Don’t Be Afraid; Just Believe

The Voice of Hope
Don't Be Afraid; Just Believe

Mark 5:21-43 

Charlotte Elliott was a sickly English woman who developed a long history of refusing to do things she was asked to do because of her illness. Her brother was a pastor, and he was particularly persistent in trying to get her to do something positive. But Charlotte always refused. She’d say things like; “I’m not feeling up to it; I’m an invalid, you know; I just don’t think I can.”

Charlotte’s brother was trying to raise funds for a school for young women. Once more he asked Charlotte to help … just to go to the event and do something, anything. But again, she refused; she was too tired and too sick. And so, the family went off and left her home alone.

              That night, Charlotte began to think about how her sickness was taking over her life. She began to feel ashamed because she would not risk anything for the Kingdom. She realized that that her illness had become the most important thing, maybe the only thing, in her life. And that night Charlotte heard the call of God.

              Out of her restlessness, out of her self-disgust, she wrote, “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am, and waiting not… just as I am, with many a conflict, many a doubt. Yes, just as I am, poor, wretched, blind… just as I am, I come.” Yes Lord, I’m a mess, but I’m coming.

              In her extremity, Charlotte Elliott was learning a very valuable lesson; that brokenness and the exercise of faith are crucial steps on the way to wholeness.

              As we resume our study in Mark’s Gospel, we come to the account of Jairus’ daughter being raised from death to life and the healing of the woman who had a chronic hemorrhage. There are valuable lessons about faith and fear we can learn as we meditate on this Scripture. From the last several scenes in Mark’s Gospel we’ve seen these themes of fear and faith in Jesus’ control over nature, over demons, and now, over sickness and death. 

              Listen carefully now as I read Mark 5:21 to 43.

              In this text the comparison of faith and fear is clearly illustrated. As we examine these illustrations, we will better understand Jesus’ words, “Don’t be Afraid, Just Believe.” 

The First ILLUSTRATION (of the comparison between faith and fear) is,

              A Devoted Father

              Mark and Luke identify Jairus (JY-RUS) as a ruler of the synagogue. His position surely would have acquainted him with Jesus. The Gospel records tell us that Jesus taught in many of the synagogues of Galilee. Jesus may have spoken more than once in the very synagogue where Jairus was the leader.

              Jairus filled an honorable position. He was most likely prosperous and well respected in the community. But not everything about his life was ideal. Luke implies that his “only daughter” was his only child. Mark adds the endearing term, “little.” For a Jewish man to have no sons was a great misfortune. This misfortune may have made his daughter more precious to him.

              So, his precious little girl is struck with illness and, according to verse 23, her life was slipping away. She was dying. Jairus sought out Jesus as his only hope. Jesus had returned to the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and as was usual, a dense crowd gathered around Jesus. Jairus had to push his way through that crowd to get to Jesus. This is his first visible expression of faith; he believed Jesus could help.

              Notice Jairus’ attitude and his request. He came to Jesus and fell down at His feet. This is an act of worship, of surrender. It is an act of acknowledging one’s inferiority in the presence of one who is superior. This is highly unusual from a religious leader among the Jews. As he prostrates himself before Jesus, he begs Him to come to his house and heal his daughter. He must have heard many reports of the miracles Jesus had performed for others, perhaps he even saw some of them. But now his need is personal.

              I said earlier that brokenness and the exercise of faith are crucial steps on the way to wholeness. Think about how Jairus could have responded. He could have been angry and resentful that God would allow his daughter to suffer. After all, wasn’t he the leader of the synagogue and a righteous man? What had he done to deserve something like this? It is a question people still ask today. Maybe you’ve asked it.

              The common thinking of the day was that sickness was directly related to personal sin. Jesus himself had to disabuse the disciples of that notion more than once.

              By virtue of his position and wealth, Jairus could have summoned the best physician in the area. But the practice of medicine in that time was not very far advanced and its value was somewhat questionable. Plus, we learned that this little girl’s life was slipping away rapidly. She needed help and she needed it NOW! So, in response to Jairus’ request, Jesus immediately turns His footsteps toward Jairus’ house.

              The response of Jairus is an illustration of faith that eventually brings wholeness. As we follow the narrative, we see fear enter the picture and his faith begins to waver.

              As Jesus heads toward Jairus’ house, verse 24, He is thronged by the multitude. They were pressing in on every side. The crowd was so dense that it was hard for Jesus to move, even to breathe! That detail leads us to the next illustration of the relationship of faith and fear.


              A Desperate Woman

              A simple reading of the text reveals to us a woman who has a great physical need. She has battled a chronic hemorrhage for 12 long years. Her attempts to find a cure have been fruitless. She has spent all her resources on doctors and none of them can heal her. That alone could have brought her to the point of desperation. Mark tells us that not only did she not get better, but she only got worse!

              But there is more to this picture. According to the Levitical law, her constant discharge made her unclean. She could not live a normal life. One of the interesting contrasts in this whole account is between the two principle characters. The one was the leader of the synagogue; a holy, righteous man. The other was this woman who, in her current condition, could never enter that place of worship and fellowship because of her uncleanness.

              She could not live in a house with family or other people because everything she touched or used in daily life became unclean. Through no fault of her own, as far as we can tell, she was relegated to a life of suffering: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Ostracized from the community. But she too, had heard of Jesus and His miracles and she was in the crowd that day.

