Hope (Why Bother?)

I’m sure you all heard the story in the news recently about how billionaire Robert F. Smith spoke at the graduation ceremony at Morehouse College and in his speech, said he would pay off the loan debts for all 396 graduates. What an incredible display of grace and love.

But Robert Smith was not the first to do something that amazing. Back in 1982, there was a millionaire by the name of Eugene Land who was asked to speak at the commencement service for 59 sixth graders in East Harlem. In that speech, he told the students, “If you will stay in school, I’ll help pay the tuition for every one of you.” These were poor children, but at that moment, their lives changed. Because for the first time in their lives, they had hope. One student said, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling.”

Hope is a beautiful word. A word of optimism and expectation that looks forward to a promising future, but there are many people who have lost their hope. There are some who feel hopeless about specific areas in their lives, such as their marriage, children, health, finances, or job. But for others, this sense of hopelessness permeates their entire lives. They exist but they have no hopes, no dreams, no goals. But, that’s not the way that God intended for us to live. He created us to live with purpose, working toward goals with a sense of anticipation for things to come.

In just a little bit, we’re going to take a look at the hope Jesus brought into the life of a man by the name of Jairus. But before we get there, I want to spend a little bit of time in Mark chapters 4 and 5. Because, in these two chapters, there are some amazing things that happen.

You need to understand that Mark’s approach to the life of Jesus is very different from the other gospel writers. Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark doesn’t give us any indication that there was anything special about Jesus’ ancestry. Mark doesn’t tell us about all the special circumstances that surrounded the birth of Jesus. Mark doesn’t tell us that, at the age of 12, Jesus showed an aptitude for religious matters.

In fact, Mark doesn’t tell us anything at all about Jesus’ background or early life. He simply appears as an adult, he’s baptized by John and then he begins his ministry.

Jesus starts out in the gospel of Mark with no credentials. But Mark lets us know that Jesus had power. There was power in his message. But there was also power in what he was able to accomplish.

Over a very short period of time in Mark chapters 4 and 5, Jesus performed a series of miracles that forced the people of his day to pay attention to who he was. These miracles demonstrated his power over nature, his power over Satan, his power over sickness, and even his power over death.

For example, in Mark 4, Jesus showed his power over nature by calming a storm.

“They took [Jesus] with them in the boat…And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:36-41).

I don’t know how many of you have ever been on a boat out in the ocean when a storm comes up, but it’s a scary thing. To have waves tossing this boat back and forth, wave after wave crashing over the side of the boat, knowing that all it takes it is one big wave, and the boat is capsized.

And there were no life preservers on this boat. And there was no chance that the Coast Guard would come along to rescue them. Capsizing meant certain death.

So they panicked and they woke Jesus up, and Jesus got up and he said to the wind and the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” And immediately the storm was over.

Now, we’ve heard this story so many times that I think we take it for granted. We fail to be amazed. Think about it. Jesus spoke and a storm stopped. Imagine being in the middle of a hurricane like Hurricane Matthew and someone stands up and says, “Quiet! Be still!” and immediately the storm is over. Think about how amazed you would be if you actually witnessed that.

And the question these disciples asked was not, “How did he do that?” Their question was, “Who is this?” And I want to suggest to you this morning that we as Christians need to recapture a sense of awe about Jesus.

We sometimes say that “familiarity breeds contempt”. In other words, the more we’re around something, the less we appreciate it. And maybe we don’t get excited about Jesus anymore because we’ve been around him so much.

If somebody is learning about Jesus for the very first time, I would think there must be this sense of amazement that we see throughout the gospel of Mark. But, for most of us, we’ve heard it all before. We’ve read about the calming of the storm hundreds of times. A leper is healed – that’s nice. Even the resurrection is something we take for granted.

Listen to these words from Ken Gire in his book “Incredible Moments” – He writes, “Wonder is prerequisite to worship, and when we lose our sense of wonder, we lose the dynamic that brings us to our knees.

“Our Lord’s life was replete with incredible moments. Everywhere he went people’s breaths were taken away by what he did. Their mouths fell open in amazement. Their faces paled in fear. And from village to village the comments were the same: ‘We have never seen anything like this before.’….

“These incredible moments filled the people who saw them with awe, and their lives were never the same again.”

I want to encourage you this morning to renew your sense of amazement. I want you to imagine what it must have been like to be in those crowds and to see what they saw, to hear what they heard. Imagine seeing a lame man, who has been crippled for years, suddenly able to run down the street. Imagine watching Jesus walk across the waves on a stormy sea. Imagine seeing a man dead for four days come back to life at the words of Jesus. Imagine being there, and recapture a sense of wonder.

Because, Ken Gire was right. If we’re not amazed at Jesus, at what he said and what he did, then we can’t really worship him. And as long as we don’t see anything special in Jesus, then we will never have the motivation to fully give our lives over to him.

