Lord of Life, Destroyer of Death (Part 1)

Mark 5:21-43

Tom Pennington  •  September 27, 2009
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Tragically, over the last few months, there have been several scandals in the news surrounding cemeteries. As older cemeteries face the challenge of running out of land, some unscrupulous people have unearthed and removed older graves to make room for new ones. Now that is obviously a tragic situation for those families. But, at the same time, it illustrates a great spiritual and physical reality. All mankind will someday need a place to be buried. Every person in this room will die if our Lord doesn't return first. We live in a dying universe on a decaying planet, and every one of us faces the looming reality of our own impending death. That's the reality of the world in which we live. That is one of the reasons we need desperately a rescuer, a Savior. Because we face an awesome enemy at the end of life, that's right, Paul called it an enemy whom we cannot face alone.

Tonight, we meet two people; two people whose circumstances face the reality of that. One was dying; the other had been in the process of dying for years; two people whose circumstances were completely hopeless. One has a dying body, the other a dying daughter. And both had exhausted all of their options, until, at the same time, their lives collided with Jesus of Nazareth.

I invite you to turn with me to Mark 5, Mark 5, and let me read you this amazing account that we'll just begin to study together tonight. Mark 5 beginning in verse 21.

When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore.

One of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up, and on seeing Him, fell at His feet

and implored Him earnestly saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live."

And He went off with him; and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.

A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years,

and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse-

-after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak.

For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well."

Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

Immediately, Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My garments?"

And His disciples said to Him, "You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?'"

And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.

But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.

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

While He was still speaking, they came from the house of the synagogue officials saying, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?"

But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid, … only believe."

And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James.

They came to the house of the synagogue official; and He saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing.

And entering in, He said to them, "Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep."

[And] they began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He took along the child's father and mother and His own companions, and entered the room where the child was.

Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, "Talitha kum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!").

Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded.

And He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this, and He said that something should be given her to eat."

Matthew and Luke also record this same account. What makes this story unique as you can already tell is that it is a story within a story. In verses 21 - 24 you have Jairus' request for Jesus to come with him. And then in the middle, verses 25 to 34, you have this healing of this woman with the hemorrhage, and in verses 35 to 43 the raising then of Jairus' daughter. The immediate question that comes to my mind and should come to yours is: why? Why do the gospel writers interrupt one story with another? Well certainly, that's how it happened, that's one reason, but that can't be all. Jesus did a lot of things. Jesus healed a lot of people. But all three gospel writers see some relationship between these two stories, and they blend them together, and they record both of them together.

A second possible reason might be that the interruption of this woman delays Jesus long enough for the girl to die, so that, in fact, it becomes not a healing but a resurrection from the dead. And clearly this is part of the reason for recording the story, but it doesn't take ten verses to say that Jesus was delayed by someone in the crowd. So, that can't be the primary reason this woman's story is included.

The third possibility, and I think the one that is the answer, primarily, is that the interruption makes an important point. The primary focus of this story is clearly Jesus, and Jesus' interaction with these two people who are incredibly different and yet, in some ways, are very much the same.

Now, let me remind you that the day before, Jesus' enemies had come to their own conclusions about who Jesus was. Jesus' unbelieving brothers accompanied by His well-meaning mother had come to find Him, you remember go back to chapter 3 and look at verse 20. When Jesus came home to Capernaum there,

… the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.

When His own people" [

His own family]

heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses."

And then in verse 31 they show up. They come from Nazareth to Capernaum.

Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. … [

The] crowd … sitting around … [Jesus there in the house said to Him,]

Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.

So, His brothers have concluded that Jesus is out of His mind. He's certifiably crazy. He has a Messiah complex. And Mary's concerned that her Son is overdoing. So, they all show up to compel Jesus by force to go back to Nazareth. That same morning, you remember, the scribes and Pharisees who had been sent from Jerusalem to sort of investigate Jesus had come to an entirely different conclusion. Look at 3:22,

"The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and 

"He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."

