Last year, August, after a busy and stressful couple of weeks I arrived home from Bulawayo. I’d had a very stressful 2 days there. And I went into bed that Friday around 2am. In another meeting – at home. I woke up around 7am on the Saturday morning and I had to attend a student, one of my previous disciples, who was wedding. So I could not fail to go. So I went there. Around 3 pm I was just so exhausted. I left Warren Park and got into the city. And suddenly I realised I hadn’t had a haircut or a shave in a long time. So I said to my wife “I need to just get a shave.” Quickly I just packed the car and rushed out. And as I was getting the haircut I realised my mouth was on the side! So I was like, to the barber “hey! Your mirror seems to be showing something. Seems like my mouth is on the side.” He said “Ah! I thought your were born like that. “I was like “No I think I’m having a mild stroke – if not worse!” He said “ah OK!” So he continues cutting my hair. So when he was done I asked him to walk me to the car. And he walked me to the car. And as soon as I got there I went into the car and I was battling with myself. Should I tell my wife or should I not? And I realised I should tell her because I might collapse anytime if anything. So I told her. And she was like “I wanted to tell you when you left that there was something happening on you – but you just stopped the car and you rushed out!” So straight from there I drove to the doctors and I was diagnosed with a mild stroke. So since then I have been on blood pressure pills because it didn’t want to go down.
It was that moment that I realised life is but a mist. It disappears as soon as the sun comes up. It may be high blood pressure, a heart attack. Today many are anxious because of the Corona pandemic – Coronavirus pandemic. The smell of death helped me to realise what is important and what is not. Yes, I’m a Christian. I’m a Pastor – I preach everyday. I’m not afraid of death.
But then I realised what about my wife? What about my kids? What about all those people I love? What will happen with them as soon as I depart and be with the Lord?
It seems today we are suddenly aware that we are in uncertain times. When yet according to God’s word we are living in the last days. And so according to Jesus anytime we need to either be ready to join him through death or maybe receive him as he takes us home. So, everyday according to Matthew 24:36-44 is an uncertain day! Because whatever we might do, or we are doing, in the process of doing and experiencing it suddenly that might be the end of it. Let me read to you Matthew 24:36-44:
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.”
If we had known the day and the hour that Coronavirus was going to come we were going to have put everything in place to be ready for it.
Verse 44 there: “Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Every day to a child of God is an uncertain day. And in this same awareness of the imminence of Christ’s return Paul actually encouraged the church in Philippi in a way I think you and I today need to be reminding each other. So that we might be encouraged and comforted, yet responding in a God honouring way to our day’s circumstance.
What does Paul say? Paul says “rejoice!” Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) Hello? Should I rejoice in uncertain times? Whoa. He says “let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5) Imagine – the imminence of it. The Lord is at hand! But how should you respond?
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God” Not my peace, not the certainty of tomorrow – no. But God’s peace – a peace that comes from God. And that peace surpasses what we might think of, what we might imagine. What it looks like. It surpasses that imagination. And that peace will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
And I am praying that we may be filled with the joy of the Lord in these uncertain times. A joy that comes from knowing our God and the guidance of his word. Such that once we face circumstances such as Coronavirus we are committed to God in prayer. Filled with thanksgiving in our hearts. Thanksgiving for life, for health, for eternal life! And trusting that he is faithful. He is faithful to give us His peace to guard our hearts from worry, from fear, from panic in Christ.
So our passage today, whoever set it, I think in God’s sovereignty it is truly a great letter. Luke 8:40-56. Because it helps us to know how to be fruitful in times such as this. And it uses simple language that you and me know.
So the message today is very simple. It’s a reminder of things that you and I already know as children of God. But may be a challenge to someone who doesn’t have a relationship with God. And so the first truth that it brings to life is we live in a broken world because of sin. You and I know it as children of God. And in the passage this is just after Jesus had healed Legion. The man who had been possessed with a lot of demons such that any chain that people would tie him with, he would break it.
Once Jesus heals this man the people of Gerasenes were so caught in fear of Jesus such that they begged him to leave. Because to them “who is this guy who is so powerful that not even Legion is equal to him?” So they are even more terrified of Jesus than of Legion! And they beg him to leave. To you and me it doesn’t make sense that they are asking Jesus to leave. But if you were in their shoes, it makes sense.
