Sunday, November 7, 2021 Brad Barrett
Luke 8:40-56 Do Not Fear; Only Believe
In 1995 my older sister died of cervical cancer at age 39. It hit all of us hard, and especially my mom. She grieved the loss of her daughter very deeply. She told me later that she felt didn’t feel normal again until 5 years after. Any parent who has lost a child will tell you how devastating it is.
This morning we’re going to read a story in the Gospel of Luke about a father whose 12-year old girl dies, and some of you here will have no trouble imagining the father’s anguish due to your own losses. But the story ends much differently than my sister’s and mom’s stories because Jesus intervened.
We are in a sermon series traveling through the remarkable story of Jesus Christ.
Our passage today is two stories wrapped together in one story. Two people suffering in very different ways, but Jesus ministers to both of them in powerful ways.
Two lessons will rise up from our passage:
- The uniqueness of Jesus. There is no one like him before or since.
- The importance of faith in him. Trusting him, even in the worst moments of life.
Take your Scripture journals out this morning. Turn to page 66. Luke 8:40. Take notes in your journals, if that helps you to learn and remember.
Last week we read the middle portion of Chapter 8. This morning we will finish the chapter.
Let’s read it all through, and then go back and examine it more closely.
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.
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
Now let’s go back and discuss some of the details.
“Jesus returned”— From Matthew’s and Mark’s parallel story, Jesus returned across the Sea of Galilee, probably to a town called Capernaum. As he arrived, a crowd was there waiting for him with anticipation. This is in sharp contrast with vs. 37 (from last week’s passage) on the other side of the lake when, after Jesus healed the man with the Legion of demons, the people were so frightened they begged Jesus to leave.
Now a synagogue ruler named Jairus approaches Jesus, and he is desperate. His only daughter, just 12-years old, is dying.
He falls down before Jesus and begs him to heal his daughter. We shouldn’t read this too quickly without feeling the emotion of the moment. The drama. The heartache. The fear.
He obviously loves his daughter. If Twitter had been around, he would have been a #girl-dad. (If I was on Twitter, that would be me, too.)
Some of you have had children very sick and near death, and others of you have actually lost children. You may find it quite easy…even too easy…to identify with Jairus’s agony.
Jesus graciously agrees to help, so they begin traveling to Jairus’s home. The crowd was so enthused and so intense that they were “pressing around” Jesus. The Greek word for “pressing” means to crush. Perhaps 100’s of people in a mob, pushing and jostling as they’re walking to Jairus’s house.
Within this packed crowd, a woman who has suffered much for 12 years from hemorrhaging is desperate. She had endured 12 years of this unknown bleeding. Perhaps a gynecological problem.
This bleeding may have led to all sorts of problems.
- We know she was broke, spending all her money looking for answers.
- She may have been anemic from constant bleeding, which leads to: Un-ending weakness. Lightheadedness. Shortness of breath. Perhaps a reduced immune system.
- It likely was very embarrassing, perhaps forcing her to stay home more simply to avoid any problems while out.
- If it was gynecological bleeding, she would have been ritually unclean, according the Law of Moses in Leviticus 15.
This dear woman was desperate, bordering on hopeless.
But she had a ray of faith. She knew that Jesus could heal her. She believed that if she simply touched his clothing, she could be healed. It’s possible she had heard about the healing power from simply touching his garments, for back in Chapter 6, we are told:
Luke 6:19 ESV All the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
In any case, she believed in Jesus for healing, so within this packed crowd, she works her way up behind him and touches his clothes. Instantly…a split second later…she was healed. She knew it. A stunning miracle.
She could have gone her way and left, with no one knowing. But Jesus could tell that power had gone out from him.
That is a remarkable statement. Can I say that Jesus CONTAINED power? That’s hard to grasp. We try to find something to compare that with. Say an electrical line. Touch it in a certain way and you’re going to feel the power.
I find it difficult to explain, but Jesus as God Incarnate contained the power of the Creator within him. It leaves me speechless to consider that. This is not magic or mystery, just the sheer power of the Living God, who created the heavens and the earth with just a word from his mouth.
Do we know God in this way? Have we considered and worshiped him for such awesome power?
So back to the scene: Jesus knows power left him, so he pauses his journey to Jairus’s house.
(We might wonder if at this moment Jairus’s stress level goes up. Was he thinking, “Hurry up, Lord”?)
Jesus looks around for who touched him. I suspect he knew who it was, and he wanted her to come forward.
Vs. 47 says “She saw that she was not hidden.” Somehow she knew that Jesus knew. So she came up to him shaking. Trembling with fear. She falls down before Jesus and tells him and this large crowd her story.
For some reason she is afraid. We aren’t told why. Possible reasons:
- If she was ritually unclean due to her constant bleeding, by touching him she would cause him to be ritually unclean due to her constant bleeding. (Read about it in Leviticus 15:19-27).