Their conclusion was: Jesus is a fraud, a deceiver. He's not the Messiah. The truth is He's in league with Satan himself. In fact, He is possessed by Satan, indwelt by the power of evil. In response to those accusations a couple of important things happened that day. You remember one of them. Jesus teaches by the sea shore there some parables. He explains why not everyone is responding well to Him. In the parable of the sower He explains it all depends on whether or not your heart's been prepared. And then, after that public teaching, Jesus privately took his disciples to a house and explained to them all that they needed to know and told them basically the reason you get it. The reason you understand, the reason you comprehend the truth is because it has been given to you to understand. God has prepared your heart.

The second thing that happens in response to those accusations, those wrong conclusions about who Jesus was: is God providentially structures Jesus' life over the next twenty-four hours to make His own statement about who Jesus is. If His enemies are going to accuse Him of being in league with the devil and being out of His mind, God, His loving Father, is going to arrange the circumstances to demonstrate who He really is. So, just a few hours later on the Sea of Galilee in the stilling of the storm, God shows Jesus' power over creation, His power over nature. And it leaves the disciples asking the question in verse 41 of chapter 4, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

The next morning in the encounter with the demoniac of Gadara, God shows us Jesus' power over Satan and a whole army of demons. In that encounter, as we saw last week, the leader of the army of demons screams out Jesus' true identity. You remember, he comes up to Jesus, he comes running down, controlling that possessed naked man who's cut himself, who's out of his mind, and the demon speaks through his mouth and says, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"

Now, later, on that day, after the healing of the demoniac, the Father has arranged a couple more encounters to punctuate exactly who Jesus is. Two stories, the story of Jairus' daughter and the story of the woman with the hemorrhage. Both give us another glimpse of who Jesus really is. Specifically, they show us Jesus' power over incurable disease and death itself. The Father has sovereignly planned these incidents in Christ's life to answer the charges that had been leveled against Him just the day before. They show us that Jesus is in fact the Lord of life and the Destroyer of death. Mark 5, I love Mark 5 because it's really the chapter of hopeless cases. Different people, but as one commentator writes, "each find hope in Jesus when all human hopes are exhausted."

Now as we begin to look at these, the story within a story, these two people whom we will meet, Mark gives us the setting in verse 21. Notice he writes,

"When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so, He stayed by the sea shore."

You remember at the end of the healing of the demoniac of Gadara, He was over here at the southeastern corner of the lake and the people of Gadara asked Him to leave. And so, Jesus and His disciples get in the boat, and they head back across the lake, in a boat very much like this one a first century reproduction I've shown you before. They head back across the lake from the bottom corner back up to Capernaum. Whatever reason Jesus had for leaving Capernaum the night before, probably for some desperately needed rest, He now takes the twelve-to-thirteen-mile trip back across the lake. And a couple of hours later they began to be seen from the shore.

A few in the crowd from the day before were watching and they spotted the boat, they say, 'He's back.' And so, word quickly spreads, and soon a large crowd gathers around Him. So, He stays there on the sea shore, verse 21 says, and apparently, He's going to teach them again as He had the day before. And that brings us to the heart of the story. A few people had seen Him arrive. They yelled to the crowds. They let the word out in the city, and pretty soon there's a large crowd that's gathered again as they've seen the boat in the distance coming, and they've gathered to hear Jesus and to see His miracles.

That brings us to the heart of the story and it begins with two desperate acts of faith. Both of the people we're about to meet find themselves in the middle of personal tragedy. You know I think and my father-in-law was right when he said and taught us so many years ago and I sat in his classes before I ever met his daughter, that if you're going to read the Bible you need to read it with a kind of sanctified imagination. You need to put yourself back in time, back in their situation, back in their trauma. Here you find two people in personal tragedy. There were a lot of curious onlookers in the crowd gathered on the sea of Galilee that day, but there were two people there who were on their own desperate missions.

The first one we meet is an influential leader. Look at verse 22,

"One of the synagogue officials … named Jairus came up, and on seeing Jesus, fell at His feet…." 

One of the synagogue officials. Every town where there were more than ten Jewish males had a synagogue. Most synagogues were presided over by a man called the ruler of the synagogue or the chief official or the president of the synagogue. He wasn't a priest, he was a lay leader. He was, but he was the highest ranking social/religious leader in the town. It was his job to lead the board of elders. To arrange the various parts of the synagogue worship service. He assigned some people to read the Scripture in the service. He assigned others to pray. He assigned others to teach. His job also included security, making sure they had the scrolls that they needed, and that they were kept well preserved.

