Pastor Drew Williams
I’ve recently been thinking about Disneyland, and Megan and I were talking about trying to take our kids there. Now, I love Disneyland, but it’s been a few years since I’ve gone, and I’m honestly a bit FEARFUL of what the experience will be like with two small kids.
I just KNOW that it’ll be crowded, and we won’t be able to go on some of the rides because of the kids. And I’ll admit that I have some anxiety about keeping us all together as we explore the park.
But I have this really big HOPE as well: I hope that the experience is just as magical as when I first went.
One of my earliest memories of Disneyland was when I was a really young kid, maybe 6 or so, and we got there early and stood in line outside the gates, and I was just so. Excited.
And I have this memory of when we got in to the park, and you’re greeted by that hillside of grass and flowers that leads up to the train, and usually the flowers are arranged in a mickey face.
I remember just being so excited because I LOVED Mickey, and trains were cool, and so I thought this was just the best day ever. And then we walked over to the side where there was a little tunnel underneath the train tracks. I was bummed we weren’t hanging out with the cool mickey flowers for longer, but there were some cool posters in the tunnel, so that was good. And then we came through the tunnel, and I finally saw the initial courtyard of Main Street, USA, and the castle beyond and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
There was MORE?! I was excited about the Mickey flowers and the train, but it was so much BIGGER on the inside than it seemed at the entrance. And for the rest of the day, I just couldn’t believe how the park just seemed to keep going and going. There was always more to explore.
I mean, just imagine if I had stayed at the Mickey flowers? I would have watched the train go by and marveled at it. I would’ve noticed all the crowds. But until my parents had invited me IN to the park, I wouldn’t have known how much LARGER it was. I wouldn’t have gotten to RIDE the train, and the Matterhorn, and Space Mountain, and Indiana Jones!
So, I have high hopes for experiencing the park again with my kids. We just have to set the date and take action and go. What about you? What is a hope that you have?
Is the hope you have something that seems far away and vague? Or is it something that is motivating you, transforming your daily habits and actions to point you in the direction of that hope?
In today’s Jesus story, we’ll be talking about hopes, what Jesus thinks of our hopes, and how our hopes interact with our actions. So let’s read the last section of Luke, chapter 8.
PASSAGE Luke 8:40-56
Our passage begins with Jesus returning from the region of the Gerasenes, where he had healed the demon-possessed man, and caused quite a stir among the people in the Gentile region across the lake.
So now he’s back on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilea, and there’s a crowd waiting for him. Remember, he had crowds before, because he’s gotten the reputation of healing and feeding people wherever he goes, and maybe even some of the stories from across the water have made it back as well.
So this crowd is expectant and excited that he’s back. They all have needs. Some of them need help, some need healing, some need food, and some just need to be there to see what happens when this Jesus guy arrives.
Then the crowd parts a bit, because a man named Jairus, who is a respected leader in the community is trying to get to Jesus. His face is desperate and determined, and everyone knows why: his only daughter is dying. The whole town knows about it, and whatever needs they felt they had are smaller in comparison to the immediate crisis Jairus is facing.
And even though he’s called a “ruler,” he comes humbly to plea his case before Jesus. He falls at Jesus’ feet. The Greek word used gives us the image of him throwing himself at Jesus’ feet because he’s been pushing through the crowd and rushing to get to Jesus as soon as he heard he was back.
We can imagine all the torrent of emotions that this man is feeling. He’s pleading for help, believing that Jesus is the one who can help, trusting in Jesus’ power and authority, HOPING that his daughter isn’t too far gone for Jesus to help, or that they make it back in time.
Some of you have stood next to the hospital bed while your child wastes away. Some of you have cared for a sick child at home, vowing not to leave their side while they sleep. So you know that it would take something pretty big to get you to leave your child’s side while they are languishing. You’d have to have some pretty big hope to get you to act like that.
That’s the first thing I want us to know about Hope and healing today:
Hope precedes healing. [1. HOPE PRECEDS HEALING]
I wonder where we normally place our hope? Especially when we are experiencing something that needs healing. Maybe it’s a physical illness, or we’re experiencing an emotional burden, or we have a strained relationship that needs healing. What do we place our HOPE in for healing?
Because all of us hope in SOMETHING to bring us the healing we desire, whether that is doctors, or prayer, or therapy, or something else.
Hope precedes healing, and where we place our hope dictates what we pursue to receive the healing we are hoping for.
And Jairus has left his daughter’s bedside to pursue Jesus: “Please, Jesus, my daughter, my little girl, she’s… I need you to come help her RIGHT NOW.”
Jesus doesn’t even pause to ask the nature of the girl’s illness. He immediately sets off with Jairus, pushing through the thick crowds, but it seems that not everyone agrees that Jairus’ request gets first priority, because they are crowding and crushing Jesus and his group as they try to follow Jairus.
