Open your Bible again, if you will, to the 5th chapter of Mark. It’s wonderful to sort of sit back. And we don’t really talk about what we’re going to speak on, each of us, and watch the Holy Spirit sort of pull everything together in beautiful ways. And I didn’t know what was going to come before me, but I have been encouraged to come to this chapter, because it was such a blessing apparently to some people when I preached it a few weeks ago. It wasn’t what I originally planned, but that’s okay.
And in the light of what we’ve heard from John 9 and what we’ve heard this afternoon from Job 1, We know that God is in our suffering, that the glory of God is manifest in blindness. And as I, along with you, heard again the wonderful reiteration of the fact that God allowed all that came upon Job to come to vindicate saving faith and to prove the doctrine of eternal security, that saving faith can’t be shattered, even if Satan unleashes everything he’s got, because it’s a permanent faith that God grants.
And listening to those two messages and looking at the state of the world – it was even referred to: tsunamis and earthquakes, catastrophes, and disasters, and all of that – one might be prone to think that God is harsh. Is this how we define our God? Do we give Him the privilege of doing all of that as the sole understanding that we have of Him in a fallen world? The answer to that is no.
When Moses was commissioned by God, called by God, he said, “Look, I’m not going to be a leader of Your people unless You go with me.” And the Lord said, “I’ll go with you.” In Exodus 33, Moses said, “You’ve got to prove it to me. Show me Your glory. I want to see it.” And the Lord said, “I’ll let all My graciousness and all My compassion pass before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious; I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” The greatest manifestation of the compassion of God, the mercy of God, the tenderheartedness of God, is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
There would have been many, many ways that Jesus could have demonstrated His deity. I mean He could have done some amazing tricks. He could have taken off like a helicopter into space, flown around the city, and come down to a soft landing. In fact, the devil thought that’d be a great idea.
Perhaps even more directly, He could have satisfied the demands of the Pharisees and the scribes, who no matter what Jesus did – none of which they ever denied nor could they deny – completely ignored all His miracles and insisted if they were to believe in Him, He had to do signs in the sky. He really did need to do that. He needed to do something with the sun and something with the moon, as the prophets had said, and maybe rearrange some constellations with which were so very familiar. Now there could have been so many things that Jesus did miraculously and powerfully that would have been, you know, unarguable evidences of His divine power.
But what He chose to do was to heal sick people, deliver demon-possessed people, and raise the dead. Why? Because along with the power came compassion. This is a display of mercy. This isn’t necessary, this is the heart of God manifest in Christ. He showed His power over demons; He showed His power over disease; He showed His power over death. The theological reason for suffering always goes back to divine sovereignty, that God has a purpose in it. But even God’s response to suffering is compassion, kindness, mercy, even grief.
I’ve been trying to just unburden my heart a little bit with you regarding the things that kind of contribute to a lasting ministry, and one of them is separation, making sure you’re cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh, endeavoring to perfect holiness, and the fear of God, as we saw Wednesday morning. The second one is sincerity, having integrity and making sure all the pieces of your life fit together with your message. And the third one is sympathy. If you want to have a long-term ministry in a congregation where there’s reciprocal love and trust, they need to know you care.
You can give them the sovereign answer from the pulpit. You can tell them their cancer is for the glory of God. You can tell them their suffering is because of a divine purpose, and you will be right. But you had better be there to wipe away their tears, because God would have you be there, because He only came into the world one time, and it was one massive display of compassion. Sure, He stopped the wind, stopped the waves, fed the crowds; but when it comes to miracles in a category other than delivering people from the horrors of their suffering, that’s about it.
It was early in my ministry here. I remember the conversation very well. Just after we’d built this auditorium I was standing right over there, and a father came up to me and said, “My nine-year-old boy has a brain tumor. We just found out. It’s terminal, he’s going to die.” And he was heartbroken.
