With Jesus It's Never Too Late!
A sermon based on Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43
Sunday, July 5, 2014 – Pentecost 6B
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." 24 So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him….
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?"
36 Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe."
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Good morning. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jairus. Your gospel writers wrote about my story. Though Matthew didn't mention me by name, Mark and Luke both did. But I want to tell you my story first hand. I want to tell you about the day that changed my life. It was an emotional rollercoaster for me, but it was the day that I learned that no matter how hopeless the situation seems, there is always hope with the Rabbi from Nazareth—with Jesus, it's never too late! It's never too late for his amazing compassion! It's never too late for his awesome power!
First, let me tell you a bit about myself. I was an important man in Capernaum, a respected leader among the people. I was the synagogue ruler. My job was to oversee the maintenance of the synagogue's building and grounds as well as plan the worship services.
My wife, Elizabeth, and I had tried to have a child for many years, but without success. But after 10 years of trying, Jehovah finally blessed us with a little girl. I was overjoyed! We named her Talitha, which means "beautiful little girl." And was she ever beautiful! I loved her with all my heart. She was the apple of my eye. The song of my heart! My pride and joy! No matter what troubles I faced at the synagogue, I was always filled with joy to return home to my family—my beautiful wife and my beautiful little girl.
But then, when she was 11 years old, when she was still a little girl, my baby girl, tragedy struck. She came down with a mysterious disease. Over the next year I called the best doctors I could find to look at her, but she still grew weaker and sicker every day. I didn't want to admit it, but I knew death was drawing nearer, ready to claim my baby's life any day. I was at my wits' end with grief and didn't know what to do. Until I heard Jesus, the Rabbi from Nazareth, was in town.
Of course, I already knew plenty about Jesus. He made his headquarters in Capernaum after all. I'd even invited him to preach at my synagogue. When he did he amazed us all by the authority with which he taught. He even drove a demon out of a man in the synagogue by just speaking. It wasn't far from my home that he healed the son of a nobleman and the servant of a centurion. Maybe he could heal my daughter too.
Though he wasn't popular with the other religious leaders, I didn't care. I knew I'd be looked down on for even talking to him, but what did it matter? I was desperate. I'd rather lose my friends than lose my little girl.
It didn't take long to find Jesus. I just had to follow the sounds of the crowd. You can imagine how many people swarmed and mobbed him—Some to hear his impressive teaching, others to find a way to discredit him and end his popularity, still others looking for a miracle as I did.
When I saw him, I fell down at his feet in the most undignified manner. Lying prostrate before him, I begged him to help me. "Please!" I begged, "My baby girl is dying—she's barely hanging on by a thread. Please! Come lay your hands on her. Save her!" I didn't know how he would respond, but when he agreed I had a glimmer of hope. Maybe this Rabbi could cure my little girl!
We set off toward my home, less than a Sabbath's walk away, but didn't get too far before we were interrupted. A woman with another strange disease grabbed Jesus outer garment. Though she too had seen the best doctors, nothing could stop her bleeding. It continued for 12 years now—as long as my little girl had been alive! When she touched his cloak she was healed instantly. And though it filled me with hope in his power over sickness, it made me very anxious as well. Though the delay only lasted a few minutes, those minutes seemed like hours with my daughter's life hanging in the balance.
And then, all hope was lost.
The chief steward of my house, a faithful and trusted servant, came from Elizabeth with the crushing news. "I'm sorry sir," he said, "But your daughter… she's dead. Don't bother the teacher anymore." And I knew he was right. There was no use in bothering the Rabbi. Talitha was gone. It was too late. I was still in shock about to turn away to arrange the funeral when Jesus turned away from the woman he'd healed and looked me straight in the eye. I will never forget that moment. I will never forget what he said to me.
"Don't be afraid," he said, "just believe. She will be healed."
Just believe? She'll be healed? It wasn't too late?! But she was dead! I knew he could cure the sick, but bring the dead back to life? What kind of Rabbi was this? Could he really do what he was suggesting? I didn't have too much time to ponder what he said before he turned and walked away toward my house.
We arrived in only minutes—I couldn't help but think "minutes spent on the bleeding woman, minutes she could have spared. She wasn't dying!" And as we arrived, it turned out that Elizabeth had already begun the funeral arrangements. The professional mourners—though that sounds strange to you, it was customary in my culture to hire people to help announce the death of one you loved and help you grieve your loss. As a prominent man the best flute players and mourners came as soon as they heard the news. They played a somber funeral dirge and wailed out loud even beating their breasts. They robbed the town of cheer for miles. They were good and I was thankful for them.
But Jesus interrupted their song. "What's wrong with you? Why the commotion? Quit your wailing and go home. The girl's not dead. She's only sleeping." This changed the tone entirely. Those who had been mourning began snickering at first, then laughing out loud. They thought this Rabbi was ridiculous—Talitha wasn't in a coma. She wasn't asleep. She was dead and lifeless. But that sound of laughter, at the Rabbi who at least cared enough to come, that laughter that seemed so out of place when I was so full of hurt and pain, infuriated me. It reminded me how ridiculous it was to believe that the dead could live again. It reminded me that it was too late. In any event, I was thankful to Jesus for putting them out of the house.