Mark wants us to see that there is something breathtaking in the story of Jesus. The people who came into Jesus’ presence didn’t go away the same. They understood that there was something different about him. And it affected their lives.

They left their boats to follow him. They stood in line at doors to listen to him. They hounded him early in the morning and chased him out into the deserts. They dug holes in roofs to be with him. You only act that way around someone who is absolutely amazing.

So, with that in mind, let’s pick up in Mark chapter 5, verse 22.

“Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing [Jesus], he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.’ And he went with him.” (Mark 5:22-24)

Now, right off the bat, something about this story is unique because, in that day, religious leaders did not tend to worship and honor Jesus. So what would cause this religious leader to humiliate himself in public and fall at the feet of Jesus?

And I think the answer is that being a father trumps being a leader. I mean, fathers, put yourself in his position. How would you feel if your little girl was dying? I’ve got two daughters. And if either one of them was dying, I would do anything in my power to help save them. Whatever it costs, whatever I have to do, I would do it. And so you can sense this father’s desperation.

And then, when Jesus starts heading back to his house, you can sense his relief. But that relief is short-lived, because something happens along the way.

“There was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.

“For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.’ And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’

And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’” (Mark 5:25-34)

This was no ordinary illness. This woman had lived with a bleeding uterus for twelve years. That means she had been labeled unclean by the rabbis and, according to the Law of Moses, she was not allowed to touch anyone nor was she allowed to be touched by anyone. So she would have been ignored by society.

And it seemed as if she was being ignored by God as well. Because she had prayed, she had pleaded. But for twelve agonizing years, God was silent. For twelve years she bore the shame of the constant bleeding. Going from doctor to doctor, she tried to find someone who could help. Mark tells us that she spent all of her money on doctors and they couldn’t help her. In fact, she “was no better but rather grew worse.”

Perhaps the doctors gave her hope as long as she had some money, but when the money was gone, the doctors admitted there was nothing they could do for her. She was no doubt getting weaker. The steady loss of blood over the years would have taken its toll. She was anemic and tired. Tired of the shame. Tired of the stigma. Tired of the charlatans.

But she had heard about another physician which got her hopes up once again. It sounded like this physician was different from the others. This physician didn’t charge a fee. He didn’t ask for anything in return. He had no hidden agenda beyond healing the sick.

She had heard about this physician, this Jesus. And she had heard of Jesus’ success with other incurable people including the healing of a leper. Another untouchable. If Jesus could heal a leper, then surely he could heal her. And so with that bit of faith, she worked her way through the crowd. She grabbed the corner of his garment, and immediately felt the results. Her disease was cured.

And then Jesus stopped to have a conversation with this woman. Which I understand. And it must have felt good if you were this woman. But if I’m Jairus, I’m thinking “Excuse me, Jesus, why are we stopping? This woman’s been sick for 12 years! It won’t hurt her to be sick for one more day. We can come back tomorrow and deal with her. We’ve got to hurry, this is urgent! We don’t have time for this, come on!”

And if that was his attitude, it turns out that Jairus had a right to be concerned. Because the whole story hinges on these next two verses. Verse 35 tells us that “While [Jesus] was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’”

I want you to put yourself in Jairus’ shoes for a moment and realize how devastating this was! Not only was this father not able to save his daughter, but he wasn’t even able to be there with her when she died. Not only did he not rescue her, he wasn’t even there to hold her when she passed away. Could any father feel any more hopeless? But then the next verse, verse 36, “Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’”

How could he not be afraid? His daughter just died! But on the other hand, Jairus has just witnessed Jesus dealing with a situation that everybody called hopeless and a woman got healed. So now Jairus has a decision to make — “Do I just give up and say that it’s too late, or do I keep going back to my house with this guy?”

And that’s the same choice that every one of us has to make. Because there are two voices that speak to us and we hear them every day. There’s one voice that says “Why bother?” It’s that part of your life where you’re tempted to give up hope, to quit trying. To just accept things as they are and decide it’s too late.

Perhaps that’s what some of you have done with your marriage. It’s been stagnant for so long, you’ve just decided that this is all it’s ever going to be. What good would counseling do? Why bother?

Some of your finances are in the hole and it’s so deep you don’t think you can get out. “Budget counseling? It’s too late for that. Why bother?” Some of you have this attitude regarding your health. You need to lose some weight, you need to start working out, you need to change your diet, but….really…are you going to stick with it? Why bother?

And some of you perhaps struggle with a secret sin. And you’ve told God a hundred times “I’m sorry, I’m not going to do that anymore.” But you did. And you don’t even feel like talking to God about it anymore. Why bother? And for some of you, it may be an addiction. And you need some help. But deep in your heart you’re afraid you’ll just fail again, and you’ve had enough failure. Why bother?

