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Luke 8.40-56

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Today’s passage rounds out a loose trilogy of stories displaying Jesus’s power and authority. Two weeks ago we saw his authority over nature. Last week we saw his authority over the spiritual realm. And this week we’re going to see his authority and power over human sickness and death (which can hardly be a surprise after what we’ve seen the last two weeks). What’s particular about what we see here is that everything that happens in this text takes places over the larger backdrop of God’s providence.
A girl came to me last week after the service. It was her first time here. She told me a story, and said that she had attended a church somewhere else in the city for a while, and that church moved. Since the move, she had tried on multiple occasions to find the building in order to worship with them, and on every occasion, she never managed to find the building. She told this to a friend, who said, “Well if you can’t find your church, you can come to Connexion with me.”
She finished the story and then paused, clearly waiting for a response on my part. I said, “Well I’m glad you made it to a church, even if it’s not yours.”
“But,” she said, “what do you think it means? Isn’t it strange that every time I try to find their new building I’m never able to find it?”
If memory serves, I said something rather flippant, like, “Sounds to me like it means you need a better GPS.”
And she was taken aback—she said, “But I didn’t think there was any such thing as coincidences.”
That stumped me for a minute, because she’s right—I don’t believe in coincidences. That doesn’t mean—and this I explained to her—that we should take every event in our lives as a sign that God’s trying to tell us something, but rather that through every event in our lives, he’s trying to do something in us. These things may be immediately evident, or they may be totally imperceptible: God may be the only one who ever knows he’s done it. But he’s always doing something.
This reality is particularly important to remember—and particularly hard to swallow—when we’re going through a difficult period in our lives. When we can’t find a job, or when someone does something which hurts us, or when we’re sick, or (as we’ll see in today’s passage) when our children are sick. But it’s also in those difficult periods where we realize the truth of this reality the most fully.
Today’s passage rounds out a loose trilogy of stories displaying Jesus’s power and authority. Two weeks ago we saw his authority over nature. Last week we saw his authority over the spiritual realm. And this week we’re going to see his authority and power over human sickness and death. But everything we’ll see takes places over the backdrop of God’s providence.

Desperation (and Faith?)

40 Now when Jesus returned [that is, back to the other side of the lake], the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue.
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40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
At least, that is, until we see why he has come (v. 41b):
So this Jairus was not a man who ordinarily would have had anything to do with Jesus. He was a “ruler of the synagogue.” He was one of those who would regulate how the Jews would worship when they gathered; in Jewish society at the time he would have been a man of some importance. In addition, he probably knew what happened when Jesus visited the synagogue in Nazareth (which we saw in chapter 4, and which didn’t go so well, at least in terms of how the Jewish leaders felt about him). So it’s not logical that this man would come to Jesus.
And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
So this guy may not be too fond of Jesus, but at the same time he’s desperate—and we see that he’s desperate because he’s willing to do what the other Jewish leaders would have scoffed at: he’s willing to go to this Jesus and have him come to his house, so he can heal his daughter.
Note well that Luke never says that Jairus likes Jesus or approves of him. All he knows is what everyone else knows: that this Jesus, by means fair or foul, is able to perform miracles. He may not believe Jesus is who he says he is, but at least he believes that much. So like any father, he’s willing to do anything to see his daughter made well.
So Jesus leaves—we’re meant to assume, right away. And thank goodness: Jairus’s daughter is close to death, so he must be in an incredible hurry.
But isn’t it always the case that when we’re in the biggest hurry is exactly when we get held up the most? You’ve got the most important meeting of your career…and there’s a traffic jam on the A4. Your wife’s in labor…and on your way to the hospital you’re caught in a snow storm. (That happened to a couple I know; the dad had to pull over because of the snow and deliver the baby, in the car, with the help of their two small daughters in the backseat.) You’re on your way to a job interview…and someone on the street knocks into you and spills their Starbucks all over your suit.
That’s exactly what happens here. Jairus is hurrying back to his house with Jesus in tow, and (v. 41b):
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him.
