesus and pleaded with him to come. So Jesus starts on his way.
Now, you’ll notice that the verses of our text are split up. There’s a reason for that. There’s another event that happens right in between this account. Jesus healed a woman who had been suffering and thought that if she could only touch Jesus’ garment, she knew she would be healed and she did and Jesus talked with her. Now while this was going on can you imagine Jairus? “Never mind that now! My daughter is lying on her death bed!” I think if I was there at this point I’d be screaming and jumping up and down saying, “That lady has been suffering for years! She can wait her turn…it’s my daughter you need to attend to now!” But we aren’t told that Jairus said anything. His trust, his hope, his faith is in Jesus to help him in this time of need.
We aren’t told what Jairus was thinking, but what would you have been thinking when things take a turn for the worse? The earth shattering news comes. Your friends show up. Oh no! There’s no need to bother the Teacher, it’s too late, your daughter has… died. The Teacher cannot help anymore. What now! You missed it, you’re too late, you’re out gallivanting around after this miracle worker and now it’s too late. Your only daughter is dead. The whole situation went from bad to worse. Couldn’t Jesus have done something? Couldn’t Jesus have kept her from dying? Why the delay? Why the death?
Perhaps we wonder when we hear bad news: “Why this? Why now? This doesn’t make any sense. Why would God allow this to happen now? She’s so young. He’s got so much life ahead of him. I’m not ready to let her go. How am I going to deal with this? Just when we thought there was glimmer of hope, it’s all dashed.” Ever thought similar things? Each one of us struggles to leave all things in the Lord’s hands and trust that His ways are best no matter what. We often fail to put our trust in Him when things don’t go the way we planned it or hoped. We often fail to recognize that often times God puts trying circumstances in our lives in order to show our faith and trust in Him.
But notice what Jesus did here. He said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” And then Jesus kept going with him. He didn’t know what Jesus was going to do; he didn’t know how this was all going to work out; he didn’t know the outcome of this situation. All he had was Jesus’ promise and Jesus’ presence. The same is true for us. We often don’t know the outcome or how a situation will turn out. “Will the cancer treatment work? Or not? Will there be long-term complications? Will surgery be the answer? Do I have 6 months or 6 years? What health scare is next?” But it’s not just in matters of death and dying that we don’t know how everything will work out: “Will this move be good? Will this job transfer work out?” There are many things in life that we don’t know how they will work out, maybe things won’t turn out the way we’d hoped, maybe this sickness will lead us to the cemetery, but it is enough for us to hear our Savior say, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” And that He goes with us.
Why is that enough? Because of what Jesus shows us in our text. Jesus arrives at Jarius’ house and what does He see? He sees the reaction to death and dying apart from Him. He sees the unbeliever’s reaction to suffering and death and dying: People crying and wailing loudly. Apart from Christ there is no hope, no joy, no confidence in the face of death and dying. All the unbeliever has is fear and despair when confronted with death. What misery people bring on themselves!
But the answer is found in Christ. He brought a few of His disciples along with the little girl’s dad and mom and took her by the hand and said, “Talitha Koum!” Two words in Aramaic, “Talitha koum!” Two words to show the one answer in the face of death and dying. Two words to strengthen our faith and trust in Him. Two words to show the ultimate authority and power over that dreaded enemy death. Talitha koum! And immediately the girl stood up and walked around as alive as ever. Your Savior has the power over death. He proved it when he rose this child back to life. He proved it finally when he burst forth from that tomb Easter Sunday. That Jesus is your Savior. Is it not awesome and astounding that He chooses to go with you on your life’s journey? And He does!
Well this child’s parents were astounded, they were astonished, they couldn’t believe it. And notice one last detail. In all this commotion, with all that is going on, with the incredibleness of what just happened, a small detail was overlooked by all except Jesus. With all that has been going on, it’s Jesus who tells them to give her something to eat! He’s the one who thinks of that! Jesus has absolute concern down to the very smallest detail.
Has Jesus changed? Is He any different today? Is He any less concerned about you? Jesus is the Savior you need. Think about it: When you face disaster or suffering, it’s Jesus who is concerned about you to the smallest detail. Are you feeling alone or afraid, it’s Jesus who’s concerned about you to the smallest detail! Do you have a loved one who is facing death, are you facing death and dying, remember it’s your Savior who’s concerned about you to the smallest detail!
So, what do you think: “for the living there is hope but for the dead there is none”? That may be so with some, but not with you. Where’s your hope in life-threatening situations? Where’s your trust when you face the death of a loved one? Where’s your faith when you are lying on your own death bed? Trust in Christ. As with Jairus, He promises to go with you as one who has the ultimate power over death and in all things He remains concerned about you to the smallest detail. So, do not be afraid; just believe! Amen.