Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Child, Arise! (Luke 8.40-56)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
August 28, 2011
Some Music Used 

 Prelude (Linda Jenkins, Cathy Youngblood): "I Need Thee Every Hour" (Lowry)
Hymn of Praise: "Come, Thou Almighty King" (ITALIAN HYMN)
The Word in Music: "Talitha Kum!" (Martin)
Offering of Music: "It is Well With My Soul" (Bliss/Sterling)
Song of Sending: "Before the Throne" (Bancroft and Cook)
Postlude: "Crown Him With Many Crowns" (Burkhardt)

Child, Arise!
Text: Luke 8:40-56

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Jesus – miracle man!

In today’s text, Jesus does two more. Amazing!

These are two stories out of four that all come sequentially in Luke 8, and they are tied together by a common thread. Let me describe each in order.

In Luke 8:22-25, Jesus calmed the wind and the waves during a storm on the Sea of Galilee. You probably read that and think, “a miracle.” And you’d be right.

In Luke 8:26-39, which we read last week, Jesus gets out of the boat and enters a neighboring non-Jewish country, where he is confronted with a demon-possessed man. There is some conversation between Jesus and the demons and they end up going into a herd of pigs, which drown themselves. The man is given back his humanity. I’m not sure what we call that – not exactly healing or a miracle… maybe restoration or re-creation. It is a miraculous sign in that it tells us something about the nature, character, and plan of God to restore the “image of God” through the work of Jesus, extended even to the Gentiles. I wrote even more about last week’s text than I shared in a long sermon; I’d invite you to grab a copy or check it out on the website.

Today, there are two more scenes. Jesus has returned to Jewish territory, and is approached by a synagogue official named Jairus. He fell at Jesus’ feet and implored him – interestingly, the same thing the demon-possessed man had done. Jairus begs Jesus to come and see his 12-year old daughter, who is dying. Jesus begins to go, but then he and the story are interrupted by a woman in the press of the crowd who touches him in order to be healed of bleeding that has been going on for twelve years. Jesus stops and interacts with her, then goes on to Jairus’ house. Classic Jesus healing, right?

Then finally, Jesus gets to Jairus’ house, where his daughter has died. But Jesus goes in to see her and calls her out of death as if out of sleep, and she gets up. That probably goes beyond healing – she wasn’t just sick; she was dead. And Jesus gave her life.

So, four miraculous stories all in a row. Each is amazing in its own way and I don’t mean to take away from that at all. Rather, I want to add what I see as a common thread – a significance to the amazingness that is what makes these “signs” and not just “miracles.” They all point to and teach us something about the nature, character, and will of God. 

The Natural World and the Spiritual Realm

In the stilling of the wind and the waves, Jesus demonstrated power and authority over the elements of this world. God created the world and the wind and the waves, and Jesus was given authority over them. So, I noted that the story wasn’t just an instruction guide for you when you find yourself in a storm at sea. Rather, it paints a broader picture of a God who has greater power than even something so seemingly out of our control as the weather. I can’t think of a more timely reminder than a week after we experienced an east coast earthquake and a weekend in which Hurricane Irene is moving up the east coast. Does this scripture teach that if we pray the right way or have enough faith that God will make the hurricane go away? No, but it does give us a measure of the power that God demonstrated through His son, Jesus!

In the confrontation with the demon-possessed man, we talked last week about how there was more going on than healing the man of an affliction. Rather, there was a conflict of kingdoms – the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God. For a time, Satan has been given power and authority in this world, and that time is not yet up, but Jesus came to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God, and this confrontation out in the Gentile, beyond-the-Jews realm, is a powerful testimony that God’s power is greater than the power of evil and Satan. In that story, Jesus demonstrated the Gospel itself, that the “light has shined in the darkness” (John 1:5) and God has broken into the stronghold of Satan to demonstrate and declare His greater authority and claim to humanity. The man was not only released from Satan’s grip, but his full humanity – made in the image of God – was restored to him.

In these first two stories, Jesus demonstrates power and authority over this world and over the spiritual realm.

Let’s look now at the two stories in today’s text. 

Human Health, Holiness, Life, and Death

While Jesus is on his way to Jairus’ house to see his sick daughter, a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years reaches out in the crowd and touches him. Verse 44 notes, “…immediately her hemorrhage stopped.” What may stand out to us as more unusual than that is Jesus’ response. For one, he says, “I was aware that power had gone out of me.” (v. 46) We are not ever told much about how Jesus healed people, and this description of power going out is fascinatingly vague. Is he a wizard? (A natural question if you’ve seen or read a lot of Harry Potter!) That phrase is not used anywhere else in scripture, nor do I know of anything like it. Probably the least we can say is that Jesus was aware of the power that he had and the faith of those around him, even when not actively healing someone. Trying to describe the mechanics of Jesus’ power more than that would be speculation.