They know who he is too, and they want to see the great miracle worker.
You know what it’s like, trying to make your way through a crowd when everyone is going in the opposite direction. Even if you’re not claustrophobic, one thing’s for sure: you’re not moving quickly.
And at that point, it gets even worse—they get interrupted.
And I want to draw your attention to something really quickly, to make sure you can see what Luke is doing. Often the biblical authors will tell their story thematically—that is, when the gospel writers tell the different stories in the gospel narrative, although they are true stories, they will often organize the different stories not by chronology, but by theme. (That’s why you’ll see the different gospel writers sometimes telling the exact same stories, but telling them in a slightly different order.) They do this because they’re not just trying to tell a story, but to get a message across. They never make up new facts or omit facts which are necessary, but they do occasionally move events around slightly in order for the chronology to fit the message they’re trying to communicate, or to make them easier to understand.
Now, Luke doesn’t do that here. And the fact that he doesn’t do that is really important, because the story of Jairus and his daughter would be a lot clearer if this middle part wasn’t here. This aside is exactly that—it’s something that actually happened as they were making their way to Jairus’s house. And rather than placing the story of the woman with the hemorrhages before or after the story of Jairus’s daughter, he tells it as it happened, even if that makes it a little harder to follow.
And the reason for this is simple: the interruption is important.
V. 43:
(v. 43).
43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.
This “discharge of blood” was more than likely a chronic hemorrhaging, and Luke says it has gone on for twelve years. Even a short hemorrhage weakens the body; it makes you anemic and exhausted. In addition, it would have made her unable to have children. And as if that weren’t enough, according to the Law of Moses (we see in ) this hemorrhage would have made her ceremonially unclean—anyone who touched her would have had to go to the temple and be ritually cleansed. This meant that people kept their distance from her; she would have been a social outcast, living in isolation all this time. So this woman is weak, sterile and a total outcast from society.
This discharge it would have made her ceremonially unclean—anyone who touched her would have had to go to the temple and be ritually cleansed. This meant that people kept their distance from her; she would have been a social outcast, living in isolation all this time.
Luke says she’s tried everything; she’s spent all of her savings on doctors and remedies, been through all the hope and disappointment of trying something new and finding it ineffective. And nothing has worked.
I don’t know if you’ve ever known someone with a chronic illness, or dealt with one yourself. I know this is a ridiculous comparison, but I’ve had chronic tinitis in both ears for about ten years now: there is a constant, high-pitched squeal in my ears, twenty-four hours a day. It makes it hard for me to hear certain types of voices; if I’m in the middle of a noisy crowd, the ringing will increase in volume. I can never just enjoy a quiet moment, because no moment is ever quiet. My friend the squealer is always there, singing his discordant song.
I’m more or less used to it now; it’s little more than an inconvenience. (It’s frankly more irritating for my wife, who often has to repeat herself three or four times before I can make out what she’s saying.) But sometimes I think I’ll go nuts if I have to hear this ringing in my ears one more minute. I can never just enjoy a quiet moment, because no moment is ever quiet. My friend the squealer is always there, singing his discordant song.
Let’s be clear: my problem is very far from the kind of chronic pain this woman was dealing with. And it still drives me nuts. So I can’t even imagine what someone dealing with serious chronic pain must go through.
After a certain point, when you have to deal with something this painful for this long, it makes you seriously desperate.
So although she shouldn’t be there—even though the religious leaders would be furious if they knew she was in this crowd, rubbing shoulders with people all over the place and making all of them ritually unclean—she came because she, like Jairus, was desperate.
But she’s ashamed as well; she doesn’t want anyone to know what she’s doing. But she thinks there may be another way. In his account of this event, Mark tells us that the woman was thinking to herself, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well” (). So (v. 44):
44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”
Many people wonder if Jesus really didn’t know how this miracle had happened, as if it was accidental on Jesus’s part. Of course he knew. a) He’s God; and b) we see in v. 47 that the woman saw that she was not hidden. So somewhere between v. 46 and v. 47, Jesus must have done something—made eye contact, or some other form of address—to show the woman that he knew perfectly well what had just happened.