So Jesus doesn’t argue with them. He says “OK.” He heads back to Galilee and we hear in Luke 8:37: “Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So Jesus got into the boat and returned to Galilee.” And as soon as he gets to Galilee, verse 41 (Luke 8:41) now when Jesus returned, the crowd – there was already a group of people in Galilee waiting for him to come. Why were they waiting for him? Well they needed Jesus to help them with their challenges and struggles. The challenges and struggles of a broken world.
And two of them, we are told – there were many more I am sure – but two of them, we are told. The first one: “and there came a man” in verse 41 “named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.”
And the second incident. Verse 42: “As Jesus went” he is walking to Jairus’s daughter – yes it’s urgent – it’s a death situation. So he is walking there. People pressing against him because everyone is trying to get to Jesus. Verse 43: “And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.”
In a broken world we see the love of a father who’s only child – who’s only daughter – young and with her life ahead of her – death was about to snatch her away. Belive you me if you are a parent it is difficult and painful to bury your child. We all naturally expect to grow old. To see our children get married and have grandchildren and them to bury us. Not the other way round! But there are many other things. We don’t expect people to be born crippled. We don’t expect people to die – to be born dead – or to die when they are months old. So like Jarius – as you and me today as Coronavirus is knocking at our doors – we are doing everything we can to say “please, close the schools. Children please stay clean. Stay indoors. Don’t go out into the roads and play. Be careful what you touch.” We all want the best for our children even in the face of such a disaster. And anything that seeks to snatch them away from us too early we stand against.
And in a similar way even when we are adults, we hear of this woman. She has a terminal illness.12 years she has been bleeding. No physician can help her. She has spent everything. She is maybe at the last cent and in she has even given up. She comes to Jesus.
Coronavirus so far has no treatment, and there are many diseases. You talk of cancer. You talk of HIV. You talk of different… What experts have done with all of these diseases they have only managed to manage them. We can manage them now. We can kind of control them so that people can live a normal life with those diseases. So Corona is not the first one which is untreatable. It might be even some of them are genetic. You don’t even ask for them. You are born with them or you inherit them from your parents. It might be lack of children. And everyday you home for a solution, but there seem none in the reach.
Dear friends I want to say we live in the same world that this woman and Jairus lived. We still live with maybe even more complicated circumstances than theirs. And we keep on facing the possibility of death. Where do we run for protection? Where do we find hope? How do we respond in such times?
Jesus is the answer
And this is my second point: Jesus is the answer to the challenges of a broken world. Again it is a Sunday school lesson and a reminder. Jesus is the answer. If you ask a Sunday school… any question you ask Jesus is the answer! Again, “Yes, Jesus is the answer.”
Yesterday my daughter Ariel – she is in the cry room – woke up with a runny nose. And I remember the questions I asked my wife. Here are they: Why isn’t she wearing a jersey? Are you giving her anything to deal with the cold? Did she sleep with a jumper or not? And my poor wife was trying to catch up with my questions to answer! And really it’s not the first time I have done this. As I was preparing the talk it suddenly hit me: I did not ask the most important question to her. And do you know what that question is? Did you pray.
Did you Pray?
I didn’t! Until I got to this verse I was like… “hello? How could I miss it?”
How many times have we ever prayed to King Jesus for healing because of a headache, or a cold, or a skin rash, or a joint ache? Or maybe even a running stomach? Unless it gets persistent. Unless it gets persistent. I confess it wasn’t until I heard COVID-19 was becoming worse that I started to pray! Still I think I wasn’t serious in my prayer until I read about Italy. Then the pin dropped for me. I was like “wait a minute – if this is happening in Italy – if it gets here what will happen?”
I began to heed the advices. The washing of hands. No shaking of hands in a much more serious way when the pin finally dropped. But I think it was about two days ago I think the whole time I was like “hey hello hey Jesus looks after us.”
Jairus and the bleeding woman came to Jesus and this is what happened. And I want to say Jesus is the answer. Why? Because see what happened when they come to Jesus. Verse 44: “She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” all denied it, and then Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all…” “She declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51 And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.”
