Mark 6:45-56 – Hearts Harder than Stale Bread

Mark 6:45–56 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Just six weeks ago, our Gospel lesson (Mk. 4:35-41) was very similar to this.  The similarities include: crossing the lake late at night, a strong storm with strong wind, Jesus calms the storm, and the disciples are left in fear and amazement.  But today’s text also has many differences with Mk. 4:35-41.

In today’s text, the disciples are alone in the boat; Jesus isn’t in the stern sleeping while lying on a cushion.  In today’s text, Jesus is very much awake.  Jesus is the Divine, Powerful Master of the storm Who is walking on the water as though it were a hardwood floor.

In Mk. 4:35-41,  the disciples ask, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”  But in today’s text, the disciples are not just questioning Who Jesus is.  They are “unable to understand” Who Jesus is.  Jesus can walk on water like hardened concrete, but the disciples’ hearts are harder than concrete.  Their hearts are so hard because they are unable to understand about the loaves of bread that Jesus had used to feed the 5000 men (plus women & children) Mk. 6:38-44.  Even though the disciples were repeatedly returning to Jesus to get more bread to set before the banquet guests, they did not understand about the loaves of bread.

Jesus reveals more and more clearly that He is God, but the disciples more and more are unable to cope with the fact that He is God.  After Jesus gets into the boat with the disciples, Mark comments that the disciples were “utterly astounded” (lit. standing outside themselves).  Their hearts become harder than stale bread.

Jesus instructs the disciples to go ahead of Him to the other side of the lake while He dismisses the crowd.  So Jesus deliberately creates this separation between Himself and the disciples.  He releases the crowd and climbs up a mountain to pray.  Evening turns to night, and the boat carrying the disciples is now out in the middle of the lake.  Alone on the mountain, Jesus sees them; He sees that the wind is against them.  He also sees that they are literally ‘being tortured’ by the wind and are unable to make headway.

“About the fourth watch of the night,” 3-6 AM, Jesus decides to take a stroll down the mountain, across the beach, onto the water, and out into the middle of the lake.  “He meant/intended to pass by the disciples.”

I think that is one of the oddest phrases in the Bible, “Jesus meant to pass by them.”  What in the world does this mean?  One commentary spends 16 pages discussing what could possibly be meant by this phrase.  A good understanding is to view this as God revealing Himself.  The language here is similar to Ex. 33:19-34:8 where God allows His goodness to “pass before” Moses, and similar to 1 Ki. 19:11-13 when God passed by Elijah not in the strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the still, small voice.

This “passing by” is what God had done in the past to reveal Himself to people.  Jesus apparently wanted to reveal Himself to the disciples.  And in several Old Testament passages, God is depicted as the Master of the Waters by walking upon them (Job 9:8; Ps. 77:19).  Is 43:16 describes16 [Yahweh], Who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters.

Outwardly, when people looked at Jesus, they saw a normal man Who smiled, talked, ate, drank, walked, rested, slept, and did all the things an ordinary man would.  Yet, Jesus did things that clearly revealed that He was much more than an ordinary man.  The disciples see that again.

Imagine how the disciples experienced this; think about the day they are having.  They are back in their boat, their normal workplace, after a failed retreat.  Rather than getting a retreat with their Teacher, they are forced to be waiters for the feasting of the 5000—a crowd of (possibly) 15,000 people.  Instead of camping for the night, Jesus now tells them to cross the lake—for the second time that day.  When they finally get to the middle of the lake, a wind comes up and keeps them from being able to cross.  They are being tortured by the wind (they aren’t afraid here, only stalled out and frustrated).  It is somewhere between 3-6 AM.

Then, they look up and see a Person walking on the water as though it were any normal road.  Their reaction, which is probably a ‘normal’ reaction, was to think that they saw a ghost, a phantasm.  You can hear them hollering, “I can’t believe my eyes.”  “You see that too?”  “Can it be real?  It is moving against the wind.”  “Do you see that?”  “Yes.  Let’s get out of here.”  They cry out in fear and are terrified.

So, Jesus is revealing Himself to the disciples, that He is God, Lord of the Storm, Master over the Sea, yet the disciples are terrified, crying out, and not benefiting from the revelation.  Yet, Jesus graciously tells them, “Take heart; I am He.  Do not be afraid.”

