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Author:Rev. John van Popta
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 www.geocities.com/jlvpopta/home.html
 
Congregation:Fellowship Canadian Reformed Church
 Burlington, Ontario
 
Title:My only Comfort
Text:LD 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2009 03
Added:2019-08-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Lord’s Day 1

Readings: Mark 5:21-43

Hy 64 (Lord’s Day 1)

Hy 46 all (Christ Shall Have dominion)

Hy 53 all (A Mighty Fortress)

Ps 130 all

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. John van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ

What kind of troubles do you have in your life? Maybe you don’t have any: but you’d be an exception, I think. There are many sorrows in life. Many troubles. There are the sorrows of the loss of loved ones. Death stalks the hallways of our lives. There is the sorrow of lost love. Maybe you fell in love with some who fell out of love for you. That can mark your life for a long time. You could die of sorrow. Maybe some of your loved ones have abandoned the gospel. Sorrow.

Maybe there is profound sickness, mental illness, depression, or schizophrenia in your family. I have a cousin whose daughter was raped and murdered coming home from work. My grandfather died in Sachsenhausen – a death camp – in Germany, just months before the allies arrived to free the camp. Sorrow.

Maybe your troubles are related to constant conflict in your family. Your wife is a nag. Your husband a lout, a boor. Sorrow. Your children angry, rude and troubled.

I could go on, but you get the picture. We live in a messed up, broken up world. A world where Satan stalks: roaring like a lion seeking whom he may devour. A world where sin has caused us to be alienated from God. Sorrow. A world where death reigns, it seems.

But in Lord’s Day 1 we confess that we are comforted. Comforted in all the sorrow of our lives. Comforted even in death. This was the message Jesus came to proclaim. Comfort for the afflicted. Comfort for the alienated. Comfort for the sorrowful.

We need comfort from the misery of this world. The word misery, in the Catechism, in the original German was “allende;” a word that meant the misery of alienation. The misery of being completely lost in a foreign land. Of being far from home. A stranger in a strange land. In our case, far from God.

And what is the way that comfort comes to God’s people? What overcomes our misery? What is our comfort? Where does it come from?  From whom does it come. From our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our theme:

The Lord Jesus’ provides us with true comfort in a broken world.

1. Desperate need

2. Hopeful faith

3. Renewed life

The people of Galilee must have been talking about this teacher. This rabbi Jesus. He has been attracting great crowds. Many are listening to his teaching. He is going through the countryside, preaching, teaching, healing, casting out demons. Many come to him.

Our story: A man comes to Jesus.

His name, Jairus. And he was a ruler of the synagogue. He was the one who led the services. It was he who ensured that the rather open worship and teaching of the synagogue stayed orderly. He led in prayers and welcomed the various teachers to the front to read and to teach. We can be quite sure that this is in Capernaum. This is the ruler of the synagogue of Jesus’ home synagogue or at least from very nearby Jesus’ hometown.

He would have heard Jesus teach before. We know that it was Jesus’ custom to go the synagogue every Sabbath day. And Jesus, we know from Luke 4, read from the scripture publicly and taught in the synagogue. Maybe he did so in Jairus’s synagogue.

Jairus certainly knew who Jesus was. And now he comes to the Lord Jesus in his desperate need. He comes and bows before Jesus. Jairus is in desperate need. But he has faith indeed. He throws himself down before Jesus. “My daughter is dying.” It is his only daughter. She is 12 years old, we learn. Not yet an adult.

His “little girl” he calls her. “My little girl is dying. She is my only child. And she is dying.” Desperate need. We confess, not a hair falls from my head outside my Father’s will. And for sure not the death of our children.

Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, we can read of the outcasts who were reinstated or included in the fellowship of the community. The demoniacs exorcised and restored. The leper cleansed. The lame man, forgiven and healed. The hated tax collector, called to fellowship. But now. A 12-year-old dying. (An only child, we learn from Luke.) Alive for 12 years, now on her death bed. What would the Lord Jesus do? Would he do something for a little girl? Does he have a heart for her father. Did he care about the little ones of the community? A child? Yes, he does! He is a faithful saviour. He will come to set this girl free from the cords of death. From the ultimate result of sin. From death itself.

