July 11. 2021. Sermon Title: Everyone Matters to Jesus

First Mennonite Church

July 11, 2021

Everyone Matters to Jesus

Text: Luke 8:40-56

There was a collective sigh of relief in the crowd when they saw Jesus come back to their town. Jesus had gone on a short trip across the lake where he healed a demon-possessed man. Upon coming to town, he was met by an anxiously-waiting crowd, Luke tells us. But the happy encounter between Jesus and crowd was short-lived; there was a crisis situation. The local religious leader was on his knees at Jesus’ feet, pleading for help. His daughter, his only daughter of 12, was dying.

I cannot fathom the feeling of being in a situation like that. The first time I went to the emergency room was when Josue was only three years old. Our neighbor’s kids were playing with Josue and two of them held Josue by the hands and legs swung him. Josue hit his head on the corner of a coffee table. I rushed him to the doctor, but by the screams of Josue and the bleeding there was, I was terrified something more serious had happened. Fortunately, the gash only required a few stitches and that was it.

Here, Jairus knew his daughter was reaching her final hour. He was desperate to the point of becoming oblivious of public opinion. He knelt before Jesus to plead his case. Jesus immediately started off to Jairus’ house, but the crowd slowed down his pace. The crowd pressed against Jesus, Luke tells us.

Taking from the images we have in the gospels, it clear that the usual make up of crowds remain the same. Crowds are usually made up of supporters and diehard fans of the famous and the eminent, but also of detractors and enemies of them. In the case of Jesus, we find among the crowds that followed him, his disciples, both men and women and those who needed from him, but also his fiercest critics and those who wanted to take him down at any cost.

As Jesus was making his way to Jairus’ house, it is likely that a sense of hope began to build up in Jairus. Help was on the way to the dying young girl. But as it happens many times, when something hopeful begins to arise, let’s say, the doctor finally found what the problem is, however the patient discovers that the side effects of the medication are equally harmful and devastating as the illness itself. Or take for instance, when someone just found a job and is happy he or she will finally have the means to make a living, then realizes that the pay check barely covers the rent and utilities. In the case of Jairus, although Jesus was making his way through the pressing crowd toward Jairus’ house, suddenly, someone held him back.

It is here where I would like for us to pay closer attention as to what happens. Jairus was comforted to see Jesus acceded to his plea for help and became hopeful his daughter was going to get the help only Jesus could give. As for Jesus, his immediate concern was to get to Jairus’ home and to heal the dying young girl. So, time was of the essence in that situation. But then, a problem arose. Someone, a nameless woman interrupted Jesus journey. She had sneaked behind him with the intent to secretly draw benefit from Jesus. She had believed that if she would only touch Jesus’ robe, she would be healed. It happened, but then, the healing power of Jesus did not go unnoticed from him. Jesus wanted to find who the beneficiary was. Jesus stopped his journey immediately and began his search. “Who touched me,” he asked.

Peter couldn’t make sense of Jesus’ question in light of the pressing crowd around Jesus. But then, the woman came forward to confess everything.

There was the woman, someone not even mentioned by name. Her illness made her “impure” according to religious rules and imposed by the synagogue, the very institution Jairus was a leader of. It was people like Jairus, leaders if the synagogue who determined who was clean or who was impure. The woman’s illnesses certainly prevented her from attending the synagogue and made her unfit to come in close contact with other people or to go in public places. But there she was, mingling in the crowd, secretly touching the garment of Jesus and delaying the much needed help Jairus had secured for his daughter. There she was, demanding Jesus’ attention at a time when time was of the essence.

What does it cost us when Jesus pauses to attend those at the margin of society or those outside of religion? For Jairus, the price was hefty and it did not delay to come. Verse 49 says that Jesus was still talking with the woman when someone from Jairus’ house came to give him the bad news: “Please do not bother the Master; your daughter has died.”

I wonder what went through Jairus’ mind when he got the news that his daughter had succumbed to her illness. Was he angry at the woman for distracting Jesus when time was running out for his daughter?

We know the phrase, “first come first serve basis.” Many times when free services of some sort are offered or there is give-away of something, we hear that it will be on a “first come first serve basis.” In those cases no one would like to arrive at the location on time only to see someone arriving later to be served first. Early birds have privileges that late-comers don’t have.

I remember people’s complaints and fears during the debate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The complaint was that making health care accessible to all people would mean those who have always had access to it will have to wait longer before they could see a doctor. The argument has proven true. But that argument proves true the assertion that for people used to privilege, equality means sacrifice and in the worse of cases, feel like oppression.

God gives equal importance and value to all people. The rich, the poor, the religious, the irreverent, the educated, the illiterate, and peoples of all races and color, all of them, are equal in the eyes of God. His love and concern for their wellbeing is no less that what has for those who fill the pews on Sundays.

In the case of Jairus, the cost he paid for time Jesus took to address the unnamed woman and to restore her, not only physically, but also socially and spiritually was the loss of his daughter. However, the woman, who had been ostracized because of her illness, was once again reestablished not only as person but as a “daughter” of God. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace,” Jesus told her.

What would it cost us for Jesus to restore those outside the norms of society or religion? Will we be willing to pay the price, yet still remain confident that the Lord will attend to our needs? What would it cost you for the Lord to restore that person or family you know is always going through difficult times, whether because of illness, lacking a good paying job, relationship problems, or wrong choices? The Lord has no preference for anyone. He loves those who sit in the pews on Sunday, but he also loves those who sit on the street curbs. The Lord is concerned for those we love and are concerned for, but he is also concerned for those who seem to have no one concerned for them.  

When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house we are told, “People were wailing and mourning for her.” The gospel of Mark says, there was a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly (5:38). The girl had died. Those who were mourning knew it was over. The girl had gone forever. And as Frederick Buechner writes: First century people haven’t already come up with the sayings there are these days when someone dies. They did not say, “Oh, she is in a better place” or “It’s a blessing.” [1] Or, as some say, “Now we have a guardian angel to watch over us.” First century people knew that to die meant it was over. Therefore when Jesus said that the girl was only asleep, the mourners laughed at him. They must have thought Jesus was crazy to say that. They knew how the dead people looked like and they knew the girl was dead.

Jesus took the girl’s hand and said, “My child, get up.” And he gave her back to her family.

May we hear Jesus’ words commanding us to rise and to get up. If you are feeling down in your spirit, the Lord wants to hold your hand and lift you up. If you are happy for what the Lord is doing for you, give him praise and let his blessings reach to others too. If you know someone who is in need of God’s presence, comfort, healing, and restoration, ask the Lord to guide on how you can become a channel of his grace to that person. Every person matters to the Lord, but it falls on us to make it visible. Therefore, the cost we might pay is making his love and care visible. Let us remember that the Lord will never abandon us when we allow his grace to reach others. He will come to our rescue and speak to us his life-giving words, “My child, get up. Amen!

Pastor Romero

[1] Frederick Buechner. Sermon Illustration: Jairus’s Daughter. E-newsletter, June 21, 2021.