Sunday, March 09, 2014

Sermon: Luke 8: 40-56 Go in peace

How do you cope with interruptions? You’re in the middle of doing something, and then the phone rings, wanting to talk about PPI or double glazing. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be impatient. But as we’ll see, for Jesus, there is no such thing as a distraction or an interruption. Rather, what seems like a distraction is in fact part of his plan.

If you were with us last week, you’ll remember that Jesus had crossed the lake of Galilee with his disciples, calming the storm on the way. On the other side, he had driven out demons from a man, but the people of that region were afraid, and asked Jesus to leave their town.

What a contrast to the scene when Jesus crosses the lake again. The crowds are standing waiting on him. They’re glad to see him. And no one more so than Jairus. He’s the first of two people Luke introduces to us in the passage today. Jairus is an important man in the local community. He’s a ruler of the synagogue, a religious man, responsible for services, inviting people to speak and read the Scriptures. But despite his lofty position, he falls at Jesus’ feet, begging him to come to his house. There, something terrible is happening – his only daughter is dying. Such a young life, twelve years of age.

Perhaps he had watched out especially for Jesus’ return – his situation was desperate. Even the going for help would be agony, away from his daughter. Jesus agrees, and sets off, following Jairus to his home. The crowds come too, pressing in.

But then, suddenly, Jesus stops, and asks who touched him. Can you imagine it? There’s a huge crowd of people around, and Jesus wonders who touched him. Peter tells him to wise up – of course he’s going to be touched, when the crowds surround him, and are pressing in on him. But Jesus doesn’t relent. “Someone touched me, for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” (46)

As we read the passage, we already know who it was had touched Jesus. The woman is the second person Luke introduces in the passage. If you were looking for a complete opposite to Jairus, then this is it. Jairus was a man of standing in the community. The woman was probably an outcast. Jairus was a religious man, observing the Law read and preached in the synagogue. The woman probably hadn’t been to the synagogue for years. You see, her discharge of blood made her ceremonially unclean. Jairus was probably a man of means, financially secure. The woman, on the other hand, had spent all her money on doctors bills, getting second opinion after second opinion, but without success or cure.

The woman had thought that if she could just touch the edge of Jesus’ garment, then she would be all right. That’s exactly what happened, 44 – immediately her discharge of blood ceased. Perhaps she thought she could touch Jesus and go, slip away into the crowd again. But that’s not what Jesus plans. He knew that power had gone out from him, that the woman had been powerfully affected. Eventually the woman realises that she can’t remain hidden, and – full of fear – trembling, declares what had happened. Notice that she appears in the same position as Jairus had done earlier – falling down before him. What a powerful testimony of what Jesus had done for her – her life changed around, and made whole again.

But more than that – the people who knew this woman would have known about her affliction. They would have known her shame at being ceremonially unclean all the time – this had gone on for twelve years. Being forced to come and tell was the way that she could be received back into the life of the community. Jesus was being kind to her as well, when he brought her out to tell of what he had done.

Look at verse 48. These are Jesus’ words to her: “Daughter” - This is the only person that Jesus describes in this way – daughter – a word of tenderness and compassion. But his next words are words that we have encountered before. “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.” If you have your Bible open, turn back a page to Luke 7:50. Remember the woman in Simon the Pharisee’s house who anointed Jesus’ feet? Jesus says the same thing to her – ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

While the phrases are translated differently, the Greek words are exactly the same in 7:50 and 8:48. The woman has been saved, made well – this word picture of wholeness and healing and salvation. This is the complete salvation that Jesus still offers today - the call is to be saved, and made whole. And how do we achieve this salvation, this wholeness? The answer is the same as ever – only by faith – faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus’ words show that it’s not a superstitious touch or action that saves the woman – it’s her faith in Jesus. Obviously today we can’t touch Jesus’ cloak, but we can approach him in faith, taking hold of his promises.

As Jesus deals with the woman, you might have forgotten that this was only a distraction. Remember, he was on his way to the house of Jairus, where the dying daughter lay. But now someone comes from the house to break bad news. His daughter has died. There’s no point taking up Jesus’ time any more, seeing the girl is dead. What they’re really saying is that there are limits to Jesus’ power – as if he could only heal, but not raise the dead. All hope is gone.

Perhaps Jairus was thinking the same. He maybe even thought that it would have been all right if Jesus hadn’t been distracted by the woman. He had been on the way, after all. But look at Jesus’ words to him. “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” Do you see the key words in this sentence? They’re the same words again. Believe (literally, have faith) and she will be well (healed, made whole, saved). It’s as if the lowly woman, the outcast, is held up as an example for Jairus, the synagogue ruler.

So when they got to the house, it was a scene of mourning. Loud wailing, maybe even professional mourners. A scene without hope. Jesus tells them not to weep because the girl is not dead, only sleeping. Their tears turn to laughs – they know better than him – of course the girl is dead!

In the presence of just five other people (parents and Peter, James and John), Jesus takes her by the hand, and says, “Child, arise.” Arise. That’s the same word that’s used of Jesus’ resurrection. Remember that Jesus had said to Jairus to have faith, to believe, and she would be well? She has arisen – the word picture is coloured in– wholeness, completeness, life, salvation, health.

Have you been saved and made well? If you realise that you’re missing out; that you haven’t yet received the peace of sins forgiven you can find it today in the Lord Jesus. No matter who you are, what your background is; whether you’re a shame and disgrace or an upstanding member of society; he will save. All it takes is to trust him, as he says: ‘Only believe, and you will be well.’

It may be that you’ve come to Jesus, but things are tough. God seems to be taking his time. Has he been distracted by others?You’re going through a hard time of illness or sadness, bereavement or unemployment. Jesus’ words to Jairus are for you today – ‘Do not fear; only believe.’ Stick in there – keep trusting.

Your faith has made you well; go in peace.

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 9th March 2014

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