"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « "I've Been Reading...": Quotable Quotes from Excellent Books, Issue I | Main | The Pacific Northwest L’Abri Conference 2007 »

    Images of the Savior (24 – His Raising of Jairus's Daughter)

    While he was still speaking, some of the rulers of the synagogue came, saying, “Your daughter has died; why do you still trouble the Teacher?”. But Jesus, having heard the word which was spoken, says to the ruler of the synagogue [i.e. Jairus], “Do not fear, only believe”. – Mark 5:35-36

    Within the account of Jesus' marvelous resurrection of the only daughter of Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, we find another marvelous miracle-account embedded, in which he frees a woman from a twelve year discharge of blood, from which she had been able to find relief in no other way. The conjunction of these two accounts teach us of Jesus' great mercy and compassion for all sorts of believers – the greatest as well as the weakest. He responds to great faith by causing it to grow and become greater yet; and he responds to weak faith in the same way, causing it to grow up until it is healthy and flourishing. Let us take heart at this truth! No matter how smoldering the wick of our faith may be, Jesus will not quench it, but will gently blow upon it with the soft breath of his mighty words and works, until it bursts once more into a flame of passionate devotion and steadfast trust in him alone (see Isaiah 42:3). But ah, let us examine ourselves, to see whether we have any faith at all: for the thronging crowds, who followed Jesus out of impure motives, not because they loved him or supposed that they could obtain their spiritual good from him, received no good thing from the Lord. Are we blindly following along with the crowd of professing believers, walking where they walk because they are many? Or is our one desire to reach Jesus, whether the crowds be with us or against us? If our heart truly yearns to touch him in whom is our healing and hope, then no matter how timid our faith may be, he will see us and strengthen us to come to him. But if we have no true longing to receive from him our every good, then throng about him as we may, he will give us no heed. Let us learn this lesson well: there will always be crowds thronging about Jesus, whether to mock or to offer insincere flattery; but few there be whose yearnings reach out to him alone.

    Let us first examine this man Jairus, who was strong in faith. We see first, that his faith was mighty to overflow in humble and passionate worship, notwithstanding the scornful gaze of the world. In the presence of all, this man fell down at the feet of Jesus, and in fact worshiped him (as we learn from the parallel account in Matthew 9:18), before he ever brought him his request. We know very well what the Pharisees and religious leaders of the Jews thought of offering worship to this man. They were always ready to stone him for blasphemy, and prepared to expel from the synagogue anyone who refused to admit that he was a mere man, and not the Son of God (cf. John 8:58-59; 9:30-34). How well Jairus must have known their mind is quite clear, seeing he himself was one of them, a ruler of the synagogue. And yet, giving no thought to the cost, or to the opposition of the world, he fell down and worshiped him in public. Surely, this was a strong and vibrant faith, that motivated such an action.

    Second, we see that his faith offered up a bold request. When he approached Jesus, his only daughter was on the verge of death – and in fact, he must have considered her already to be dead by the time he met the Savior, for in the account of Matthew he confesses from the beginning, “My daughter has died” (Matthew 9:18); and in this supposition he was proven correct, when his fellow synagogue rulers came to him with that sad news, even as Jesus was on his way there. Surely, this was an outstanding example of faith! Of all the people of Israel who confessed their belief in Jesus' power to heal, who had ever said before, “If you come and lay your hands upon [my dead daughter], she will live” (Matthew 9:18)? This man doubted not that the power of resurrection life flowed from the almighty hand of Christ our Redeemer – and that before he himself was raised as the firstfruits from the dead! Let us be instructed from this account that it is only a false humility which refuses to ask great things of Jesus, even greater than this man asked. May we not ask our Father for eternal life, for holiness and sanctification, for everything of which we have need? Then let us be strong in faith, and not like that wicked Ahaz, who said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). God has opened up all the coffers of his free grace, and bids us come and take freely from him. It is no humility to refuse to ask of him that which he bids us take, but rather a most wicked and presumptuous arrogance. This man asked a mighty thing, and trusted that Jesus would do what was best for him and his daughter. Let us have the same confidence – whatever is best, and springs up into greater faith and the overflow of spiritual blessings, whether sickness or health, riches or poverty – this our Savior most willingly gives us, if we boldly ask of him great things in faith. And let us note in passing, that it is a most holy occupation to seek fervently the life and good of our children. Because this man was a believer, Jesus gave his only child life. Will he not do the same for us? Let us fervently beseech him for the spiritual life of our children, and trust that he already sees them as holy (see I Corinthians 7:14), and that he will give them a strong and healthy faith throughout their generations.

