Monday, July 14, 2008

The Diseased & the Dead pt. 2

The Cure

Jesus Christ is the, to quote again Bishop Ryle's Expository Thoughts on Mark,
healer of the broken-hearted, the refuge of the weak and helpless, the comforter of the distressed, the sick man’s friend.
The only hope of wholeness and life rests in Christ. There is no other cure. There is no other way. Praise God that Jesus is not only able but more than willing to meet their (our) needs.

As soon as Jesus landed on the Capernaum shoreline He was thronged by the multitude. Jairus immediately descended upon Jesus and fell at His feet entreating Him to come and heal his deathly sick daughter. This is only speculation, but I’m fairly certain that Jairus was on pins and needles. He urgently desired for Christ to be at his house. He wanted Him there yesterday! Nevertheless, the horde of people had hindered Christ’s travel, and then, to Jairus’ horror, Jesus stopped.

Picture this intriguing scene in your mind. Jesus is in the midst of a mass of humanity. Ahead a few paces is the frantic father who is fearful that every delay could doom his daughter to death. Nearby to Jesus are His frustrated followers. Frustrated because keeping the crowd at arm’s length is difficult enough without Jesus coming to a halt and asking “Who touched my clothes?” (v. 30). Luke tells us specifically which apostle gave Jesus what seemed like the obvious answer. Peter said, “Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, ‘Who touched me.’”

Not far off is a woman whose countenance is a mixture of joy and fear. Warily the woman steps forward, because Jesus will not move until she does. Perhaps Jesus glares at her, being agitated with the one who has seemingly delayed his daughter’s only hope. “The woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.”

The woman was already healed. We are told in verse 29 that “she felt in her body that she was healed of the plague.” The very moment she touched Christ’s garment “the fountain of her blood was dried up.”

Why then did Jesus stop the procession? Why embarrass the woman by making her come forward, and why torment Jairus with this delay? Be assured that there exists good and glorious reasons for all that the Lord did (and does). He is always on time. He is never out of step. Jesus had called this woman forth from her anonymity to teach her and Jairus, as well as the crowd and us, some critical lessons.

Primacy of Faith
First, this lady needed to understand that her faith healed her, and, even more important, her faith in Christ caused her to be healed. Her restoration was not produced by the garment or by her touch. No magic trick, superstition, or mystical happening had staunched her twelve year flow of blood. Christ had the power, not His garments or her touch. Many people had touched Christ that day. The throng had put their weight into Him, but when she had touched His garment strength and power went out of Him (v. 30).

What was the difference? It was her faith that Christ would heal. The flesh presses, but faith touches. Even today many people brush up against Christ, but they go away the same as they came. The difference is faith. Faith is the victory. Christ assured her of this, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole.”

Notice, however, that this woman’s faith was essentially an ignorant faith. Her faith was uninformed, presumptuous, and more than a little superstitious, but it was real and Christ honored her real yet imperfect faith. This is because the critical aspect of faith is not how much you have, how strong or how informed it is. The critical aspect of faith is its object, not the faith itself. Only faith saves us, because only faith draws on the power of Jesus Christ as Savior.

Praise God that He graciously saves those who have virtually no theological understanding. This is why a child can come to faith in Christ. Beginning faith is often, if not always, ignorant, uninformed, and mixed with errors. I said “beginning faith” because ignorance should not always describe our faith; it should ever and always be maturing, growing, and being strengthened.

Christ is so awesome! How wonderful is the Savior?! As David sang in Psalm 8, “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” This woman’s faith was infantile, imperfect, ignorant, and inconsiderate; initially she was more concerned with her health than with the Healer. Yet she reached out with a stumbling faith and Christ perfected it. Her faith may have been as tiny as a mustard seed, but Christ honored it and developed it. He enables us to love Him and trust Him with our lives. As 1 John 4:10 says:
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Public Confession
Christ also taught the importance, the necessity even, of public confession.
Healed souls should make public acknowledgement of mercies received…We are not to be ashamed to confess Christ before men and to let others know what he has done for our souls (Ryle, p. 101).
Jesus does nothing secretly. This woman could not be healed in secret. Even had Jesus continued on as if nothing had happened, people would have known that the woman who had bled for twelve years didn’t bleed anymore. Jesus called her out of the crowd to encourage her to take a stand with Him. She did not need to be ashamed to confess what happened. The sooner she did so the greater would be her joy.