The next few times I saw that nine-year-old boy in church he had a little one of those plastic bicycle hats on to protect him, because he would lose his balance over that, and he would fall and harm himself. And I remember talking to that dad many times, and put my arm around him and around the little boy as the weeks went on, and it was only a few months that I did his funeral, and it was just a devastating, devastating blow to that father in particular. And I was there toward the end, and then I was there at the funeral, and I had spent time with him leading up to that.
Some months passed and it was another Sunday, and I remember it so vividly. He came up to me and he said, “Pastor, I haven’t heard from you for five months. Have you forgotten me?” It’s like a knife to my heart.
A funeral is not the responsibility to bear the grief, to carry the cares and the sorrows of your people. You don’t sign off at the funeral. That was a tremendously important lesson to me, so important in people’s hearts, that even when you can explain that God has a purpose, you be there to show sympathy.
As the gospel of Mark unfolds, Mark has one purpose, and that is to make clear to everybody that this man Jesus is God incarnate. That’s what he says in the 1st verse of the 1st chapter: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This whole thing is about acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God. However, nobody makes that confession, nobody, until the 15th chapter and the 39th verse.
There is a confession that He’s the Christ, but nobody says, “You’re the Son of God,” except demons. “We know who You are, the Holy One of God.” Everywhere He went He ran into demon-possessed people, and they would all say the same thing. The demons always said the same thing. I don’t know that they wanted to say it; they couldn’t help from saying it, they were terrified in His presence.
No human ever makes that confession until a centurion watching the crucifixion of the cross, a Gentile outside the nation of Israel says, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” It takes a Gentile Roman soldier finally to make the confession in Mark’s gospel. Believing that He was the Son of God was the result of the display of divine power and divine compassion that He put on.
When you go through any of the gospels, you walk with Jesus and you see this. You have this incomparable experience of taking your congregation back and living day, after day, after day with Jesus. And what strikes me as I’ve now gone through Matthew for eight years, Luke for ten years, John a couple of years, then back through Matthew to write four commentaries for five more years, and in the process of writing the commentary on John another two years, and back through Luke – and I’m in Volume Two for the last two years, and preaching now for two years through Mark, and I’ve got three more volumes of Luke and two more of Mark, and I cannot get enough. He is the most compelling person there is, ever been. And what strikes me about Him is this compassion that is demonstrated.
Do you think He knew the sovereign purposes of God that were unfolding? Of course He did, of course He did. And yet it is He, the God, the very God who inflicts the pain within the purposes of His providence, who is there to catch the sufferer.
Unlike many religious leaders, Jesus didn’t seclude Himself. His entire ministry was spent in public. He didn’t have an office, He didn’t have a study, didn’t have a home, didn’t have a church. His entire ministry was in the street, in the field, in other people’s homes, in synagogues, on the road, on the sea, with only occasional retreats into isolation to restore His energy, rest His body, and fellowship privately with His disciples and give them the inside scoop on the parables. But He always came back to the crowds. And the first thing I want to tell you about Jesus, looking at this text, is His accessibility, His accessibility.
“When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore.” You know why He stayed by the seashore? They would push Him all the way down to the shore and He would get in a boat. They would push the boat off the shore so He could get a little space between Himself and the people. And the crowds were so massive the water acted as a basic enhancer of His voice.
He always came back to the crowds. And you can show in the gospels the crowds were so massive, in the tens of thousands, that the people were crushing each other. And they were so relentless that it was even difficult for Jesus and His followers to eat a meal. They never let Him alone.
Chapter 6, verse 31 says, “They kept Him from eating.” They hounded Him. They dogged Him. They crushed Him. They endangered Him. In Nazareth, they tried to throw Him off a cliff and stone Him to death. But He never left the crowds.
Now verse 21 says He had been across on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s about six miles across the top from Capernaum over to the other side. He had gone over there. A very interesting trip over there, by the way, because in the process of that trip He stilled the wind and the sea. And they got over there and they met a man full of apparently thousands of demons. You remember that story, right? A man came running down the hill and Jesus cast all the thousands of demons out of him into a herd of 6,000 pigs who did a swine dive and committed suicide off the cliff.