- Her instantaneous healing may have invoked a reverent awe.
- She feared being rebuked, being so presumptuous by touching this holy man.
Whatever her fears were, Jesus is so kind. So tender. Don’t miss this. Too often too many of us see Jesus as overly stern. Angry. Too busy to pay attention to us. Over my 40+ years of walking with Jesus, I’ve found it easier to believe he has great power than that he is kind and caring. So I appreciate stories like this that remind me the Lord loves me dearly. His kindness is unsurpassed.
Read again his words to her in vs. 48: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” These are almost identical words spoken by Jesus to the sinful woman in Luke 7, the woman who was weeping at Jesus’ feet, kissing his feet, and anointing him with expensive perfume.
This is such a tender moment. When I read this, I want to pause here. Consider the impact that God has just had on this bleeding, broken, weak, ashamed, desperate woman. For 12 years, she has constantly suffered. Now in an instant, she is healed by Jesus’ power and kindness. I am so happy for her.
Now that brief story ends, and we return to Jairus and his concern of his dying, 12-year old daughter. Someone from Jairus’s house—perhaps a family member—comes to give him news: it’s a parent’s worst nightmare: “Your daughter is dead.”
What parent at this point would not collapse to the ground and wail?
My dad died at age 35 from cancer, and when my grandfather heard the news, he cried and cried and said, “Why couldn’t it have been me instead?” I was crying last week thinking about this.
Isn’t that the heart of every parent? No parent ever wants to outlive their children.
This may be the darkest moment of Jairus’s life. All hope for his daughter is gone.
But what does Jesus say to him?? “Do not fear, Jairus. Only believe.” Don’t be afraid, friend. Don’t doubt. Trust me. Trust me.
If it wasn’t Jesus speaking, these words would be ridiculous. “What do you mean don’t fear? Trust you? Are you kidding? My precious daughter is now dead! My life is over. The grief will crush me for the rest of my life. All hope is gone!”
But it IS Jesus speaking, and his words are never ridiculous. They are always true and always life-giving. So he simply commands this broken-hearted, fearful man to stop being afraid, stop doubting and to trust him.
Jesus is trustworthy in the most difficult circumstances.
So they continue traveling to Jairus’s house. When they arrive, we know from Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, a large crowd is there, making a commotion with their music and weeping and wailing loudly. (Matthew 9 and Mark 5.)
But Jesus jolts them by telling them, “Don’t weep anymore. This girl isn’t dead; she’s just asleep”
What? Asleep? The crowd thinks this is ridiculous. They know she is dead, so they laugh at him. They mock him. “How stupid can you be, Jesus?” Of course she’s dead.
But the word “sleep” in the NT commonly refers to death (more than 10 times). The thought is, the body is asleep though the spirit is alive. And on that final day when Jesus Christ raises our bodies from the dead, our bodies will then be “awakened” into immortality.
But the people didn’t understand that, so they mock him. But Jesus pays no attention to them. He goes into the house with just 5 people: the parents, and three of his disciples, Peter, John, and James.
He walks over to this 12-year old body, takes her by the hand, and commands her, “ARISE!” He simply utters a command, just like commanding the violent storm (earlier in this chapter). Her spirit immediately returns to her body, and she gets up and eats some food.
The parents are stunned. Amazed. Astonished. Who raises someone from the dead by merely commanding them to come back to life?
This little girl’s spirit had to obey Jesus. And now she was alive.
Finally, in vs. 56, why does the Lord ask the parents to be silent? Here we must speculate. It is possible that the Lord does not want the greater focus to be on his healing power but on the work he is about to do on the cross…. so that his followers would not merely to be captivated by signs and wonders, but would follow him with all their hearts.
So what just happened in this story of this 12-year old daughter? Jesus just raised someone from the dead…just like he did back in Chapter 7 when a young man’s body was in the funeral procession, and Jesus walks up to the casket and commands the man to be alive!
Just who is this Jesus?
Either this is the most far-fetched story written, and we should mock it.
Or it is shockingly true, and we should believe it.
As we consider the four miracles of this chapter, we wonder, just who is Jesus?
- He calms a violent storm with a simple command, “STOP!” The storm is compelled to stop.
- He casts out a Legion of demons from a wild, naked, insane man by commanding them to go into a herd of pigs.
- He heals a desperate, bleeding woman who had suffered for 12 long years, healed by simply touching Jesus’ clothing.
- He raises from the dead a beloved 12-year old daughter by commanding her spirit to return to her body.
Jesus is stunning.
Themes and Lessons
So what can we take from these two stories from today? What are some themes and lessons?
Once again, as we have seen for many Sundays, we see that…
- Jesus’ power and authority is unparalleled.
He simply spoke and was touched and people were healed. Power was contained within him.
