Viewing the World through God's Word

Month: June 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Only Believe

O PreacherMiracles seem common at this point.  Half the pages of Mark’s Gospel  we’ve read so far contain them. (Remember those few pages do cover a year or more.)  In today’s section (5:21-43) Mark reports two more miracles.  Let’s see a summary of the narrative. (It’s too long to quote here, but why not take a few minutes to read it?)Then we’ll note a few unusual twists.

Jesus has boated with his disciples from the country of the Gerasenes (5:1-20).  Landing near Capernaum in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, he’s mobbed by another crowd.  One man, Jairus, leader of the Capernaum synagogue, frantically pushes through, falls at Jesus’ feet and begs him to come heal his 12-year-old dying daughter.  Jesus goes.

But not alone.  The jostling mass follows.  A woman is swept along, but not unwillingly.  For 12 years she’s hemorrhaged.  Although she’s spent everything on doctors, she’s grown worse.  But, she tells herself, if I can even just touch Jesus’ clothes, I’ll be made well.  Determined to reach him, she bumps between the pack and finally gets close.  She thrusts her hand through and touches his tunic.  Immediately the bleeding stops and she feels healed.

Jesus feels something too—“that power had gone out from him” (5:30).  He stops.  The crowd jostles to a halt.  As Jesus’ eyes search the faces, the woman knows she’s been found out.  She comes trembling to him and tells her story.  “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease” (5:34).

At that moment, a messenger arrives from Jairus’ home.  His daughter has died; no need to trouble the Teacher now. Jesus assures him, “Do not fear; only believe” (5:36).  With that, Jesus allows only Peter, James and John to go with him.

Jairus’ house is filled with wailing mourners—until Jesus puts them all out.  Then he takes the girls’ parents and his three disciples to where the dead girl lay.  Like a father lightly lifting his daughter’s hand, he says in Aramaic, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”  And immediately the girl got up and began walking around” (5:41,42).

Now for a few unusual twists.  (As if those miracles aren’t unusual enough!)

Jairus fell at Jesus’ feetThe Gospel doesn’t tell us what this synagogue ruler thought of Jesus.  But even if he thought Jesus to be a charlatan, the crisis of his daughter dying drove this ruler to publicly prostrate himself before Jesus and beg for him to heal her.  How many today, I wonder, who never believed in Jesus, humbly beg him when in dire need?  Note that Jesus doesn’t condemn or interrogate Jairus–he graciously goes with him right away.

Some in the crowd were just curious.  I’m just guessing.  I base my guess on a Billy Graham meeting in Tampa maybe 20 years ago.  The football stadium was packed.  Graham gave the invitation.  I was among dozens of counselors on the field.  More than once I approached someone for prayer and was told, “I’m just here to get close to Billy.”  How sad that curiosity-seekers get so close, yet remain so far from Jesus!

Jesus was interruptedI believe God is sovereign.  Nevertheless, this interruption looks like sloppy scheduling.  Can you imagine how Jairus felt?  I doubt he cared about the woman.  If it weren’t so serious, the scene would have been comedic:  the anxious father wondering if he should tap Jesus on the shoulder and say, “Uh, Jesus, remember me?”  How he must have grieved when the messenger arrived with the death- news!  It’s a reminder that God’s time and ours aren’t always (often?) synchronized.

Jesus treated the woman with dignitySociety was patriarch.  Shameful for a woman to touch a man in public like that.  If women weren’t second class, they were at least of secondary importance.  But Jesus cared about that unknown woman as much as he did the male synagogue ruler.  Jesus dignified women as God’s image-bearers.  No need to make God female or the Bible’s pronouns genderless to elevate women!

Power went out from Jesus.  This doesn’t lead to fear relic-worship!  If Jesus’ clothes had just been preserved . . . No, power went out from him.  That means power to heal was in him. 

Jesus raised the dead By “sleeping” (5:39) Jesus probably meant her death was temporary.  He didn’t come to wake her up, but to raise her up!  Death, of course,  marks the end of hope.  Jairus needed Jesus before his daughter died.  But Jesus’ power ruled over death.  And still does today.

Jesus told them to feed the raised-up girl (5:43b)Was this a funny line for Jesus’ to make a suave exit?  He probably said it with a smile, but only because he cared about this girl’s hunger (and her parents were stunned still).

Jesus encouraged and defined faith.  That is, by his presence, his previous miracles, and his word, Jesus caused people to believe in him.  Certainly that was true of the woman.  And to Jairus, Jesus spoke faith-encouraging words.  “Do not fear; only believe” (5:36).   How did Jesus define faith?  At least here, he implicitly defined it as trusting him.  So called “faith-preachers” complicate faith, make it a code only they–and their true adherents–can know.  But faith was no secret code for the woman.  She simply trusted that touching Jesus would make her well.  And when Jesus urged Jairus, ” . . . only believe”, he simply meant “trust me.”