Well, that’s where He’s been. That’s where He’s been. I think the disciples thought He was going over there to get a rest, but it didn’t work out like that. Comes back. He wouldn’t let the demon-possessed man who had been stark naked, scaring the wits out of everybody – tried to chain him and couldn’t do that. And what I love about that is after the man came to Christ and was delivered from the demons – and, obviously, Jesus spoke to him more about the kingdom – he embraced the truth, embraced Christ, and was the first missionary. So you don’t have to know a whole lot to be sent to your people to tell them about Jesus.
That’s what he did do: got in the boat, came with His disciples back to the other side by Capernaum. And as always, a large crowd is gathered there waiting for Him. They wanted help for their pain. They wanted help for their suffering. They brought all the people who needed to be healed; and all the people who didn’t need to be healed came to see the people who needed to be healed get healed.
He is like a hero. He is like a celebrity. In the history of the world there has never been anything like this. In fact, if you remember the words of John 9, the blind man said, “In the history of the world there’s never been a blind man who has been given sight.” Well, Jesus banished illness from Israel during the time of His ministry virtually.
They are a fickle mob however; they are superficial. But in the midst of this typical fickle mob numbering perhaps in the thousands, waiting there for Him, there are two whose faith is real. Their story is really a benediction to us, and it’s a model of compassion. Two of them: a man and a woman; one rich, one poor; one respected, one rejected; one honored, one shamed; one leading the synagogue, the other excommunicated from the synagogue; both with needs; one with a 12-year-old daughter dying, the other with a 12-year disease suffering.
You remember Mary had said in her Magnificat about her son the Savior, that He would bring down rulers and exalt those who were humble. Well, they were both there: the rulers and the humble, the ruler and the outcast. Well, let’s meet the ruler.
Verse 22: “One of the synagogue officials named Jairus” – and generally there were between four and seven of these. They were not a part of the clerical system. They weren’t Pharisee scribes, they weren’t rabbis, they weren’t priests; they were lay people who were given responsibility for management of the synagogue operation. But they would need to be revered men, and men of stature, and religious men, and men that the folks would follow. So here is one of them by the name of Jairus, which is a Greek form of the Old Testament word Jair, which is the name of one of the sons of Manasseh.
He came up, and on seeing Him he fell at His feet. This is really politically incorrect. If you’re a synagogue official, the synagogues are primarily under the control of the scribes and Pharisees. They are the gurus of the populist religion. Sadducees – they don’t get much past the outside wall of the temple. They operate their liberalism in the institutions and the ceremonies of the temple, and they get filthy rich by bilking the people out of their money, overcharging them for all the sacrifices, and giving them bad exchanges on their money when they force them to certain coinages to make their offerings. They’re sort of the political hierarchy. They’re content to stay in Jerusalem and make their money, operate their systems.
The Pharisees and the scribes, they’re the ones scattered throughout the villages and towns, and they’re the ones that basically oversee the local religion, which is their system of self-righteous works. Well, these men would be beholden to their religious establishment. And for a synagogue ruler to come and prostrate himself at the feet of Jesus is definitely putting himself in a very difficult position with the establishment. Matthew and Mark say he worshiped, he worshiped – and the word can mean that.
Verse 23. So we know what his attitude toward Jesus is. You only do this to a superior, right? You only bow down to a superior. Done before a king, or revered authority, or someone perceived as holy or known as holy.
You say, “Well, how does Jairus know anything about Jesus?” Well, we don’t have all the story. But Jairus was a synagogue official, and maybe Jairus was there the day recorded in chapter 1, verses 21 to 28, when Jesus showed up at the synagogue and was the teacher that day in the synagogue, because they had a custom of letting visiting rabbis teach. And that was the day that the demon-possessed man was sitting in the synagogue. Demons loved to be in synagogues and liberal churches and all that kind of stuff, and false churches. They live there, you know, they live there; but they don’t want to blow their cover. But when Jesus shows up they’re so scared and panicked, that they can’t help but scream.