The storm stops.  You would expect that the disciples would then breathe a sigh of relief.  You would expect a nice, happy ending to this text where everyone has a good laugh; they reach the other side and go out for a breakfast of carmel rolls.  Instead, the disciples are outside of their minds.  They have some sort of out of body experience.  They just don’t “understand about the bread, but their hearts were hardened.”

Scripture clearly teaches Who God is.  He is the All-knowing, All-powerful, All-wise, and All-loving Creator, Savior, and Sustainer.  Yet, you doubt and become fearful and hardened against Him.  You know it is sinful, but when you hear about 70 people getting shot and 12 of them killed while they are enjoying a movie, you doubt that God is All-knowing, All-powerful, All-wise, and All-loving.  If God were All-knowing, All-powerful, All-wise, and All-loving, why doesn’t He stop evil things from happening?

Too often, you want God to prove Himself to you.  You want Him to prove that He is Who He says He is, and you dictate how God needs to prove it.  That is the height of idolatry.

God doesn’t need to prove Himself to you.  God does not necessarily deliver you from all your troubles in exactly the way you think He should.  God doesn’t necessarily make everything perfect right now so you can “live happily ever after.”

Christians, we are too casual today.  We tend to think God is our Heavenly Friend.  We think He is the Santa Claus in the sky with a naughty or nice list and that He answers prayers according to that list.  But God is so much more awesome, majestic, and powerful than that.  Too quickly, we forget that He is also the God Who commands the waves and the seas.  We forget that He is allowed to do things that we don’t understand.

In Is. 45:5–7 God says 5 I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides Me there is no God; … I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, Who does all these things.

God doesn’t need to prove Himself to you.  God has already proved Himself the All-knowing, All-powerful, All-wise, and All-loving Creator, Savior, and Sustainer.  He proved it in a way that looks like absolute weakness and foolishness.  God proved Himself on the cross.  God showed His love for you on the cross.  He descended to earth and revealed His wisdom and love and power by delivering you from sin, death, and the devil.  And still, you want God to reveal Himself in a new and different way?  Knock it off.  Don’t tell God how to do His job.

As Jesus passes by the disciples to reveal Who He is, they do not understand and become terrified, and yet Jesus speaks graciously to them, “Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.”

Even when you don’t understand, even when you’re terrified, even when you doubt Who God is, He continues to be gracious to you and be patient with you.  He reveals Himself to you in ways that are much more quiet that are much more mundane, maybe, than you would prefer.  He reveals Himself to you through the preaching of the Word and through His Sacraments.

Though you do not understand and though you harden your heart, He continues to be gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and righteousness.  Amen

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto eternity.  Amen.

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Mark 6:31-44 – Desolation, Garden Plots, & Feasts

Mark 6:31–44 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desert place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desert place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desert place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This text is strange.  This large crowd followed Jesus and the disciples to a desert, desert, desert place (Mk. 6:31, 32, 35).  And yet, this crowd, this large flock of people who are “like sheep without a shepherd,” is commanded to sit down on the fresh green grass.

This text is referred to as the “Feeding of the 5000” (men plus women and children).  Using the term ‘feeding’ makes it sound like cattle herded to the trough.  It would be better to understand this as the “Feasting of the 5000” (men plus women and children)  This event is a fulfillment of Ps. 23.  This crowd is led by Yahweh their Shepherd Who literally makes them lie down (not just sit but ‘recline at table’) in green grass.  Yahweh literally prepares a table before them even in the Deathly Desert place.

The imagery of Is. 35 is also pictured here in Mark.  Is 35:1, 5-7 1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom…. 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

All of this has been taking place as Jesus brings the rule and reign of God.  Blind see; deaf hear; the lame walk; the mute speak.  Now here in this desert place, there is fresh green grass and the crowd reclines at a banquet (see also Is. 25:6-8a).

The crowd receives from Jesus, Yahweh in the flesh, blessings promised in those texts.  Contrast that with the disciples.

In last week’s Gospel text (Mk. 6:7-30), Jesus sent out the disciples.  He gave them authority over unclean spirits, and He told them to take only a walking stick and sandals.  He told them to take no bread, take no bag, and take no money.  So the disciples go out and preach, “Repent,” just as Jesus is preaching.  As the disciples preach, they cast out demons and anoint sick people with oil and heal them.

