It was tempting just to skip over these two stories at the end of Luke 8. After all, we’ve already seen Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead. If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a hundred times. And perhaps that’s part of our problem – we’ve been there, done that. We don’t marvel at these incredible displays of compassion and power because we’ve come to expect it. We’re lulled into a sense of ho-hum-ness that jades our sense of awe and wonder. I read some observations about being asleep that struck a chord (and be sure to frame these in the context of spiritual slumber):
1) You never know you have been asleep until you wake up.
2) While you’re asleep, you dream of doing things you would never do if you were awake.
3) Those who are asleep have a disdain for alarms.
Maybe you’re not completely asleep, just a bit drowsy. And even if it irritates you, let me wake you up – let me call you to attention: Wake up and experience the power of Jesus that we find in these two amazing stories this morning!
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. (Luke 8:40-56)
“Jesus returned” --Luke begins with a reminder of the previous stories about Jesus calming the storm, and the healing of the Gerasene demoniac. With a word, Jesus calmed the storm and demonstrated his authority over the physical world. With a word Jesus demonstrated his authority over the spiritual world and took a man whose existence was a living hell, cast out a legion of demons and gave him his life back. Now, they have returned to the Galilee side of the lake where the people are once again waiting for him.
And once again, like the story of the Centurion in Luke 7, whose servant was dying, a man comes to Jesus with an urgent request – his daughter was dying. His name was Jairus, and he was the ruler of the synagogue – an important man – a man who, being in Jewish leadership, was probably feeling the pressure to close his doors to Jesus. But in his moment of desperation, he swallows his pride and comes to the one man he believes can help him.
Luke says he “fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading” with Jesus to come. Back at the house, the mourners have already gathered and are wailing. His time is short, his need is great. It’s now or never – please Jesus, don’t delay, let’s go.
Have you ever been that desperate? Have you fumbled with the phone trying to dial 911? Have you watched your baby turn blue and cried out to God not to let him die? This isn’t a when-you-get-around-to-it request, this is so urgent he is pleading with Jesus to come.
It’s his girl – his only child – she’s 12 years old and the apple of their eye – a daddy’s girl. She had been sick for a week, gradually getting worse. They had been praying, but this morning suddenly her fever skyrocketed, her breathing became shallow, and she slipped into a coma. They couldn’t wake her, they couldn’t cool her – they were losing her. And that’s when he knew – he had to go find Jesus. He had heard what Jesus had done for others, and he didn’t care what the Pharisees said, if Jesus could help his daughter he was going to go to him. If it meant they threw him out of his own synagogue, he didn’t care – if only Jesus could save his daughter.
And so here he is, stumbling as he pushed through the crowd, one hand gripped around Jesus’ sleeve and pulling him along with him. “Out of my way, coming through, my daughter is dying!”
What happens next would tear your heart out – if you hadn’t already heard the ending. “Only a couple of blocks to go – hold on baby, hold on, Jesus is coming!” Then suddenly as if someone had slammed on the brakes, Jesus stops. “Jesus, why are you stopping? We’ve got to get to my daughter!” Jesus says, “Who touched me?”
Put yourself in Jairus’ sandals for a moment – when Jesus stops in the middle of a crowd to ask “Who touched me?” I would be on the verge of panic and rage. Everybody looks around, nobody knows what he’s talking about. Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” (As if to say, “Everybody is touching you!”) But Jesus is adamant – “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
You see, we have two stories of desperation going on here. We usually tell one and then the other and everything turns out fine. But Luke intertwines them in a way that we have to see the desperation of both of them, and Jesus’ equal concern for both. So, let’s not hit the pause button and think that Jairus is patiently waiting as Jesus takes care of another situation. Jairus can’t believe his ears. His baby girl is dying and Jesus wants to know who touched him?!?! How would you feel at this moment? Have you been in the ER and can’t get a doctor’s attention? You wouldn’t be there if it weren’t serious, but you’ve been sitting there for over an hour and the receptionist won’t even give you the time of day – “take a seat, sir, and I’ll be with you in a minute.” Have you ever been that frustrated and scared? Multiply that times 10 and you have Jairus.
But let’s leave Jairus for a moment, out of his mind with panic. Luke tells us that in the middle of this crowd, through which Jairus and Jesus are pushing, is a woman. She, too, is a desperate woman. Hers is not an urgent desperation, but a last chance kind of desperation. Luke says she had been bleeding for 12 years – she was hemorrhaging – always bleeding just a little, never healing. She had been to every doctor she could find, spent every dime she had to get help, but no one could cure her. She was so severely anemic her body could never catch up producing enough blood to keep her from feeling on the verge of death. And because she had a flow of blood, she was considered “unclean.” She couldn’t go to the Temple, couldn’t worship in the synagogue. Others couldn’t touch her or they too would be contaminated and unclean. She became an outcast and a recluse. Her life too was a living hell. Twelve years she had endured this.