And so it says in chapter 1, verse 23, “There was a man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit, and he screamed in the middle of it, ‘What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!’” Whoa. Maybe Jairus was, you know, running the service that day.
“Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘Be quite, and come out of him!’ Threw the man into convulsions, and everybody was amazed. There were also amazed at His new teaching with authority.” So maybe Jairus was there that day, and he began to wonder about this man. The Spirit of God worked on his heart, and maybe he trailed Jesus. He did these amazing things in Capernaum for months and months, and all around Galilee.
But he bows down, he worships Him. In verse 23, “He implored Him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.’” Do you see any doubt in that verse? I don’t see any doubt in that verse. “You know, maybe it’ll happen.” No, no, no. Mark actually gives his words: “My little daughter is at the point of death. You come, You lay hands on her; she’ll get well, she’ll live. I’ve seen what You can do.”
A little later in the story, which we’ll see, the word comes that she’s not at the point of death anymore, she’s dead. And the messenger says, “She’s dead. No sense in wasting Jesus’ time.” He does not budge on his faith in what Jesus is capable of doing. He is a rare man in the upper echelons of Jewish religion. Few believed savingly in Jesus.
Well, Mark says in verse 24, “Jesus went off with him.” By the way, Luke says he had only one daughter and she was 12 years old. We don’t get that in this story until over in verse 42. But Luke early in the story, in the parallel passage, says he had only one daughter, she was about 12. So she was born maybe when Jesus was around 20.
Now when you get to be 12 you’re really at the flower of life. About to get married maybe at 13, 14; start your family. This little girl is dying; she’s dying. There’s no future for her; there’s no hope for her. But this man knows for sure that Jesus has the power to heal her; and even as he indicates later, to raise her from the dead.
So, first of all, His accessibility. He was there. He was in the middle where you could get to Him. I mean this is... Sometimes we think we’re more important than we are, don’t we? Accessibility.
Let’s just take a second step and call it availability. He was accessible. That’s just a general term meaning he could get at Him. Available takes it a deeper step. So in verse 24, “He went off with him.” He’s got crowds of tens of thousands. “He goes off with him; and” – as He goes, it’s not easy – “a large crowd is following Him and pressing in on Him.” It’s no ivory tower that Jesus is in, no monastery, no hierarchy, no hidden place. He pitched His tent with people, didn’t He; He really did.
I love it in Matthew 19 where all the little children come to Him, and they want to chase them away. Remember? “Don’t chase them away.” Or Matthew 15 where He goes up on a hill, and He just sits on a hill, and “whoosh” the mobs come, and He starts engaging Himself with individuals one, after another, after another. And in Matthew 15 it talks about how He healed this and healed that, and healed this and healed that, and healed this. I cannot even imagine the relentless demands of people on someone who could do that. It’s absolutely stunning.
Jairus’ heart was breaking. His only hope was that Jesus would come and heal his daughter. He had no doubts that He had the power to do it.
What drives this availability, this accessibility? I think it’s the compassion of our Lord as our High Priest. We know Him to be touched with – what? – the feelings of our infirmities. “Come unto Me all you who labor and heavy laden, and I’ll give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly, and you’ll find rest for your souls. I’m not like the Pharisees. I don’t bind heavy burdens on people and never do anything to help them carry them; very opposite.”
I love that text in Matthew 12:20, borrowed from Isaiah 42, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” Isn’t that beautiful. That’s so vivid: “A bruised reed He will not break.”
A shepherd would be out, take a reed, and they would turn it into a little flute and they would play it. But after you blew it awhile, the saliva would go in, and the little reed would bend, and you’d break it and throw it away and get another one. He doesn’t do that. He doesn’t throw people away. Smoking flax, you know, where the wick is so small that it can’t rise up enough above the oil to stay lit, it gets thrown away. He doesn’t do that to the people that are kind of down to the last flicker.