But then, suddenly, we hear of an other person in town with a problem. She too has a desperate need: a desperate need. A woman who suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 years. This was probably a chronic menstrual disorder. According to Lev 15, especially verses 25 and following she would have been ceremonially unclean. According to the Old Testament scripture, she was impure before God. She was bound, afflicted by her condition. Much like the leper of chapter 1, she is an outcast. Downcast. But her condition is private. Secret.

The leper was unclean in the sight of all. This woman unclean in secret. Unclean for 12 years. She had to constantly avoid people. She would have been lonely. For years she had to go her own way. She would have been excluded from the ceremony of the community. She could not join in worship. Her contact with others would make them unclean. She could not go to the temple. Likely she was not welcome in the synagogue. She would not be able to enjoy intimacy her husband (if she had one).

But now! Hope! She has heard of Jesus.

She hears of Jesus that he’s back. She may have heard that he had cleansed that leper. She too wants to be clean. She has heard the news of others being healed. Of many being healed. That he had healed Peter’s mother in law. That he had healed the lame man. And so, she comes. There is no other hope. She has a desperate need. We confess, “not hair from my head outside my Father’s will.” Not even desperate illness afflicts us outside his will.

And in their need, these two – the ruler and the woman – have faith.

The man has faith indeed. He believes that Jesus can heal his dying daughter. He says: “My daughter will die: But when you come and lay your hands on her, she will live. She is dying, but... but... but come.” This is faith in action. “My daughter is nearly gone but come anyway. Comfort me in my sorrow. Deal with my misery.” This man does not believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is helpless before this problem. The man believes that Jesus power is limitless. He has seen what the Lord can do. The lame man was walking. The leper had been cleansed. Demons were cast out. He might have heard how he calmed the storm. So he comes and says in his desperate need, “My daughter is dying, but come you can overcome even death.”

The woman unclean for 12 long years. Trembling, frightened faith. This little girl, 12 short years, on her death bed. Her father, bold confident faith. But when a person comes to Jesus with this kind of faith, amazing things happen. He comes with the request, the plea... “She’s dying.... but come.” Jesus goes with him. And the Lord does not delay. He answers that plea of faith ... now! He arose and went with the father of the girl. We could say, “He up and went.” That very moment. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Even death itself must learn this. He goes with Jairus.

A great crowd is there around the Lord. And the woman is in the crowd. That unclean woman comes and touches him. Touches his garment. Trembling faith.

She has heard that the Lord heals people. Women, children, old, young. He is on the way to the house where a child lies dying. So she presses through the crowd and reaches out. She too reaches out in faith. She is in desperate need. So she too reaches out to Jesus. Not wanting to let anyone know of her misery.

But Jesus knows our sorrow. Our need for comfort. Our misery. Our alienation. Our trembling weak faith.

She says, “I will touch his garment.” The woman decides that if she but touches the edge of his outer garments, she will be healed. She does not want to transmit her unholiness to the Lord Jesus. She thinks that if she just touches the very edge it will be OK. If she just touches the very edge of Jesus’ garment it will be OK. She is afraid to come out into the open. She is not going to come into physical contact with the Lord Jesus. She does not want to be noticed. She is poor, sick and lonely. Miserable. Alienated.

Mark tells us that she had spent all her living at the physicians. And Luke tells us, [Dr. Luke, the physician] tells us that she could not be healed.

So in desperate need and with her trembling faith she comes pressing through the crowd. Lost in the crowd; anonymous. Hidden. “No one will notice me.” Looking for comfort in her misery.

The greatness of her faith consisted in this: She believed that the power of Jesus Christ to heal was so amazing that the mere touch of his garment would result in an immediate and instant cure. That weakness of her faith was that she thought that she needed to touch him—touch his clothes. And that she could do this without notice. She kept saying – for that is the literal translation – She kept saying to herself, “If only I touch. If only I touch, I will be well!” Trembling.

