Alex led and preached at our Parish Communion service yesterday, the recording is below and the sermon recording and transcript can also be found here.
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Where are we? Where am I? Where are you? In the story which has just been read to us?
Are you like Jairus, the leader of the Synagogue. The synagogues, those places which were dedicated to worship and the study of the Torah, the Jewish Bible for discovering the character of God as He has revealed himself in Scripture. The Synagogues where Jews studying scripture and worshipping together in small groups had very successfully enabled Judaism to survive during the exile of the nation to Babylon, enabling them to remain distinct, even though they had been transplanted into another culture, where it would have been much easier if they had conformed to the pagan world around them.
Are you the person so respected by the local community, like Jairus, that you have been appointed to a position of responsibility, a person who is expected to maintain standards in the synagogue, to drive out falsehood…a guardian of the faith, a protector of the nation, a person who would have taken, some pride in this appointment amongst these people. A person not prone to being pushed around, not following every fashionable fancy of the crowd. Are you this character in the story?
Or are you perhaps the woman with the issue of blood…the outcast. In her case an outcast because of an excessive and continuous menstrual flow. For her there were social as well as medical consequences of this condition. Women were seen as unclean or impure during the seven days of their monthly period and by touching others, they could make those others unclean as well risking divine retribution or even death (Leviticus 15:31). Unless you kept away from everyone else for the prescribed period, you were a social pariah, and this woman had been unclean for 12 years! She had been excluded from the Passover feasts, excluded from normal society, excluded from attending the temple, perhaps, in her view, even excluded from God…
Are you her?
Are you someone who feels, or is made to feel by others, excluded from God? ‘God wouldn’t be interested in me’ you might say. Or do you think ‘I’m not like those respectable people who go to church’ You might think, ’If they knew who I am, they would reject me’ ‘If they knew what I have done, they would cast me out’. A person so damaged by society that she is frightened to step out of her door and risk humiliation. Is that you?
Or are you perhaps like a member of the crowd, cheering on Jesus as he performs miracles and does all the things we all love about Christianity: encouraging us to love our neighbours, looking after them, maybe, sometimes, challenging the powerful….Are you like the crowd cheering him on and pressing into him with the same enthusiasm as the games makers at the London Olympics, do you remember them? Or the greeters at the Covid vaccination hubs? Or like a group of football supporters greeting one of their stars on their way to the Euros? Or fans mad about a rock star…?
Having that enthusiasm that most people have for those aspects of Jesus that they like…..Being an enthusiastic Jesus fan?
But who also later call ‘Crucify’, when He claims to be God, when He requires our allegiance to him above all things: above our families, above our careers, above our homes and possessions, above our nationality, above who we are – above our identity even. Are you part of the crowd who will go from worship to calling ‘crucify’ when it is no longer safe or expedient because of what contemporary society is saying) to worship him, to make him first in our lives, when events finally turn against him….Is that you?
Or are you like the disciples knowing him, seeking to imitate him in all things, putting him (not self) first above all things, regardless of the consequences, no longer living just for themselves but for him, being Christ’s follower,ultimately being filled with the Holy Spirit and transforming the world.
Is that you?
Or on the other hand are you perhaps like one of the professional mourners, the cynics the people of the ‘real world’ who ‘know a dead body when they see one’, who laugh with scorn at religious conviction, at Christian faith, at Christian certainty, those who are agnostic at best and atheistic in practice, who seek to rubbish the efforts of his followers. Is that you?
Which one of these are you: the follower, the fan or the faithless?
Because each of us is one of them……
What fascinates me about this story is how people move from being faithless or fans to becoming followers…How members of the crowd, how proud people respected in society, how outcasts become disciples….become followers of Christ as they cast away the things most precious to them their pride and their fear and take up faith.
Because, for sure, there must have been other leaders of Synagogues, people having spiritual responsibility for the community, watching on as Jesus passed them by. We see him often encountering the Pharisees…..and we see them trying to trick him, trying to catch him out with clever arguments.
But why is Jairus different? Unlike that other ruler of the Jews we hear about in John 3 Nicodemus who stole in to see Jesus by night to avoid being seen….in verse 22 we see Jairus falling at Jesus feet…..in front of the crowd, in front of the local community he was leading. Why?
How about the outcast, the woman with the issue of blood, the woman who has been in social isolation for years, the woman who society expects to keep social distancing even when everyone else is pressing into Jesus on every side, how is it that she has managed to step out of the fear of rejection that surely must have dogged her every step and have the courage to press forward just to touch his clothes? Why?
