Don’t be afraid; just believe
Luke 8:41-42, 49-56
All of you children who are 12-years-old and younger - have any of you ever been really sick – I mean, scary sick? You have been rushed to the emergency room with severe pain or a high fever. You are hurting. You are crying. You are scared.
And your parents are even more scared for you.
The worst pain I ever felt was during the summer several years ago. I had a severe pain in my side. I was on my hands and knees in pain doing the “Kidney Stone Crawl.” Minute by minute, the pain just got worse and worse. I have a high tolerance for pain, but on a scale of one to ten, this was a twelve!
I convinced my wife to take me to the emergency room at Aurora Hospital in Kenosha. I was buckled into the passenger seat of our van, but I couldn’t sit still. I was rolling around and writhing in pain.
We encountered some traffic on the way to the hospital. I begged my wife to just go into the ditch to get around those people!
When we finally arrived at the hospital, I wanted to tell the administering nurse, “Just get someone over here with a scalpel and cut this thing out.”
Thankfully, the pain I was suffering was nothing more serious than kidney stones. Definitely not fun, but not life-threatening, either.
Still, very painful and very scary.
Can you imagine how scared Jairus was for his 12-year-old daughter? His little girl wasn’t just sick – she was at the point of death. She had her whole life ahead of her. But she was slipping fast. Jairus, her father, can’t help her. The servants can’t help her. The doctors can’t help her. She is sick and she is dying
So Jairus finds Jesus, falls at His feet, and begs Him: “Please. Please come. Lay your hands on her. Your divine hands. Your creating hands. Your healing hands. You are the only one who can save her life. Please.”
And then there is hope. Jesus begins to go with Him … until a woman shows up with a different health problem.
Imagine that you are back in the hospital, seriously ill, and the doctors said the next 24 hours are critical. They could make the difference between life and death. As if that isn’t scary enough, all of a sudden all of the medical machines start beeping, the alarms are sounding, and the lights are flashing. Your parents go into the hallway to yell for the doctors to come. They begin running toward your room … but then they stop. They stop because a lady in the hallways needs a new bandage on her wound, so they start taking care of her. Her and her twelve-year-old wound.
That’s what happens with Jairus.
Jesus is on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, but He gets side-tracked helping a woman with a bleeding issue.
After Jesus heals the woman with just a touch of His cloak, it is time to get going again. We’re not told what Jairus thought about the delay or if he wanted to complain. Maybe he never got the chance. Because while Jesus was still speaking, he got those four little words that every parent dreads: “Your daughter is dead.”
I have been in hospital rooms and hospice care homes when a person took their last breath. No matter how much you expect it to come, it is unexpected. Death is an unwelcome visitor into our lives. You never forget the look of disbelief, denial, shock, anger, and confusion. Had this woman not delayed Jesus, maybe, just maybe that little girl might have lived. But now the girl is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more (Mark 5:35)?
It is scary being sick, in pain, and in the hospital. But death is the ultimate test of faith. Especially when it is the death of a child. Death is the final frontier of our doctrine, our hymns, our liturgy, our catechesis, our beliefs. Do we really mean it when we sing, “In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!” (CW: 588 v7)? Do we really trust Jesus when He proclaims, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25)? Do we fall back on the words we confess in our creeds, “I believe in … the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting”?
Jairus trusted Jesus, but how far? Jesus believed that Jesus had the power to heal his sick daughter. But raise the dead?
But it is precisely at this event, when all reasonable hope has run out, when death has claimed another victim, that Jesus holds out something more. It is precisely at this moment when Jesus demonstrates His mad ninja skills. Sure, He’s demonstrated that He has power over demons, diseases, and the devil. But death? Isn’t that just a little too much … even for Jesus?
Jesus tells Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” “Trust me. You trusted me when she was sick. Now trust me with her death.”
Jesus goes with the sobbing Jairus to the house. There’s chaos and commotion; people weeping and wailing. The grief is always greatest for the children. Jesus goes right into the middle of all that grief and sorrow and says the most amazing of things: “Stop wailing. She is not dead but asleep.”
He speaks of death like it is nothing more than a child laying down to sleep at night. That’s the kind of power that the Lord of life has over death. It is nothing more than a quick rest before another new day.
And the people laugh at Him through their tears of grief.
Jesus throws everyone out of the house except for Jairus and his wife and His disciples. He goes to the bed where the little girl lay still and lifeless. He bends down and takes her hand in His hands and calls to her in her native language, in Aramaic, “Talitha cumi.” “Little girl, get up.” And she does! She wakes up. She gets up off the bed. She walks around and tears of grief turn to tears of joy and amazement. She lives!
“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Jesus says that to each of you here this morning.
“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” When your prayers go unanswered for twelve long years and the doctors can do nothing for you. Jesus is in control. He knows your pain. He hears your prayers. He has a plan of healing for you – if not in this life, then in the life to come.
“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” When you feel crummy and weak on the hospital bed. When you look at the fevered face of your sick little child fearing the worst. When you wait those long hours in the waiting room, hoping and praying, and the doctor tells you that they tried everything but it wasn’t enough. Your daughter, your son, your sister or brother, your husband or wife is dead. The last breath that your Christian loved one takes in this life will be followed by their first breath of the life to come. The soul of your Christian loved one has been taken by the angels out of the hospital room and into the room of the mansion of heaven that Jesus has prepared for them. The body of your Christian loved one is only a shell, but Jesus has made it that you will see them again, body and soul together in heaven.
“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Here is what you need to know and believe. Jesus uses His mad ninja skills against our greatest enemies. Jesus has pierced the dragon of the devil with His two-edged sword. Jesus has used His staff to beat back the demons. Jesus has defeated diseases with a Mr. Miyagi type healing touch. Jesus has conquered death by dying and then rising from His own grave on Easter morning. “His battle ended there, death was overcome. Jesus, alive again, wore the victor’s crown” (CW: 146 v1).
Being sick is no fun. Being in pain is scary. Being on our deathbed can be terrifying – both for us and for our loved ones. “Don’t be afraid; only believe.” We have this confidence as we lay upon our deathbed – Jesus is always sitting beside us. He may delay and so we die. But that death is part of His divine plan. For Jesus will reach down to us, take us by the hand and say, “My son, my daughter, get up.” And He will raise you as He did Jairus’ little girl.
Jesus turns grief to joy. Fear to confidence. Anger to trust. Confusion to clarity. Jesus is even better than a maser ninja. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is our Savior. He can do anything. We can trust Him completely.
So this little girl is not truly dead, nor are any Christian children of any grieving families. They live on. It’s a change of geography – from this earth to heavenly realms. It’s a change of form – from sinful mortal to glorified saint. Death is no match for the Lord of life. To Jesus, death is nothing but a sleep from which He alone can wake us.
When you are in the E.R. waiting for the doctor. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” When you are encouraging your spouse to break every traffic law to get you to the hospital faster. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” When your parent is weakening from cancer or your grandparent can no longer remember you because of dementia. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” When God allows death to claim another victim. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Jesus is the expert. He is the One who died and rose from the dead. He knows what He’s talking about when it comes to death. So don’t be afraid. Just believe. Amen.