She, too, had heard about Jesus’ power, and she knew that this might be her last chance. And so she had come to find him, pushing her way through the crowd, hoping against hope. Her spirit is so crushed, her ego so fragile that she doesn’t even dare to ask for Jesus’ attention. All she dares to hope for is to touch the hem of his cloak. But so strong is her confidence that if she can merely brush his robe as he goes by, that will be enough.
Suddenly, the crowd has turned and he is coming toward her. She is getting jostled and pushed and people are shoving her out of the way. Jesus is almost past her, when she makes one last desperate lunge and with her outstretched fingers she touches his robe.
And what happens next is like a scene out of the Twilight Zone. You see, as she touches his robe two things happen:
She immediately feels the bleeding stop and her body heal. Don’t ask me how – that’s what Luke tells us. If Jesus could feel the power go out, we could safely assume that she felt the power come in. And suddenly, twelve years of misery has miraculously ended.
She had never intended for the second thing that happened. She had hoped just to touch him and disappear into the crowd. But just as suddenly as she is healed, Jesus stops. And when Jesus stops, the crowd stops. And Jesus’ eyes are piercing through the crowd and he’s asking “Who touched me?” She is trapped, she can’t get away. His eyes scan the crowd and come to rest on her and fearfully she admits, “It was me.” Luke writes, “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed” (vs. 47).
What Jesus says to her is a confirmation of what drove her to him in the first place. She was expecting to be rebuked or condemned or scolded for being so presumptuous. How dare she take what she had no right to. And she cowers – like the woman caught in adultery in John 8, she is exposed and vulnerable and fearing the worst. But instead, Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” She had heard of his kindness and compassion – she truly believed in his power – and everything she had heard was true. And she walks away a new woman.
How long did all this take? If you are Jairus, an eternity. Jairus has watched all this unfold, knowing that his daughter’s life was hanging in the balance and frantic with panic. “Jesus, please, hurry, we don’t have much time.”
Even as Jesus was still speaking, someone arrived from the house of Jairus. And with a look that said it all, he spoke – “Your daughter is dead, don’t bother the teacher any more.”
The words that every parent fears have been spoken – “Your daughter is dead.” And this loving father’s knees buckle and he bursts into tears. But Jesus catches him on the way down and whispers in his ear, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
The man who has just been pushed off the cliff of despair grabs the outstretched hand of hope and hangs on. Wordless, they push through the crowd to Jairus’ home where the mourners are wailing and the mother is weeping and the child lays lifeless. Jesus pauses and says, “Stop wailing, she is not dead but asleep.”
If you are wondering whether Jesus was speaking literally or figuratively, just wait a moment. I suspect that his intention is figurative. They have seen death before – this is it. Perhaps he intends the same effect as when he will speak with Martha and tell her that Lazarus will live again. Jesus sees death as a toothless thug who goes around terrorizing its victims. He has come to put it in its place. And so he takes its power away – “she is only asleep.”
They laugh – not a belly laugh at a good joke – but that nervous laugh when someone says something so inappropriate you are embarrassed for them. Jesus doesn’t get it – she’s dead – they all know it. How can he make light of things at a time like this?
Jesus takes the mother and father and Peter, James and John in the room with him and closes the door. (This is the first of many times that Jesus will take these three alone with him – the Mt. of Transfiguration, the Garden of Gethsemane – his closest friends and disciples.) The six of them gather around this little girl and Jesus says, “My child, get up!”
Now the reason I know she was really dead is that Luke says, “Her spirit returned.” She may not have been in the tomb four days like Lazarus, but her spirit had departed, and her life was gone. But Jesus once again demonstrates his power even over death and says, “My child get up!” and she does. To further convince them of her complete revival, he tells them to get her something to eat. And then we listen in as Jesus tells them what he has told others before, but which I assure you they completely disregarded. He ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. Right! As if they could keep from telling something like this! Perhaps Jesus attempts to forestall the inevitable. We have already seen how difficult the crowds have made it for him to move about freely, how they will soon be clamoring to make him king - this will only make it worse. And so Jesus tells them, “Don’t tell anyone” – knowing that they will tell everyone. And as soon as that little girl walks out the door, those mourners who had been wailing, then laughing, will soon be gasping, then cheering. And the word will spread, and he will be one step closer to his final confrontation.
We come back to the realization that there is nothing in the universe over which Jesus is not Lord.
He commands the winds and waves and they cease.
He commands the demons to leave and they flee.
He commands the fever to be gone and the sick are well.
He commands the dead to rise and a little girl gets up.
Only one thing is left out of his ability to command and control –your will. He can say “follow me” but you must choose to come. And every day you must reaffirm that Jesus is the Lord of your life – and every day you must give him back the control in your life.