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Faith That Touches Christ

August 5, 2012 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Gospel of Mark

Topic: Faith Passage: Mark 5:21–43

Dr. E Stanley Jones, who was a missionary to India for much of the 1900’s, once made this contrast between fear and faith:

I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath--these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely--these are my native air.

This morning we come to the third of a trilogy of miracles that Jesus performed, miracles that revealed different aspects of his power to his disciples. But these stories also record an interesting contrast between fear and faith. In the first story, found in Mark 4, Jesus’ power over nature is demonstrated as he calms a deadly storm. He then asks his fearful disciples why they are so afraid; did they still have no faith? In the second story Jesus casts out a legion of demons with a word and the surprising response of the townspeople is to be afraid and they begged Jesus to leave them – the demon possessed man didn’t scare them but Jesus did.

This morning we come to the third story which is actually two stories and two miracles, but they are interwoven so tightly in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that they become one story. This is the climax of the miracles, the grand finale where Jesus will show his power over the greatest of enemies, death, and the purpose of these miracles is clearly to demonstrate to Jesus’ disciples that he is Lord over all, to strengthen their faith and our faith – to relocate them (and us) from the land of fear to our native land of faith. But what I love about this story is that while it’s about Jesus’ amazing power, it’s also a very personal and tender story about real people facing real fears and yet through those fears reaching out in faith to Jesus.

Cause if we’re honest, moving from the land of fear to our native land of faith isn’t always as easy as it sounds. I agree with E Stanley Jones completely and that is such a theme throughout scripture – God calling His people not to fear but to believe. But it can be a slow and sloppy process. This Thursday our neighbor moved to Michigan. She had professional movers pack up her house, but even so all week she has been bringing stuff over to our house. Some of it she is storing in our garage until her son can pick it up, and she was giving us stuff all week. I walked into our living room and said, “hey, where did that lamp come from?” Oh, Cheryl gave it to us.
Jesus wants to move us from fear to faith, but we don’t have professional movers and sometimes we can feel like we still have an address in the land of fear with some of our stuff still there. Maybe sometimes most of our stuff still there. Maybe you deal with fear a lot – it feels like your native land. I pray the Lord speaks to us a word that grows our faith in Christ and kills our fear this morning, that helps to remind us there our home address really is: land of faith.

Mark 5:21-34 

I. Faith is expressed by coming to Christ

After healing the demoniac and being asked to leave by the townspeople, Jesus and the disciples return, probably to Capernaum, where they are greeted by a large crowd. Almost immediately a man named Jairus pushes through the crowd to get to Jesus. Jairus is one of the rulers of the synagogue which means he is a man of importance in this town, and the crowds are probably surprised to see him approach Jesus because the religious leaders haven’t been too keen on Jesus up to now.

But Jairus isn’t coming as the ruler of the synagogue, he’s coming as a father whose only child, a 12 year old daughter, is dying and he needs a miracle. Any parent in this room can understand Jairus’ desperation – he is begging Jesus to do something.

Maybe he’s seen Jesus perform miracles, maybe he’s only heard about them, but in his desperation, there is a seed of faith that rises up in Jairus’ heart. We can see it in his appeal to Jesus in verse 23: Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.

The Lord immediately turns to go with Jairus and the crowd follows too. And it’s in the midst of this massive crowd making their way to Jairus’ home that a second story starts to weave its way into Jairus’ story. A woman who had suffered for 12 long years with a discharge of blood and had not only spent a lot of money on doctors, but had “suffered much” at their hands, decided that if she could just touch the hem of his garment she knew she would be made well.

We might just think she was shy and didn’t want any attention and that’s why she wanted a “stealth healing” but actually there was a deep shame and rejection associated with her condition. Lev. 15 says this:

"If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days… all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. 26Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity. And everything on which she sits shall be unclean... 27And whoever touches these things shall be unclean… Leviticus 15:25-27

This woman has suffered much – and much more than just physically. For twelve long years she has been shunned by society as unclean. If she had a family she hasn’t been able to be with them or kiss her husband or hug her children for twelve years. According to the law she shouldn’t even be near this crowd. But she feels compelled to come to Jesus. Faith draws her to Jesus.

Isn’t that what faith is? Coming to Christ? Jairus came to Christ – pushed his way through to crowd to come to Christ. This poor woman came to Christ, pressed her way through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Why? Jairus’ faith believed: Come lay your hands on her (my daughter) so that she may be made well and live. This woman thinks to herself: If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

Faith comes to Christ believing he is able to meet our need. Biblical, saving faith comes to Christ. And that brings us to the second point.

II. Faith isn’t content to hang out with Jesus, faith reaches out to touch Christ

This poor woman reaches through the crowds and quietly touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and is instantly healed. She is about to quietly sneak away when her worst fear comes to pass (vv 30-34):

And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

There is a difference between the press of the crowd and the touch of the woman. People are banging into Jesus and pressed into Jesus as they crowd around him, but it’s not until this woman touches Christ out of desperation and need that power goes out of him.