Dear friends, the woman was healed by touching Jesus’ garment. Jarius’ daughter was raised to life by Jesus’ words. Simple. Jesus was able to heal. Jesus was able to give life. Nothing was then an nothing is even today too difficult for him. As he walked this earth as we are hearing we learn from this story that he healed diseases that the medical professions had failed to treat! And even death, to him, was sleep! Such that he called to life those who were dead, and declared dead by others.
And do you know what? By the end of Luke’s gospel Jesus will be crucified. He will die. And three days he will be in the grave. And this is where the irony in the story is. We hear of Jairus’ only daughter. And you can’t help but remember that Jesus also is God’s only son. And Jairus is doing everything he can for the love of his daughter. And you and me will do the same! But God gave his only son.
It’s kind of upside down the story. Is it because God doesn’t care for his son? The story is telling us no. Just like you care about your son God loves Jesus. Why then would God give his only son? Then you begin to realise how much love God has for you and for me. How much and how far he is willing to go for you and for me. And Jesus’ death by the end of Luke you realise he is dying because of a broken world – but for a broken world. He is dying in your place and in my place. Paying the penalty for sin which is death. But death could not hold him. 1 Corinthians 15:56 says “the sting of death is sin and the power of death is the law. But thanks be to God.” But why thanks be to God? Because Jesus, in his resurrection, just like he raised Jairus’ daughter, he rose from the dead on your and my behalf.
So that death will not mean anything to us but a door to true life. Why? Because in his death and in his resurrection a means was provided for the whole world, anyone, to submit to him and to be forgiven of their sins and to be declared right with God. Restoration of relationship between God and man was made possible in Jesus’ death.
But you know what, not only mankind was restored to relationship. Even creation, it’s hope lies in Jesus’ death and resurrection. So only Jesus Christ, online in Jesus Christ is the brokenness of this world dealt with. He is the answer. Why then don’t we see or experience life as Jesus is sovereign and in control of everything? Why does it feel as if everything that happens is chaos? And everyone is just “unless we do something nothing will happen”? Well, I want to say God calls us to respond in uncertain times to respond to our situations no matter what they are in faith.
And this is my last point. Sunday and Elijah says this God’s reaction is towards things is different to ours. And he wishes that our reaction will line up with his. And this story does beautifully.
I want you to look at the responses to this situation – same situations – of Jairus’ and the bleeding woman, the multitudes and Jesus himself. You see the ruler comes and because of his situation he falls on Jesus’ feet and begs him. He humbles himself and he is helpless and he pleads to Jesus for help. That’s how he responds. Jairus. And how does the multitude respond? Well they keep checking the situation and when the child was dead they came and said – “don’t bother him anymore. It’s the end. There is no hope now. It is a hopeless situation. Don’t bother the master. This is the end.”
But Jesus comes. And this is his response. No matter what is being said, no matter what is the updates that are coming from people who are coming from the real situation. No matter the updates that are coming Jesus responds and says “do not be afraid.” Do not fear. What should you do? Only believe. Why? It will be well.
And Jesus stands by his word. When even he get’s to the house he says “do not cry. Stop crying! She is not dead! She is asleep!” He calms them discourages fear, encourages faith. And he views death – gives them a perspective of death. It is not the end of the world. It is sleep.
You see the bleeding woman comes and interrupts this story. And it forms like a sandwich. She comes shameful of her situation – hiding. And only wants to touch the garment of Jesus. And you can see if all the doctors have failed – would this guy ever do it? Maybe he will do it! Let me give it a go. She is not sure of herself. And we don’t hear the perspective of the crowds. We only hear Jesus. Jesus responds “someone has touched me.” Until she is in her corner she cannot hide and she realises she could not hide anymore, the author tells us then she comes out. But when she comes out she declares everything about why she came and what Jesus has done.
Imagine! This is a situation that no woman would talk about. MPs you are not even here. Ladies won’t even talk about that. How much more that I am bleeding? Yet here she says everything. What Jesus was desiring of this woman was that she would come out in the open! Transparent and unashamed. With a witnessing faith. A faith that converses what God is doing and has done and gives peace to hearers.
My friends, this is what happens and how we should respond. A situation where many doctors had failed. Resources had been spent. Jesus comes and heals. That is the meat in the sandwich.