Most synagogues, probably including Capernaum, had just one ruler of the synagogue. Some of them were large enough to have several rulers according to Acts 13:15, but the synagogue in Capernaum probably just had one, this man was in that role. It was an elite influential position. It was one of the highest positions in the entire town. And this man, Jairus, was one of those in that elite group whose duty it was to oversee their local synagogue. Specifically, he served as president or ruler over the synagogue in Capernaum. This is excavations in Capernaum, there's the synagogue itself where the blue arrow is pointing, that by the way is probably Peter's house. I've shown you this before, but it is still preserved there you can visit it as I have. He served as president in that synagogue.

This man would have known Peter and Andrew. He would have known James and John because they were a part of that community. He would have known Jesus. Since Jesus had made Capernaum His home base, every Sabbath Jesus would have attended the one synagogue in town, the place where Jairus was one of the board of elders, where he was the ruler. In fact, Jairus would have had to have agreed to let Jesus speak in the synagogue as He did back in 1:21. Almost certainly this man would have witnessed the exorcism that happened on the Sabbath you remember back in chapter 1 there in the synagogue. So, he wasn't unacquainted with Jesus at all. He'd heard Jesus teach. He'd seen at least one of His miracles. And his name, we're told in verse 22, is Jairus.

It's the Greek form of the Old Testament name "Jair" which means, "He or God will give light". This influential man quickly works his way through the crush of the crowd that's formed there on the side of the Sea of Galilee and finds his way to Jesus. And when he finally reaches Jesus, he falls at His feet as a sign of both respect for Jesus as well as a recognition of Jesus' superiority and his own desperation. Verse 23 says, when he fell there, he

"… implored Him earnestly saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live."

You know it's interesting, the same language was used of the people of Gadara, they "earnestly implored Jesus to leave." Jairus when he makes it to the other side of the lake implores Jesus to come. He says, "my little daughter." It's an interesting term. It's really a wonderful term of deep love and affection. It's a lot like our expression, "my little girl." Verse 42, Mark tells us this little girl was 12 years old, but she was still her daddy's little girl. She, in Jewish custom had just arrived at womanhood, but Jairus runs up to Jesus falls at His feet and says, "Jesus I have a problem with my little girl." Luke tells us that this was his only child, his only child, his 12-year-old daughter, and she was dying. In fact, Mark tells us here she is, was at the point of death. It's a good translation of a sort of colloquial expression that means, she is one breath away from death itself.

You know when you read this story, if you're a parent, you can feel the trauma of this moment. Imagine yourself in this man's place. There's been a sudden trauma in your life, your daughter, your only daughter, the delight and joy of your life, twelve years old, just come to womanhood is dying. Children can be the source of your greatest joys and they can also be the source of your greatest sorrows. Jairus is probably thinking as he comes what any parent would think. Why does it have to happen to her? Why not me? Jairus asked Jesus to come immediately to his home and to lay His hands on her. Why does he ask her, ask Jesus to do that? Well, he's already familiar with Jesus, and really, no other teacher had done that. But Jesus had. Already we've seen in the gospel of Mark Jesus touching people, putting His hands on them. Chapter 1:31, 1:41. So, he'd seen this. He'd heard of it, and he asked Jesus to come and do for his daughter what He'd done for others.

It's clear this man has come to have faith in Jesus' ability to heal his daughter. Notice what Jesus says about his faith down in verse 36. He says, "do not be afraid, only believe." You'll notice the marginal reference, really the literal translation of it is: keep on believing, keep on having faith. So, he came to Jesus with faith that Jesus could heal her. She will get well and live. He was convinced that Jesus could heal his daughter. So, he comes with a request, and Jesus graciously responds. It says, "and He went off with him."

You know we expect that of Christ, don't we? But I love that little expression because it shows Jesus isn't just concerned about the crowds. He's concerned about individuals. Remember a huge crowd had gathered. He was going to have an opportunity to reach possibly thousands with His teaching. But He left all of that to help one desperate father and his little girl. And just in case you think it's because Jairus is an influential leader in the city, Jesus is about to stop in the middle of that mission to care for an anonymous woman. She's the second figure we meet in the story. We have an influential leader and an anonymous woman. Mark writes in verse 24,

"… and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him."