While that feature of the story may pique our curiosity the most, it’s not the most important part of the story. All we really need to know from that is that Jesus had the power to heal the woman and that she had faith in him to do so. What seems to be less important is actually noteworthy, and that is the question, “Who touched me?” It’s not that Jesus didn’t know, but that being healed of the bleeding was only one aspect of her problem. The other was that she would have been considered unclean and an outcast because of bleeding that never stopped. By identifying her and her healing publicly, Jesus enabled her to re-enter society and, much like the demon-possessed man, to reclaim her humanity. He also gave her the opportunity to witness or testify about him, and like several others in these stories, she “fell down before him” (v. 47). Jesus not only restored her health, but her holiness. Jesus demonstrates power and authority over human sickness and health. His act was not just to grant her health, but to declare it as well.

And then in the final story, Jesus comes “too late” to Jairus’ house. I already mentioned Jairus falling down and pleading with Jesus, an interesting parallel to the demon-possessed man, both recognizing the power and authority of Jesus to do something about the situation at hand. Though Jairus did not anticipate the extent of need for Jesus’ power, his daughter’s death was not beyond the scope of power and authority given to the Son by God the Father. Jesus arrives on the scene, seemingly too late, and asks to see the girl. He only allows three disciples and the girl’s parents to see her with him. And he tells them, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.” No commentator I know of thinks that the girl was actually asleep. Rather, Jesus’ power is so great that raising her is going to be no harder than waking someone who is asleep. Can you grasp that? And that’s one place where the world of Harry Potter leads us way off track. We all know that to do a really big miracle surely requires really big preparation or effort… like a big wind-up or something. But Jesus simply speaks to a storm, torments demons by his presence, heals a woman without even trying, and raising the dead…. it’s like saying “wake up” is for us.

There is the interesting piece of this last story that Jesus instructs them not to tell what happened. The best explanation I have for that this is what scholars call the “Messianic Secret.” Early on in Jesus’ ministry – and this is early on… chapter 8 – Jesus keeps certain aspects of his power and identity a secret. Or another way to say that is that through the unfolding of his ministry Jesus is thoughtful and intentional about when and where to reveal himself. Had he made Messianic claims too soon, he would have been arrested and killed before he got a chance to make disciples and teach widely. Had he never showed his power, people would not have believed. So, at this point, he seems willing for the woman who was bleeding to publicly say who healed her and share that story, but raising the dead to life… that kind of power wouldn’t be revealed until closer to the end, after Jesus raised Lazarus very publicly from the dead. In John 11, after raising Lazarus, we read (v. 53), “from that day on they plotted to kill [Jesus].”

That’s a little beside the point for today, though. What I want you to hear and focus on is the consistent demonstration of power and authority in these four stories. In this last one, Jesus demonstrates power and authority over death itself. Remember our call to worship? You can look back in the bulletin.

Will You perform wonders for the dead? Will the departed spirits rise and praise You? Will Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Ps. 88:10-12)

[The Lord of hosts] will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation!” (Isaiah 25:8-9) 

The Power and Authority of Jesus

That’s the take-away from today’s text: not that Jesus can calm your storms, keep Satan at bay, heal your sicknesss, or awaken a spiritually dead soul. Those are all the usual spiritualized “morals of the stories” in this chapter. And that’s all true enough and real enough, as far as it goes. But what I want you to hear is far more radical than those things. It is far more life-shaking and life-changing and transformative than praying to Jesus for the challenges of life.

God the Father has given Jesus the Son all power and authority in heaven and earth – and there are implications of that truth. Actually scripture goes even beyond what I’ve just said about heaven and earth. Listen to Philippians 2:10-11:

…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth… that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

All power… all authority… in heaven and on earth and under the earth… over every area of our existence. Even over life and death itself. Who can really even comprehend that kind of power?

That is what it means that Jesus is Lord. That all things are given to him, for the glory of God.

What do you do with that information? What do you do with those stories? It can’t just be a nice thing to say in a creed somewhere. The Bible and Jesus’ words and actions all claim the same thing – that this Jesus is the single most important, powerful, consequential, influential, life-changing, life-defining, life-reviving, force in the universe. And he is no impersonal force, but a personal one sent from the heart of God to reconcile humanity to God the Father.

At the least, don’t you get the sense that even the most serious among us take all this too lightly?

Listen once again… listen not just with your ears, but with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and consider what FAITH in this Jesus means to you. What do you believe? What do you confess?

…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth… that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Amen!



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