Jesus Brings Hope to Hopeless Situations
A life lived without hope is no life at all. A life without any hope is no more than mere existence and a gloomy, dark existence at that.
The famous Dr.Johnson once wrote:
"Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness, of captivity, would, without this comfort, be insupportable."
When a person develops a sense of hopelessness he or she may well feel that their conditions will never improve, that there will never be a solution to their problem(s), and that they will never ever be happy again. When such feelings dominate a person's life they may begin to think that dying by suicide would be better than living.
But there is a better way forward.
The Bible never pretends however that the real problems of everyday life somehow don't exist instead it tackles them head-on. It is not enough to treat the symptoms however. If a lasting solution is to be applied then this means that the fundamental underlying causes must be addressed. The writer of the Book of Proverbs did just that when he tackled the question of outlook and perspective:
Pr.29:18 "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
The only "vision" that is ultimately big enough to truly meet the real needs of the human heart is, according to the Bible, God himself. Before we become Christians we may well rely on a host of other things to give us a hope of sorts.
We may look forward to:
a good career,
a good set of friends,
a good marriage,
a happy family life,
our next holiday,
a long and healthy retirement
The list is far from complete!
But what happens to such hope:
when we lose our job?
when our friends move away?
when our marriage breaks down or our spouse dies?
if we fall out with our kids or the grandchildren never visit?
if it rains every day while we're away?
If our days of retirement are not filled with a comfortable autumnal glow but with hospital appointments and pain?
The Bible describes this lifestyle that so many of our contemporaries live today (and which some of us here this morning may also be living) as living "without God" and to live without God is to live without real genuine hope in our lives.
But all that changes when Jesus comes onto the scene and bursts into a person's life.
Here in Luke ch.8 we are shown how Jesus brought hope to four otherwise hopeless situations. We've already thought about how Jesus did that for a man hopelessly dominated by a horde of evil spirits. We've seen it too when he calmed a ferocious storm that had caused his followers to lose hope of life itself.
Now this morning we come to two more incidents to which Jesus brought transformation to apparently hopeless situations. In doing so he demonstrated power, compassion and wisdom. He brought hope to those involved – he can do the same for you too.
When Jesus healed the demoniac folk had poured out of the nearby town to come to see just what had happened. When the immensity of it all dawned on them they were scared and they immediately implored Jesus to leave them alone and to go away.
The next crowd we encounter couldn't have been more different!
As soon as Jesus and his disciples arrived back on the shores of Galilee, the Jewish side of the lake, Jesus was warmly welcomed back as a crowd quickly assembled. They had been hoping he would return and were eagerly waiting for him. They already knew a lot about Jesus – they had seen what he was capable of doing and they had listened to his teaching. And what they knew made them ready for more.
It is interesting to notice how Luke repeatedly emphasises the fact that large numbers of people continued to crowd around Jesus:
v.40 Jesus is welcomed by a crowd
v.42b the people are pressing around him
v.45 Peter speaks to Jesus and in his inability to understand what is going on points out to Jesus that the crowds are surrounding him and pressing in on him
v.47 the woman in the story finally steps forward and speaks "in the presence of all the people"
v.51 before going into Jairus' house Jesus excludes all but the girl's parents and three of his disciples – others were there though, v.52 weeping and mourning and then in v.53 they were laughing at him
And yet with all this emphasis upon the crowds Luke concentrates our attention on just a handful of individuals whom Jesus helped. What are we to make of this?
Well it surely stands as a warning to us that going with the flow of a crowd is not enough on its own. We all need to engage directly with Jesus and we need to do in a personal manner.
We may enjoy being in a crowd of people looking at Jesus and listening to what he has to say. We may find a certain excitement in it all too but we can do all that while at the same time remaining somewhat aloof. We can attend worship, Bible study and prayer meetings and still not enter ourselves into a true relationship of faith and trust with the Living Lord Jesus. How foolish we would be to be content with knowing a lot about the Lord Jesus and yet not submit to his Lordship in our lives! How foolish to know all about how he delivered and saved others while refusing to call out to him that he might save us!
Have you called out to him to come and transform your life yet? If you haven't you can call upon him to save you this very moment – there's no need even to wait to the end of the sermon – but know that it is those who call on the name of the Lord who are saved and if you don't call you won't be saved.
