Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Follow Me"...An Opportunity for Hope

Many know well the first twelve words from Charles Dickens’ book The Tale of Two Cities – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The book takes place in both London and Paris and is about two men who are similar in appearance, but are very different individuals. The Bible story we review today is about two people who ultimately have one similar characteristic, but are two very different people.

However, the biblical story opens with a very different opening than that of Dickens’ tale for it was the worst of times for both of the individuals that approached Jesus. One man came because his twelve-year-old daughter was dying. One woman came because she was not well physically and thus she was unwelcome in society. But for one the story quickly changes for the better and for the other, well, his worst fear became reality.

Many reading this post will know the story well. But I encourage you to get a sense at their emotion through the following video. By better understanding their situation, you might better apply the text to yours. You can watch the video here.

If you watched the video, you have heard the message. Now, let me just point out a few principles from the message.

Principle: Jesus is interested in the person, not the people. (Mark 5.30) 
A modern day view of a part of Capernaum

In verse 21, we are given an important bit of information. A great crowd was there to meet Jesus. These are likely many of the same men and women who had been with him when He was teaching in parables in Mark 4.  Verse 24 says that this crowd followed Jesus as He went with the synagogue official, and thronged about Him. With so many people gathered, movement would have been difficult. The picture here is of Capernaum where this story likely took place. The building on the right is a structure over the home of Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. The structure on the left is a synagogue which was built above the synagogue present in Jesus day. The black structures in between are houses and or shops which would have made travelling as a crowd difficult. Furthermore, it would have made the woman’s task of getting to Jesus very, very difficult.

People were everywhere. People were all around Jesus, but only two were serious about Him. And, in turn, Jesus was serious about those two people! Jesus did not come to simply perform a miracle. He came in order to encounter a person. This is why were are to follow Jesus – because that is what He desires. Jesus wants disciples not do-gooders. He wants people who seek Him, not just what He offers. As I have said many times, if we seek what Jesus offers, we may miss Jesus. If we seek Jesus, we get everything. John 14.6 is proof enough of that!

Principle: Everyone will eventually bow before Jesus. (Mark 5.22, 33)

The synagogue official (Jairus) would have known Jesus, and may have been one that extended invitations for Him to speak in the synagogue. As the official, He would have had a good social standing and likely have been wealthy. Mark wrote about Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum in Mark 1.21 and 3.1.

But the tone of the religious leaders had turned against Jesus the last time He was in this synagogue, so for Jairus to go to Jesus might have been a risky career move.
The ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum from the inside. These
ruins lay above the synagogue during Jesus time period.

The woman on the other hand had nothing. She was culturally ignored (shunned really). Monetarily, she was broke because she had been to many doctors about her issues and none of them could help. In fact, according to verse 26, they had made her situation worse, until she came to the Great Physician. For her, to go to Jesus would be a risky social move.

Both of these individuals came before Jesus and fell at His feet (v. 22, 33). Paul writes in Philippians 2.10-11 that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord. That is true whether they are well-known and wealthy, forgotten and flat broke, or anywhere in between.

Principle: We can only overcome fear by faith. (Mark 5.36)

The woman was unclean. Her fear was being exposed and punished. Later rabbinic writings show that no teacher was even to touch a woman, let alone one who was unclean. Leviticus 15.19-33 spells out the Law regarding the timing and ritual of a woman dealing with her monthly menstrual cycle. Not only were any people she touched unclean, but any THING she touched was unclean. The social stigma from this would be horrifying. And it had been this way for twelve years.

Jairus’ daughter was born about the same time as the woman’s issue with blood began. So for twelve years, this woman had been in mental anguish while Jairus was celebrating the life of his daughter. Plus for a daughter, around the age of twelve would have been when she started preparing for one of the greatest joys of her life – an upcoming marriage (likely within a couple of years). Now, that joy was gone because she lay dying, and her dad’s joy was gone because he was losing his daughter. Like the woman, the Law was certain regarding the touch of a corpse. (See Numbers 19.11-22.)

It is important to realize that for a few moments, the emotions of the man and the woman switch. The woman becomes well. The daughter dies. The joy and laughter that had been a part of Jairus’ family was now available to the woman. And the agony and despair which had been the woman’s existence was now felt by Jairus. But, thankfully, especially, for Jairus the story did not end there.

Each of these two individuals – the woman and then Jairus – did what was necessary for God to extend a special measure of grace – they believed. Each of them overcame their fear because of their belief. What had been agony was turned to relief. What had been pain and grief was now a time of joy. Two persons who were as different as could be were now intertwined for the rest of eternity.