It must have been chaos. People pressing in from every direction. Pleading their own cases, making their own requests. “Please Jesus, it’ll only take a moment… please Jesus, I just need some… Help me Jesus, I haven’t been able to…” And those that are still pressing in from farther away are shouting their requests.
Meanwhile Jairus is shouting for people to move, and Jesus’ disciples are trying to do their best to stay with their master, and hands are outstretched everywhere, and people are throwing elbows and mumbling prayers and shedding tears and pushing towards the center.
And then Jesus stops and says, “who touched me?”
And Peter, probably struggling to keep his place right beside Jesus retorts with, “What are you talking about, Jesus? Everyone is touching you. The whole crowd is pressing in.”
“No, I felt power go out from me. Who touched me?”
And then the crowd goes silent. The healing man has stopped and seems intent. The murmur spreads through the crowd, “someone touched him. He must not have liked that. Well, I didn’t touch him! It wasn’t ME…”
Jairus, meanwhile, has also stopped, but he’s confused and still freaking out a bit. What is Jesus doing? We don’t have TIME.
But Jesus is just standing there, looking out at all the faces in the crowd. “Someone touched me.”
Then, almost a whisper, “It was me.”
The onlookers all strain to see as the crowd parts around a woman who was bent low and covering her face with her shawl. “It was me, I touched you.”
Some of those closest to her recognized her. This was the ritually unclean woman, she had been cursed with that bleeding. She wasn’t supposed to be here! She was supposed to stay outside of the town so that she didn’t infect anyone else with her impurity!
How many people had she bumped into in the crowd? Now they were all going to have to quarantine themselves and go through a purification ritual in order to be able to take part in normal things in their community, all because she had been selfish and had touched people…
And she had touched Jesus! She even said it herself!
The eyes returned to the woman as she continued to explain herself, a little louder now, about how she had struggled with this illness for 12 years, and no one could heal her, but she had hoped that maybe Jesus would be different, and so she came into the village when he arrived and snuck into the crowd and just touched the hem of his cloak, and she could immediately feel it, she had been healed!
The murmurs in the crowd ranged from disbelief to concerns about purity, but Jesus didn’t seem to share their sentiment. He knew that when she touched him, the only thing that had transferred was power, not impurity.
“Daughter, your faith has healed you.”
See, Jesus wasn’t content with merely a physical healing of the woman. He could have felt the power go out of him, and kept walking. After all, she had gotten what she hoped for. The bleeding she had endured for 12 years was finally gone.
But Jesus knew that physical healing was only PART of what this woman suffered from. If he had let her sneak back through the crowd, no one else would have known she was healed. She would have still been ostracized in her community.
And even if she did finally convince a priest to examine her and prove that her bleeding had stopped, her reputation in the community was that of the “unclean woman” who lives on the outskirts of the village. She must have done SOMETHING for God to curse her with that bleeding for 12 years. She’s probably still got some evil hidden in her.
The fact that she had been dealing with her condition for 12 years means that all the children of the village had lived their whole lives being told to steer clear of her. She’s the impure woman. She’s bad. Stay away from her. Pity her, but from a distance. Call her names, because she probably deserves what happened to her.
Jesus knew that her life would never be fully restored with merely a physical healing. So he chooses to stop and call her out from hiding in order for everyone to witness him declare that she is healed. And not only has he established that she is now healed, he points to the fact that it is because of her FAITH that she has been healed.
Everyone in the village has just witnessed this exchange. Jesus made sure to do this because the healing he wanted for her included being restored to community, and then he even calls her “daughter”, dignifying her as a member of the family.
What an incredible moment! Not only has this woman been healed, but what started out as a timid faith (did we notice how she came “trembling” and “fell” at Jesus’ feet), grew into something more. The hope that the woman had that Jesus could heal her lead her to take action to PURSUE the source of her hope.
That’s the second thing I want us to know about Hope and healing today: Hope leads to action. [2. HOPE LEADS TO ACTION]
Hope on it’s own isn’t a strategy for how we’re supposed to live our lives. Hopes on their own don’t lead to life change. Jesus doesn’t tell us to wait on the sidelines, like a spectator in the crowd, passively HOPING to be noticed.
When our hopes are placed in something real, it leads us to seek out that thing, or that person.
Are you feeling hope-less today, or hope-led? Hope in Jesus is meant to LEAD us to seek him out. Both this woman and Jairus were MOVED by their hope to seek out Jesus. Hope leads to action.
And so, what started out as the woman’s timid faith turned into testifying faith, as Jesus gave her the platform to tell her story and give testimony to how she had been healed.
I imagine that the woman is feeling amazing. She’s just been healed AND she’s been justified and commended in front of her whole community. Others in the crowd are marveling at what they’ve witnessed.