The Main Protagonists
It is clear that Jesus occupies the centre stage here – this is primarily about him. That shouldn't be a surprise to us as there really is nothing else at the heart of Christianity and the Christian faith than Jesus himself. If it wasn't far the fact that he returned from across the lake we wouldn't be concerned by those crowds. If it wasn't for his presence we wouldn't know anything about Jairus and the predicament he was in. If it wasn't for Jesus that poor unnamed woman would forever have remained totally unknown to us and left at the mercy of a succession of failing doctors. No, Jesus is central and as we look at these other people who were there that day we must not get so caught up with them that we fail to learn more about his power, his compassion and his wisdom as he deals with the situations that confronted him.
The crowds were there but we don't read of any in the crowd falling humbly at Jesus' feet and laying bare the details of their desperation until Jairus comes up. And the fact that it was Jairus is worthy of comment. This was a respected leader of the religious community – he was a ruler of the local synagogue – but his religion was no shield against suffering and, yes, Jairus was suffering. He had a daughter, an only daughter, and she was ill, so ill in fact that she was dying. She was just 12 years and very special to him and he could do nothing about it. Nothing, that is, apart from cast himself on Jesus' mercy and compassion.
This story serves to remind us that death comes not just to the old and infirm but it can also carry away those who are young. How painful it is for a parent to lose any child, how painful it must be to lose an only child!
Jesus had come back and no sooner had the welcoming crowd quickly gathered but Jairus was there imploring Jesus to come to his house where the little girl was dying. Although Luke doesn't say so explicitly it is clear that Jairus wants Jesus to intervene and save his little girl.
We're not told how long the girl had been as seriously ill as this. Was she unwell before Jesus had sailed away to the other side of the lake? Did Jairus berate himself for not having asked Jesus earlier? Did he perhaps think that he had definitively missed the opportunity of inviting Jesus then? Had he delayed and delayed until he feared it was all too late?
The Scripture doesn't tell us just how it was for Jairus but the Scriptures do tell us that "now is the day of salvation" and that we should avail ourselves of our God-given opportunities while we have then for we really don't know what tomorrow will bring or whether we will even have a tomorrow.
Of course the little girl's sickness could have developed very quickly indeed – meningitis, for example, can prove deadly within hours. If that were the case then Jairus was aware that Jesus was able to heal the sick and he didn't hesitate to go to him with his needs.
The crowds were present but Jesus was sensitive to the needs of this man and set off with him to go to his home. Don't think that Jesus will be too busy to deal with you – you can go to him confident in the knowledge that he will not reject whoever comes to him.
Jairus has reached out to Jesus for help and that help is on its way as Jesus is coming – but then something else happens! We can only surmise as to just how jumpy Jairus was becoming. His daughter was dying after all and every minute counts! But Jesus stops, why oh why has he stopped?
As we try to put ourselves in Jairus' skin that is the kind of reaction we have, isn't it? And we think like that because we have a great problem when God doesn't answer us quite as quickly as we might like him to. The delay must have been trying in the extreme for Jairus but Jesus knew what he was doing and any delay that there was would not impede him carrying out his purposes that day.
And so the focus shifts abruptly from Jesus and Jairus to Jesus and the unnamed woman.
Jairus' daughter was young, she had only been born 12 years before. How short her life had been. The woman had been ill all that time and how long that same time period must have seemed to her as she tried treatment after fruitless treatment. She was weak and anaemic and in a hopeless state.
If her physical condition wasn't bad enough she was also deprived of spiritual privileges – her condition rendered her spiritually unclean and she really shouldn't have been out in such a crowd at all and to deliberately reach out and touch someone was simply not on.
But in her desperation she put all that to one side and sought to keep her actions a secret, she wanted to remain incognito.
Taking advantage of the press of the crowd she worked her way up behind Jesus until she could reach out and touch part of his clothing – if only, she thought, I can do that I'll be healed!
It was remarkable faith. No-one else had been able to help her, all that they had been able to do for her was to make matters worse – but if only I can touch his clothing...
She did and was instantly healed. She knew it and new energy and life surged through her. She had what she wanted and now was preparing to slip quietly, unobtrusively away, no-one would know what had happened. Or so she thought.
And then Jesus stopped. He knew that someone had connected with him and drawn healing from him – there may well be a large crowd pressing about him but one person had connected with him in a special way and he wanted to know just who it was and to bring this person out into the open.
Peter of course doesn't understand what Jesus is on about and tries to make him see reason from Peter's perspective but Jesus is the Master, the One in charge, and he continues his search.