Nothing and no one can stand in the way of Jesus Christ. No power or problem on earth. No demonic force. No mocking crowd. No violent storm. No dead body.
Once more in this Gospel we find a powerful and convincing answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?”
He has all power and authority.
- Jesus’ goodness is complete
It’s remarkable to me is that someone so powerful can also be so good. He does only good. There is not an ounce of evil or malice or neglect in him. We should not forget his willingness to help a desperate father… and his kind words to the hemorrhaging woman. This is our Savior. He is completely good, and he is alive today to extend only good to us.
A third lesson:
- Faith in Christ is most reasonable.
It is sensible and right and good to trust in Christ.
In both our stories today and in one from last week, Jesus commands them to have faith, and he commends them for their faith. Faith. Simple, child-like trust in him.
Such faith in the midst of great difficulties is reasonable… and possible… and necessary, according to Jesus. Though genuine terror in the face of a violent storm may be reasonable…Though hopelessness after 12 years of severe bleeding seems reasonable…Though fear and crushing sorrow from a beloved daughter’s death is reasonable…Jesus tells us that trusting in him is MORE reasonable.
If we haven’t connected these stories to our own stories, we should.
And even better than these stories, out of great love for us, Jesus Christ rose from the dead victorious to break the power of death forever.
And this should compel us to trust Jesus for salvation and for all other things in our lives.
The Apostle Paul summed up the course of his life very simply,
Galatians 2:20 ESV …I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
And the Apostle John said it simply, too:
1 John 4:16 ESV So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.
There is both a simplicity and a majesty in such words. Faith in the God who has the power and authority and compassion to do all these things… is the most reasonable course of action.
We may not see a dead child brought back to life, and we may not have 12 years of physical suffering end. But we need not fear. We can have utmost confidence in the heart and power and goodness of God. In his astonishing power, wisdom, and kindness, God will somehow work all things together for good.
A man of faith named Joseph in the book of Genesis discovered through horrific tragedies that God was able to take great evil and turn it on its head for good. When Joseph was 17-years old, 9 of his 10 older brothers hated him so much that they considered killing him, but they decided to sell him as a slave, where he was taken far away to Egypt. They human trafficked their own little brother. Unimaginable evil. Through one of the more remarkable stories in the Bible, Joseph—13 years later— rose out of the ashes into prominence, to the second-in-command in the mighty nation of Egypt.
Then later, nearly 40 years after that day of being sold, Joseph speaks to his brothers in one of the most faith-filled moments in biblical history.
Genesis 50:20 NIV You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Joseph honestly tells his brothers that what they had done was a great evil. No denying that. At the same time, by faith he acknowledges the remarkable power and grace of God to bring good out of such horror.
That moment is instructive to us in our trials, even our worst tragedies. Even when we have overwhelming sin, like the woman in Chapter 7. Even if someone we love does drown in a violent storm on a lake. Even when we don’t get healed from 12 years of hemorrhaging. Even when our 12-year old daughter doesn’t rise from the dead.
One author said this about Joseph:
“Joseph…recognizes in the unfolding of his life that God is good in ways that he could not see earlier. The Joseph story helps us to see that our own tragedies can be a very bad chapter in a very good book. The terror of randomness is enveloped by the mysterious purposes of God.”
Gerald Sittser, A Grace Disguised
Jesus reveals to us, not just through the miracles of Luke 8 but even more so through the miracles of his incarnation, death, and resurrection, that faith in him is the most reasonable faith of all.
Many of you have exemplified such faith for many years. You inspire me. Through tragedies and evil like cancer and death and crime against you, you have strived to believe and not fear. To have a quiet but sure confidence that God is indeed working those tragedies for good, both today and in eternity.
Remember what Luke said was his purpose in writing this Gospel?
Luke 1:3–4 ESV …it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you… that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Luke recorded these stories about Jesus Christ that we would have greater certainty…more assurance…increased confidence…greater FAITH… in what we have been taught about God and his Son… that our faith would be reassured and strengthened and built.
As we read these stories, they are like seeds into our hearts. And like in the Parable of the Sower from two weeks ago, Jesus calls us to be good soil that receives these words and believes them.
Luke 8:15 ESV As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
By our simple child-like faith in Christ, may the seeds of his Word sink roots deep into our hearts and bear good fruit, the fruit of God. The fruit of salvation through the work of Christ. The fruit of godly character and good deeds. The fruit of quiet rest and trust in Christ.
Let me conclude up with this.
When we look hard and long at Jesus…with an honest and good heart….setting aside our pride and stubbornness….we cannot help but trust him. For who has such power and compassion and goodness? Who else has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven?
In spite of the fears of life, Jesus Christ is worthy of our trust
May we strive to know him. Not simply for what we can “get out of him.” But we strive to know him because he is beautiful and glorious and powerful. And He is worth knowing.