Undoubtedly, many in the crowd had heard the request that Jairus had made. They had watched the scene unfold, and it had raised their expectations. Who wouldn't want to see Jesus perform another miracle? Maybe this'll be another one of those dramatic healings like the ones we've seen Jesus do before. So, many, perhaps most of those who had gathered there at the lake to hear Jesus, now all fight to stay near Him as He walks toward the town. If you've ever seen the pictures of eager fans following championship golfers on the golf course as they run eagerly to be the first one to see the shot to witness what's going to happen.

The Greek word says they're pressing on Him, it has the idea of thronged. The crowd was crushing in upon Jesus and Jairus. It is a chaotic, even frightening, scene. Try to put yourself in Jairus' place. Try to imagine how frantic he must have been. He's trying to get Jesus to his daughter, and the crowd is slowing their progress like an ambulance in the middle of crowded traffic, can't make its way. All of these people were hanging close to see what Jesus would do for this man that they all knew well, all of them except for one. Because there's a woman in the crowd who has a different plan. Look at verse 25,

A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years,

and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse-

It's interesting, this is the longest sentence in Mark's gospel. He crowds seven participles into two verses to try to help give us an accurate picture of this woman's true situation. And it's far more tragic than it appears from a simple reading of the verses. All we're told about the nature of this woman's physical problem is that it is a hemorrhage, a chronic hemorrhage. Literally it says, "being in a flow of blood for twelve years." It's likely that her problem was chronic and constant uterine bleeding, that's what most commentators believe. We're not told why the bleeding. The two most likely causes would be a fibroid tumor in her uterus that caused constant bleeding. The other possibility would have been uterine cancer. Did you notice the similarities between this woman and Jairus' daughter? Jairus' daughter was twelve years old and this woman had had this chronic bleeding condition for twelve years. Jairus' daughter was born the year this woman got sick. Twelve years is a long time. What were you doing in 1997? That's twelve years ago.

If it was uterine cancer that she had had for twelve years, then she was at this point in a great deal of pain and very near death. But whether her condition was chronic, or whether it was terminal, Luke tells us that it was humanly incurable. In Luke 8:43 he says and remember Luke's a doctor, he says "the woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years and could not be healed by anyone." It was incurable. She had tried to get help, verse 26 says, "she had endured much at the hands of many physicians." If you really want to shiver about medical care, if you really want to be appreciative for what we have while everyone tells us how bad it is, go back to the Jewish Talmud. The Jewish Talmud lists no less than 11 different cures for uterine hemorrhage. In one spot, this is a suggestion it makes. Take the gum of Alexandria, the weight of a small silver coin, of alum the same, of crocus that is a crocus plant the same, let them be bruised together and given in wine to the woman who has an issue of blood. Okay, what if that doesn't work? Well if this does not benefit, take of Persian onions 3 pints, boil them in wine and give her to drink and say, "arise from your flow". If this does not cure her, set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her right hand, and let someone come behind and frighten her and say arise from your flow. (Laughs) Okay.

The Talmud also recommended carrying barley corn, now that's not so bad. Except, it's suggested that the solution was to carry barley corn which had been salvaged from the droppings of a white she-donkey. And carrying it in different types of material in different seasons of the year. It's hocus-pocus. It's superstition. It was no help at all. There's no doubt that that is some of what this woman had endured. Sometimes the cure is as bad or worse than the disease. Verse 26 says, "and she had spent all that she had." Certainly, she had been subjected to much worse, much more harmful, much more painful treatments in the ancient world as well. And in the process of all those treatments, and in the process of all of those doctors, she had spent all that she had. We don't know if this woman had been wealthy at one point or not, but whatever she had owned 12 years ago, it was gone. She had gone through it all.

