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Mark XI: Only Believe - Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus crosses the sea back into Judea, He is surrounded by the crowd once again when a synagogue ruler named Jairus came and fell at his feet. His daughter is dying, and her only hope is Jesus. And so no matter what happens to Jairus’ reputation, he puts his trust in Jesus, and Jesus responds by going with him.

The crowd follows too, and here Mark gives us another one of his famous sandwich stories: we start with Jairus, but then Jesus is interrupted by a woman with a flow of blood, and then we return to Jairus. This isn’t just a storytelling device, though: it happens in real time, and while Jesus is dealing with the interruption, Jairus’ daughter dies.

This is a shocking development on all sorts of levels: Jesus is going to help a man, but makes time for a woman. Jesus is helping a prominent, powerful figure, and allows a nobody to turn Him aside. Jesus is serving a religious leader, the cleanest of the clean, but welcomes the interruption of someone who has been continually unclean for twelve years. Jesus does not show favoritism, which is wonderful news for everyone…except Jairus and his daughter. Jesus is derailed from a life-saving rescue mission by a chronic illness that could have waited.

What does Jesus say after He meets a not-so-important need while ignoring a life-changingly urgent one? After the message gets to Jairus that his daughter is now dead, Jesus says to him, “Do not fear, only believe.” And this is where the rubber of faith meets the road of life: when it seems like Jesus has failed you, only believe. When it’s too late, only believe. When all hope is lost, only believe.

Jesus is preparing His followers that they will need more than just faith that Jesus can heal; they are going to need to believe that God raises the dead. Faith reaches its ultimate testing point in death, and the fear of death has overwhelmed the temporary faith of many. But God gives us this passage so that we can overcome that fear. In the face of death, only believe.

This nameless unclean woman teaches Jairus and all of us a lesson about faith overcoming fear. If anyone had good reason to conclude that their condition was incurable, and that all hope was lost, it would be her. But she had heard about Jesus, and so in faith she came up and touched His garment. She didn’t throw herself down dramatically at His feet; she snuck into the crowd just to touch His robe. Somehow, her faith in Jesus brought her the healing that she longed for so much, even without Jesus’ intention or permission. When Jesus felt power go out of Him, He knew that He had been touched by someone with faith.

Now, this passage tells us more about the mechanics of healing than almost any other place in the Bible, but the more we know, the more questions we have! However, the Bible is only interested in giving us one answer: the supernatural power of God in Christ is received by faith. That’s the foundation for what Jesus says to Jairus in v. 36, using the verb form of the noun in v. 34: only believe.

In the moment of decision, the living and active word of Jesus creates and gives life to the faith that Jesus wants you to exercise. The faith that you have, the faith that saves you, is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, and it comes by hearing the Word of Jesus.

And that’s what the word of Jesus does for Jairus. They resume their journey to his house anyway, and Jesus takes His inner circle of Peter, James, and John into the house, ignoring the wailing of the mourners and enduring the laughter of the faithless. In His compassion, He takes the child’s father and mother into the room, and taking the girl by the hand, He speaks a life-giving Word to her: “Get up, little girl.” And from the dark void of death, she heard the voice of Jesus and got up.

Right then and forever, these words of Jesus were sealed as the most important words that could ever be spoken: “Do not fear, only believe.” Hearing those words by faith will save your soul from death, because Jesus Christ holds the power of life and death in His Word. So do not fear! Do not doubt! Do not despair! Do not let years of waiting, years of unanswered prayer, years of things getting worse lead you away from this. Only believe, and your faith will save you.

The world laughs at faith. Can Jesus help this dead world despite the headlines? But let them laugh: the Resurrection means that the world is not dead, but sleeping. Don’t fear. Only believe, because what God says to you in Mark 5 is that Jesus Christ has the power to heal incurable diseases and to raise the dead to life.

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 by CJ Bowen