V. 47:
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
So in v. 48 we have the missing piece. She wasn’t just coming to Jesus because she didn’t know what else to do. She wasn’t trying him out as she had tried out all these other remedies. No matter how immature her faith may have been, she had faith that this would work, that he would be able to heal her. And that faith was proven to be well-founded; faith in God always is.
Now, let’s come back to Jairus—imagine being Jairus while all this is happening. He’s rushing home to get Jesus to his sick daughter’s bedside, knowing the clock is ticking. He’s not late for a meeting here—his little girl is breathing her last, and he knows it.
So imagine what he must have been thinking when they reach the city and the crowd gathers around Jesus, grinding their progress to a halt. He must have been going out of his mind. And to make matters worse, in the middle of all that, Jesus stops to ask what must have sounded like a pretty stupid question—“Who touched me?” (Even Peter is like, “Uh, there are people everywhere.”)
And then to make matters all the worse, while Jesus is speaking Jairus sees in the crowd someone he recognizes—someone from his own home. And he would surely have seen on that person’s face what the news would be.
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.”
We can only speculate what Jairus must have been thinking and feeling. His desperation has proven itself; what he feared has come to pass. That desperation was probably replaced by a grief and loss most of us can only imagine. Mixed in with all that—I would imagine—would be a healthy amount of anger: at the crowds, who had halted their progress, and at Jesus, who had taken his time to help this woman who honestly could have waited.
So in the context of what this poor father must have been going through, Jesus’s words in v. 50 must have been utterly shocking.
V. 50:
50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 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. 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. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.”
I don’t know what kind of faith Jairus had left at that point, but whatever faith he had, Jesus is testing it. Healing is one thing; resurrection from the dead is quite another. And yet, for some reason—perhaps propelled by the force of Jesus’s calm assurance, or perhaps because he had nothing left to lose—Jairus agrees, and they continue their route together.
V. 51:
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. 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.
I love that something so extraordinary would be accompanied by something as banal as food. But that was the final proof, for everyone in that room, at that time, would have immediately thought upon seeing the child that she was a ghost. There’s no possible way that she was actually alive again.
Of course they laughed—what else could they do? Bitter laughter is the only response people can muster when confronted with something so ridiculous.
But they’d have quickly seen that they were wrong, because ghosts can’t eat.
Doubtless the
This girl’s eating was the final proof they needed that it really was her, and that she really was alive. (We’ll see the exact same thing in , when as the disciples are still not believing the crucified Jesus has actually been raised from the dead, he asks for something to eat, and eats fish in front of them.)
And I love how Luke ends this tale (v. 56):
56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
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. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
He’s back in a Jewish region now, where expectations of the Messiah’s return would make his ministry more difficult. So the parents are “amazed,” and Jesus tells them to keep that amazement for themselves, as if to say, “It’s okay if all of this is just for you.”

The Dance of Providence

But of course it’s not just for them; it’s for us as well. This story positively shouts the providence of God. From beginning to end, Luke teases out the complex array of seeming coincidences that led all these different people to this spot.
One example: Luke takes the time to tell us that the little girl is twelve years old, and that the woman has been suffering from a discharge of blood for twelve years—an odd detail to relate if it’s mere coincidence. He’s not implying any causality (as if there were any link between the girl’s age and the woman’s illness), but rather showing us that with God there are no such things as coincidences; when Jesus stops to heal the sick woman, he’s doing something for the panicked father too.
Think about Jairus for a moment. This desperate father, who only wants to see his little girl safe and healthy, like we all do. God certainly seems to put him through the ringer here, doesn’t he? First of all, the pain of a mortally ill child—I’ve never experienced this, and I hope I never do; but I know some people who have, and it’s unimaginable.