Notice that this woman had completely exhausted all of medical science, every reputable and disreputable treatment. Desperate people are willing to do desperate things. Tragically, absolutely nothing had worked. Verse 26 says, "and she was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse." There was simply nothing else she could do. So, this woman has no resources of any kind left, and her physical condition was deteriorating. But all of that wasn't bad enough. Her medical condition had created a huge problem that cut across every area of her life. You see, her real problem is found in Leviticus 15. Turn back there with me. If all that she had endured at the doctors wasn't enough, it gets worse. Leviticus 15 and look at verse 25. Here's what the law had stipulated.

"Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity; or if she has a discharge beyond that period, all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean.

Any bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her like her bed at menstruation; and everything on which she sits shall be unclean, like her uncleanness at that time.

Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening."

God had a purpose in putting this in place to protect peoples honor and respect of Him. But it had become a ball and chain to this woman. You see this woman because she had that constant bloody discharge for 12 years, was continually, ceremonially unclean. Do you understand what that meant? That meant she was an outcast from the people of God. She was never allowed to attend the synagogue, not once. She was never allowed to go to the temple. She could never offer a sacrifice. But it was worse, because everything she touched, everything she sat on in her home, everything she touched in the house of a neighbor was unclean. Everyone she touched became unclean until the evening until they had been purified.

This was still practiced by the way, carefully in the first century. The writer Josephus, the historian tells us that, "the temple was closed to women during their menstruation." So, she was effectively cut off from all social interaction perhaps even with her own family. Some commentators even suggest that in the first century a husband would have sinned against her by divorcing her because every time they were together it rendered him unclean. This was a desperate woman; physically desperate, socially desperate, spiritually desperate. It's possible she was slowly dying of uterine cancer, but regardless of what her diagnosis was, it was incurable, it was constant, and it was getting worse. And she'd made the round of all the doctors, endured all the treatments, exhausted all the resources.

Verse 27 says, "after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak." Somehow this woman had heard about Jesus. Since she felt she could be in this crowd without being recognized, it's possible that she'd come from some distance looking for this opportunity. But somehow, she had still heard about Jesus power and His miracles, and she pushed her way through that crushing crowd, that pressing crowd all the way up to get right behind Jesus as they're fighting their way with Jairus to his home and in the middle of that crowd she touched His cloak, that is, His outer garment.

I won't take much time here, but if you want to know how they dress. The typical Jewish man in the first century wore five pieces of clothing; sandals in summer, or shoes that covered his feet in rainy weather and winter. A head wrap or a turban of some kind, an undergarment that was essentially, normally made out of a fine wool that was close fitting to the body that only had a spot for the arms and for the head and was close fitting to the body, and then a sash would, or a girdle would go around that undergarment that tied, often colorful. And then over the top of that would go an outer garment which was often just a large square piece of cloth with a hole cut in the center for the head or rectangle, and it just sort of hung loose over the rest of that. On the four corners of that outer garment the Old Testament had prescribed that there be tassels located. Tassels of blue and white at the four corners of that garment. They were intended to remind the Jewish men of the law of God.

Mark tells us that she touched His cloak or His outer garment. Matthew and Luke tell us that specifically she touched those tassels that were hanging off His outer robe. The reason for that's obvious. They were hanging free and loose and to touch them would run very little risk of being caught, of being identified, of Jesus even knowing that it had happened. And so, this is her determination. But why does she do this? Well, verse 28 says, for

"she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well."

Why would she think that? Well, if you go back to Mark 3:9 and 10, we learn that, "He had healed many with the result that all those that had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him." She had heard about Jesus. She had heard about what had happened. She had heard about the miracles. She had heard how people had just come up and touched Him and been healed. And so, she decides to do the same.

In fact, in Matthews gospel, Matthew says she kept on saying to herself, if I can just touch Him, I'll be healed. If I can just touch Him, I'll be healed. If I can just touch His garment, I'll be healed. Her faith was misguided. She thought she could be healed without Jesus knowing or agreeing with her healing. That's not true. Jesus is not going to let her continue in that misunderstanding, we'll see that next week. But nevertheless, she came to Jesus in faith that He could heal her. So, here are two desperate acts of faith; one by an influential leader, the other by an unknown woman. As we'll see next time the primary focus of the stories is Jesus. God is making a point about who Jesus is and His power over incurable disease and over death.