And then the happy moment is shattered when someone comes up to Jairus and tells him the news that he has been dreading. “Your daughter is dead.”
Jairus had been waiting on the side while Jesus dealt with this woman, the unclean one. He pitied her just as much as the next person, but why was Jesus taking so much time with her? His daughter was DYING, didn’t she deserve more immediate attention?
And now, the messenger had confirmed his fear: they were too late. His little girl had died, and he wasn’t even there to hold her hand! He had left to seek out this Jesus, because he had heard the stories and he HOPED that Jesus would be able to heal her.
The adrenaline rush he had from trying to push through the crowd to get back to his daughter morphed into anger at the woman for detaining Jesus, but then all the blood drained from his face as the realization set in that his daughter was gone.
And all his hopes for her were gone with her. All of us who have experienced the death of a loved one know that the grief isn’t just over the loss of what you HAD with that person, but also the loss of what could have been with that person in the future. All the experiences you had wanted to have together, all the memories you had yet to build, all gone.
The fear that had been quieted for a moment by the hope for healing comes roaring back as death steals the remaining life from you. Your world ends. Everything feels numb and on fire all at once. You feel so alone and afraid.
But Jesus interjects with words of love that cast out fear, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
Jesus knows that faith and fear are mortal enemies fighting for the hearts of every human. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe…” Just have faith.
“Have faith?! Faith for WHAT, Jesus?! She’s dead! We were running low on time, and now it’s all gone. She’s gone. I had told you that we needed to get back to her RIGHT NOW, but you chose to focus on something else, someone else. Have faith…what’s the point? My hope is gone.”
And this brings us to the third thing I want us to know about hope and healing: the healing we hope for is sometimes delayed. [3. HOPE DEFERRED: HEALING CAN BE DELAYED]
As Proverbs 13 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” When the healing we hope for doesn’t come in the timing or method that we want, we can lose hope and think that God’s response was a “no” to our request.
But this story shows us that sometimes God just manages time differently than us. And trusting in God’s ability to care for us means accepting God’s TIMING.
But that’s not how we normally behave with God, is it? What we think God should do RIGHT NOW takes precedence in our minds. We get fixated and focused on that. But the priorities WE place at the top, God sometimes chooses to act on LATER, while the things that we would put off, he chooses to handle right away.
And we might believe that God can help, but do we trust his TIMING? Is our hope dependant on God delivering exactly in the way we would dictate?
How do we respond when the thing we’re hoping for is deferred or delayed?
The woman had waited 12 years for healing. Maybe some of you have lived with things for that long, or longer. And it’s easy to lose hope when we’ve been waiting that long. It’s easy to give in to the FEAR that you’ll never be restored.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus says to Jairus, “Just believe, and she WILL BE healed.”
In the Greek, these are the same words he said to the woman after she had been healed, “Your pistis, your faith, has sozo, has HEALED you.”
And now he says to Jairus, “Pisteuson, just believe, just have faith in me, and your daughter will be sozo, will be healed.”
Don’t be afraid, but have faith. But for Jesus, “Faith over Fear” isn’t just a slogan that he throws around. It’s a declaration of his sovereignty over all facets of human life. He has authority over every single part of our experience. And he DEMONSTRATES that authority by acting and bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. He lives out that power by bringing the abundant life offered in the kingdom of God with him wherever he goes, even if he’s going to a place of death.
When they get to Jairus’ house, the public mourners are already outside, showing their support for the family during this time of tragedy. I bet you could hear their wails and cries from far away as they finished the journey to the house. Jairus’s face becoming more and more dejected as they draw closer, but Jesus’ face was determined.
No one is in the room with the girl, because of superstition and ritual purity traditions, but Jesus isn’t scared of impurity. He’s not scared of death. He crosses the boundary into the room, bringing with him only the two parents and his three closest friends. And while some of them stood as far away from the body as they could in the small room, Jesus goes straight to her, touching her hand to raise her up.
“My child, get up.” And her colorless face begins to flush as her spirit returns and she stood up.
You see, with Jesus, death is only temporary.
The bleeding woman had experienced a kind of death for 12 years, being cut off from her community and her life, relegated to isolation and judgment.
This young girl had barely gotten her life started before it was cut short. But Jesus’ sovereignty over every facet of human life is the source of our hope as Christians, that we know there is life after death because of him! Death had visited that house, but with Jesus, death is only temporary.
Jesus’ timing for Jairus’ request of healing was different than Jairus had expected, but Jesus wasn’t content with merely healing her. He wanted to restore her to life and restore her to community. So as soon as she stands up, Jesus says to get her something to eat, because sharing a meal together is what families do.
What started as a chaotic scene of needy people turned into not one but two daughters of that village being restored to life and returned to community.