Then there’s the frustration and panic of getting held up on the way. Your daughter is minutes away from death, and the healer stops to deal with someone else!
Then, more than likely, Jesus elevates your faith by actually healing this woman, giving you proof that this man is indeed able to heal!
But then, before anything can come of it, you recognize someone approaching, and you are told it’s too late. What you were fearing has actually happened. Your daughter is dead.
Why? Why would God do this to a man?
The answer is very simple: what is more incredible? to see a girl healed from an illness, or to see her raised from the dead?
God did all this to make much of Christ—that Jesus might be seen as even mightier, even more glorious, than we had initially thought. Up to now Jesus has proven his authority over nature; over demons; now he proves his authority over death itself.
And what about the woman?
This woman finally gets up the courage (or the desperation) to come out and see Jesus when he comes. She’s got no other options left open to her. So she comes, despite the fact that this discharge would have been her shame in that culture. She touches his garment, and immediately knows that she is healed.
28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
Now what do you think is her plan at this point? It works! Now get out of there and go home before anyone notices you’re here! According to the law, she would have had to present herself to the leaders in the temple, be examined, be publicly recognized as healed, and only then would she be able to begin her normal life again.
But again, that’s not what happens. Jesus stops everything and says, “Who touched me?” And the game was up. She was, as Luke says, not hidden. Her simply touching his garment didn’t work. And suddenly everyone in the crowd would have known who she was. They would have seen the blood on her clothes, or they would have recognized her.
Again, why would Jesus do this? Why would he put the poor woman through the ordeal of being seen by all those people, in all of her shame? Why couldn’t he just let her go her way, content with her miracle?
Here’s why I think he did it: because she had faith, and he wanted her to know that her faith was legitimate.
And here’s why I think that. Firstly, when she discovers she has been found out (v. 33), she came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. Shame be damned—she told him who she was, what she suffered from, in front of everyone. She openly and humbly confesses that she needed help. Whether she realized it or not, that is the proper response of faith.
Secondly, we see that he wants her to know that her faith was legitimate in the way that he responds to her—which he wouldn’t have done if he hadn’t stopped to ask who touched him. He says (v. 34), “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
This woman is the only woman, in the whole Bible, whom Jesus addresses as “daughter.” This woman was desperate to be healed of a physical ailment. In all likelihood, she wasn’t looking for a Savior.
She came to get a miracle, and she left with a Father.
> “Your shame is gone. Your faith is real. Go in peace.”
And yet, in addressing her this way—which he only could do once she got her shame out in the open—he is saying to her, “Your shame is gone. Your faith is real, and I know it.”
You see, all of this is intentional. This whole story is like a dance. One commentator simply laid out the facts by showing that in the course of this story, there is progression, and there are parallels. We have:
a desperate father,
a dying girl,
a desperate woman,
a desperate father, a dying girl, a desperate woman, a delayed Jesus, a believing woman, a dead girl, a living girl, a believing man.
a delayed Jesus,
a believing woman,
a dead girl,
a living girl,
a believing man.
Every painful event at the beginning is set up to bring about greater things at the end. Things that bring these people more joy in Christ’s glory than they ever would have, had these painful events never occurred. If Jairus’s daughter or this woman had never been sick, if Jesus had never been delayed, perhaps they’d have been happy; but they’d have missed out on the infinitely greater joy of seeing Christ in his glory.
It’s excruciating for these individuals while they’re in it. But I’d venture a guess that once they’re out, they wouldn’t change it for the world. Who wouldn’t be willing to walk through this kind of pain to see something this glorious?
It’s excruciating for these individuals while they’re in it. But I’d venture a guess that once they’re out, they wouldn’t change it for the world. Who wouldn’t be willing to walk through this kind of pain to see something this glorious?
He tells us that the girl is twelve years old, and that the woman has been suffering from a discharge of blood for twelve years. He’s not implying any causality, but rather showing us that with God there are no such things as coincidences; these two stories are connected; when Jesus stops to heal the woman, he’s doing something for Jairus too.