But there's more going on here too, because much is made of these people, of their stories and of their faith. There are lessons to be learned from these two completely different people. What are the spiritual lessons that we can learn from these two desperate people? A couple of things to keep in mind, first of all, there is no partiality with God. There are deliberate contrasts in these two separate but interconnected stories. Think about it for a moment. Just think about the contrast. Jairus was a man. She was a woman. Jairus was an influential man, known to almost everyone in Capernaum and to many in the crowd that day. The woman was anonymous, unknown to the crowd and still unknown to us. Jairus was a wealthy successful businessman. This woman had nothing because she had spent everything she had in hope of a cure. Jairus was probably the chief leader of the synagogue there in Capernaum. This woman couldn't even attend the synagogue. Jairus had spent the last twelve years of his life in joy and happiness, celebrating God's goodness to his family in his little girl. This woman had spent her last twelve years in misery and suffering and pain and alienation. He had lived in a loving home enjoying his wife and his only child, a daughter. The woman, over the last twelve years, has been gradually alienated from everyone she had known and loved, all of her friends cut her off, she was unclean.

Two desperate people with nothing in common except the work of God in their hearts. Both of their stories really had begun twelve years before. And now in God's providence their lives intersect at the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus takes time for both. Think about that for a moment. He is completely unaffected by the social norms, by who's influential, by who's important. He is utterly impartial. He's concerned about both of them equally. I love this because this is exactly what's true of our God. Look back at Deuteronomy for a moment. Deuteronomy 10:17, Moses writes,

"For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God"

[And then notice how he finishes it off]

"who does not show partiality or take a bribe.

He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and He shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing."

So, you do the same. This is who God is. This is who our God is. He is unaffected by the important, by the wealthy, none of those things matter to God. If you have means, He's the One who gave them to you. If you don't, He's the one who has withheld them. He's unimpressed by any of that, but His heart goes out to the person in need: impartial. That's why Paul can later say of the church in Galatians 3, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus." All of those distinctions while they may still exist, they mean nothing to God and in His kingdom. It's a great lesson in God's impartiality.

There's another lesson from these two desperate people. In these three encounters that Jesus has had since His teaching in parables, God has illustrated for us some of the different ways that He prepares the soil of the heart. You remember, Jesus said you're only going to receive the seed if the soil of your heart is prepared. How does God do that? Well, it's fascinating when you look at these three people Jesus has encountered since that parable because God has prepared their hearts in entirely different ways. Think about the demoniac of Gadara for a moment. With him it was a sudden intervention. It was a Damascus road kind of experience. When Jesus Christ reveals Himself, casts out the demons, and within a few hours you see this man who didn't know Jesus before sitting at His feet, worshiping Him and wanting to follow Him as Lord and Master.

With Jairus it was different. Jairus knew a lot about Jesus. He was the chief lay leader there in the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus had made His home. It was where Jesus had taught. Jairus had signed off on Jesus having that opportunity. Jairus lived in the town so he had seen some of Jesus' miracles there. He had heard some of His teaching, and yet he still had not become a disciple of Jesus Christ. There's no indication that he had before this moment. Then comes into his life, a crisis, a sudden life and death crisis. Jesus had been in Capernaum 24 hours before, and yet Jairus hadn't come to him them. So apparently, either his little girl wasn't sick at all then, or at least wasn't near death. But 24 hours later things had changed desperately. And it's that knowledge of Jesus without a commitment to Christ married to that crisis of life that God uses in Jairus' case.

The woman is different yet. She had suffered a long chronic illness or disease that had slowly, methodically, terribly brought her to the end of herself. She has exhausted herself and her resources. She's tried to solve it all herself, and there's nothing left to do. She has no other options, no other hope. And then she hears about Jesus.

Christians, maybe as you hear their stories, you can trace you own experience in their lives. Maybe your experience was like that of the demoniac in the sense of there was a sudden, divine interruption of your life seemingly out of the blue.

Or maybe God's intervention in your life was like that of Jairus, you had some knowledge of Christ but no real relationship with Him. You'd never really become His follower, His disciple. He'd never become your Lord and Savior. But that knowledge that you had; it all crystalized in a moment when God by His providence brought you into the middle of a crisis that you could not handle. And only thing you could do was look up.