Matthew 14:14 says, “Jesus went out and saw a great multitude, and He was moved with compassion for them and healed their sick.” Mark 8:2, “I have compassion on the multitude because they have now continued with Me three days and haven’t anything to eat. I feel bad because they’re hungry. I know what I’ll do, ‘bsssh’ make food, create food out of nothing.” Matthew 9:36, “He saw the multitude, moved with compassion because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd.” There was just so much divine compassion in Him.
Because of that divine compassion He did what He did; and in order to do what He did and make the demonstration of divine compassion, it was indiscriminate. Do you understand that? It was indiscriminate. He healed everybody. In order to be able to do that, He had to be accessible and He had to be available. But, thirdly – and I think this is a beautiful feature in His ministry – He was interruptible. He was interruptible.
Jairus is probably maybe one of the most important people in town around Capernaum, and they were on the way to his house and he’s got a dying daughter; and a large crowd is crushing Jesus as He tries to get through to the house. On the way we have an interruption, verse 25: “A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years.” Hmm, there’s something so wonderful about this story. It’s so personal.
This is a lady with a female bleeding problem. The current technical term for this would be obstetric fistula. About four million women in Africa have it. It’s incessant unstoppable bleeding. It can actually be cured with a very, very simple surgery, to which this woman would have no access; nor to the women in Africa.
She’s had this problem as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive. So for the twelve years that Jairus’ daughter was growing up, the family had so much joy for the twelve years, same twelve years the woman had this incessant bleeding. She had nothing but agony and sorrow.
She’s not just a face in the crowd, because our Lord, through the Holy Spirit, inspires Mark to describe her – listen to this – with seven participial phrases. This woman is described by seven participial phrases to describe her condition. We get all this detail about her; I love that.
Now what happens when you have this kind of problem? First of all, it has physiological affects on you. You lose your strength. You would obviously lose your strength if you’re just constantly bleeding; you’re not about to get a transfusion, you know. You do realize that no disease was ever diagnosed and cured until the end of the 19th century. There’s not only a loss of strength and energy, it was horrendous embarrassment. And it was dangerous; bleed to death. Severe physical effects.
On top of that, the severe social effects, because Leviticus 15 says that if a woman has an issue of blood she’s unclean for seven days; so that every time normally in a month when a woman had that normal cycle, she had to go seven days in an unclean condition and then be ceremonially cleansed. This was God reminding people of – this is symbolic of the stain of sin that needs to be remedied. Well, here’s a woman who didn’t have this happen once a month, but every single day for twelve years she’s unclean, every single day for twelve years. And if you’re unclean everybody you touch is unclean. So her children would be unclean, her husband would be unclean, her friends would be unclean if they came near her – everywhere she went.
She wouldn’t be allowed to go to the synagogue. She hadn’t been to a synagogue in twelve years unless she snuck in the back. She certainly wouldn’t be allowed in the temple if anybody knew. She wouldn’t go, she’d be afraid that God might strike her dead. Her ritual defilement was considered communicable. Though her disease was not communicable, the defilement was communicable. And what does she do? Just imagine the courage, the desperation.
First of all, verse 26 – this doesn’t bode well for the medical profession of the time: “Had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse.” That is not a commendation of the medical profession. She had gone to many, many physicians. She spent all the money she had, and she wasn’t helped at all; she got worse.
Luke, in his account of this, who is a physician, says, “She could not be cured.” It’s a little human touch. She does something that’s unthinkable in verse 27: “After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak.” What did that do to Jesus?
Something like this is recorded in Luke 7 where Jesus was at a dinner with the Pharisees and the scribes. They didn’t want to come near Jesus, but they would invite Him to certain occasions in order they might trap Him for the purposes of killing Him; and a prostitute came in. A prostitute, in Luke 7, came in and started doing the most bizarre thing imaginable: started kissing His feet and wiping them with her hair. And the Pharisees went completely ballistic: “Doesn’t He know who this woman is? He is defiled by a prostitute.”