Application

Now, what are we supposed to do with all of this? What are we meant to know, and how are we meant to respond?
Firstly—this text calls us to obedience in uncertainty.
That idea didn’t come from Jesus; it came from cultural superstition. Many people at the time believed that sometimes the clothes or possessions (or even the shadow) of someone godly could heal. (I know it happened with Paul too, but that was after, and it was in a very particular context.) Up to this point, there was no evidence that this would actually work—it was pure local superstition. (This still happens today—think of charlatans: they say, “Buy these vials of ‘holy water’ or ‘anointed cloths,’ and you’ll be healed!…for only $199.99.”)
And yet—although it is founded on a mistaken idea, Jesus goes with it. He heals her. But he doesn’t leave her there; he doesn’t let her go. He instructs her weak, mistaken faith, bringing her out in the open and driving her to confession; and although her faith was weak and mistaken to begin with, he honors its reality.
Brothers and sisters, some people who have profoundly mistaken notions of doctrine and theology can nevertheless have very real faith in Christ. Even if that’s all they got right, at least they got that part right. So our job is to come alongside them and help them grow in that faith—we honor the fact that true faith seems to be there, and we help orient it in the right direction, based on what the Bible actually says. But we do not reject someone’s faith as invalid simply because a person has mistaken assumptions about doctrine.
And for anyone here who doesn’t know a lot of theology, who doesn’t know a lot of doctrine, it’s very possible that many things you think about God are wrong. But if you know Jesus, and you love Jesus, and you trust in Jesus, you’re still our brother. You’re still our sister. So be encouraged, and learn what God says about himself in the Word; grow in your knowledge of the truth. It’s never too late to begin.
, sometimes God drives us to humble obedience before answering a prayer. Jesus didn’t come to this woman; she came to him. She pursued him. She reached out and touched him. She did what he had invited others to do—to come to him—despite the fact that doing so required legitimate risk and sacrifice on her part.
And after that, something else has to happen before he verbally validates her faith and calls her “daughter.” Jesus makes this woman come forward and state her need publicly, despite her shame—he makes her publicly confess the worst thing about her. Now, keep in mind that she had no idea what would happen if she actually came out in the open and said this. Would she be thrown out by the crowd? Would Jesus take back the miracle? And what would happen to her after Jesus left? She didn’t know. But she answered his call to say who touched him, despite that uncertainty.
Think of all of the conditions we put on our own obedience to God.
Often we wait for an answer before committing to obedience, and because God is gracious, he often works that way. But many times, he drives us to a point of desperation in which we are willing to do what he says in spite of the fact that we have no idea how it will turn out.
The woman comes to Jesus to be healed; she’s not looking for a Savior, she’s not looking for an actually encounter with Christ—she just wants to be well. And her faith in his ability proves itself: she is healed.
IT ISN’T ENOUGH TO KNOW CHRIST—WE ARE TO BE KNOWN BY HIM. Which means holding nothing back.
SOMETIMES GOD REQUIRES HUMBLE OBEDIENCE BEFORE ANSWERING A PRAYER. HE WANTS HER TO COME FORWARD, TO SAY IT PUBLICLY, DESPITE HER SHAME. Often we wait for an answer before committing to obedience, and because God is gracious, he often works that way. But many times, he drives us to a point of desperation in which we are willing to do what he says in spite of the fact that we have no idea how it wll turn out.
SOMETIMES GOD REQUIRES HUMBLE OBEDIENCE BEFORE ANSWERING A PRAYER. HE WANTS HER TO COME FORWARD, TO SAY IT PUBLICLY, DESPITE HER SHAME. Often we wait for an answer before committing to obedience, and because God is gracious, he often works that way. But many times, he drives us to a point of desperation in which we are willing to do what he says in spite of the fact that we have no idea how it wll turn out.
The woman comes to Jesus to be healed; she’s not looking for a Savior, she’s not looking for an actually encounter with Christ—she just wants to be well. And her faith in his ability proves itself: she is healed.
