How to Die, But Never Die
Intro – A new pilot was urging Uncle Bob to take a ride. But Uncle Bob was a farmer with feet planted firmly on terra firma! His excuse was, “I never rode nothin’ yet that sooner or later I didn’t have to get out and push!” His faith in planes stopped a few steps short of boarding. It was mixed with a lot of skepticism – like a lot of people with Christ. Skepticism stops their climbing aboard as followers of Jesus. They’ll go to church, but it gets real fuzzy when it comes to commitment to Christ. That’s who Luke targets here.
Jesus starts to Jairus’ house to see his dying 12-year old daughter. But, on the way He is interrupted the woman with the 12-year blood problem. Jesus heals her, elicits a confession of faith and moves on. Don’t miss that in both these instances Jesus ministers to individuals – individuals who reach out in faith.
Did you see The March of the Penguins, a documentary about the Emperor penguins? Thousands travel 60 miles inland to breed. The female places a single egg at the feet of the male who shelters it from the elements while the female goes back to the sea (now 70 plus miles away) to get food. As the biting winds of winter take their toll, the males huddle together to protect the hatching chicks. After 2 long months, the females arrive “home”, and amid the noise of thousands of males, each calling his mate, they find the right one. That’s exactly what Jesus does here, Beloved. He finds faith among chaos. God never misses the call of faith. I mentioned a quote last week by someone who said, “God loves each one of us as if there were only one to love.”
But saving faith is a rare commodity. We see that in Jairus’s story – more unbelievers than believers. But it also shows true faith. This account invites those outside Christ to become followers – and also challenges believers to continue to grow in our faith by perfecting these faith qualities in our lives.
I. Faith Enlarges God
Now, please understand. Nothing we can do can enlarge or diminish God one iota. We have no such influence. But He can definitely be bigger or smaller in our own lives depending on how we think about Him – on how well we know Him. Faith enlarges God in our minds. V. 49, “While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” Death has outrun Jairus. In the time Jesus spent with the woman, Jairus’ daughter has died. A messenger arrives: “Don’t bother Jesus anymore. She’s beyond hope. Let Him go where He can do some good. It’s over. She’s gone.” The assumption is obvious, isn’t it? Jesus can heal the sick, but there is no thought He could raise the dead. This messenger has Jesus in a box. Defined Him on his own terms. Limited Him to what he thought. Skepticism always does that.
How often have you heard, “I cannot accept a God who allows this unspeakable tragedy? If He can stop it and doesn’t, He is a monster. If He can’t stop it, He is not worthy of my worship.” It’s not an easy problem. But how do you think those skeptics would respond if told, “Fine, God will stop all evil, but you will have to be eliminated. You may not be Ted Bundy or a John Wayne Gacy, but you are a sinner inside and out, and the only way to stop evil is to banish it totally.” How do you think they would respond?
They’ve defined God in their terms, ignoring that an infinite, omniscient Being might have purposes beyond the obvious, giving no credence to an afterlife affording ultimate justice in a new existence. They have imposed limitation that exist only in their own minds, and then rejected Him, just like this man wrote Jesus off as inadequate because he couldn’t see an answer!
Saving faith doesn’t do that. It magnifies God rather than limiting Him. It acknowledges His awesome greatness. Faith sees God without limitations. Remember 14-year-old Mary when told she was about to bear the promised Messiah? Remember her reaction? “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Lu 1:34). Great question, and she got a whopper of an answer: “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (Tho a virgin, you are going to conceive. Here’s the sign.) 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age (not a virgin, but beyond child-bearing age) has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lu 1:35-37). You can’t limit God, Beloved. Mary believed in God’s greatness and said in Lu 1:38, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Do you have a big God this morning?
Heb 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” We need a big God to be saved, and we need a big God to live a Christian life. Here is a very sad example. Rabbi Harold Kushner lost a young son and it nearly undid him. You have to sympathize with his pain. But in his best-seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People he says, "Bad things do happen to good people in this world, but it is not God who wills it. God would like people to get what they deserve in life, but He cannot always arrange it. Even God has a hard time keeping chaos in check and limiting the damage evil can do." Poor God – He just can’t cope with it all. A few things slip between the cracks now and then. Too bad if it happens to you. Poor Jesus – He could have healed that girl, but she’s beyond help now! Skepticism has a small God. Faith magnifies God. Which describes us? Big God or big problems?!
