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Don't Be Afraid! Just Believe!

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

July 4, 2021

Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him…

35 Some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Don’t Be Afraid - Just Believe!

Pastor Jon Zabell

Come, Holy Spirit, renew our hearts, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen.

Dear Fearless Believers in Jesus:

Where do you go when things are desperate? Who do you talk to? Do you get advice from your mom or dad? A trusted friend? It’s a blessing to know people who can help us in various situations, but nobody can offer better help for every situation than our Savior. We see that truth played out so clearly in today’s reading about a synagogue ruler named Jairus.

1. Seek Jesus in times of desperation (21-24, 35, 37-38, 40)

By the time of our reading, Jesus was well known in Galilee. He had cast demons out of a man into a herd of pigs that ran over a cliff and to their death. He had calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. And he had accepted an invitation to the home of Matthew the tax collector, something that just wasn’t done by Jews - mixing with tax collectors was like conspiring with traitors! These were the kinds of events that just don’t stay quiet. Before you knew it, large crowds of people were following Jesus around wherever he went.

That’s the same kind of large crowd that was around Jesus when he was approached by the synagogue ruler, a man named Jairus. A synagogue ruler was a little bit like a member of the church council today. The rulers managed the services and other affairs of the synagogue. He was a respected member and a leader in the congregation of believers there. Likely he knew Jesus, since Jesus regularly sat down to teach in the synagogue.

Did you notice how the synagogue ruler approached Jesus? A synagogue ruler was a leader, he must have had to handle all kinds of challenging situations and take responsibility for making them better. But here we see him lying at Jesus’ feet begging for help. Jairus’ situation was desperate. His little daughter was dying. There’s a kind of a special bond between a father and a daughter, and Luke tells us this was his only daughter. The thought of losing her was tearing him up. (23) “My little daughter is dying. Please come,” he said.

Jesus immediately went with him, but was detained by another woman in need of help. Then after the delay, word came back from Jairus’ house that must have devastated this desperate father. (35) “Your daughter is dead.” And then, this added statement of utter hopelessness: “Why bother the teacher?”

It got worse when they arrived at Jairus’ home. There was (38) a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. It is normal and natural to weep at a funeral, but

this was apparently the weeping of unbelief. It was a crying and wailing that saw only hopelessness and pain and nothing else. When Jesus offered words of hope, (40) they laughed at him.

Maybe this is why we’re told twice that Jesus left the crowds behind. First he didn’t let anyone follow him to Jairus’ house except three disciples. Then, when they got to the house and he was going in to see the girl, he didn’t let any of the mourners in. At best their lack of faith was a distraction. At worst they may have influenced Jairus to give up hope. So it was only Jesus, Peter, James, John, Jairus, and Jairus’ wife that went in with the little girl.

The crowds were all overcome by this desperate situation. Think back to your desperate times: times when the stakes were high and you had no firm handle on what the outcome was going to be. You were looking for a place to live, but nothing was available. Or you were unemployed. Or you were waiting for medical test results that meant the difference between life or death. Or like Jairus, someone you loved was dying, and you were helpless to do anything but watch. If you haven’t been in a desperate situation, chances are very good that you will be. It’s not wrong to feel desperate sometimes. Life is full of troubles, and we can’t tell the future. It’s not our fault when we recognize this is true. It becomes our fault, though, when we turn to the wrong places for help.

How many athletes through the years have turned to performance enhancing drugs? You might remember some of the more famous ones. In the 1988 Olympics the Canadian runner Ben Johnson, who held the world record for the 100-meter dash, won the gold. Then his medal was taken away, when it was discovered that he had used steroids to enhance his performance. He admitted later that he had been taking steroids regularly for seven years. In 2013, after years of denying it, the cyclist Lance Armstrong finally admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, which were the key to his many trophies. Many athletes have made the same choice through the years. No question they knew what they were doing was wrong. They did it anyway. Many have been caught and stripped of all their trophies.

The whole world has a problem with looking in the wrong places for help. Why would anyone think the answer to their problems could possibly be alcohol, or illegal drugs, or promiscuity or pornography? Why would anyone respond to pain by turning inward and shutting the world out? Why would anyone choose to sin when things work so much better when we do them God’s way? You know why. It’s because we were not born in the image of God. He is known for his holiness and perfection. No, we were born in the image of Adam. He is known for making the wrong choice.