The woman realises, don't ask me how, that she can remain hidden no longer. She had begun to slip away but comes back now and, trembling, she falls at Jesus' feet. Is Jesus' going to scold her? Has she stolen a blessing that wasn't for her? What is the crowd going to think? And so, with everyone looking on, she tells her story with all the uncomfortable embarrassing details. She has believed in her heart and now she must confess with her lips that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.
My friend, have you believed in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord and have you believed that God raised him from the dead? Have you asked him into your life? Well if you have don't try to slink off and keep it all hidden and secret – tell someone else what you have done!
Of course Jesus doesn't scold her. He has healed her – it was his power, not his clothing that was responsible for that. She had reached out her hand in faith and touched him and thus her faith was the channel through healing came to her. Jesus sends her home with comforting words: "Go in peace"! She needn't worry whether or not she'd done things the right way, whether she'd acted improperly, immodestly, Jesus sends her home in peace – everything rightly ordered now in her life and it hadn't been like that before!
Jesus had dealt with this second oh so needy person patiently and with loving compassion. He had sent her on her way with wise comforting words – he had had time for her. Let me repeat he has time for you if you will seek him.
But how did Jairus cope with the delay? I can't imagine that he was the picture of calm – his little girl was still dying and as we've already said, every minute counted...
I wonder if he kept casting his eyes in the direction of his home while this interruption worked its way oh so slowly out. How did he react when he saw someone from his home approach them? Did he fear the worst? How brutally the words fall from this person's lips:
v.48 "Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more."
The road to true faith knows many discouragements! First there was this woman distracting Jesus and delaying him from coming sooner and now it is someone Jairus knew with bad news and worse advice.
Was the speaker so blunt because there really was no easy way to break the bad news? Or was this person unenthusiastic about Jairus soliciting Jesus' help in the first place? This may prove to be your experience so don't you be surprised if some of the people you know are unenthusiastic about your interest in Jesus. Just be sure that you don't let them turn you the wrong way.
How quick Jesus is to encourage Jairus however! The situation may appear lost, friends' advice may be unhelpful and discouraging but Jesus is there. And Jesus is about to turn Jairus' hopeless bereavement into a joyous celebration.
"Don't fear, only believe."
How easily we play the game of "what if..." and imagine awful scenarios. We worry about the future and we imagine that all is lost, that there is no hope left. How we too need to press on, holding firm to our faith in Jesus.
It's not long before they arrive at Jairus' home and it's already full with its professional mourners – Jairus is, after all, a big fish in this local pond! Doubtless some of the mourners were genuine but others weren't as is evident by how quickly they turn from their mourning to a mocking laughter that was so out of place. It was a laughter that would have done nothing to help Jairus as he struggled to hold on to what faith he had left.
So Jesus goes to the little girl with only a handful of folk; Jairus, the girl's mother and three of his disciples. He wants to protect the young girl from shock and prying eyes – again how wise and how tender is our Lord. He won't treat you more roughly than you need either.
With words that her mother may well have used on a daily basis Jesus gently wakes the girl calling upon her to get up. Yes, the word from the house had been correct – the little girl was dead: but they had thought that was the end of everything. They had however left this extraordinary man Jesus out of the equation. For him to wake the dead was no harder than to wake a sleeping child. And so Luke tells us that her spirit returned! So complete is her recovery that she got up at once.
The news will get out but Jesus doesn't encourage the sharing of this miracle. Instead he tells the parents to do what they might otherwise overlook in their joy – their daughter has been seriously ill and needs something to eat.
And even that is interesting. Miracles flow from Jesus to establish his credentials and to do good but they do not flow in such a way as to resolve every problem or to meet every need. Surely if he had the power to raise this girl from the dead he had the power to feed her body but that is a task he entrusts to her parents.
The same Jesus who stilled a raging storm to save his disciples and to calm their fears would later leave another of his followers in a storm for 14 days before he was shipwrecked. These stories of how Jesus intervened to bring hope to the hopeless are therefore not designed to make us think that every trouble will be comfortably resolved for us as though God is just some kind of celestial sweet dispenser.
Men and women continue to experience trouble in their lives. Believers suffer poor debilitating health and the sadness of bereavement continues to touch us.
But these accounts are recorded so that we might realise that Jesus is there, that he does care and that he does want come in and transform our hopeless lives! He is able and willing to transform our lives by giving us a hope that stretches forward to all eternity.