II. Faith Expels Fear
Note Jesus’ reaction to the idea He can’t deal with death: V. 50, “But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” “Do not fear; only believe.” Fascinating juxtaposition of ideas. It implies something important. It implies that fear and faith are mutually exclusive! It implies that if you have fear, you don’t have faith. And if you have faith, you won’t have fear. So – fear is an indication of lack of faith! Now we’re never 100% either way on this. We’re a mix. But the principle is clear. The more faith we have the less fear; the more fear, the less faith.
13-year-old Ashlyn Blocker of Patterson Georgia is fearless. She’s likely to do anything -- stick her hand in boiling water to retrieve a utensil, as she did not long ago, badly burning her fingers. But it’s not bravery. Ashlyn suffers from Congenital Insensitivity to pain. She can’t feel pain. Sounds like a benefit. It’s not! Ashlyn could bite thru her tongue without knowing it. She suffered many serious burns, scrapes and broken bones as a youngster unable to feel pain. Even at age 13, she forgets, like dipping her hand in boiling water. We’d scream, “Ouch!” We don’t like pain, but pain says, “Something’s wrong!” It’s a warning flag.
We don’t like fear either. But just as pain warns of physical danger, fear warns of spiritual danger. It tells us faith is lacking. Fear is to faith what pain is to physical health. Someone asked Woody Allen what he hoped people would say about him in 100 years. He responded, “I’d like them to say, ‘He looks good for his age.’” We all fear death, don’t we? That fear is a gift of God to drive us to Christ, Beloved. We repress and ignore that gift. But -- It’s there for a reason! It flags a spiritual deficiency. For believers fear is a sign that we are letting skepticism and doubt rule our lives instead of Christ. That’s why Paul writes to believers in Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Fear’s a red flag saying, “You’re trusting yourself!” Faith expels fear.
III. Faith Envisions Eternity
V. 51: “And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.” Jesus finally arrives at Jairus’ home to find a funeral. Jews buried often the same day, so when death was close, family and mourners were put on notice. So the weeping, wailing and flute-playing are in full swing. The wailing is even more emphatic because it’s a child. Jesus clears them out: “Stop the wailing. She’s not dead; she’s sleeping.” The reaction is mocking laughter. “Sleeping? What, are you crazy? We’re professional mourners. We know death, and we’re here to tell you, this girl is dead!” And they laughed their way out of the room. Skeptics who had undeniable evidence?
Well, it is a funny thing to say, “She’s sleeping”? She’s dead! How could He say such a thing? Here’s how, Beloved. He’s looking beyond time and into eternity. He’s not limited by what He could taste, touch, see, hear and smell. Had He been, He would have joined the mourners. But He saw beyond the physical world and into spiritual realities, visible only to the eyes of faith. And what He saw was this. While this little girl’s spirit was absent from the body, it was present with the Lord (II Cor 5:8) – more alive than ever. You gotta look beyond time to see that. He saw John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Jesus made an amazing promise to this father in v. 50, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” The NIV translates, “She will be healed.” But the Greek text says, “She shall be saved” (σωζω) – same word as Eph 2:8, “For by grace are you saved through faith.” It speaks of both spiritual and physical deliverance. Jesus saw her spirit with God that made re-animation possible.
IV. Faith Eclipses Death
Humans can fix a lot of things, but death isn’t one of them! When death hits, that’s it! It’s over. That’s all there is. But not to Jesus. He takes 3 close associates (meeting the Jewish legalities of 2 or 3 witnesses), and recorded this for us not once but three times in the gospels. Look at v. 53, “And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat.” Absolute power over death. No theatrics. No dramatics! In fact, Jesus has thrown the naysayers out of the room. No scintillating display. He just takes her by the hand as though she really is asleep, and says, “Child, little girl, arise,” and her spirit leaves heaven to reanimate her body on earth. As further compassionate proof, Jesus says, “Give her some food.” What a display of divine power!
