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Matthew 9:18-38

From Desperation to Salvation

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We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel. We have extra copies. If you didn’t bring one with you and you’d like one to follow along, just raise your hand up real high. We have folks that’ll distribute those around. I think I see a couple in the back over here and a couple over here on this side as well. Thank you so much to those of you who are doing that.

We’re studying the Gospel According to Matthew, first book of the New Testament, and we’re calling our study of Matthew “The King and His Kingdom,” and our study today will be of Matthew 9:18-38, which we’re going to call this: “From Desperation to Salvation.” Those are two words to me that are just pregnant with meaning. Can you think of a time in your life when you were desperate in some way? And maybe I should be saying, “Think of the time when you were most desperate in your life for either escape or resolution, something to be fixed, something to be provided, something to be avoided.”

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those kinds of moments. We will read today about several folks that have been and are experiencing a bit of desperation. Let me pray before we do: Lord, as we study Your Word today, we ask You to move among us, to speak to us, to give us a clear vision of Your truth, a greater faith in Your power, more confident assurance of Your love for us. Along with that great poet of the church, George Herbert, we pray, “Oh, make Your Word a swift Word, passing from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip in conversation, that as the rain returns not empty, so neither may Your Word, but accomplish that for which it is given.” In Jesus’ name, amen.

So, let’s remind ourselves of the context. Matthew 9 is where we are. We’ll look at verses 18-38, as I said. The context is that Jesus is likely still at Matthew’s house. We know this from the other synoptic Gospels, Mark and Luke. Who was there? Jesus, His disciples, a bunch of tax collectors, a bunch of a general category of people called sinners. When I read that, I think, “Oh, people like me were there, people like The Village Chapel were there eating dinner with Jesus.” And He, more importantly, eating dinner with us. Jesus was there, His disciples, John the Baptist’s disciples were there.

They asked some questions. “Well, why don’t Your disciples fast? Our disciples, we fast. Why don’t they?” And then there were some really disgruntled church curmudgeon types called the Pharisees, and I want you to hear ominous music when we say that, Sadducees or the Pharisees, because they’re the ne’er-do-wells that are out to get Jesus. Eventually, their minds will become set on murder, but Jesus has just finished teaching about how no one should put a new patch on an old garment because when they wash it, the new patch will shrink, and it will rip the old garment. He says, “Don’t put new wine in old wineskins because the old wineskins aren’t going to be able to handle it when the new wine begins to ferment as time goes on.” He’s basically saying it’s not that He’s come to simply abolish the law, but to fulfill it and to offer us a new covenant, a new wine.

So right after that is where we pick up, and I want to note the connection as Matthew gives it to us, “While He was saying these things to them.” There is the bridge, Verse 18, “Behold, there came a synagogue official and bowed down before Him.” Now, that should be kind of shocking in a way. Why would a synagogue official bow down in front of Jesus? Because heretofore, all the religious leaders have been working against Jesus. Here comes one that’s bowing down to Jesus. We’ll see why. His name is Jairus or Jairus, and Mark and Luke are the Gospel accounts that tell us that. But he bows down. The Greek work there is “proskuneo,” which means “he worshiped,” and you’ll find that word, actually, in some of your English Bibles. Some of the other English Bibles will simply say he bowed down, but the idea is he’s showing great respect, and one could argue that he’s worshiping Jesus. He’s paying Him the kind of respect you would pay somebody if you were about to ask them the kind of thing He’s about to ask Jesus. Another thing to point out here is the way that Jesus doesn’t say, “Get up. Don’t bow before Me,” like a lot of other people do in the New Testament, including angels in the Old Testament and the New Testament, including the apostles and disciples in the New Testament. They all say, “Don’t bow down before me.” Jesus receives the worship of others. Why is that? What is it about Him that’s different? I’ll leave that for you to wrestle with and think about. 