Jairus. “My daughter is dying… but if you touch her, she will be well. Come, lay your hand upon her.” Bold faith. “Touch her, and she will have new life.” Bold faith. “If only I touch his garment, I will have new life.” Trembling faith.

I belong body and soul to my faithful saviour. He paid for sin, my sin. Set me free from the power of the devil. He preserves me, keeps me safe. Nothing can separate me from his care. With him is new life. Eternal life. Joyous comforted life: now, even in the midst of sorrow. He is my comfort. In life. Even in death.

Jairus and the women. They knew that in Jesus there was hope. Comfort in life: comfort in death. They knew that in Jesus, God was sovereign. That he could do great things.

She reaches out. Trembling. And touches Jesus. Who touched my clothes? The disciples are amazed. But Jesus knew something they didn’t. And the Lord Jesus Christ turns to that woman, to the woman who touched his garment. He turns to that anonymous woman. That unclean woman and singles her out. He finds her in the crowd. And he lovingly corrects her. She falls before him trembling confessing: confessing both her faith and her fears. Her reaching out for Jesus.

But it is not her touch, but her faith, that made her well. There is an interesting thing in Greek that cannot be translated. For we could just as well translate, “Your faith has saved you. Daughter, take heart, do not fear, your faith has saved you!” It made her well, but it also saved her. The word for saved and healed is the same word. In Jesus Christ there is new life. New life in the community. She can live from now on for the Lord.

She was healed that very moment. And the Lord Jesus does not expose her illness. He is the helper of private needs also. And we could note that the Lord does not say. “I have saved you!” No, the Lord points to her faith. It is in her faith that she as life-giving contact with the Lord. A living, lasting, loving relationship.

It is not in her outstretched hand. But the outstretched hand of faith. It is her faith. The Lord is present wherever there is faith in him and in his saving power. The faith that we express and confess in LD 1.

And in that faith, she is restored to her place in the community. No longer alienated. Comforted and restored. After 12 years of exclusion from life in the community, it had seemed as if she would be excluded forever. She had no place. But now she is restored. Healed and saved because of faith in the power of the Lord who is strong to save.

And notice he does not say, “Your faith will save you.” Nor “Your faith will make you well.” No, her faith has done this already. In faith there is restoration and freedom, now already, from exclusion from the community of God.

Faith is the means of contact with the Lord. Faith is the hand stretched out to him. And so the Lord can say to this woman. “Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well. Your fears are over. You have a beginning of new life.” He is a faithful saviour. I am not my own.

It was not the touch of Jesus’ garment, which healed her. It was faith in Jesus Christ. It was his personal response to her personal faith and her desperate need that cured her. And she has the way opened for complete reinstatement in the social and religious life and fellowship with her people. Her misery has been dealt with.

Health and vigour returned. Mark tells us that she felt in her body that she was cured that very moment, that she was freed from her suffering. But the Lord also provides for her soul. Her life can begin again. This daughter in Israel is restored to full communion among the people of God. Body and soul. Life and death.

But what of Jairus? Oh dear!

“While Jesus was still talking” to the woman, messengers come and say the girl is dead. Jesus was going to the girl’s house, but has been interrupted by this woman. And certainly, Jairus could have been resentful. “Why linger with this woman? My daughter is dying! Don’t you get it, Jesus? I’m desperate in my misery. Come hurry!”

But the news comes. “She is dead. Don’t bother the teacher. Your girl is beyond help. Nothing can be done for her anymore.” But the Lord immediately holds father up. He says, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe!”

The message is the same. “Take heart daughter, your faith has made you well.” And now to Jairus. “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” What is your only comfort in life and death? That I have a faithful saviour. Who cares for me. Who saves me. “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”

And the Lord comes to the house. The flute players are there. The noisy crowd. These are the professional mourners. They come to lament the death of this child. This is a very public event. As secret as the woman’s burden was, this one is public. This is family of the ruler of the synagogue. The whole town knows. And they come to lament and mourn.

