February 6, 2012

Life of Jesus: Seeing the Miracles in the Midst of Our Pain Mark 5:21-43

Joshua Bell is one of the most talented violin players alive today. He regularly plays at events where the tickets are $100 for the cheap seats. He is very gifted. In January of 2007, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post got Joshua to help him with an experiment. He want to see how people’s perception played into their ability to see and hear beauty.

Weingarten arranged for this world class violinist to dress in everyday clothes and play the violin in a busy Washington D.C. metro station to see if anyone noticed. Joshua played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes,one of them being the most intricate violin pieces ever written, with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. So Joshua played in L’Enfant Plaza Station for 45 minutes where thousands of commuters passed by...most of whom never once paid attention to the virtuoso in front of them.

I want you to watch this time lapsed video of his performance.

In 45 minutes, while thousands passed by, there were only about 6 people who stopped and listened for any length of time. About 20 people gave him money; most without even slowing down. He made about $32 overall. Only 1 person in all those people recognized who it was playing for them.

When he finished playing...no one had really noticed.

The people of Washington D.C. had just received a gift and failed to recognize it. A world-class musician had played for them, and they could not get past their perception that this was probably a homeless street musician wanting to make a few bucks for booze. It didn’t matter how well he played...they missed something amazing. They missed what others would almost kill for...because they were busy, or in a hurry, or preoccupied.

But the people of Washington D.C. are certainly not unique...how many things do we miss because of our busyness, or preoccupation, or simply because we are so wrapped up in our own stuff that we can’t see what is happening around us?

It happens all the time. We can’t possibly catch everything. But if the people of Washington D.C. missed a virtuoso violinist playing in their subway imagine what we miss in everyday miracles. We miss some of the beautiful things going on around us because of our stuff. And if we miss the everyday stuff because of our pain, our baggage, and our preoccupation with other things, I wonder if we are not also blinded to the bigger miraculous work of God in the world around us...I wonder how much of what God is doing we actually do miss.

Last week I quickly mentioned how hard it is to read or hear a familiar story in a new way...and that is what we are going to attempt this morning. We are going to read a very familiar story where Jesus, on his way to heal Jairus’ sick daughter, is touched by someone in the crowd and is healed. I hope we are able to take away something new from the story this morning. Let’s read it.

Mark 5:21-43
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

 30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

 31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

 32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

 35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

 36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

 37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

   After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Here we have this amazing story of two miraculous healings. And because we are an outside observer, reading this story from beginning to end in about 2 minutes, we can fail to see and feel what is going on in the story. The core of this message came as I asked myself, “What would I feel in I were Jairus and watched all of this unfold in front of me?”

Imagine your child is dying. It wasn’t uncommon in this day and age, but she is still dying...she is still your child...you love her. Then you hear about this man who is healing people from some serious illnesses. They are actually getting well. So beyond all hope and belief you set out to find this man and plead with him to come and heal your daughter.

When you get there a large crowd of people blocks your path, but you are determined to see him. Somehow you make it to the front, and you get to speak with Jesus. You might expect a “No, I’m busy. Look at all these people.” Instead, Jesus says, “Yes!”

I can’t imagine the joy Jairus must have been feeling in that moment. One minute...no hope. The next minute...lots of hope. One minute he is certain his daughter is going to die, and the next minute he has hope for her future.

But now, you have to fight your way back through the crowd of people to get Jesus back to your home in time to save your daughter’s life. Jairus is no doubt pushing his way through the crowd...hurrying Jesus and his disciples...

Have you ever noticed that when you are in a hurry or stressed that everyone seems to be moving much slower than you want them to move? You are late for work, and this is the day the person in front of you decides to go the speed limit!

I’m sure Jairus is frustrated. People won’t move out of the way. In fact, the crowd is pressing in on him and Jesus slowing their progress to almost a standstill. And then the unthinkable happens...Jesus stops and starts looking around. Come on! Keep moving! But Jesus starts what seems like the most impossible...and time consuming...search for someone in the midst of this crowd who touched him!

If I am Jairus...I’m about to lose it. Really. It is the disciples who speak up, putting into words what Jairus is most likely thinking, “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” Why is Jesus wasting his time searching for a needle in a haystack when there is a young girl dying?

Finally, after what must have seemed like days, this woman comes forward with this amazing story of her healing just by touching the edge of Jesus’ clothes and believing that Jesus could heal her...and Jairus is like come on already...I have a daughter who is about to die.

I tend to believe that Jairus missed the power of the miraculous work of God in this woman’s life because of his own pressing and legitimate need. His daughter was dying. His mind was elsewhere. I’m sure in a different setting Jairus would have been happy for this woman and the healing she received...but in the midst of that was going on...he had other things going on.

The challenge for us, like it was for Jairus, is to see God’s miraculous work in the world around us...in the midst of our stuff. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives...our baggage...our own needs...that we miss the needs of others standing right next to us...and we miss celebrating the wonderful, miraculous things God is doing in our world.

Like Jairus...

We are blinded by pain...