The disciples return and tell Jesus everything that they had done and taught (Mk. 6:30).  Our Gospel text picks this up and Jesus announces, “Time for a vacation.  C’mon boys, let’s go to a desert place away from the people and rest.”

The disciples have done a lot of work.  They have been giving a lot now it’s time for them to receive and be refreshed.  Jesus wants to provide rest for their souls.

But this retreat isn’t so successful.  The crowds recognize them, and they even arrive at the desert before the disciples and Jesus do.

Jesus sees this crowd and His guts are wrenched because those people are like sheep without a shepherd.  So Jesus begins to teach the people many different things.  The disciples patiently wait for Jesus to teach, but then the hour begins to get late.  Jesus has had His time to minister to this poor crowd.  The disciples, apparently, still hope for a little vacation.  Finally, near supper time, the disciples ask Jesus to dismiss the crowd so they can get some food.

But Jesus will have none of it.  The dialogue between Jesus and the disciples reveals that there is tension.  Jesus tersely commands the disciples, “You give them something to eat.”

The tension continues to rise.  The disciples respond, “Even if we could find enough bread at this time and even if we had the 200 denarii—over half a year’s wages—why would we spend that much to feed this crowd?”

But Jesus doesn’t accept that response from the disciples.  He tells them, “Go, count how many loaves we have.”  Five loaves, two fish.  As the disciples ask Jesus to send the crowd away to get food, had they forgotten that they don’t have enough food for themselves?

Remember Jesus’ invitation to the disciples back in v. 31, “Come away by yourselves to a desert place.”  In this desert place, the disciples could scrounge up only five loaves of bread, at most one loaf was enough for one person for one day.  Their group is thirteen men, twelve disciples plus Jesus, and the disciples don’t even bring enough food for one day?  That wouldn’t make for a very long retreat.  Did they expect Jesus to provide for them?

When Jesus sent the disciples out on their missionary trip, He told them not to take bread.  Apparently, Jesus divinely provided for then during their short-term mission trip.  It makes sense that Jesus would continue to provide for their needs.

Maybe the disciples don’t realize yet that just as Jesus had provided for them during their mission trip, Jesus could also provide for them on this retreat.  If Jesus could provide for the disciples, couldn’t He also provide for massive crowd?

The disciples give Jesus the report that they have these five loaves and two fish which certainly won’t be enough to feed the whole crowd….

Not so fast.  Look at this heavenly feast.

In v. 39-40 there are some details that get lost in translation.  Jesus commands the crowd not just to “sit down” but lit. ‘recline at table.’  We would expect people on a picnic like this to sit down, but what Jesus commands is the language which is used at a banquet.  This meal that Jesus is going to provide isn’t just to get food into their bellies.  This is a banquet feast where the food is given freely, at no cost.

The people are to recline, the ESV reads, “in groups,” but lit. there is a phrase here “banqueting group by banqueting group.”  This is not an ordinary meal, it is a divine feast of a multitude of banquet guests reclining on fresh green grass in the middle of the desert.

The banqueting groups recline v. 40 reads “in groups” again, but lit. it is “garden plot by garden plot” in hundreds and fifties.

This is feasting and reclining in a desert place with green grass and each group is called a garden plot.

Jesus gives thanks for the food.  He repeatedly gives bread to the disciples.  The disciples repeatedly set the bread before the people.  The two fish are divided also.  Every individual in every banqueting group ate and was more than just satisfied—each ate their fill.  They ate until they could banquet no more.  Then the food, which began as no more than a snack for the vacation-deprived disciples is gathered up and there are twelve baskets full—another banquet could be possible.

Just as Isaiah had prophesied (Is. 35), in this dry wilderness there was gladness.  In the desert, were waters and streams for Yahweh’s harassed and helpless sheep.  As Isaiah had prophesied (Is. 25) about the feast upon the mountain where all people would feast at Yahweh’s banquet, this miracle gives us a foretaste of what that will look like.

So today, if you are harassed and helpless, Jesus desires that you recline at His table.  Find your rest on the fresh green grass even though you are in the middle of the wilderness.  Receive from Him until you have your fill and your cup overflows.

If you are a disciple weary of laboring in Christ’s kingdom and even if Christ continues to give you tasks, remember—even though the task before you is impossible and you don’t have the resources necessary to accomplish what Christ commands, remember He provides.  There will still be baskets full.