Principle: Faith is not something that we have; true faith is something that has us.

Certainly, we are to have faith. But as with much of life, sometimes what we have alludes us. One day we have friends, the next day they are gone. One day we have money, the next day it is gone. One day we may feel we have faith, the next day we feel nothing. But we are often defined by what has us or, perhaps, what has us. Are we bound to friends or even family? Are we bound to money? Or are we bound to God? In other words, who, or what, has you?

Jesus said the faith of the woman made her well. Technically it was His power, but she literally tapped into it. Mark 5.30 says that Jesus felt some of the power leave Him. This is remarkable in many ways, but one aspect that we should not overlook is that Jesus healed this woman without any effort. He did not try to consciously heal her, it simply happened. But she had to have enough faith, even if it was not theologically accurate, to approach Jesus and invoke that power. (The word for power here is from the Greek word dunamis from which the English word dynamite is derived.)

Jesus told Jairus that he was not to fear, but to believe. In the moment Jairus learned his daughter died, his biggest fear was over in one sense, in another it was just beginning. But Jesus said, “Believe.” Here was a man whose profession was to help other people live right because of their belief, and now he was being put to the biggest test of his life. But because he chose to believe, what he had thought to be impossible actually happened.

The Tale of Two People

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned Dickens’ book The Tale of Two Cities. At one particular moment in our story from Mark 5, I believe the opening lines of Dickens’ book would appropriately describe the emotions of the two individuals we have briefly reviewed today. That moment is the moment the woman receives not only healing, but is offered peace, and almost simultaneously, Jairus learns that his daughter has died (Mark 5.34-35). Consider the following words which begin the tale from Dickens.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us...

What About You?

The woman and the man overcome great fears and therefore experienced something from a great God. Truly they received more than they expected, but first they had to face their fear and believe that Jesus could provide what was necessary for them.

So, what is your greatest fear?

The last couple of weeks we have talked about fear. Two weeks ago, Fairfax had just experienced a major storm and we saw that Jesus calmed the storm on the sea and yet the disciples were more afraid after He calmed the storm than they were during it. Last week, we looked at a man possessed by thousands of demons who terrorized the area, yet after Jesus healed the man, the people asked Jesus to leave because they were more afraid of Him than they had been of the man.

The reality is that to experience real hope, we must face our deepest fears. In Romans 5, Paul writes about this explicitly beginning in verse 3. He wrote that suffering produces endurance which produces character which produces hope. Of course, suffering is not the same as fear, but one fear most everyone has regards suffering – perhaps physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, etc. The reality is that we cannot avoid suffering, but we do not have to be fearful of it. But it is much easier to say (or type) such a statement than it is to live it. But Paul knew had firsthand knowledge because suffered more than most anyone. And Jesus did suffer more than everyone and He is the reason for our hope!

So, what is your greatest hope?

The message today is about two individuals that found their hope in Jesus because of their suffering. One had suffered just a short time, the other for many years.  Both were desperate. But both believed that Jesus could help. Yet, both got something unexpected because they chose to believe. Be honest with yourself and then come before God and be honest with Him.

What is your greatest fear? What will you do about it?
What is your greatest hope? What can you do about it?


The JOURNEY letter for today is: R – Revere.

I am not suggesting living like this is easy, but I am saying that it is possible. The woman who had experienced twelve years of misery was healed with one act of mercy. The man who had experienced hours, or perhaps days became whole when He experienced God’s grace. It is that God that we must worship. We must lift Him up because He is worthy – because we believe.


And because of what God has done for us, we too can provide a similar hope to others. As we do, sometimes it will require us to ask more of people than they think they can give – just like the two in the story today – in order to show a faith worthy of fully experiencing the greatness of God.

Opportunity: We can provide hope to others in the midst of desperate times by asking a little more of them than they expect.

Like last week, I am listing a few principles here from which you can choose as you consider your next step. Consider the steps below and think critically how you might apply one of these principles to your life this week and beyond.

Principle: Jesus is interested in the person, not the people. (Mark 5.30)
Principle: Everyone will eventually bow before Jesus. (Mark 5.22, 33)
Principle: We can only overcome fear by faith. (Mark 5.36)
Principle: Faith is not something that we have; true faith is something that has us.

  • Learn: Consider which principle is most important for your focus at this time in your life.  Meditate and dwell on it for a couple of days.
  • Live: After reflecting on the one principle you chose, consider how you might put that principle into action.
  • Love: How might that principle become part of your everyday life as you love God and love others?
  • Lead: How might you help others instill a strong mindset based upon the principle you chose?

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