But Jesus isn’t done with her. He asks, “Who touched me?” and she knows that question is for her. And here’s the thing—she doesn’t know how this will turn out. If she comes forward, she could possibly face anger on the part of the crowd if she answers his question, because she’s been there wading through the crowd and making everyone she touched ceremonially unclean. She could even face having the miracle taken back—maybe Jesus is asking who touched him because he’s angry that someone tried to get a miracle in an improper way.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.
This woman had the conviction that if she touched Jesus she would be healed…but we see no such conviction here. When Jesus asks who touched him, she understands that he’s calling her to step forward and answer him. But if she does, she could possibly face anger on the part of the crowd if she answers his question, because she’s been there wading through the crowd and making everyone she touched ceremonially unclean. She could even face having the miracle taken back—maybe Jesus is asking who touched him because he’s angry that someone tried to get a miracle in an improper way.
She couldn’t know what the result would be. But she did it anyway. She fell trembling at his feet and obediently confessed everything to him, in front of all these people who now would have seen her as she was.
if she lets everyone there know who she was. But she In front of all those people she had touched and made ritually unclean, not knowing how they would react to her being there, not knowing how he would react to her pursuing the miracle in secret.
And it is only at this point that she receives the perfect validation of not only her faith to be healed, but also of her obedience to confess it was she who had touched him: Jesus calls her “daughter,” and tells her to go in peace.
Brothers and sisters, so many people call themselves Christians, say they love God, and yet resist obedience because they’re not convinced that it will all turn out well if they obey. Because sometimes it doesn’t, right? Sometimes for doing the right thing, people lose their jobs. Sometimes they lose relationships. Sometimes they lose their pride. We can never be certain that obedience to God’s commands will make life better for us.
The so-called “prosperity gospel” says that if you only have faith in Jesus he will give you what you desire (a good promotion, a better apartment, a spouse or children). There is a reason this false teaching is so prevalent: each and every one of us has been twisted by our sin to desire blessing without sacrifice. And no matter how ardently we’d fight to expose the prosperity gospel as a lie, we all naturally go in that direction.
But one thing we can be sure of: obedience to God’s commands makes the uncertainty less uncertain. John says ():
I’ll give you an example. Every Christian wants to grow in their faith; and the Bible tells us how that happens—we pursue our knowledge of God in his Word, and obedience to that Word, in the context of the community of believers. The Bible is abundantly clear that we cannot do this alone.
...but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
(If you want proof, ask yourself when you pray the most often and the most passionately: when things are going well, or when you’re going through a difficult period of your life.)
And yet, how many of you here are trying to do exactly that? You think, If I read my Bible and pray and try to obey the commandments, it will work. You have no brothers or sisters with whom you walk in faithfulness, to whom you can confess your sins and your victories; who can call you to faithfulness when you are falling into sin. And it’s not because there’s no one around. It’s because we want blessing without sacrifice. We want to grow in our faith without investing in the lives of our brothers and sisters the Bible the way calls us to, when that is one of the primary means God gives us to grow in our faith.
There are a lot of things that we can’t be sure of; but when we see the work of God in us to bring us to obedience, we can be sure that we are his. We can be sure that he calls us sons, and he calls us daughters.
We resist it, because we know that walking in community is messy. People will disappoint you. It will sometimes be painful. We have zero certainty that if we do this, we will grow as we want, as quickly as we want. The only certainty we have is that there will be no real growth without sacrificing ourselves for the body of Christ the way he calls us to.
This is one example among millions.
confirms the faith that we have, and
We come to Jesus like we’d come to a vending machine: we have something we want, and we believe we can get it from him, and in his grace he does often answer those prayers. But at some point or another, he will call us to obedience without giving us any certainty that things will turn out okay if we obey.
And by telling us this woman’s story through Luke, God is calling us to obey even when we are uncertain. To obey no matter what we fear it may cost. To be faithful—not because we’ll get anything out of it, but because he is our God, he is our Lord, and he deserves that obedience.