Christ gave a foretaste of His eternal feast that day.  He continues to give a foretaste of His eternal feast in Communion.  Receive from Him all His blessings.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus your banquet Host.  Amen.

Mark 6:1-6a – Him Not Who You Think Him Is

Mark 6:1-6a—He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Jude and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who has walked among us.  Amen.

I hope everyone from time to time enjoys a good book.  Whatever genre you like, I hope you sit and read.  Mark’s Gospel reads like a good story.  Mark has a lot of action and plenty of drama, and it tells about a lot of things that are just plain amazing.  Homework assignment: Read Mark in one sitting this week.  It is only about 25 pages, you could read it in an hour quite easily.

Sometimes, when we read, the story just remains words on paper or pictures in our minds.  The characters stay imaginary.  This is especially true, unfortunately, when we read Scripture.  We underestimate a Character in the Gospel of Mark Who was and is the Son of God in the flesh.  This Man came and dwelt here on earth in history.

We forget that Jesus was in the womb of His mother, and we forget that Jesus was actually born.  We sometimes forget the fact He grew up; He experienced what it was to be a boy.  He learned how to eat, speak, and walk.  He experienced fatigue, pain, hunger, and thirst.  We forget that He lived in an actual town and in a real house.  We forget that He had neighbors and that He had (half) brothers and sisters.  Too easily and too quickly forget that Jesus was a Man.

He experienced every aspect of being a human just as you experience it, and yet He remained sinless.

Jesus’ hometown was Nazareth in northern Israel.  Archaeologists have dug it up and have estimated the population in Jesus’ day was about 400 people.  Most of you, if not all of you, know about small-town life.  Small-town life means everyone knows everything about everyone.

When Jesus was about 30 years old (Lk. 3:23), He left Nazareth and traveled south to be baptized by John in the Jordan River.  After this, Satan unsuccessfully tempted Him to fall into sin; Jesus remained sinless.  Jesus returned to the northern parts of the country where He grew up and began to preach and teach “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Jesus healed; He cast out demons; He commanded even the wind and the sea; and He even raised the dead.  People from the north and south were thronging around Him (Mk. 3:7-8) and following Him.  They were listening to His teaching.  This dramatic action goes on for five whole chapters, and Jesus is going full throttle.

But then comes Mark 6.  It is not just that the breaks are hit, this is like running into a brick wall.  Not everyone is impressed with Jesus.

As Jesus comes back to His hometown after having traveled through the area, the crowds were dumbfounded and even repulsed.  “Where did this Man, Jesus, get these things?  What is this wisdom that has been given to Him?  He’s a carpenter!  We know His mother and brothers and sisters, they live just down the street.  We remember Jesus from when He was this tall.  Hey, remember when He ditched His parents and stayed in Jerusalem when He was twelve (Lk. 2:41-52)?”  And they are scandalized by Him.

Jesus’ friends and acquaintances from Nazareth hear Him and are repulsed.  Jesus comes back to His hometown when He is 30’ish and the ‘Nazarethians’ think He is trying to be something greater than they knew that He was—their neighbor, a carpenter.  They robbed Jesus of His divinity.  They look at Jesus, and all they see was the “little boy from down the street.”

The crowds in Nazareth that Sabbath doubted Jesus’ identity and ministry.  They thought Jesus was something much less than He actually was and is.

Who else, gathered in churches throughout this country, minimizes Jesus’ identity and ministry?  Who gathered in the pews of congregations throughout this city believe that Jesus is a Man Who taught a higher standard of morals and broke down the socio-economic walls of His day?  Who here in this sanctuary does not believe in the person and work of Jesus?

Too quickly and too easily, you diminish Jesus and make Him something far inferior than what He actually is.

Who is this Jesus?  Who is this Man Who heals, casts out demons, and has authority over the wind and sea?  Who is this Man Who lived in Nazareth and was a carpenter Who had relatives?

To quote The Princess Bride, “[Him not] Who you think Him is.”

Jesus is the divine, eternal Son of God Who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Jesus is the One Who Himself bore your sins “in His body on the tree that you might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24).  Your sins are not just debts recorded against you in God’s ‘naughty or nice’ list.  Christ wrapped Himself in your sin.  Either you bear your sins in your body or Christ does in His.  When Christ bears your sins, those sins are defeated sins.  Jesus is not Who you think He is.