              Matthew and Mark tell us she believed that if she could only touch Jesus’ garments she would be healed. And in the crowd, she saw her chance. Her plan was a desperate one. She really should not have been in that crowd. I can only imagine her fear at being discovered. If she were found out, she would certainly have been subjected to shame and ridicule. But her faith in Jesus’ power to heal her overcame her fear and propelled her forward in that crowd.

              From the confines of that densely packed crowd, she reaches out and touches the border of Jesus’ garment. And immediately her hemorrhaging stopped! Her faith had healed her.

              What she did was unnoticed by the crowd, but not by Jesus. He immediately asked, “Who touched my clothes?” In response, the disciples spoke up. “Master, the crowd is so dense around you, how can you ask, “Who touched me?” Here, Mark uses the same word that he used back in verse 24 to describe the density of the crowd. In that jostling crowd He was rubbing shoulders with people constantly.

              But Jesus knew this woman’s touch was different. He knew that power had been released through Him. It wasn’t that someone had bumped into Jesus or jostled Him in the crowd. The wording of the original tells us that the touch and the flow of power occurred simultaneously. Jesus knew that the touch was intentional, and He knew who touched Him! He stopped and looked over the crowd to identify the one who had touched Him.

              When the woman realized that Jesus knew, she came forward, trembling in fear, and fell at His feet. And then she did something very courageous. In front of that whole multitude, she humbled herself and stated plainly the reason why she had touched Jesus and how she was instantly healed. What would the crowd say, what would they do to her for her impudence?  

              But I believe her healing was not complete until Jesus uttered the words of verse 34. Oh, her body was healed, her bleeding had stopped; but like you and me, she was more than body, she was soul and spirit too. And Jesus wanted her to be completely healed – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. So, He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole; go into peace and be healed of your affliction.” I believe that if she had been able to slink away in the crowd without being confronted by Jesus she would have missed out on this wholeness. But Jesus pronounced His blessing on her – “go into peace.”

              This woman pushed past her fear, believed in the power of Jesus, and was rewarded with complete healing.


              A Doubting Father

              While Jesus is still speaking to the woman, someone from Jairus’ house came and whispered to him, “Your daughter is now dead. Do not disturb the Master anymore.” Imagine the impact of those words. His hopes, so high at finding Jesus so quickly, are now dashed. Imagine his thoughts. It’s too late! If only the crowd wouldn’t have been so dense, and Jesus could have moved faster; if only the delay caused by the woman could have been avoided. If only, if only…

              But Jesus overheard the messenger, and He speaks to Jairus words of comfort. “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she shall be made whole.”Here again is the contrast of faith and fear. In spite of what now seems to be a hopeless situation, Jesus invites Jairus to exercise faith in Him. “Just trust me and your daughter will be completely restored.” Even as Jairus’ faith wavers he continues on with Jesus toward the house.

              That Jairus’ faith was weak is evidenced by his passivity in the face of this message from home. And when he got home, he did nothing to interfere with the mourners, nor did he come to Jesus’ defense when that same group scornfully ridiculed Him. It seems that his fear paralyzed him. In his mind, all was lost; his little daughter was dead.

              A significant amount of time must have passed from the time Jairus left home until he finally returned with Jesus. When he left, his daughter was evidently close to death, and now already the house was filled with relatives, hired mourners, and musicians. Whether Jesus delayed intentionally, as He did in the case of Lazarus, we do not know. What we do know is that whatever He does, it is done for a purpose.

              As they arrive at the crowded house, Jesus, the girl’s father and mother, and Jesus inner circle are the only ones permitted to enter with Him. In the midst of this grieving, weeping crowd, Jesus offers the mourners the opportunity to exercise faith. “Why are you weeping; she is not dead but is sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him scornfully. Anyone could see that the girl was dead. As I see it, there is a positive aspect of their scorn. It assures us that the young girl was not sleeping as we understand it, but truly dead.

              Putting everyone else outside the room where the girl was lying (except for the three disciples and the parents), Jesus took her by the hand and said, “Little girl, arise.” At His command her spirit returned to her body, and she got up from the bed where she had been lying.

              Presenting the girl to her astonished parents He told them to give her something to eat – and forbade them to tell anyone else what happened in that inner room. This command seems so absurd – how could this news be kept silent? But Jesus knew the hearts of people; they may have immediately proclaimed Him the Messiah. That could not happen without the Cross.

              What about you? Have you discovered the freedom that comes from replacing fear with faith? No, not faith in yourself or faith in your faith. True faith begins with your acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice as the only adequate payment for your sin. That’s the first step of faith – agreeing with God about your sin and His singular provision for your salvation. Without that first step you’ll never be whole, and you’ll never be free from fear.

              Have you realized the hand of God in your life and your circumstances? Maybe you entered a difficult period of life with great faith in the power of Jesus to change your situation. But like Jairus, it’s not turning out the way you expected. Are you beginning to doubt God’s promises and question His love for you? Are you fearful of the future?

              Jesus knew the delay in visiting Jairus’ house would result in the girl’s death; but for Jesus, raising her from her deathbed was just as easy as raising her from her sickbed. And Jesus knows what will bring the most glory to Him through your situation. Jesus’ desire for you and me is complete wholeness. That will not happen fully until we are in His eternal presence, but surely, we can have a foretaste of it here if we will trust and obey Him. Jesus can make you and me whole even if the situation we’re in isn’t resolved in the way we prefer.

              So let me urge you today, whatever situation you find yourself in, to surrender to the loving hands of Jesus and accept His invitation, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”  

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