Christ told this woman that her faith in Him had made her whole, and He said, “Go in peace.” That is exactly what she did as she entered a whole new life, both physically and spiritually. She had tried the “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). That day she discovered that none but Christ can satisfy. It was the greatest discovery of her life. She came for healing and she found grace. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

But let’s not forget about Jairus. What was he learning through this whole episode? The answer is: true faith grows by testing.

Purifying Faith
False faith wilts and dies at times such as these (Mark 4:5-6, 16-17). Jairus was already anxious. One can only imagine the pain etched on face when told by people from his house that the little girl had died. Here Jairus’ faith is sorely tested. Jesus was known as a healer, but what could he do with a dead girl? Was Jesus only a teacher, as the messengers suggested (v. 35)? Was He as helpless as the next man when face to face with life’s ultimate reality?

Jesus also heard the message, but He ignored it. With eyes fixed on Jairus He told the devastated man, “Be not afraid, only believe” (v. 36). Even in the face of death, Jairus must continue to have faith alone. Two commands: (1) Fear not (2) Only believe. The first reassured Jairus that death was not stronger than Jesus. The second encouraged him to cling to Christ and implicitly trust Him.

Jairus was utterly helpless, and he realized that Jesus was his only hope. That is what true faith means. Until a person realizes that Jesus is their only hope, such a one does not have a saving faith. Christ is not one of many viable options. He is the only means of salvation.

Like Abraham who was promised a son even though his wife was barren and he was well past the age of fruitfulness, Jairus was challenged to be fixed on the promise God had given him: “Be not afraid, only believe.”

The mourners at his house certainly didn’t believe. The crowd ridiculed Jesus and “laughed him to scorn” when they heard Him announce “the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.” Faith and unbelief understood that statement in different ways. The crowd was certain the girl was dead and that Jesus was nuts, but to Jairus these were words of hope. In the face of derision his faith triumphed because he trusted in a triumphant Savior. I say again that the object of faith is even more important than the faith itself.

Jesus took the little girl’s hand and said “Talitha cumi” which literally means “little lamb arise.” That is exactly what she did! The total shock on the faces of the apostles and the overwhelming joy of the parents would have been a sight to see. Which makes me wonder, why the secrecy?

Only the parents and the inner circle of apostles – Peter, James, and John – witnessed the first resurrection since Elisha raised the son of the Shunemite woman. Doesn’t it stand to reason that had Christ allowed all the mourners to witness this miracle He would have created an opportunity for thousands to be saved?

No it doesn’t.

Consider this. Those who will not trust Jesus’ word will not trust His deeds. That is powerfully illustrated in the story of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16:19-31. The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers to warn them about the torments and pain of hell. Listen to the last three verses of that passage:
Abraham saith unto him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘Nay, father Abraham: but if on went unto them from the dead, they will repent.’ And he said unto him, ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.’
Those who will not believe will not believe regardless of what they see and hear; as Jesus taught in Mark 4:24-25, those who refuse to have faith are in grave danger of losing the opportunity to believe.

Powerful Preview
In that room the Son of God touched the hand of a little dead girl. This action made Jesus ritually unclean, just as He had done when the diseased woman touched His garment. Christ shared in her death in order to deliver her from it. On Calvary Jesus would share again in death, but this time it was our death. He became unclean for our sake. He bore God’s judgment on our sin.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In a sense, what Jesus did for this little lamb was a preview of what He would do on the cross, and a preview of what He will do at His return when those who are dead in Christ Jesus will arise!

Jesus Christ and He alone is all powerful. With a word He made the raging sea instantly lie flat, and cast out a Legion of demons. He healed the outcast woman without even speaking a word, and He tenderly called the little girl to life. Is He calling you?

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