Jesus is the pure, spotless sacrifice for sins.  The crucifixion was no accident.  Christ came in order to lay His life down for you.  He says, “No one takes My Life from Me, but I lay it down of My Own accord” (Jn. 10:18).  Jesus is not Who you think He is.

Jesus testified against Himself; He didn’t plead the 5th Amendment.  Instead, Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors” (Is. 53:12; Lk. 22:37).  God had commanded that His people keep themselves separate from the sinful and unclean.  But Jesus didn’t.  He ate with the tax collectors and sinners so often that people accused Him of being a “glutton and a drunkard” (Mt. 11:19).  Christ wasn’t separate from sinners; He was right beside them in the muck and filth.  Christ is the “holy, holy, holy Lord of hosts” (Is. 6:3), and He has fellowship with sinners.  Jesus is not Who you think He is.

Jesus entered His sinful creation which was in open rebellion against Him.  Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law” (Gal. 4:4).  When the law of God found Jesus living among robbers, liars, adulterers, murderers, and thieves, it condemned Jesus as a sinner—as a robber, liar, adulterer, murderer, and thief.  Jesus is not Who you think He is.

Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29).  You were like sheep who had gone astray and turned to our own way, but God laid on Jesus your iniquity (Is. 53:6).  He is the Lamb of God who takes and confesses your sins as though He had done them.  Jesus is not Who you think He is.

Jesus is the Robber of sins.  He is the Divine Thief.  He takes what is not His Own—the sins of the world—and dies for His robbery.  If Jesus has taken away the sins of the world, than He must have also taken away your sins.  Jesus robs you of your worst, secret sins, but He also robs you of your best, righteous deeds—things you have done that you think will please God but are only filthy rags (Is. 64:6).  Jesus is not Who you think He is.

Jesus became a curse (Gal. 3:13) not just ‘cursed.’  Jesus became sin itself (2 Cor. 5:21).  All of this for you.  Jesus is not Who you think He is.

The people of Nazareth did not believe the person or work of Jesus Christ.  They did just the opposite of the people in last week’s Gospel text (Mk. 5:21-43).  Rather than believing, they did not believe and were scandalized.

Because of this, Jesus could do (lit.) “no work” there [You do have to love Mark’s ironic side note, “Well except for healing those few sick people.”].  Mark gives one of the most human insights into the mind of Jesus, “He marveled (was amazed) because of their unbelief.”

This is why the Gospel of Mark should be read in one sitting.  This text follows immediately after Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter.  Mark contrasts faith and unfaith.  He contrasts Jesus’ works of power and the crowd’s sinful doubt.

Faith is not simply a belief in the power of faith.  This faith is in Christ’s ability to deliver what He promises.  Can the Son of God deliver you from sin, death, and the devil?  “If the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).

Trust Christ, not your feelings.  He is more than what you think He is.  Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Mark 5:21-43 – No Fearing; Only Faithing

Mark 5:21-43—And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 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.”

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Jairus was a man who was torn between two contradicting realities.  First, Jairus was living in the reality of fear.  He was fearful for his daughter who was at the point of death.  Her end was coming, and Jairus, even though he was a prominent man, a ruler of the synagogue, still feared his daughter‘s death.  He was faced with the terrifying possibility that he would outlive his twelve-year-old daughter.

But Jairus was also a man who had faith.  He had heard reports about Jesus.  In all likelihood, Jairus had seen Jesus act before in his own synagogue where he was a ruler.  So Jairus, being a man of faith, leaves his sick daughter’s bedside.  He takes the risk of not being present for her death to find Jesus.

When Jairus finds Jesus, he makes a confession of fear, “My little daughter is at the point of death,” and he makes a confession of faith, “Come lay your hands on her so that she may be made well and live.”

You too, like Jairus, are torn between the realities of fear and faith.

Maybe your fears aren’t for the life of your child.  Maybe they are a little more mundane and not nearly as imminent, but you live in fear.  You have tasks to do, meals to prepare, dishes to clean, houses to care for, lawns to mow.  You have parents to obey, children to raise, spouses to love.  You have jobs to find and keep, budgets to meet, bills and mortgages to pay.

There are literally thousands of things that you have to do every day of this life, things that weigh you down and burden you.  They may be small, but they begin to pile up.  Those things, as they pile up, cause you to fear.  Maybe you aren’t terrified, but if you are honest, you do fear.

