Scroll Top

The Real Leap of Faith / Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 5:21-43

And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

A practical joke that was played on a man in Madison, Wisconsin. This man and three friends were enjoying a fishing trip at a secluded lake. They fished all day, had a few beers and played some poker. Every night they went to bed at about 10:00 and got up before dawn for more fishing. One of them, who we’ll call Joe, was the first to his bunk one night. He was exhausted and was snoring within a few minutes.

Then one of his friends had an idea. He got Joe’s watch off the dresser and changed the time to 4:45. Then they all got together and changed their own watches, including the alarm clock, to 4:45. The alarm was set to go off at five o’clock, or just fifteen minutes later. Then the conspirators turned off all the lights, took off their clothes, and went to bed.

Fifteen minutes later when the alarm clock went off, they all got up, shuffled around, and made the grumbly, miserable sounds that people usually make early in the morning. One of them put toast and coffee on. The only truly miserable one, of course, was Joe. He sat on the edge of the bed, shaking his head and moaning. He kept looking at his watch and complaining that he felt like he hadn’t gotten any sleep.

I must be getting old, he said as they dropped anchor and began fishing. Every few minutes, he’d glance at his watch and look at the eastern sky and say: What time have you got? Somebody would answer. And a little later: What time have you got? Someone again would answer.

Then Joe began to get concerned. Shouldn’t it be getting light soon? By the time his watch said 6:40, he had stopped fishing. He just sat there staring into the darkness. Finally, his voice cracking in genuine terror, he cried: I’m telling you something is wrong It’s not getting light today. It’s not getting light

It’s the end of the world, his buddies hooted. Doesn’t matter, one of them said, because the fish aren’t biting anyway. That’s when Joe caught on. And he took it rather well, although they did have to wrestle an oar out of his hands.

It’s a delightful story, but Joe’s words are haunting if you think about them for a few moments. Something is wrong, it’s not getting light.

There are times in all our lives when we will feel that soul-crushing terror. Something’s wrong. It’s not getting light. At the cross, John referred to it as the dark night of the soul. Jairus knew about that kind of darkness. He had come to see Jesus. He pleaded with the Master, 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. Is there a more helpless, a more desperate feeling than having one of your children become critically ill? Is there ever a time darker than that?

Albert Miller is a Lutheran pastor in Houston, Texas. His son, Dale, had been killed in an automobile accident. Now one day a colleague asked Albert about his family. Albert told him that they were fine, and he also told him that he had lost a son named Dale. How old? asked the colleague. Albert replied. How? asked the colleague. careless truck driver, Albert replied. When? asked the colleague. Albert said softly. The colleague whispered but one more word, one word that showed the depth of his understanding. The word was, Yesterday. More than twenty years before, but still only yesterday.

The death of a child is the most devastating event that can occur in a family. It can tear a family apart. One psychiatrist noted that, even though no adequate studies have been done, some authorities estimate that as many as 75 percent of couples may separate after the death of a child.

Jairus was a man in pain: his little girl was dying. We know Jairus was desperate because he came to Jesus for help. You see, Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, and his colleagues would not look well on the fact that Jairus had invited Jesus into his home to heal his little girl. They would be shocked. He would be humiliated. What credentials did Jesus have? Where had He gone to school? By what authority did He heal? Jairus couldn’t say. But none of that mattered at this point. The only thing that mattered was the health and well-being of his daughter.

Some of you can relate personally to Jairus’ despair, can’t you? There is a Buddhist legend from centuries ago in which a woman in grief over her dead child went to Buddha to plead that the child might be returned to life. Buddha sent her on an unusual mission, promising to minister to her need when she returned. She was to go and collect a bowl of peppers from all the families who had not experienced grief such as hers. Mystified, but desperate for help, she undertook the assignment. When evening came, the woman returned, her bowl was still empty but she was filled with understanding. No one is exempt. Everyone finds themselves in darkness sooner or later. And it is natural at such times to question whether the light will ever come again.

Jairus was a desperate man. His daughter lay dying, and he had to do something. And what did he do? He turned to Jesus. He was truly a wise man.

More than half of Americans who are experiencing grief turn to God, prayer, and Scripture reading for comfort. And of those who do, 94 percent say that it is highly effective. Where else do you turn in those hours when you’re in darkness, and it doesn’t look like the light will come? Let me tell you about a man named Robert. Robert had everything. He was a successful developer, and he was the CEO of a 32-million-dollar business in the Boston area. But suddenly the bottom fell out. His business collapsed in the early 1980s, and he was plunged into bankruptcy.

I had a wonderful firm with fifty people, Robert says of his former company. His company had helped disadvantaged people obtain affordable housing, but federal funds became scarce and they went bankrupt.

But not only did his company go bankrupt, his personal life went bankrupt too. In a three-year period, at the same time he lost his business, Robert’s father died, his father-in-law died, his wife became an alcoholic, and his eldest child was committed to a hospital for a year.

One day as Robert was driving home, he was so distraught that he could hardly drive his car. As he later recalled that day he said, I got out of the car and got down on my knees and prayed for help. He had hit bottom and felt totally defeated. He says, I prayed for help, not believing that anyone could help me. But when I got up, I knew something extraordinary had happened. For the first time there was a clarity, a lightness, a sense of peace.

Robert had not been to church for many years, but after that experience he began attending again. He began reading the Bible and found himself drawn to the Psalms. He found they had meaning for his life. When he went into the church the first time, he read Psalm 30: As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved. That verse spoke to Robert very personally. I realized, he says, that I had suffered from the sin of overconfidence. His life changed from that moment on. He had learned not to put his trust in himself, but in God.

When Jairus reached that same depth of despair he turned to the only source of help he knew of. He came to Jesus and led Him to his house. The crowd that was with Jesus overheard their conversation and began to follow as well.

But before they arrived at the house some servants came with bad news. Your daughter is dead, they said. Why trouble the teacher any further? The night-black terror struck Jairus when he heard the news. But Jesus placed his hand gently on Jairus’ shoulder and said, Do not fear, only believe. When they arrived at Jairus’ house they found people weeping and wailing uncontrollably over the death of the little girl. Jesus asked them, Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping. With that statement the mourners began to laugh at Jesus. They began to mock Him. Clearly, they didn’t believe in Him. But Jesus was unmoved by their laughter. He went off alone with the girl and spoke words of life, Little girl, get up. Immediately the girl got up and began walking around. It was a miracle.

The people who had laughed and mocked Jesus just a few minutes before were amazed when they saw the girl moving about. They had never seen anything like this. The dead do not come back to life. Then Jesus told them to give the girl something to eat. Meaning that everything was all right. Jesus gave Jairus and his family the gift of life restored. I wonder what kind of effect this miracle had on Jairus?

In summary, some of us may remember what I’ve said this morning? Whether you are a basketball fan or not, you are probably familiar with the name Larry Bird, the former basketball great of the Boston Celtics. During a retirement party for Larry Bird in Boston Garden, former Celtics Coach K.C. Jones told of diagramming a play on the sidelines, only to have Bird dismiss it, saying: Get the ball to me and get everyone out of my way.

Jones responded: I’m the coach, and I will call the plays. Then Jones turned to the other players and said: Get the ball to Larry and get out of his way.

That’s basically our message for today. When those times of terror come, when it seems the light will never come and you have nowhere else to turn, give the ball to Jesus and get out of the way. You’ll discover, as did Jairus, that Christ will not let you down.