Nothing could defile Jesus – nothing, absolutely nothing. He was like a rainbow in a dump: the rainbow doesn’t touch the dump, the dump doesn’t touch the rainbow. He is not defiled. But everybody would have assumed that. So she’s come in a clandestine way. She’s thinking, “If I just touch His garments I’ll get well.”
Now you have to understand why she’s so worried about exposure. She would just defile everybody that touched her or got near her. There were no cures for her. I tried to find some, a little bit of medical analysis of how they might have tried to cure this.
I came up with the fact that in the Talmud there are such maladies referred to, and the cures would be toxins, astringents. But one of the most effective is to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in the summer and a cotton bag in the winter. Oh, that’s helpful. Another one that I really was if you have this illness, carry a barley corn in donkey dung around your neck. That would make you a delight.
So I would have guessed that if the first doctor gave her that cure, she probably went to another doctor, and that’s why she kept going to other doctors, like to get rid of the donkey dung and maybe find another cure. There were the famous doctors who served the rich and probably tried to use the astringents. And then there were the fakers who exploited the poor with all these kind of bizarre things.
But at the end of the day all her money was gone and she was worse. And so she stirs up all the courage in the desperation that runs so deep, and she comes through the crowd, and she says, “If I just touch His garments, I’ll get well.” And that’s exactly what she did according to verse 27: “She touched His cloak.”
The word “touch” is haptō. It means to fasten onto and to cling. And she actually touched the fringe, according to Luke, the fringe of His cloak, which would be the tassels the Jews put on their robes, which the Pharisees enlarged so they would look holier than everybody else, according to Matthew 23:5.
And her faith is so strong, she says, “If I just touch His garments,” – in her mind – “I’ll get well.” So she clings to the fringe of His robe, grasping it with force; and it’s a desperate kind of clutching; and she’s shaking like a leaf in a high wind fearing that she’ll be discovered.
This is not pagan superstition about a robe, this is faith in a man who had demonstrated so much power. She thought if she just got that close, the power would sweep through her; and it did.
Verse 29: “Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.” The world stopped for that woman in a moment. Time stood still. The bleeding stopped – from histemi, used by medical writers to indicate the stoppage of bodily discharges. Physical problem was solved. But who would know? How does she prove that? How does she get back in? And if she gets discovered, how does she respond to the crowd?
So Jesus is accessible, available. And even though He’s going to the house of maybe the most important man in town, He is interruptible. That’s a good thing to learn, isn’t it.
I don’t know what to call the next one. He is intentional. He is intentional. This is not just a woman in the crowd, it’s far more here. Look what happens, verse 30. There’s so much in this I wish I had time to develop. But, “Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My garments?’ Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth.”
Does that stagger you? That is an amazing revelation. Listen to this: His power is personal. He is not this impersonal powerful machine, unconscious of what’s going on. Whenever power goes through Him and out of Him into another person, He feels the flow and He knows where it goes. He actually experiences every expulsion of divine power and divine energy that comes from Him to heal and deliver and save sinners. He’s actually involved.
Luke 8:46, He says, “I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” He experienced the power-flow that created that woman’s new physical organs. This is a rich insight into the reality that our God is not detached, that He’s not unfeeling. While He is impassible in the sense that He is unaltered by what men do, He feels everything: personally engaged in every expulsion of power, feels every expression of divine energy. He is not just impersonal cosmic energy. No one receives His power without His personal involvement.
We who are God’s know we are called. We are justified, we are sanctified, and one day we will be glorified because He has chosen to make a personal living union with us in which He is fully involved in giving us life, and sustaining that life, and sanctifying that life, and one day glorifying that life, so that we can all say with Paul, “Not I; but Christ lives in me.” This ends all magic superstition, healing by touching relics, talismans, or TV sets.
Such a personal God; such a personal work. He knows. He’s very intentional. He knows where His power goes, and He knows to whom His power –