This gives us a beautiful picture of a characteristic of faith. The theologian Augustine once observed that “flesh presses, faith touches.” Coming to Christ in faith – becoming a Christian – will often look different in different people’s lives, but it always has some element of reaching out in desperation and faith to touch Jesus. Sin made us all terminally sick and unclean in the sight of God and it’s not until we are convinced that there is no other way to be healed but to press through everything else and touch Christ in faith that we can be saved.

I’ve met people over the years who are comfortable hanging out with Jesus in the sense that they go to church, hang out with Christians, over time pick up some of the lingo, maybe even affirm certain Christian truths – but they’re more like the crowd than the woman. They’re curious about Jesus, enjoy talking about him, speculating about him, even debating about him, but when you talk to them there isn’t a point where they saw their desperate need for him. They don’t speak in intensely personal terms of reaching out in faith and touching Christ and being forgiven of their sins. If that’s you, I want to urge you, it’s not enough. See your need for forgiveness, for cleansing from sin, for restoration to a relationship with God. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we would hang out with him, but so that we would reach out to him to be saved.

But this picture speaks to Christians too. After coming to Christ for salvation, it’s far too easy for us to be content hanging out with Jesus rather than pressing in to touch Christ by faith and receive his power. The church can become a group of people thronging about Jesus but not touching Jesus. We become powerless and purposeless.

Prayer is the way we press through the crowds to touch Jesus. Taking that situation, that need, that loved one, that area of sin, that God-given dream and pressing through to Jesus, refusing to give up until we’ve touched the hem of his garment with it. This woman has given us a vivid picture of what our daily faith should look like. Not hanging around Jesus, pressing through to touch Jesus for power, for purpose, for cleansing. Let’s read verses 35-43

III. Faith that touches Christ is answered with the powerful touch of Christ

All of this is going on with the woman meant a delay in getting to Jairus’ daughter, and while Jesus is still talking to the woman, a delegation came from the ruler’s house with the news Jairus feared the most: your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?

As a parent, I can’t imagine anything worse than those words. I had a dream a while back where one of my kids was dying in my arms – and there was nothing I could do about it. Oh, how helpless, how desperate I felt in my dream – and all I could do was tell my child how much I loved him. As I thought about that dream yesterday in a coffee shop, tears were streaming down my face – and that’s just a dream.

Jairus is facing the reality of a parent’s worst nightmare coming true, and the icy fingers of fear begin to grip his mind and heart. This is the worst kind of fear – not a fear of what might happen, but the fear of what did happen and how do I face it? How do I go on? Into that fear Jesus speaks: do not fear, only believe. It’s not over. It’s not over.

Jesus could speak to a violent storm and it obeyed. Jesus could speak to an army of demons and they obeyed. Jesus could even heal a terminal disease. But death is different – it’s irreversible and it never gives back its victims. The Bible says that death is the last enemy to be vanquished – it’s the ultimate enemy in that it is immovable and unchangeable.

Jesus rebuked the storm, he commanded the legion of demons, and power went out of him when the woman touched the hem of his garment. But how will he deal with death? How will his authority, his power manifest itself in overcoming death? The answer might surprise you. We are about to enter a sacred place with Jesus. He sends away the crowd – and 9 of his disciples with them. He only allows Peter, James and John to accompany him. When he gets to the ruler’s house, they are weeping but their weeping turns to derisive laughter when Jesus tells them that the girl is only sleeping. And he puts them outside – only the child’s father and mother and his three closest disciples will witness this sacred moment.

Jesus doesn’t scream at death. He doesn’t rebuke death or command it to let the little girl go. If death is the greatest enemy Jesus faces, we might expect a Braveheart moment – where he rides back and forth in front of his disciples giving the speech of a lifetime and inspiring courage in the hearts of the fainthearted while the music crescendos behind him. That’s not what we see.

He takes the little girl by the hand and with tenderness (no raised voice) says in Aramaic, “little girl, I say to you, arise.” When Jesus says to the dead, “arise” they arise. How does Jesus overcome the life-ending power of death? With the life-beginning power of resurrection. And it is a surprisingly tender and compassionate moment. This is power wrapped in loving compassion. And this precious little girl immediately gets up and begins walking around the room – and the room is filled with a quiet, inexpressible joy – the parents have their little girl back, no greater joy could there be. In their joy they hear Jesus tell them two things: don’t tell anyone what you’ve seen. Keep this to yourselves. What happened in this little room is a sacred moment not to be commercialized. And give her something to eat! Apparently dying works up an appetite.

I have a friend who heard those same words this week: a dear friend of ours from Long Island who suffered greatly from cancer for the last several years heard Jesus say to her, “little girl, I say to you, arise.” She didn’t arise in this earth, last Monday she left this earth and arose in Jesus’ kingdom. The great hope of every Christian is that death doesn’t have the last word, Jesus does. And I think that word will be a lot like this word: a tender command to arise. And the first thing we will see is Jesus’ face and he’ll orient us to life resurrected.

Jesus is lord over all things. If you are a believer, nothing on earth or in heaven or in hell can harm you. Not even death. So whenever fear’s icy fingers begin to grip your heart and mind, Jesus speaks these words to you: do not fear, only believe. As we close in prayer, whatever situation might be tempting you to fear, as we pray, remember the native land God created you for is the land of faith. Faith in Christ.

Let’s pray.