But then, the moment that changed my life forever… Jesus walked over to the bed where my baby's lifeless body lay. He took her by the hand and said two simple words that will forever be ingrained in my mind. He said, "Talitha, koum." "Talitha, get up." Immediately her spirit returned and she got up! She looked as healthy and as beautiful as she had a year ago before the disease took her! I was ecstatic! My heart leapt for joy!
I say that moment changed my life, not because I had my daughter back. Of course, I was thrilled to have her with me again, but that's not what changed my life. My life was forever changed—literally—because I now understood who Jesus was. He is no ordinary Rabbi. Only the God who creates life can speak life into a lifeless body. The life that he created 12 years ago he now gave back to Elizabeth and me. I knew then with absolute certainty that Jesus is God. How could I ever have doubted him?!
In hindsight, it seems incredible that anyone would laugh at Jesus. But I have to admit that in my heart, I did the same. I still do. I doubt that Jesus can help me overcome the problems I face, even after he healed my daughter! Even after he saved me from death! Even after he saved me from sin. I know that for my doubts, for the laughter in my heart I deserve to have Jesus turn his back on me. But he didn't. Naturally, I followed Jesus every chance I could when he was in town, and when he was away, I listened carefully for any report I could get of him.
Only a few years later, Elizabeth, Talitha and I went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival. And while we were there I tried to find Jesus there too. I heard the awful report and went to see for myself. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, true God himself had been crucified. He who brought life to my baby girl, had his life taken from him.
Later, I learned from his disciples why he was killed—for my sin. It wasn't just the Romans or those religious leaders who killed Jesus. It was me and the laughter in my heart that doubted that he could take care of me, my wife, and my little girl. But I also learned that in that act of dying he gave life to me and to Elizabeth and to Talitha. Not just physical life like he gave my daughter three years earlier, but eternal life—life in heaven with Jehovah himself—because our sins were forgiven. By the way, did I tell you what my name means? Jairus means "Jehovah enlightens." I truly have been enlightened by Jehovah. For he has revealed to me and my family the Christ—the perfect Passover lamb—the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! And I can't help but rejoice.
I'm sure that at some point in your life you've felt that the situation was hopeless. Maybe you've even felt, like I have, that it was too late for Jesus to help. This morning, I want to tell you that with Jesus it's never too late. Are you going though a situation that seems hopeless? Does it feel like it's too late for Jesus to help you with the pain or suffering you're going through? It's not too late!
Though you, like I, have sinned against God and fallen far short of the perfection God demands of you, though on your own you can't undo your sin, you can't take back the things you've done or the words you've said, though on your own it is too late, with Jesus, it's never too late! He proved he was true God when we brought my daughter back to life and, as true God, his death on the cross paid for the sins of the whole world, my sins and yours—every one of them. He has healed you, and restored you. Though you were once dead in your transgressions and sins, he has forgiven you and given you spiritual life. He has said to you, "Talitha, koum!"
So now, with Jesus, it's never too late! Does it seem like it's too late for anyone to help you with your problems? He who brought my daughter back to life, can restore you in your suffering and pain! He who died to take your sins away can give you the strength to cope with the pain. Does it seem like it's too late to mend your broken relationship? It's not too late! With Jesus' forgiveness given to you from the cross, you can forgive each other.
Don't laugh at the power of Jesus. He who created the cosmos can do whatever pleases him. Don't laugh at the power of the cross. He who died to take away your sins will do whatever is best for you. Don't be afraid—of your sins, or your guilt, or the hell you deserve. Instead, just believe—believe in the forgiveness he won for you and the heaven that is yours. Believe that he can and will even undo death!
My daughter was the first life that Jesus restored. But it certainly wasn't the last. Soon after he raised the son of a widow in Nain. He raised his friend, Lazarus, who had been dead for three days! And he restored his own life after he was crucified. You and I know the joy and the power of that Easter day! You and I know that all who die in the Lord, aren't really dead, but only asleep.
I know that many of you here have lost someone you love to death—a grandparent, a spouse… or like me, a child. But you too can have the same hope in Jesus that I do. That one day soon we too will die and be restored to life by Jesus! We will be restored to live eternally with those we love who died in his name! We will be restored to live eternally with Jesus—face to face! What hope, what joy, that brings, even in the face of death!
Finally, friends, before I have to leave, I want to encourage you to thank him for what he's done for you. Have you hurt someone else—a spouse, a child, a parent or friend? In Jesus, you're forgiven and it's not too late to apologize and set things straight. Have you been ungrateful to God in the way you give back to him? In Jesus, you're forgiven and it's not too late to thank him with your time and your offerings. Have you been less than faithful in studying his Word with your fellow believers and on your own? In Jesus, you're forgiven and it's not too late to start over again. Your every sin is forgiven in Jesus. And in him, it's never too late to start living your life for him in thanks. Dear friends in Jesus, don't be afraid. Only believe. Thanks for having me here this morning. God be with you and give you peace. Amen.