And that brings us to the final thing I want us to know about hope and healing: Jesus’ healing is LARGER than our hopes. [4. JESUS’ HEALING IS LARGER THAN OUR HOPES]
We tend to think small. Most people tend to have limited or immediate hopes. We hope tomorrow will be better than today. We hope that person will respond to us. We hope the antibiotics kick in and relieve some of our symptoms.
And sometimes that is because we’ve been conditioned to be realistic with our hopes, which is just a protective move to guard against disappointment. I can hope that tomorrow is better, but I’ll limit that to mean that I hope the weather is a little more pleasant, or that I wake up a bit more refreshed than I did today. Because if I hope that tomorrow is better in a way that would blow my mind and change my life, the world tells me that chances are that I’ll be disappointed.
Or maybe we think small because the thing we place our hope in is pretty small. I hope that this cough gets better, but the thing I’m placing my hope in is cough syrup and the hope that one full night’s rest will be enough. So that’s to say, I’m not hoping for much.
But here’s the problem when we take that attitude to other things that we would hope for: we tend to think small with Jesus, too.
We hope for resolution to a stressful situation, so we pray, but we hold back our hopes and don’t really expect Jesus to show up and transform the situation.
We hope for healing in a relationship, because things have gotten strained, and we feel ourselves pulling away and becoming bitter, so we ask Jesus to change our hearts in some vague, fix-me-while-I-sit-here-passively, way. And then we continue with our day and don’t really expect things to change, “unless a miracle happens,” which the thing we say when we don’t think anything will happen.
Beloved, if that sounds familiar at all, and I know it definitely sounds familiar to me, then we aren’t putting our hope in JESUS. We aren’t actually placing our faith in HIM.
Because if we were truly believing in JESUS to be involved, then we would know that Jesus’s healing is larger than our hopes. The new life that he is inviting us into is so much bigger than we previously thought. It’s not just the mickey flowers and the train station!
Jesus comes not only to heal sickness, but to erase death, and he proved his power to do that not only when he rose from the grave, but when he raised that girl to life, and when he raised the widow’s only son to life in the city of Nain that we learned about a few weeks ago. Easter is not the only time that Jesus proved that with him, death is only temporary.
Doesn’t that give you hope?!
Jesus comes not only heal the bleeding woman and restore her to community, but he also works to heal the whole community of their sinful judgment and prejudice against her.
Do we realize how much BIGGER his healing is? When we pray for a relationship to be healed, Jesus is working to heal the pain that was caused, yes, but he’s also working to heal our sense of entitlement that the other person should behave differently. He’s also working to heal us from judgmental hearts that always assume that person is going to let us down again.
Does that give you hope?!
Jesus comes not only to heal Jairus’ daughter, confirming that he is a miracle worker and a healer. No, he comes to raise her from the dead, so that this synagogue leader, this religious leader of the village, can place his faith in Jesus as the LORD OF LIFE.
Do we realize how much BIGGER his healing is? When we pray for injustice to be ended in our city, Jesus is working to raise up advocates and healers, and he’s probably recruiting US into the mission!
When we pray for the homeless person at the intersection, he’s working to heal our hearts of the assumptions we have while also working to heal us of our “busy-ness” mentality so that we can realize that he’s inviting US to be a part of the change we’re praying for.
Does that give you hope? Because when we place our hope in Jesus, we see that the healing he offers, the life he offers, the forgiveness he offers, the reconciliation he offers…is so much BIGGER than we had hoped. He doesn’t let us stay at the entrance, but he invites us deeper into the kingdom of God. He invites us further in to the abundant living he models for us. He invites us to trust him more and more, have even more faith, that he can do more than we think or imagine, in us and around us.
So how do you need Jesus to offer you hope today? Do you feel like Jairus, losing hope, desperate?
Hear Jesus’ words to not be afraid, but to place your trust in him as the one who offers true salvation and healing.
Do you feel like the woman? You’ve LOST hope after all this time. You’re feeling isolated and detached from a support system.
Hear the words of Jesus that call you a beloved daughter or son, a child of the king, invited in to the family of God where you have a place and a purpose.
Do you feel like the girl, BEYOND hope? Your faith feels dead. Your hope is dead. Your mind is numb.
Hear Jesus enter into your space, drawing close to you because he’s not afraid of what you’re going through. Feel the hand of Jesus reaching out to you to take you by the hand, to raise you up and call you his child.
How is Jesus offering his hope to you? How is Jesus offering his hope to us, this whole community?
Because his healing is larger than our hopes. It encompasses more than just individuals, but extends to everyone around us. His healing restores bodies, erases shame, convicts judgment, and transforms hearts.
Because of the good news of who Jesus is, we can trust him to bring the healing we need, we can trust his timing to be right, and we can trust him to restore us and heal us in a way larger than we had ever hoped.
Let us not give in to fear, but let us place our hope and faith in the one who is able to fully heal us. Amen.