Or maybe you were like the woman. Your life was a slow descent to the bottom where all you can do at the end was look up and cry out for hope and help, and in that state of desperation somebody told you about Christ, and the work of the Spirit of God in your heart caused you to respond. Those are all ways that God sovereignly prepares hearts for the gospel.

Brings us to the third lesson. God intends these two people to provide us with a lesson in saving faith. Jesus commends the faith of both of these people. That alone by the way is remarkable. Jairus had a weak faith driven by desperation. The woman's faith was even mixed with superstition and misperceptions about how she could be healed. In fact, as we'll see next time, Jesus corrects that as He deals with her. But, in both cases, theirs was a genuine faith, and Jesus commends it. I love what John Calvin writes. He says,

It is even possible that there was a mixture of sin and error in the woman's faith which Christ graciously bears and forgives. Christ bestows high commendation on her faith. This agrees with what I have lately noticed, [Calvin writes,] that God deals kindly and gently with His people, accepts their faith though imperfect and weak, and does not lay to their charge the false and imperfections with which it is connected.

So, what were the elements that distinguished the faith of both of these people, that makes it true saving faith? First of all, they were brought to Jesus by personal need. They realized in their case that they were at the end physically, but obviously there was spiritual need they sensed as well from this great Teacher. Tragedy often brings a person to Jesus. Personal need is what brought them to Christ. There was also a willingness to deny themselves to come to Christ. Both Jairus and this woman have to deny themselves.

Think about it for a moment. Jairus is risking everything: his position, his power, his influence even possibly his wealth, certainly, any hope of advancement in Judaism. Because just the day before, what had the big wigs from Jerusalem said about Jesus? He's in league with Satan. He's possessed by the devil. He's a fraud. And this man throws all caution to the wind. He's willing to risk everything he's worked his whole life for, and he puts his confidence in Jesus alone.

Same thing's true for the woman. The woman is risking public recognition which in the first century culture would have been a huge issue. She's risking discovery of her condition which means everybody there would have been down on her, would have been angry with her for rendering them unclean. How dare you come into the middle of a crowd. You're supposed to stay separate: public disgrace, humiliation. This becomes especially true as we'll see next time as Jesus calls her out and doesn't let her stay secret. So, they're willing to deny everything to get Christ and what comes with Him.

Third way their faith expresses itself is they put their confidence in Christ alone. They have both already exhausted all their own resources, and now they come to Jesus as beggars. They're putting all their confidence in Christ alone as the only One able to help them. Folks, that's saving faith. There's a powerful lesson here. It's not the quality of your faith. It's not the strength of your faith that saves you. It is the object of your faith that saves you. Maybe you're here tonight, and I don't want to assume everyone here is a Christian. Maybe you're not a follower of Christ, whatever you've claimed, whatever the people sitting around you believe.

Listen, right now, God may be taking you, He may be taking someone here or several here through extreme difficulty. Perhaps God intends to use those circumstances to bring you to the end of yourself, to the end of your own resources and to prepare your heart to draw you to Himself. If you, like these two people this man and this woman, will recognize your need be willing to deny yourself and to give up everything else and put your confidence in Christ alone as your only hope He will receive you just as He did these two desperate people. Your faith doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be in the One who is and in Him alone.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the example of these two: two people driven by their desperation to Christ. Lord, we also were driven in the same desperation to Him, whether it was physical storm or spiritual storm. We recognized we had exhausted our own resources and found ourselves at Jesus' feet crying out for His help; putting our confidence in Him alone as the only One that could fix the mess we had made, that could forgive the sins we had done to make us right with God.

Father, thank You that You drew each of us through our own circumstances to Yourself. Thank You, oh God, that You often bring us to the end of ourselves where we can do nothing but look up and cry out to Christ to rescue. Lord, I pray that You would remind us as believers of that. Remind us of what You have done in our lives. Create in us a sense of love and gratitude because of it.

Father, help us to share the gospel with others, to reach out to others who are going through hard times with the truth of Christ. And Father, I pray for those here tonight who've never genuinely become followers of Jesus Christ. Lord, help them to see that they've got to come in the same spirit of desperation that Jairus and this woman did. And may they do that tonight. May they find a quiet place and cry out in desperation for You to change them, to forgive them, to make them new in Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.