You also, like Jairus, have faith.  You come to church, you read and study God’s Word.  You pray and lay your requests before God.  You trust that He will act.  You know that He can help you in any circumstance.

But sometimes, an obstacle gets in the way.  Time passes, and the request isn’t answered.  God delays, and circumstances change so that God can no longer answer in the way you thought He “needed” to answer.  The delay causes you to doubt, and doubt causes faith to shift back into fear.  You begin to think, “Well, maybe God doesn’t care—at least not about that.”

Fear grows and grows until you almost even begin to wonder, “This God says He cares.  He says, ‘all things work together for good.’  Can I even believe in God anymore?”

That’s what happened for Jairus.  Jesus was delayed.  Servants from Jairus’ house came and said, “Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the Teacher any further?”. Circumstance caused Jairus to fear for the life of his daughter, and now circumstances caused delay.  And now it is too late.

Jairus couldn’t have done anything to keep his daughter from getting sick.  Jairus couldn’t have gotten Jesus to his house any quicker.  Events outside Jairus’ control brought about his worst fear.  His daughter is dead.

But it was also events completely outside of Jairus’ control that had given him faith.  Jairus’ faith had come from outside of himself.  The faith that Jairus had wasn’t his own; it was a gift of God.

The same is true for you.  Events totally outside your control cause you to fear, and the faith that you have in God is not your own either.

It’s time to stop kidding around.  Faith is not yours.  You do not choose faith; you did not and do not produce faith.  Faith is something God gives you.  Faith is the gift of God.  Salvation does not come by any work; you cannot boast.  You cannot, by your own reason our strength, believe in Jesus as Lord, or come to Him.

It is shocking then, when Jesus commands Jairus lit., “No fearing; only faithing.” How could Jesus expect Jairus to obey this command?  His daughter is dead!  Jairus can’t just decide, “Oh, sure Jesus.  Hakuna matata; no worries.  Don’t worry; be happy.  Even though my daughter is dead, I believe.  Yea, yahoo.”

Events outside of Jairus’ control have caused both his fear and his faith.  Jesus, in His mercy, knows all of this.  Jesus does not expect Jairus to have no fear, but He does expect Jairus to handle that fear.  “No fearing; only faithing.”

The main difference between fear and faith is this: Fear is retreating from the battle inward to where there is no help.  Faith is marching outward into the battle and allowing any help to come—even though it is not the help expected.  Faith and fear don’t mix they are like oil and water.  One will drive out the other because fear is the opposite of faith.

God doesn’t allow you to hide behind excuses.  You’re not allowed to pass the buck and say that your fear is only because of outside things coming at you.  No, fear comes to you because you are sinful and because you don’t believe that God can do what He says He can do.

See, even though bad, terrifying things happen to you, God expects you to be able to handle it.  But He doesn’t expect you to handle it on your own.  God is giving you the tools, and you are responsible for what you do with those tools.  God knows; He knows that you are torn between fear and faith.  He knows that fear is tearing you away from faith, and yet He expects and commands you to be tenacious in your faith.  He expects you, against all logic and reason, to run headlong into the battle because faith knows that the battle is the Lord’s.

In Jairus’ case, there wasn’t any place left for him to go.  His only retreat was outward—to believe in Jesus.  To follow the marching orders of his King Who is bringing the rule and reign of God into the world.

And Jairus believed.  He did not put his belief in his faith.  No, he had faith in Jesus’ Word.  Jesus marched with Jairus, and Jesus proved faithful.

Jesus always proves faithful.

The 1st Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”  What does this mean?  “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

Fear God because He is your Divine, Heavenly Father.  Love God because He has first loved you.  Trust in God because He is the One Who gives you every good thing.

Jairus does not by his own reason or strength believe in Jesus.  But by the power of Jesus’ Word, Jairus believes and not retreat into fear.  Jairus does what is completely unexpected and waits for Jesus to act.  And Jesus does act, not in the way Jairus had expected when he first approached Jesus, but in a much more wonderful way.

And Jesus still acts today.  He doesn’t always act in the way you expect, but He does act in ways that are much higher and more wonderful than you could ask or imagine.  He has acted today in these waters of baptism.  He had acted as you have been fed by His Word.  And He is about to act as He gives to you His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

He says to you now, “No fearing; only faithing.”  Amen.