Note Jesus takes her hand. Jesus touches death. Luke has a point to make. When Jesus touched the woman with the discharge, He should have become unclean; instead, she becomes healed. He is stronger than disease. This takes the same issue a huge step further. Num 19:11 says, “Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days.” Jesus should have been defiled by this touch; instead, she comes to life. Jesus is never overcome by disease or even death. He overcomes ALL! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
When Jesus met Martha after her brother, Lazarus died, Jesus told her in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” How do you die and yet never die? Just like the thief on the cross who trusted Christ at the last possible moment and was told he would be with Jesus in Paradise (heaven) on that very day. That’s how you die without ever dying. The skeptical, faithless thief got no such promise. How about you? Is your faith such that you may die, and yet never die? Does it extend into eternity?
Years ago a Bishop Brown, came to speak in Virginia’s historic St. Luke’s Church in Isle of Wight County. He remarked, “I know it has been said by some that Bishop Brown wants to be buried in St. Luke’s graveyard. That’s nonsense. I’m here to tell you that Bishop Brown doesn’t want to buried anywhere.” Bishop Brown wanted what we all want – to go on living! And in Christ, we can! Saving faith eclipses death – cancels it out by the power of Christ. Those in Christ die, yet never die. That’s a paradox I’m up for! How about you?! There is an epitaph on the grave of Patience Holmes in Plymouth, Mass. It reads: “Shed not for her the bitter tear Nor give the heart to vain regret. Tis but the casket that lies here / The gem that filled it sparkles yet.” The gem still sparkles. I love that. Patience Holmes at age 24 died, yet never died. I want to be like her, don’t you? And we can, by saving faith in Christ.
V. Faith Embraces the Cross
Now a fascinating conclusion. V. 56, “And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.” Don’t tell. Why? Seems Jesus is forever saying, “Don’t tell!” In Matt 8:4 to a former leper, “See that you say nothing to anyone.” In Mat 9:30 to two blind men, “See that no one knows about it.” In Matt 12:16 to a crowd He healed He “ordered them not to make him known.” In Mark 7:36 to a deaf man and his friends, “And Jesus charged them to tell no one.” Why the constant gag order?
Many suggest He didn’t want to encourage political zealots. Perhaps. He refused their kingship offer in John 6. But it goes deeper than that. We get a clue in Matt 17:9 when He tells His disciples at the Mount of Transfiguration: “Tell no one the vision -- until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” It’s the cross and the resurrection that are missing. The message is not complete until you have the cross. That’s what makes it all possible. It wasn’t about physical healing – never was. It was about spiritual healing. That could only come after He paid the penalty for the sin – on the cross. In Mark 8:30 after Peter’s great confession that Jesus is God, Jesus, “strictly charged them to tell no one about him. (Why?) 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” There is no deliverance for anyone without His death and resurrection. Saving faith embraces the cross where payment was made for all the guilt that belonged to me; the place where He was made sin for me so I could be the righteousness of God in Him. The cross is central to it all.
Charles Spurgeon notes that boys, if they come upon a dead bear or lion or wolf, or rattle snake like we used to see, will trample on them, make fun of them and glory in their death – insulting them as they never would when they were alive. He then says, “Such a thing is Death, a furious beast, a romping lion, a devouring wolf, the hellus genris humani (eater up of mankind). Yet Christ has laid him at his length, hath been the death of death, so that God’s children have played upon him, scorned and derided him, by the faith they had in the life of Christ, who hath subdued him” And he’s right, you know. Heb 2:14 assures us “that through death he (Jesus) might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” By His death, Jesus killed death, completing the message -- and so saving faith embraces the cross, expels fear and accepts the living Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Conc – Saving faith is wonderful. It sees this earth for the shadow lands that they are and it sees the eternity that awaits every true believer. Saving faith enlarges God, expels fear, envisions eternity, eclipses death and embraces the cross. Is that your faith? D. L. Moody once said, “Soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead. Don’t believe it for a moment. I will be more alive than ever before.” That’s how you die, yet never die, like Jairus’ daughter. That faith was steadfast for Moody right to the end. His last words were, “Earth recedes – heaven opens before me!” That’s exactly what I hope my last words will be. How about you? Grab saving faith while you can and then live in it all your life. Let’s pray.