Sunday, June 28, 2009

“Don’t Be Afraid…Only Believe?” (Mark 5:36)

S-1127 6/28/09 3SAP/3B Hymns: (O) #649 (S)#410; (C) #47

Texts Lamentations 3:22-33; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43

Theme: “Don’t Be Afraid…Only Believe?” (Mark 5:36)

Question: “Do You Always believe everything?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is the Gospel lesson: “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe’ (Mark 5:36).


Saints in Christ, in last week’s sermon I said, “Sometimes the storms in our lives are externals and others are internal. These storms that come into our lives cause us much fear. Fear of not knowing what to do, where to go, what to say, or who to see.” A politician once said, “There is nothing to fear except fear itself!” Today’s text deals with two internal storms that affected two different people as they came in contact with Jesus. These two people were dealing with fear. Fear that grabbed them. Fear that grounded them. Fear that gagged them.

We all have fear of some sort. It affects our lives, our outlook and our activities. And fear is no friend of the preacher or the people of God. Fear causes us to do things that we would never dream. Fear makes us irrational. It leads us to surrender the things we treasure most. Fear is nothing other than a tool of the devil.

It was fear that kept the woman in our text from coming to Jesus face to face. She had been suffering from a “bleeding problem.” We aren’t talking about a scraped knee here. We are talking about menstrual issues. Now, this doesn’t seem like much to us today, but for her, it was a serious issue. She had two things to fear. The first and most pressing fear was that she would never be rid of this condition. If you have ever dealt with chronic illness or watched someone you love live through a chronic disorder, you know the frustration. She had seen the best “doctors” of the day and they brought her no relief but grief. Jesus might well be her last great hope.

Now, for us, Jesus being the last great hope would be nothing to be afraid of. However there was another problem. This bleeding issue presented an even bigger issue. It made her unclean. No rabbi or priest would ever touch her. To do so would make them unclean. So here is the woman’s greatest fear: Her last and only hope is walking by, but under the rules of the day, He wouldn’t touch her. In her mind, no touch meant no healing. The fear of this caused her to do the unthinkable. She tried to sneak some healing. PAUSE.

There is even more fear in this text today. There is the great fear of Jairus. This fear made him do the unthinkable. As a leader of the synagogue, it would be career suicide for him to approach Jesus. But the fear of the loss of his place in the community was outweighed by an even greater fear. That fear was the illness of his daughter. It was the fear of this loss that would cause him to do the unthinkable. He goes to Jesus and beggs Him to come “lay His hands on her” and make her well.

In our text we find two people that have fear driving them to do what they would never do otherwise. What about you? What has fear driven you to do? Are you in the midst of storms in your personal life that you are ashamed of so much so that you don’t think God would understand? Have you been so afraid of what others think of you that you are unwilling to be reconciled to a family member or brother or sister in Christ? Or has fear kept you from sharing your relationship with Jesus Christ with a loved one that either doesn’t have one or has allowed theirs to cool to the point of jeopardizing their eternal soul?

Or what are we as a congregation afraid of? There are so many challenges that face the people of God today. The world in which we live which at one point used to be so in tune with us now seems so dissonant. Our message of new life in Christ which was once common knowledge is now treated as a threat to our society. The message of salvation in Jesus Christ ALONE has even been called terrorist in some circles. It would be easy to be afraid.

And how does Jesus answer our fears? First and foremost He challenges them. When touched by the woman who was trying to sneak some healing from the hem of His garment, He would not let it pass. He stops the procession and silences the crowd. He zeroes in on the hoping to be hidden woman and singles her out. But instead of a tongue lashing, she gets touched with love by the Great Physician and commended her act of reaching out to Him. Her faith does more than makes her well. The actual word in the Greek means it saved her. She is saved from the bleeding, but more than that she is saved from her greatest problem. Her greatest fear is not the uncleanness of the bleeding but the uncleanness of her sin. And this has been done away with by Jesus’ loving touch. Here in this place we see the reason, why we need NOT be afraid to come to Jesus. He is the One who bids us come to Him. How many times do you read in the Scriptures Jesus’ kind, caring and compassionate invitations? And through His help, this bleeding woman is now brought forth to the family of God. Jesus is the answer to all of her fears.

The encounter with the woman allows Jairus’ fear to come to fruition. As the woman’s fears are answered, the news comes that the young girl has been caught in the clutches of death. Fear rules the day in the household of the respected man. That is, until Jesus gets wind of it.

Looking at the now distraught father in the eyes, Jesus utters what seems to be nonsense. “Do not fear, only believe!” Fear for his lost child would have been in order. Fear of not holding his daughter again tugged at the strings of his heart. Fear of not seeing His daughter again, stifled his mind. The power of grief is REAL. You know this power first hand. How many times have you felt the fear of helplessness in the face of death? Death seems so powerful, so final. PAUSE.

But not with Jesus! With a word death is defeated. With a simple word, “Little girl, get up!” death is undone. With a simple word, “Your faith has made you well,” blood stopped flowing. The greatest of fears is conquered by this Great Rabbi. He makes the unclean clean. He makes the dead live. He does the impossible. This Jesus is something else!

And imagine what this same Jesus wants to do for you! You see, even as Christians we face fears. We talked about some of them earlier. We are fearful of events in our world. We are fearful of circumstances in our lives that we can’t control or change. We are fearful of so many things. And yes, at times when we insist on making life make sense, we are even afraid of death itself. But these words are not just the words of a fairy tale. These words recorded by St. Mark so many centuries ago were meant for so much more than just “once upon a time” or “way back when.” These words of Jesus are here and now words. They are words that speak to our situations. These words are words of the faith in the face of fear. But this faith is not rooted in our ability to grab ourselves by the bootstraps and pull ourselves through. No, these words take us back to the person and work of Christ, whose living Word still speaks: Fear not, for I Am with you; be not dismayed, for I Am Your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10).

Remember how we said that fear leads us to often do the unthinkable. How unthinkable would it be for you to willingly and intentionally send your only son to die in the place of people who constantly disobeyed and disbelieved you? There are a lot of people in this world that I love dearly. But there isn’t one of them for whom I would sacrifice my children.

Knowing that we would be lost for eternity and considering that the unthinkable, our Heavenly Father and gracious God did the unthinkable—He sent Jesus, His One and Only Son to the cross for US; fearful, faithless as we are! He did it as the only effort that could save you from your faithless fearfulness. This is a done deal. This is an accomplished reality. The cross happened in real time. It brought about real death. That death conquered real fear, because that cross was not the end. On the other side of the cross lays and empty tomb. Well, it was occupied for three day, but now and forevermore that tomb is empty. For with Jesus, death has met its match. Our GREATEST fear has been foiled.

Now to us, in the face of what Jesus has done, we hear those same words that Jairus heard. Don’t fear, only believe”. Our faith is rooted in the resurrection reality of Jesus Christ. When Christ has conquered death for us, there is really nothing we need fear. Sure, there are things that will unsettle us. There will be things that give us pause. There will even be times when our sin brings us to the summit of shame. But in each of these places, and a thousand more, Jesus comes to find us. He stops the procession. He silences the unbelieving and scoffing crowd. He looks directly into our eyes and hearts. And with a simple word, all our fears are done away with. In Word and Sacrament, a word read, a word preached, a word splashed or a word ingested, Jesus says to us “Don’t Fear. Only Believe”. Your sins are forgiven. Your eternity is guaranteed. Nothing can harm you. And in amazement and faith we can only say, AMEN.

Now the peace…

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