According to custom, burial comes soon after death, not several days, but perhaps within the hour. Misery! Comfort needed. This was the time of lamenting. The child has died and the cry goes up. “Jairus only daughter is dead.” The women wail. The flute players come and play the dirges of the dead. And the wailing is loud.

You might have heard the wailing and the tumult of an eastern funeral on the news. Well, that was how it was. A great and noisy crowd.

Jesus, Jairus and a few of the disciples come to the house. And the Lord sets the mourners out of the house. He says, “She is not dead: she sleeps.” And the mourners laugh at him. English cannot capture the real meaning here. We would say the laughed him to scorn. They scoffed at him. They laughed in his face. They mocked the Lord for his nonsense. They know she is dead. There is no doubt. She is dead. And this laughter testifies to the reality of her death. Now Jesus has gone too far. He has done great miracles. But now he does not know of what he speaks. She is not sleeping and everyone there knows it. She is not in a coma. She is dead.

Dead! This is the end. No hope. Jairus only daughter is about to be buried. Dead! What is your only comfort?

And above the wailing and tumult and the skirl of the flute, the Lord orders the crowd to be dismissed. He sends them out of the house. If the Lord had been a showman, or a fanatic, he would have called them all into the room to show them what he could do. “I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before.” Like faith healers on TV. But no, he does it in secret and in private.

There is no place for mourning here. This is to be a moment of celebration. Here the Lord of life will conquer death. Death came into the world as payment for sin. “In the day you eat of that tree, you will die. Dust to dust, earth to earth, from the dust you came; to dust you will return.” But Jesus has fully paid for all my sins, for all the sins of his people. Even for this little girl. He cares for the little ones.

But here resurrection is not intended as an advertisement or a call to faith. No, Jesus sets unbelief outside the door and brings faith in with him. “Out! all you scoffers!” The noisy crowd is set outside.

And then with his hand, he brings the girl to life. To new life. The girl is quietly gripped and raised from her sleep of death. Without even a prayer. Not like the Old Testament Elisha or Elijah who raised those two boys. They pleaded with heaven for life. Not with a prayer, but with a word of command. Jesus takes her by the hand. The woman reached out her hand to the Lord and was healed. The Lord reaches out his hand to this girl and she was brought to life. A vital connection with Jesus. And faith is that connection. “Your faith has healed you, has saved you.” “Don’t doubt, only believe!” By his Holy Spirit he gives us true life to live for him.

This story is told as simply as it is possible to tell a story of a resurrection from the dead. And notice again that touch a dead body would make you unclean. Ceremonially unclean. But the Lord is the great cleanser. He cleanses us from all uncleanness. His holiness is great and glorious. He cannot be made unclean. Not even death or grave or Sheol could make him unholy.

 And this father believed that Jesus Christ was stronger than death. “My daughter has died.” “Do not be afraid. Just believe.” The Lord used Jairus to teach us today that we too can have hope for resurrection. “Do not be afraid. Only believe.”

We do not believe that we should try to raise the dead today. But the expectant hope, which is faith, takes courage, it does not fear. We believe that Jesus will raise the dead on the last day. This is the hope that is at the heart of the Christian message. The death-defying faith of this father teaches us that Jesus’ not only restores us to community and fellowship in this life but also that his reach is as deep as death itself. For we know that he himself broke the bonds of death. And that changed everything.

He has saved us from sin. From the devil’s power. From death and the grave itself. This little girl – a foretaste of the final day. In compassionate care he tells them give the girl some food.

And here we reach a sort of climax in the gospel. There is no boundary that limits the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Leprosy, lameness, alienation: all kinds of misery, not even death can stand before him.

Jesus of Nazareth raises even the dead!

What us your only comfort in life and in death? I am not my own but belong to a faithful saviour. Who loves me! Cares for me! So today we too can hope in Jesus Christ. He is the source of new life. Today, in him we are lifted out of our sinfulness, and brought into fellowship with him. Out of uncleanness. And today we can, we do begin a new life for him. A comforted life. A delivered life. A thankful life.

With comfort and joy in him.               

Amen




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. John van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2009, Rev. John van Popta

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