I also struggle with “Why bother?” There have been many times in my ministry when I’ve been discouraged to the point of thinking about changing careers. I spend my life trying to serve the Lord and I preach and then I see people that sit at my feet week after week go off and do things that just make me think they weren’t even listening. I see people that just come to church to get their card punched, and before they get to their car, they’ve forgotten everything I spent all week getting ready to say. And I sometimes just think to myself, “Why bother?”

There are times when we act as if Jesus can’t possibly have an impact in our lives. And so, like the men who came from Jairus’ house, we ask ourselves the question, “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Why bother?

But then there’s another voice. It’s the voice of Jesus. A voice that says, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” And, so, Jesus says to this father, “Don’t listen to them! Listen to me.” It wasn’t that Jesus was questioning the news they brought about his daughter being dead. It’s just that Jesus knew that wasn’t the final word. What we consider to be irreversible, Jesus calls redeemable.

You see an encounter with Jesus should lead to an infusion of hope. The resurrection of Jesus isn’t just something we celebrate once a year. Resurrection is the way Jesus people see every day. And it causes us to re-interpret life because we have heard the voice of the one who came out of the tomb and said to us, “Believe”. And that turns “Why bother?” into “Why settle for things the way they are?” And you’ve got to decide which voice is going to have the biggest impact in your life.

And if you’re going to listen to Jesus, you’ve got to do two things. First of all, you’ve got to tune out the doubters. If you’re going to have hope, sometimes you’ve got to empty the room. I love what happens when Jesus and Jairus get back to the house. In verse 38, “They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.”

Incidentally, laughing at Jesus is never a smart thing to do! “But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.” The first thing Jesus did was to get rid of the voice of doubt. Mark tells us that he made them all leave. Another version says “He threw them out of the house”. Matthew says “He told them, ‘Get out'”. By the way, that’s the same word Jesus used when he cast out demons.

Because it is not productive for us to listen to words of doubt and fear. Now, you can’t silence all the negativity, because we live in a world that still laughs at Jesus, that still ridicules Jesus. And if you live by the values of Jesus, if you live by the morals of Jesus, you will get ridiculed by this world as well. So you can’t silence all the negativity. But you don’t have to listen to it. Tune out the doubters.

And, instead, stop and consider what Jesus has done for others. Maybe that’s why the story of the woman with the blood issue was so important. Maybe Jairus needed to see somebody else’s miracle to believe what Jesus could do for him. Right now, in this room, there are some people whose marriages have been healed. People who have gotten off drugs. People who have been reunited with a child. People who have broken the bondage of the sin they were enslaved to for years.

And you need to look at what Jesus has been able to accomplish in the lives of these people all around you. And you need to make the decision, “I am going to take that step that everybody says is hopeless, because I can see what Jesus has done for others.” And you need to turn in the direction of hope.

Because the real problem is not the presence of trials. We all have trials. The real problem is the absence of hope. And maybe that’s why the very first thing that Jesus said when he was raised from the dead was “Don’t be afraid.” Because hope changes everything.

I love the story of the four widows in a nursing home, playing cards in the foyer. And this old, distinguished gentleman walks in and he stands at the counter at the front desk. And the first widow asks him, “What are you doing here?” He says, “Well I’m going to move in and start living here.” And the second widow says, “Where are you from?” He says, “Well, the last 25 years, I’ve lived in prison.” And the third widow says, “Why?” And he says, “Well, to be honest, because I murdered my wife.” And the fourth widow says, “So you’re saying you’re single?”

So you see, hope reinterprets everything! I’m not saying evil doesn’t have its moments, I’m saying evil doesn’t have the last word. The God that we worship raises the dead. And that gives us hope in everything we’re going through. It means that we believe that things don’t have to stay the way they are.

In his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins interviewed Admiral James Stockdale, who spent 8 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and he asked the obvious question, “How did you make it? How did you hold on?” And his answer was brilliant. He said, “I never lost faith in the end of the story.”

People who believe in the resurrection power of Jesus don’t ridicule Jesus. Because we know that Jesus can raise the dead as easily as a father can wake up his little girl from a nap. And so, it says in verse 41, “Taking her by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.’”

And you know what? Her story can be your story. That relationship in your life hasn’t been easy lately, but Jesus says, “get up!” You’ve made a mistake again, but you’re not quitting – Jesus says, “get up!” You’re tired, you’re ready to give up because it’s hard – but Jesus says “get up!”

There may be someone here this morning who needs to listen to the voice of Jesus who says, “Just believe” and find hope. There may be someone who needs to come and say, “I’m tired of things being the way they are. And I refuse to listen to those people who are telling me, ‘Why bother?’” That might mean that you need to repent, it might mean that you need to get some counseling. It might mean, for some of you, that you’re ready to confess your faith in Jesus and get baptized. In the midst of all those voices who say, “Why bother?”, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”

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