    And finally, we must note that this man's faith was too great to acknowledge the fickle whims of the crowds. When they were thronging about Jesus in a show of devotion, he was there at Jesus' feet. And when they were lifting up their voices in contempt of his doctrine of resurrection life, he remained at his side nothing doubting. But now, let us see how Jesus responds to such faith.

    First, he goes with the man. Is this not enough, is it not everything we could ask? If Jesus is with us, what should we fear, no matter what else happens? If he grants or withholds our request, what does it matter, so long as he is by our side? Let us assure ourselves that, when we come before him with a worshipful heart of faith, he will be with us, no matter whether our petition is granted or not. Second, he strengthens this man's faith. In the first place, he withholds his answer for a time, until the news comes that his daughter is indeed dead. Then, he encourages him with his gentle voice of admonition, “Do not fear, only believe”. And finally, he performs a mighty work, confirming his faith. O believer in Christ, has he not often done those very things in your life, and have they not all, in various ways, served to strengthen your faith in him? Whether perfecting us in the patience-kiln of waiting, whispering his words through his Spirit, as we turn to the scriptures, or showering us with great and mighty blessings, he is working for our eternal good. Oh, let us be encouraged!

    But now, let us briefly examine the embedded account of this timid and sickly believing woman. We see how different her faith is than this man's. He immediately went to Jesus with a great request; she spent all her livelihood looking everywhere else for her lesser need. He worshiped Jesus in public; she crept to him in fear, hiding her face from him and the crowds. He expected riches from the Savior's outstretched hands; she hoped just to touch the hem of his garment. And yet, for all these differences, her faith was genuine, and rested only in Christ. She was not as the rest of the crowd, but knew that her only hope lay in this man Jesus. But her faith was weak and smoldering ever so lightly.

    But let us see how Jesus responds: first, he is willing to focus his attention on her specifically, contrary to all her expectation. Here was a man mighty in faith, to whom Jesus was responding; here were many crowds of people, thronging for his attention. Who was this weak and insignificant lady, that Jesus should look upon her? Ah weak Christian, is that not often your thought? You think, Jesus will do great things for my pastor, for the missionaries and elders of the church, but who am I, that he should do anything great for me? But if you are his, then he is all yours, and all of his riches, his power, his mercy, his love – they are all for you, and could not more surely be yours if you were the only believer in the world. Do not fear to approach the Savior with great requests because you are small and timid; he loves his own, each one with all the infinite love of his matchless person, and he will not turn you away, nor refuse to give you his greatest goods.

    And then, we see how Jesus strengthened this woman's faith as well, albeit in different ways, suited to her peculiar needs. First, he healed her immediately, with no period of waiting or words of instruction. How wise is our Savior, and how unwilling to lay any burden upon us which is too heavy for our weak state! Surely, as frail as this woman's faith was, when exhorted to wait she would have fled in terror. She was not in such a state of grace that she could endure the test that this ruler of the synagogue underwent. But she did not have to, for the Savior responded in such manner as she needed, and healed her at her first timid approach, before he even turned his face upon her. Let us rejoice that, as mighty as our miracle-working Savior is, he never lays upon us any burden too great for us to bear. But let us further rejoice that he is not content to leave us in such a weak state. For we see that, second,

    He confronted her with a necessary decision, calling upon her to confess her faith in the face of the entire observing crowd. She had just been shown his power and grace, and her weak faith had been confirmed and strengthened. But now, it would be strengthened further, through a crisis which would have been too much for her but a moment before. See how fearful and trembling she is, as she confesses her action to the Savior? She is afraid that he will not be pleased with her, as lowly as she is; and she is afraid that the crowds will mock. But having confronted her with the need to be true to himself, Jesus gives her the grace to overcome her temptation, and to confess him before the crowds. And what does she find? He is indeed pleased with her, yes, just as pleased as he is with this man Jairus – for she too is his, and he is making her into a trophy of his grace. And the crowds, while they may mock, are nevertheless compelled to glorify the Savior whom she loves, for they have seen his grace at work in her life.

    And is it not ever the same with us today? If our faith is strong, Jesus makes it stronger yet, through the temporary hiding of his answers to our pleas, through the Spirit-illumined pages of his scriptures, through his mighty displays of power, through his taking us out of the crowds, for a season, to be in the company of himself and his nearest disciples alone. And if our faith is weak, he strengthens it through gentler means, always laying upon us only what his grace will enable us to bear. And in each case, whether weak or strong, he deals with us in the fullness of his power, love, grace, and merciful attention, not overlooking us because we are small in the Kingdom, but working with all his greatness and gentle power to conform us to his image, and bring us along the path which leads to heaven. Whether we are strong or weak, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us look to this remarkable Savior, Jesus, our brother, our friend, and our God, and so be strengthened to press on from one degree of faith to another!

    Posted by Nathan on May 23, 2007 12:33 PM

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