* * * * *

Perhaps that’s what Jesus encourages us all to do through this portion of the Gospel.  Trust him.  He has power over all diseases and even death itself.  When his timing seems “off”, he’s still got the power.  And he cares about the world’s “little” people (the woman) and about a little girl’s simple hunger whose name we’re not even told.







Confront or Cave?

O PreacherYesterday the Supreme Court gave approval to those who practice what God declares ought not to be done.

“For this reason (because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie)
gave them up to dishonorable passions.
For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature,
and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women
and were consumed with passion for one another,
men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves
the due penalty for their error . . .
Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die,
they not only do them
but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:24,26,27,32).

By a vote of 5-4 the justices gave legal approval to those who practice what God says ought not to be done.

Of course, the Bible has no standing with the Court.  How could it in a nation that separates Church (i.e.  God) and State?  But why doesn’t at least historical, religious doctrine have standing?  Why didn’t the justices (without condoning any particular one) at least consider what religion has to offer on the matter?  Why must the Court be atheistic in its deliberations?  Why must it act as if man’s historical view of God would be partisan?  (As if the Court now is purely objective!)

A sizable percentage of Americans think the decision more political than legal.  For example, in his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not a legal judgment.”

The majority of the Court disagrees.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, the “swing vote” of the five, argued, “ . . . the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex cannot be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

Really?  Do the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses provide “a fundamental right to marry”?  They say nothing about marriage, let alone same-sex marriage.  (With that in mind, why does the government have anything to do with marriage of any kind?)

We know where this is headed, right?  Those who believe in one-man-one-woman marriage will be (as we have already been) considered bigots.  More photographers, florists, bakers and others associated with weddings will be legally compelled to provide services for same-sex weddings—or penalized if they don’t.  It will be interesting to see if any bills in Congress protecting such penalties will gain traction.  If they do, it’ll be a stunning reversal of current practice and one that will make the same-sex marriage law virtually unenforceable.  Justice Samuel Alito stated bluntly that the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

Justice Antonin Scalia offered this rebuke to the Court majority.  “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative–indeed super-legislative-–power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government . . . A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”  Ah, but we still proudly calls ourselves one!

Furthermore, by virtue of Justice Kennedy’s reasoning (together with Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan) the door is opened to other “marriages.”  Just today, Politico incredibly wrote, ” . . . the next step seems clear.  We should turn our efforts toward the legal recognition of marriages between more than two partners.  It’s time to legalize polygamy.”  You can read the whole article here:  It’s inevitable.

The question before us Christians is:  will we confront or cave?  In the heat of this moment, we swear we’ll never cave.  But over time, as same-sex marriage becomes the new normal, and as polygamy and more extreme marriage “arrangements” are argued, it may become easier and easier to accept “gay” marriage.  If we do, we’ll join those who give approval to what God says ought not to be done.

Here we face a fundamental question:  Do we really believe the Bible is the true Word of the living God for all mankind or is it just “our” religious book?  I’m afraid there are some who say, “The Muslims have the Koran; Christians have the Bible.  To each his own.”  If we believe the Bible is God’s revelation for all mankind, we must not cave.

So how should we confront?  By refusing to participate in a same-sex wedding.  (I say that as a matter of personal conscience, not as a “Christian law”.)  By praying that this Court decision might be reversed in the future.  By working, with God’s grace, to make our biblical marriages healthy, strong and truly Christ-centered.  (It would be the height of hypocrisy for us to condemn a loving, happy same-sex marriage, while our “biblical” one is marked by selfishness and hostility!)  By loving same-sex couples and praying that any we know might come to see the truth.  (They aren’t our enemies—even if they were, we’re commanded to love them according to Matthew 5:44!)  It’s not our place to sit in judgment over them.  Finally (though this list isn’t exhaustive), by giving ourselves in serious, wholehearted devotion to Christ.  With the culture morally decaying all around us (racism, violence, sex, “gay marriage”, etc.), halfhearted “Christians” will fall away.  ” . . . when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark 4:17).

As I sit here at my desk, being branded a bigot or persecuted for my marriage beliefs seem far-removed.  But they’re not—not from any of us.  “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

So here’s the question:  Will we cave (give in to get along) or confront (speak and live the truth of Christ in the love of Christ)?  We are a shrinking minority.  But remember:  we follow the One who is Lord over all!  And he wins in the end!

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