In desperate times, we’ve all been guilty of making sinful choices. Can you think of any you’ve made? How foolish! The Lord is our only true help. We need his help, and not only for those once-in-a-while desperate situations we feel. Every day the situation is desperate. We need rescue from our sin. Whether we’ve been called out publicly or not, the Lord sees it all, and there is a price to pay for each sin. Each of us deserves to have our eternal reward stripped away.

See how desperate Jairus is in today’s reading, and take note of where he goes for help. We need Jesus, too, his Word, his Sacraments, his forgiveness, his help.

2. Your faith will not be put to shame (36, 39, 41-43)

Take note of this, too, as you watch Jairus: your faith in Jesus will never be put to shame.

Every other source of help will eventually give way. Haven’t you noticed how quickly so many things in this world crumble and fall apart? Today’s brand new car will one day be in a junkyard. Years pass and the body that once felt healthy and strong starts growing weak. Everything here changes. Nothing gives you solid assurance because nothing in this world lasts! Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

That makes him a good place to put your trust. You don’t have to be distracted by the sad sights and sounds of a sin-drenched world. You don’t have to be anxious about tomorrow, or next year, no matter how dim things look. Pray with the hymnist: “Change and decay in all around I see. Oh, thou who changest not, abide with me.” And listen to Jesus in today’s reading. He’s talking to you, too. (36) “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Those who trust Jesus are putting their trust in the all-powerful Son of God. Listen again to what Jesus said when he arrived at Jairus’ home, and met that crowd of grieving unbelievers. (39) “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” They thought Jesus was a fool. They laughed at him, because it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad, right? But Jesus knew exactly what he was saying. And he had the power to back it up. With Jesus there, death was no more than a sleep. Jesus was bearing witness to his power as the Son of God.

(41-42) “He took her by the hand and said ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’) Immediately the girl stood up and walked around.” Isn’t that just the way you might wake someone up from a nap? Depending on the person, maybe this was even easier. “Get up!” And the dead girl was alive and awake and walking around.

Was this a fluke occurrence? You know better. Jesus raised this daughter of Jairus shortly after she died. Later he would raise the widow’s son from Nain, who was probably dead for a day beforehand. Then would come the raising of Lazarus. Jesus raised him after he’d been dead four days. Then, the greatest miracle of all, Jesus raised himself. On the last day he will raise you.

You know that he can. You also know that he will. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). We’re born in the image of Adam, and we live up to that image with our wrong choices every day. We deserve death in this life and in eternity. In Jesus Christ God gives us a gift better than anything you’ve ever gotten from any loved one. Life. Forgiven of all sins, credited with the perfect righteousness of our Savior, LIFE. Life with God that never ends. We may still call it “death” when a loved one departs this life. It may seem like what has happened to them is permanent. In today’s text Jesus doesn’t call it death. He calls it “sleep.” Those loved ones who depart this life believing in Jesus Christ are not dead. They are asleep. And they will be awakened on the Last Day.

When the girl was raised from the dead (42) they were completely astonished. Those who had put their faith in Jesus were not ashamed. Their faith had not been in vain. And they had learned something about the next time Jesus gave them a promise. They’d better believe it!

(43) (Jesus) gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. Jesus was not ashamed or afraid to tell others about the miracle. But he was concerned about those who might hear about it. He knew that most would miss the point, and at this time in his ministry he didn’t want overzealous crowds getting in the way of his work.

He wouldn’t want you to miss the point of this miracle either. Don’t just look for what Jesus can do for you in the earthly here and now. Sure he has the power to do anything for you. But Jairus’ daughter would die again. See? This world will come to an end. Your life here is temporary. But the miracle of this girl being raised demonstrates that Jesus is who he says he is. He is the Son of God, who became flesh. He is the one who went to the cross and died for you. He rose again and ascended into heaven. He rules all things for your good today. The point is that when you fall asleep in him, a day is coming when he will wake you up as easily as he did that little girl. “I tell you, get up!” And you will!

When we look with these eyes and listen with these ears day after day in this world, there is plenty to be afraid of. You’d be foolish not to be. In fact, sin makes our situation desperate every day. Don’t let yourself be led down empty avenues for answers. Seek Jesus, as Jairus did. Hear him. Believe him. Your faith in Jesus will not be put to shame. Not now. Not ever. Don’t be afraid. Just believe. Amen.

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