Secondly, this text gives us confidence in God’s providence. Most people spend the bulk of their lives trying to avoid suffering. It’s a natural instinct, and it would be weird if we didn’t do it. But that instinct makes it so that when suffering comes, we are undone: not everyone is undone as quickly as everyone else, but everyone reaches a point when desperation sets in—when the suffering just has to stop.
There is a paradox in the Bible when it comes to suffering. On the one hand, the Bible calls us to pray when we are suffering (); we are invited to come to God and ask him to remove our suffering when we’re in it. And often we find that God honors those prayers.
On the other hand, Paul tells us in that God works all things according to the counsel of his will. That is, everything that happens, happens according to God’s will. I had a discussion with a girl last week who kept getting lost on her way to church, and she was asking what that might mean. I said I didn’t think it meant anything in particular, sometimes these things just happen. And she said, “But I thought you didn’t believe in accidents.”
She’s right—I don’t think that means that we should take everything as a sign from God, but if God works all things according to the counsel of his will, then all things happen according to the counsel of his will.
Including our suffering.
That can be hard for us to understand—why would a good God will that we suffer? (Think in particular of this story, where there’s a sick child involved.) That’s a very hard pill to swallow. And often we never find out why. The Bible doesn’t give a one-size-fits-all answer to that question.
But this text is here to remind us that God knows what he is doing. In our text we see two people who were brought together at a crossroads. The woman's suffering would not have been as profound had she not met Jesus there and then, in the middle of a crowd, knowing she needed to expose her shame to everyone before she could leave. Jairus’s suffering would not have been as profound if Jesus had managed to get through the city without stopping for the crowd. And neither of them would have suffered as much if disease had never entered the picture at all.
But then again, they would never have seen Christ’s glory on display in such an amazing way if they had avoided it.
So that’s the paradox—we are invited to pray for God to relieve our suffering on the one hand, and yet we are made aware that God is sovereign over all things, including that suffering we’re praying he takes away.
How do we navigate that kind of paradox?
We trust that because God is sovereign and powerful over our suffering, he is able to take it away. And at the same time, because we know God is good, and infinitely wise, and all-knowing, we trust that he is at work in our suffering, even if he doesn’t take it away. We don’t know what he’s doing, and he may not even be doing it for us. But he knows. And that’s enough.
Peter said it this way ():
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
We suffer according to God’s will. We do. But we know our Creator is faithful. We know that he is good. So we entrust ourselves to him, knowing that he is able to remove our suffering when he chooses, and that he is faithful to us until that day. And we keep going. We do good. We obey his commands—whether or not we see the light at the end of the tunnel, whether or not we know how it will all turn out. We trust him, and we obey.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
And we find—as any faithful Christian who has been a Christian for years will tell you—that as we entrust our souls to our Creator, that Peter was right: through all of that, God is always faithful. Jesus is with Jairus the whole time—and what does he say to him before he makes good on his promise? “Do not fear; only believe.”
Lastly, this text drives us to wonder at our Savior. The central fact of this story should not escape us. Jesus commands the winds and the waves, and they obey him. Jesus commands the demons to flee, and they have to obey. The mere proximity of Jesus’s power causes a woman’s body to stop the blood that had been flowng for twelve years. And the mere touch of his hand starts a dead girl’s heart pumping again.
This man is no mere man. He is the One who has absolute authority over everything—natural or spiritual, sickness or health, life or death. How can we possibly remain indifferent before such a God?
We can’t. If we know him, if we have faith in him, we cannot be indifferent here. Jesus’s power and authority—the very fact that he exists—is the most important fact you will ever hear. More important than your salvation, more important than your happiness, is the fact that Jesus is. That his power and authority, so beautifully on display in this chapter, dealt the ultimate blow to death on the cross, where he defeated Satan and sin and made us his own by taking our place.
Let us pray to see him. Let us pray to say that whatever suffering we’re going through, if it helps us to see the glory of this man Jesus, it’s worth it.
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