July 1, 2018

Same Truth - Different Day

6th Sunday of Pentecost
First Lesson:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11

Second Lesson:  Galatians 4:1-7

Gospel Lesson:  Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

Sermon Text:  Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

We had a sermon on this topic on New Year’s Eve.  But that was 1 ½ years ago and a lot of you were gone that weekend.  Plus, it is a topic/issue we deal with on such a regular basis it is good for us to go back to it often. The topic is God’s timing.  In our hearts of faith, we know God is in control of all. We know he knows what is best for us. We know he knows when the best time to do things in our lives is. The Christian in us has no problem believing all three. But the unbeliever in us (since we’re both is saint and sinner) not only doesn’t accept that. It rages against that. It doubts that. And it puts into our heads reasons why God doesn’t control all, doesn’t know best, and has terrible timing. I won’t ask if that is you. I know it is.
And while I don’t need to prove it, I will.  Every questioned God’s timing about a health issue?  Ever wondered why God allowed the job issue when he did?  Ever get frustrated with God when a girlfriend dumped you before you both went off to college? I can name a ton more situations, but you get the point.  As imperfect people, we struggle, to say it lightly, with not only what God allows in our lives but when he allows it. We’ll dig into that more in a second, but 1st look at our Mark lesson.

Jesus is out and about, preaching/teaching. A religious leader named Jairus comes to him with a request. His daughter is dying (we don’t how), and he asks Jesus to come heal her – a normal request for Jesus. And vs. 24 simply says, “Jesus went with him.”  So far, so good, right?  A man of faith, a man who knows and trusts in who Jesus is and what he can do comes humbly with a request, a request for the good of someone else.  Without hesitation, Jesus goes with him.

That part of our text is vs. 21-24.  Open your service folders. Notice the rest of the reading. We jump from vs. 24 to 35.  Pick things back up. People tell Jairus his daughter is dead and they need not trouble Jesus.  Jesus hears this and says, “Don’t be afraid.  Just believe.”  Since we hear nothing in response from Jairus, he must have taken Jesus’ words to heart.

They get to his home, and people are crying. When Jesus speaks of her as only sleeping, they, in unbelief, mock him.  He sends them out, and he, the girl’s parents, and a few disciples go to see her.  Without batting an eye, Jesus says, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”  She does. Jairus’ prayer was answered.  All’s well that ends well.  Right?  Right?

In a way, yes.  But go back to those verses we skipped. Jairus asked for healing, Jesus agrees, and they head out.  But something happened between departure and arrival. A woman who had a severe bleeding issue wanted to be healed as well.  She touched him and her bleeding stopped.  Jesus knows this, and he and the woman have a discussion.  It is an enlightening and godly discussion, but that is a sermon for another time.  And one more thing you need to realize.  The guys who tell Jairus that his daughter is dead did so while Jesus was still speaking with the woman.  Why is that a big deal?

Imagine you are Jairus. You ask for help. Jesus agrees.  You are probably wanting to run to your house so he can help her ASAP.  Then this woman reaches out and touches Jesus, and he stops to talk to her, as if he had all the time in the world, as if you and your daughter’s situation can wait while he deals with this lady.  What would be going through your mind?

“What are you doing, Jesus?  We don’t have time for this!  My daughter needs help now.  Can’t you help this lady after saving my daughter?” And if people come to tell you your daughter is dead while Jesus is still having this conversation, what would it be easy to think?  “Why did we wait, Jesus?  Why is she more important than my daughter?  Why didn’t we make a beeline to our home? You could have saved her, but you delayed. Why did you do this to me? Why get my hopes up?”

I’m not saying Jairus thought either of those things, but I’d not be shocked if he did. It’s only natural to think that way. I tend to lose it with my kids when I have to ask them three times to hang up a towel.  How much more impatient would I be if a loved one’s life was on the line? Any of us in this situation would’ve pulled Jesus’ arm, dragging him home because the situation is so dire.  And we’d likely get frustrated, if not angry, if, while Jesus took his sweet time talking to someone else (giving us the impression our problem is less important to him), and we found out the family member died. I’m right, aren’t I?

How easily Jairus could’ve been frustrated at Jesus’ timing, lack of speed, and handling of this situation. How easily we can feel the same way about our pressing situation.  “Why did you pause, Jesus?  Why did you wait to take my loved one to heaven and I had to watch him suffer so terribly?”  “Why did you pause, Jesus, in answering my request for help when I was really low, maybe even depressed? It went on for years, and each day felt worse than the one before it.”  “Why did you pause, Jesus, when I didn’t know how I was going to pay the next bill or even put food on the table?  We had to struggle day to day for years.”  “Why did you pause, Jesus, in answering my prayer for peace when I lost my spouse/friend/child?  I suffered for years.”  Simple, but deep questions. “Why did you wait?  What distracted you?  Why did you pause?”