And once Jesus brings this lady into the surface and says “you need to be bold – you need to…” and she confesses her faith and what Jesus had done, suddenly Jairus’ circumstance becomes grave in the story. Suddenly we hear Jairus’ daughter is dead. But what had happened with the woman prepares you for what is happening with Jairus. Dear friends, how you and I have lived from childbirth until now has prepared us to know our God. To know what he is capable of. Such that in the face of this we are still here. How many people die of accidents every day? How many people die of natural sicknesses every year? Are we alive because we are clever? Like the bleeding woman’s story we are prepared for even a situation like Jairus’. Whereby death is not just imminent, death is present! But again, we know who we have believed. Jesus is still in control.
And so Jesus’ response even to the woman is Jesus’ response that he desires for each of us to respond, even in our circumstances. Here is the response that we should have. Number one. Do not be afraid. And number two, believe.
Believe not in yourself. Believe not in humans. Yes, God gives wisdom to people but believe not in them. Believe in God who works through people and who works through people’s intelligence.
And number three know that it will be well for you either way whether it is in life or in death. Because death is not the end, number four, death is sleep for those who have believed in God. So if you are not having a relationship with God, I think you should really fret. You should shake in your shoes. Because you need to make things right with your creator. And this is the time. This is the time to say “Lord, I am living in your world. I am enjoying your blessings and I have never acknowledged that you exist. I am sorry. Help me to be back in relationship with you because of Jesus. And help me to have the right perspective of death. I should not die biting my tongue, fighting death. But I should die…” Doctors are in trouble! Sometimes people die with their mouths wide open because they are struggling not wanting to die! And then people try to close those mouths and those eyes but everything is open! Because people are afraid of death!
Why not die in peace? Knowing that death is sleep because God in Christ has overcome death.
My friend, Jesus’ desire is for us not to fear the challenges of a broken world. Let us know and believe that he is the creator, sovereign over all things, and in control of all things. He is in control of wars. He is in control of presidents of economies of diseases of the world. Just as he numbers our days on earth, he also likewise holds everything together by the power of his word.
And this is what Paul says, speaking of suffering in the present world. Listen to Paul. Romans 8: 18-27. It’s good to read it to ourselves. Putting it into our shoes. Verse 18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning…” we are all groaning! Even plants are groaning! “in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
And Paul says: “26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” When we feel weak when we feel tired when we panic, the spirit helps us. “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Dear friends, may we be encouraged. Knowing that God is in control and he gives us his peace. May we be comforted by the work of the spirit in our lives. May we be strengthened even when our knees our shaking. May we be strengthened in the fellowship of sisters and brothers in Christ who hold to the same hope. And in all this, I pray that we will not be paralysed.
Let us not be paralysed to inactivity by the anxiety about tomorrow. You know what Jesus says about that? Because tomorrow has it’s own worries. So what should you do? May our hope in God enable us to live wisely, to live responsibly and even more to live joyfully productive lives.
And how do we do that? We need to live these joyfully productive lives bearing fruit everyday no matter how things turn out because we know that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. To live is Christ. To live we are to bear fruit. Fruit in love. Let’s love one another, let’s check on each other. Let’s call each other. Joy! Let us encourage each other to celebrate what we have, in God, and in this present world. Gifts from him. The salvation we have and the hope we have. Peace! This is the fruit of the spirit! Love, joy, peace. The peace of God. Let’s be sources of peace in a world that is uncertain. Forbearance. Let’s be the source of people enduring. Kindness! Let’s be kind to one another – don’t be like me. Who fires 10 questions to my wife because I am under pressure in my work. Every employee is calling every 5 seconds: “Should I still do that? Should. I do that?” And I didn’t even know what to do! Let’s be kind one to another. Let’s be dispensers of goodness. Let’s be gentle – one to another. Let’s listen. Let’s be slow to answer but quick to hear. And let’s be self-controlled.
Why? Again, because to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
We need to bear fruit in the fruit of the spirit to the glory of God.
Listen to this, as I pray. “And her parents were amazed but he charged the to tell no one what had occurred.” That’s the last verse. And you wonder “tell no one?” Why? Well Jesus had not died then and had not resurrected then. Now he is dead, he is resurrected and he is King. Don’t shut your mouth. Just tell people. Just talk to people. Just tell them that Jesus is the answer.