“My daughter has just died,” Jairus says. In Mark and Luke, it says, “My daughter is dying,” and then as he’s interacting with Jesus, along come others from his house saying, “She’s passed away. She’s gone now.” But here, Matthew, in his accountant-like delivery and summary cuts to the chase. This man says, “My daughter has just died, but come, lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” That’s interesting too because when someone has died, the last thing people normally think is you come lay your hand on her and she will live. No, they understood what dead meant back then. We don’t look down our nose at 2,000 years of history and think, “Oh, how quaint, the ancients. They didn’t know what dead was. She had just swooned and passed out.” No, they knew death better than we know death. We’re far removed from death, for the most part, in the West. We have professionals that take care of that. These people took care of it in their house, with their families. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right. I’m just simply saying you can’t arrogantly look down your nose at these folks, thinking they don’t know death. They knew death better than we know death, and this man, this religious leader, this man who was a manager of either operations or ministries at the synagogue, says, “Jesus, my daughter’s dead. Please come lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” Here’s a desperate father. 

“Jesus rose and began to follow him,” which is interesting because heretofore, Jesus is telling others to follow Him. Now, Jesus is following Jairus. “And so did His disciples,” and that’s what the disciples of Jesus do. They do what Jesus does, and so they also are going to begin to follow Him. Verse 20 is almost like a change of narrative, of focus on the narrative for sure. “Behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for 12 years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, for she was saying to herself, ‘If only I’d touch His garment, I shall get well.'” Jews of that day would have four little tassels on the bottom of their robes, and these tassels were a physical reminder to them of the fact that they belonged to Yahweh, the God of the Bible, and secondly, that they were to obey God’s Word, God’s laws. So, there is a God who speaks, that was part of their worldview. There’s a God who speaks and has spoken and has given moral law, and on top of that, there’s a moral obligation to obey that moral law of God.

In our day and time, I don’t know how you can make the argument for moral obligation if there’s no such thing as God. How can you even suggest that one thing is right, and one thing is wrong if there’s no God? But that God exists is certainly assumed by the Bible. It doesn’t really seek to prove the existence of God. It just assumes it and declares it. I take great comfort in that myself. Here, this Jesus Himself is wearing a garment with tassels. He’s respectful of the Old Testament law. He’s not dismissive of it. He’s not saying, “Here is a revolutionary. Burn all the robes. Burn all the scrolls.” No, He’s not doing that. He’s very respectful, but the part where people have gone too far and gotten it too wrong, He came to correct that and then to fulfill that law for us.

This woman thinks that if she can just touch the fringe, the cloak of His garment, she can be made well from this 12-year, chronic illness that makes her unclean in a religious sense and a civil and social sense and it’s horrible for her personally. Jesus, verse 22, “Turning and seeing her, said, ‘Daughter.'” It’s the only time He uses this word in the entire New Testament. Interesting, because Jairus has just come saying, “Come raise my daughter from the dead,” and Jesus began to follow him. Now, this woman has intruded, interrupted, and He was coming with me. I’m Jairus. He’s coming with me to raise my daughter from the dead, I hope. But now, He’s stopping, calling somebody else daughter, the only time He ever uses that word that we have recorded in the Gospels. “Daughter, take courage. Your faith has made you well,” He says to this woman, “and at once, the woman was made well.

“When Jesus came into the official’s house,” imagine the camera moves back to Jairus and his family, “Jesus came into the official’s house and saw the flute players.” That’s interesting. He mentions the flute players. “So, when Jesus came into the house, He saw the flute players and the crowd in noisy disorder. He began to say, ‘Depart, for the girl is not dead, but is asleep,’ and they were laughing at Him.” Now, this just shows you there’s trouble with these flute players. This 12-year-old daughter has died, and, even if you were poor, you had to have at least two flute players and one professional singer who would come in and mourn and wail. They are very effusive in their mourning and their wailing when someone has passed. They don’t mind, they don’t hide their emotions like a lot of us do, and they’re already there. The professional mourners, they got a 10, a two, and a six today. They knew dead. They went there. They’re professional at mourning and grieving, and they’re already expressing what the whole family is feeling; the loss of this 12-year-old.

But Jesus says, “She’s not dead. She’s asleep,” and then they begin to laugh at Him as if He had said something awkward at a funeral, and we’ve all been there. We’ve all probably done that before, not knowing what to say. They laugh at Him. “And when the crowd had been put out.” Evidently, Jesus had Jairus, “If you want Me to come in and lay My hands on your daughter and pray for her, these guys need to go. The flute players, out with them, and the noisy disorder,” and so they go. “And then Jesus entered and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.” That’s an interesting word there too. He says words in Aramaic to her that mean, “Little girl, arise.” It’s resurrection language, isn’t it? That’s what it is, and He’s the one that can do that. He’s already raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead. This is the second person He raises from the dead. Lazarus is in the future here, you know, in His near future, and of course, Jesus Himself will rise from the dead. But I love to see that in this particular moment, this desperate father, this desperate woman, this desperate daughter who is gone already, and when Jesus comes in, everything is different.