I said this during the timing sermon on New Year’s Eve, but even if you were here, I will say it again because it is fact and we need to hear it.  You know why we have a hard time accepting God’s timing?  Because we think we know better.  Because we think we have a better plan.  Because we think we know not only what should happen but when it should happen.  We have a course plotted, and anything/anyone that causes deviation from it seems wrong and easily angers us.

But, I ask you and myself, who are we? In the book of Job, after he complains, God says to him, “Who are you, Job, to be telling me the way things should be?”  For our questioning at best and doubting at worst of God’s timing, couldn’t he say the same thing to us?  “Who are you, sinful person, to tell me what to do and when?  Are you so arrogant as to think you have it all figured out? You could coordinate all this better? Shut your mouth. Get back in line. Know your place. I’m the Lord, and I’ll not suffer such insolence from a failed sinner like you.”  If God were to say such a thing, could we disagree?

But he doesn’t.  Our God knows our struggles, our doubts, and our weaknesses.  And instead of coming at us in anger, he comes with fatherly compassion.  And that is especially true in this area of timing.  I could just say God knows best – what to do and when to do it.  But we can do better than that because the Bible tells us more than that.  There is another account in Scripture when someone has a hard time with what God did and when we did it, someone who also had a problem with God pausing and not acting according to his timeframe.  He asked the question. How did Jesus answer?

He said, “This has happened that the glory of God might be revealed.”  I know that sounds like too simple of an answer, but everything God does is to show us his glory and his love.  Back to Jairus.  Had Jesus simply healed a sick girl, there would have been some oohs and aahs, and Jairus certainly would have been thankful. But to show his power over death, to bring the girl back from death, that did two things.  1) It made Jairus as thankful as thankful gets.  But even more important, 2) it sent a message.  If people were wondering who exactly Jesus was or what he could all do, this gave them clear evidence.  Only God can raise the dead, so Jesus must be God.  And if he could do this, he must be able to do all the other things he said, esp. save people by paying for their sins on the cross.  Either way, this happened, Jesus paused, and the end result was that God’s people were strengthened and God was glorified.

But you might say, “Well, clearly that is the case because everyone was happy at the end.  But when Jesus paused answering a prayer for healing for my mom, she died.”  Yes, maybe she did.  But what all happened?  Your mom is with the Lord in the perfect peace of heaven.  You were given a reminder that our time was fleeting.  You had your faith built up as you heard person after person remind you of Jesus and his love.  And you were able to joyfully daydream about seeing her at Jesus’ side in heaven.  In all that, in that pause, is not God glorified?

“But what about my sadness and grief due to (fill in the blank), the pause Jesus took in helping me get well again.”  Well, during those times, weren’t you forced to rely on the Lord more?  Didn’t you come to realize all other paths are fruitless?  Didn’t you come to realize how much you need him?  And when things were back to “normal” weren’t you that much more appreciative?  Yes, there was a pause in doing exactly what you wanted, but in all this, in that pause, is not God glorified?

I know it is hard to look at things this way when we are in the midst of our struggle, when we are low, and when question after question about God’s timing comes into our heads.  But to remember that the pause is occurring so that the glory of God might be revealed, that helps us get past that.  No, we can’t see the future.  We don’t know how things will turn out.  But our hearts of faith tell us that in the end, it will work out as God wills it, that the resolution will be for our good, that we will in some way benefit because of it, and, yes, through it God will be glorified.

Maybe the best instance of this pause is Jesus himself.  In Gethsemane, he prayed for the cross to be taken from him.  His Father paused. Jesus asked why he was forsaken. His Father paused. And in the weeks leading up to all this, the disciples were surely confused why things were going down as they were.  God seemed to pause/not answer at all the wrong times.

But isn’t the end result of that the ultimate glorification of God? Jesus had to die for us and our sins, including our sins of doubt regarding his plan/timing. But he didn’t stay dead. After completing his work, he rose. And the glory that is his because of that is now ours. Because of all that, because of that pause, we know we’re forgiven. Because of that pause, we know we are loved.  Because of that pause, we know he is always with us.  And because of that pause, we know heaven is our home.  That is to Jesus’ glory, and that is ultimately to our glory, the glory that will be ours at his side in eternity.

That all worked out pretty well, didn’t it?  Actually, it worked our perfectly.  Because that is how God works.  What he does, and when he does it, even if he seems to pause, is all part of his plan. His greatest plan involved making sure we are part of his family, now and forever.  And every other plan he enacts is to strengthen our confidence and trust in that biggest plan.

And knowing that, we can handle the pauses.  We can let our questioning minds be at rest.  We can move forward not knowing.  Because what we don’t know is precisely what God does know.  And because we do know his love, we know everything he does, including the pauses, will be for our good.  And the next time you feel like you are in one of those pause times, remember Jesus’ words and repeat them as often as you need to: “This has happened that the glory of God might be revealed.”  Say that, mean that, and wait for the Lord to work things out in his perfect at his perfect time.  Amen.