Verse 22-23 says, “...when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. [Jairus] pleaded earnestly with [Jesus], ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’”

Jairus was in such pain because of his daughter...that he was blinded. And we are certainly not trying to minimize the urgency of this situation or even Jairus’ pain...but sometimes we get so wrapped up in our pain and what is going on in our lives that we miss what God is doing.

Sometimes we don’t not just miss God’s work, we become angry at it. It is so easy, when we are hurting, to look at others and, instead of being glad, become jealous of what God is doing for them. “Oh, sure, God is willing to help them! Why not me?”

We have to learn to experience our pain, trust God to continue working in our behalf, but praise God for what He is doing in the lives of those around us.

No one said being a disciple of Jesus was easy did they? And I find it incredibly difficult to step out of my pain and enjoy the work of God in others when I’m hurting. But in Romans 12, Paul is talking about what it means to put our love into action with those in our community, and he says in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This means in the midst of our pain...the Gospel asks us to find ways to celebrate what God is doing in other’s lives.

So we are blinded by pain, but also

We are blinded by impatience...

I can imagine how impatient Jairus must have felt as he watched Jesus search for this mysterious person who had touched him in this crowd of thousands. Even after the disciples pointed out the futility of the search, verse 32 says, “But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.”

Jairus believed Jesus could heal. He didn’t realize Jesus could raise the dead. Jairus was impatient because He didn’t realize what all Jesus could do. Or he didn’t believe it.

How many times do we get impatient with God because we want Him to act and respond in the way we want Him to react and respond? As if we know best what we want and need...

During one particular dark time in my life, I pleaded with God to lift it...to change the situation...to get me out of the situation...to just do something. In my impatience I started looking for other ways of dealing with it apart from God. Do you know what I was missing during this whole time? Do you know what my impatience almost cost me?

It almost cost me one of the most profound growth and developmental times in my relationship with God. I wanted the pain to stop. God wanted to use it to draw me closer to Him...to learn to trust Him more...to see that it wasn’t about me...and to transform some character things for me.

So often God uses these extended times of “unanswered prayer” to test our character...to develop character within us...to get rid of all the things we think we want or need in order to really grow us up in our faith...and that means fighting through our impatience to see what He is doing.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In the midst of all the things we are going through...we must trust in the love and concern God has for us as His children. We have to trust and be patient because one day...either in this life or in the resurrected one...God will bring about the promises He has made. And we can’t let our impatience disqualify from seeing what God is doing!

So we pain and impatience can blind us, but also

We are blinded by doubt...

Verse 35-36 says, “While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’ Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” and then in verse 38-40 it says, “When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at him.”

In that moment, every bad thought that had run through Jairus’ mind came true. This message from home simply confirmed he was right to be impatient... he was right to use his pain to ignore all else around him...because if Jesus had just done what he said...his daughter would still be alive.

That woman had been bleeding for 12 years! That’s a long time...and we can see that she had not doubted. She believed that if only she could touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak that everything would be alright.

The cloud of doubt must have started to creep across Jairus’ face for Jesus to say what he said. In the midst of all that Jairus was able to hear Jesus say, “Hold on! Don’t be afraid. I’ve got this one.” He was able to grab on to that and believe Jesus could do more than he could ever imagine.

If we are not careful our pain and impatience will lead to doubt. I’m not just talking about the fleeting moments of doubt we all have. I’m talking about a deep doubt sets in and can lead us away from trusting God. We stop believing that God loves and cares for us...that He will work everything out...we stop believing that He can wants to help us.

So many times we think we know the reality of a situation. We believe we have everything figured out; that we know all the possible options. And in the midst of that doubt we fail to leave room for God to work the miraculous.

If Jairus had given up in that moment...I’m pretty sure the story would not have turned out as it did. If Jairus had given in to the pain, the impatience, the doubt...he would have missed the miracle God had in store for Him.


Jairus’ daughter was about to die...that is a pretty extreme example of a common occurrence that happens to all of us...we get so wrapped up in our own lives we fail to see the pain and hurt in others. And the Gospel of Jesus Christ addresses that in our lives. That is why Jesus says in the Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It is not a call to minimize our lives, but rather to see God’s work in the lives of others in the midst of our pain and hurt and struggles. We must resist the urge of our pain, impatience, and doubt to overshadow or blind us to what God is doing in the world around us...because when it does...we miss the miraculous. We are like the metro riders who walk past the beautiful music of a world class violinist; completely unaware of what we have just missed.

Some of us struggle to make the mortgage payment each month. Others have health issues that keep cropping up requiring costly medical visits. Some of us know the pain of death or the impending death of a loved one. Some of us have family struggles that keep a steady stream of pain coming into our lives. There are a millions pains and hurts that come into our lives all the time, and that is not to mention all the everyday things both good and bad that serve as distractions. The challenge is for us to allow the Grace of God to overcome all those preoccupations so we can see God’s miraculous move in the world around us...and see his miraculous move in our own lives.

This morning, I don’t know what it is that causes you pain and doubt and creates impatience in you...wanting God to move on your behalf...but hold on. In the midst of your pain...in the midst of the everyday run of life...in the midst of your joys...cultivate a desire to see the miraculous work of God around you.

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