“Faith in Action” (John MacDiarmid)

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Luke 8 v 40-56

Notes on Sermon preached at PCF 5 June 2011

At the start of this passage Jesus is welcomed back to Galilee. We should note in passing the contrast between the welcome given Jesus by the people in Galilee and the request for him to leave from the people over on the other side of the lake. What is our response to Jesus?

This passage is all about people who experience the amazing work of God in their lives, as they approach Jesus with faith. If we are to experience the power of God ourselves we need to exercise the same faith. What does this faith look like?
Let’s take a look at the two people that encounter the power of God.

• Both were ordinary people

Luke continues his word portraits of individuals who encountered Jesus. Here we have a penniless woman, probably a widow, and a middle class member of the religious establishment. Jesus is interested in everyone – man and woman, well to do and penniless. The only thing that is required is faith.

• Both had personal pressing needs

Needs are a great leveller! Although these two are as different as two people could be, they were both driven to Jesus by their needs. At PCF we have been saying regularly that church is not about our needs – it is about the needs of those around us. We are not about maintenance, but about mission. However it is difficult to be passionate about the needs of those around us when we are overwhelmed with needs in our own lives. One of the lessons of this story is that Jesus is interested in the needs of everyone, including yours. What is important to you is important to him.
The needs were different, but, in their own ways equally pressing. The woman had spent her savings on doctors, without success, and because of her continuous discharge, was always “unclean” which meant that she was excluded from society and religious practice. Jairus had the agonising problem of seeing his daughter – his only child – suffering and dying. Jesus understands well the agonies of parents who “lose” children, both physically and spiritually.

• Both came to Jesus

So how do these two people respond? The next point is obvious, but needs to be made. They brought their problems to Jesus. Maybe in both case they should have done so sooner – we only tend to come to Jesus as a last resort – but they both came and fell, in their different ways, at the feet of Jesus.

• Both paid a price for their approach

Both were taking a big risk in coming to Jesus. The woman was acting strictly illegally. She should not have been out in a crowd or even out in public. She could conceivably have been stoned for such behaviour. Jairus risked his reputation by falling at the feet of Jesus. The establishment was united in its opposition to Jesus. But desperate people will put their reputation, their own safety and well-being at risk. These two, in their different ways, were desperate to see God work and would therefore pay any price to see God and work. With Jairus there was the added complication that Jesus had now touched and been touched by an unclean woman, which meant that he too was now unclean? Would Jairus, a pillar of the establishment, allow an unclean younger man into his house? When we are desperate for God to move, religious niceties really don’t count for very much!
How desperate are we for God to work?

• Both had their faith challenged

When we come to Jesus in faith, and there is the possibility of God working in power, our faith will always be challenged.
Faith is challenged by:
Danger: the woman faces great danger as she is questioned about what has happened. Does our faith enable us to risk everything and face up to danger?
Delay: as Jairus escorts Jesus home, the delay must have infuriated him! As with Lazarus, it is God – not us – that choose the time for God’s purposes to unfold. Can our faith stand the test of delay?
Doubt: As Jesus finally makes his way to the house of Jairus, there is a voice saying “Don’t bother the teacher any more – it’s too late”. At the same time, Jesus is saying “Don’t be afraid – only believe”. Haven’t we all experienced those two voices – one telling us to trust God, and the other telling us to give up? Which one do we listen to?
Doom-mongers: Even when Jesus arrives at the house, there are further challenges: the mourners are out in force, and laugh at the suggestion that the child may not be dead. Do we have the kind of faith that continues on even in the face of ridicule? We should listen to the voices of those urging us to be realistic – but beware the doom-mongers!
Death: Faith can laugh even in the face of death itself. The fact is that he who believes in Jesus will live even though he dies. There is no calamity that is beyond faith – even death itself!

• Both received what they needed

The woman and the synagogue ruler had this is common: they both received from God what they asked for. We can not promise that to every Christian in every situation. But we can promise that the sort of faith that is shown here will not go unrewarded, and will result in the power of God being demonstrated. That may be sooner or it may be later, it may be miraculous intervention or it may be miraculous grace to handle the difficulties, but God will always see to it that faith is rewarded.

• Both experienced Jesus’ compassion

As so often in the ministry of Jesus, we have the compassion of Jesus shown toward people. We are in the position now where we can enjoy the compassion of Jesus and be challenged by the fact that we are also to be channels of Jesus’ compassion.
Whether we are in need or in ministry we can be receivers and channels of the compassion of Jesus. Are we willing to move in the faith needed to make it happen? God is willing. Are we?

John MacDiarmid
June 2011

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