Jesus gives us the answer in verses 34 and 36. He commends the unnamed woman for her faith ‘Daughter your faith has healed you’. And to Jairus, encourages him to continue in faith:‘Don’t be afraid, just believe’
And there is this wonderful moment verse 40, a touching moment, which I think speaks of genuine first hand testimony, when Jesus invites his closest and most faithful followers – Peter, James and John but also gives the girl’s parents – Jairus and his wife, the immense privilege of being with him as he gently takes the little dead girl by the hand and says ‘Talitha koum’…‘Little girl I say to you, get up’.
He speaks life into her, as in Genesis the Creator spoke creation into existence…..
What strikes me about this passage is that it is so unlikely that Jairus or the woman would have any faith at all in Jesus. Jairus because to believe that Jesus can heal is upending the whole of his identity, recognising Jesus as Lord over the life of his daughter so that he can bring her back to life is tantamount to sacrilege. It is certainly a public disgrace for a Jew steeped in the Torah like Jairus. For the woman who has been an outcast for so long, because she has tried and tried doctor after doctor and (verse 26) spent all had on them why try with this new wise man if thats all he is?
But in both these people we can, of course, see that desperation trumps social standing and fear of rejection; that suffering, that need, can be the engine impelling the fan, or even the faithless, into the arms of their creator. But if that is always the case why doesn’t every suffering person become a follower of Christ?
So I think there is more here than just desperation…I just wonder if every other person in Jairus,’ or the woman’s, situation would have acted as they did?
How many would have despairingly just accepted the depressing narrative of the world that the daughter was going to die and there was nothing anyone could do about it? How many would have despairingly just accepted the world’s narrative that the outcast must remain hidden from society because she was unclean? Because even the desperate often show a surprising reluctance to call out to their Creator.
Ultimately, you see this is a question of truth. Either Jesus is Lord over you and me and all creation or he is not. Either Jesus is the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe or he is not. And we are not going to leave home for someone who is pretending to be something, if only maybe he is the Son of God the Creator of the Universe. We can’t rely on a maybe.
Many of us wouldn’t rely upon a maybe and risk humiliating ourselves before the crowd at Jesus feet, risk losing our whole standing in society, even if our daughter’s life is at stake. Many of us wouldn’t rely on a maybe and risk more rejection when we press into him in the crowd after so many years of social isolation, however desperate we are….And ultimately many of us won’t trust a maybe with the final journey we all take at the end of our lives, as we approach the time that the line goes flat on the hospital heart monitor…..
The thing about truth is that, in some fields it can be proved – science, medicine etc. so that only those who do not understand doubt its veracity…..But there are some things that you can only know to be true in your ‘knower’ and yet be completely confident of it. For example, I know, in my knower, that Lucy loves me. Why of course ……is a complete mystery……but I know that she loves me despite all my very annoying characteristics. I know in my ‘knower’. No scientist or medic can prove it, but I know it to be true.
And I think that it was the same for Jairus and the woman. They knew in their knowers that Jesus was the real deal. Of course, they had the advantage of seeing him in the flesh, seeing what he did, hearing what he said and we cannot experience this, but equally I think something started by the Holy Spirit was also happening in their hearts.
Even if we weren’t there, as they were, we can know Jesus in our knowers. We can know that he is the real deal, we can know that He is God’s son, we can know that it is worthwhile placing our faith in him, we can be confident of what we believe, despite what some people will tell you…
As we read the Bible, we can come to know him today, to speak to him in prayer to pour out to him all the daily challenges of life. We can learn from actual experience of him acting today in astonishing ways in response to even our prayers. Julia Wright gave some good examples of this happening a couple of Sundays ago at our All Age Service.
We can learn to have faith in him, to trust him with our fears and then it makes sense to seek to follow him in how we live our lives, putting him first above everything.
And then when we are faced with a really traumatic situation, which sadly happens to us all from time to time like Jairus, like the woman with the issue of blood, then, because we know him we can ask him for his help and have confidence, have faith that what he decides is for the best……
Do you want to know him?
If you are not yet a follower of Jesus of course you may just want to let this moment pass by…
but on the other hand you might want to grasp it now. As we never know in life how many opportunities we will have left.
If not now. When?
So can I encourage you…. in a moment of prayer to open your heart to him and follow me silently in your heart as I read this short prayer:
‘Father God, I am so sorry for the times that I have not said and done the things that you call all of us to do and say and for when I have said and done things that you call us not to do’
(Think of anything that the Lord is particularly bringing to your mind now and bring it before him)
I am so sorry for putting my self ahead of you in my heart. Please forgive me.
I now receive that forgiveness. Fill me now with your Holy Spirit. May I know you in my heart
In my ‘knower’. Guide me in all I do and say from now on. Help me to put you ahead of everything else in my life and enable me to be your follower.
In Jesus name
If this is the first time that you have prayed that prayer then please do speak to me afterwards
So I can pray for you