Verse 26 shows the impact of this girl having been resuscitated. “This news went out into all the land.” Matthew does this. He summarizes from time to time. He’ll do it again at the end of this chapter to say, “You cannot keep it quiet. It’s bubbling, bubbling, bubbling day and night.” Those of us who were in Sunday School know it, right? You can’t keep this quiet. Why? Because Jairus is a synagogue official, well-known throughout Capernaum. Everybody knew his name. He probably knew all of their names, and imagine trying to keep this quiet when there were musicians there. The house was already full, a lot of people saying, “Yes, she’s dead. Oh, this is horrible. This is terrible.” Mourning the loss, grieving, wailing, playing music. All the songs that they play at funerals and at wakes back in that day already started. She’s dead, she’s gone. But now she’s alive and playing in the front yard! In the other two Gospels, Jesus says, “And give her something to eat.” I love that. And so, He raises her from the dead. “Feed her.” Give her a sandwich, burger and fries. Why? Because living people eat. So people ran down to the local Wendy’s to grab a burger or whatever and bring it back. You can’t keep it quiet. It’s gone everywhere. 

Verse 26 says. “Jesus then passes on from there. Two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David.'” This is the first time Jesus is called Son of David in Matthew’s Gospel. Don’t miss it. It’s an important title, especially to Jews, and we believe Matthew is writing with the Jewish audience in mind, and so to call Jesus Son of David is the same thing as to recognize Him as Messiah, God’s Messiah, come. These two blind men, they’re seeing what the religious leaders, who actually could physically see, cannot see spiritually. These two blind guys see something spiritually, though they can’t see anything physically. They know it’s Jesus, somehow, from what the crowds are saying, and they cry out to Him, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 

“After He had come into the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ And they said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord,’ and then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘Be it done to you according to your faith,'” and you need not think that means the amount of your faith. “Since you have faith, be it done to you, and since your faith is in Me, be it done to you.” It’s not about amount. It’s about object, and I think we get that wrong in the West because we’re looking for a God that we can control the puppet strings of, and where God will do our bidding. It’s almost like a magic genie lamp kind of an approach to praying. Name it, claim it, frame it, you know, and that kind of theology smells like smoke, and it’s from the pit of hell. Why? How do I know that? Because I’ve seen it ruin the faith of many, many people.

God is sovereign. I’ll kneel right beside Jesus and say, “Father, not my will, but Thine be done,” every time, recognizing the sovereignty of God as I make my requests, even very specific requests. Lord, I’d love it if You’d do it this way, but not my will, but Thine be done. Not my will, but Thine be done is not a prayer that lacks faith. It’s a prayer of great faith in the right object of faith. Jesus knew that too, and He’ll pray that kind of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus says to these blind men, “‘Be it done to you according to your faith.’ Their eyes were opened. Jesus sternly warned them, ‘See here,'” and that’s interesting, “‘Let no one know about this,’ but they went out and spread the news about Him in all the land.” I continue to go back to this, it’s ironic that He tells a whole lot of people in the Gospel records after He heals them or after they encounter Him, “Now, don’t tell anybody,” and they go and tell everybody. 

He tells us in our day and time to tell everybody, and sadly, a lot of us don’t tell anybody. That’s ironic too and sad and tragic. Why? Because the world is eager. The world is ready. The world is ready for good news. The world is dying, desperately dying for the word of salvation or wholeness that can come through Christ. “So, they went throughout the land and told everybody.” Verse 32, “And as they were going out, behold, a dumb man,” and this isn’t intellectually dumb. This is a man who cannot speak, okay, “demon-possessed.” Evidently, this demon that has possessed him has shut down his ability to communicate. “This person was brought to Him, and after the demon was cast out,” and Matthew, it’s just so interesting to watch him just kind of roll right over that incident. I’m like, “This is Jesus, and He just cast the demon out of a guy.” He’s done it before. Now, with all the miracles of Jesus, we’re seeing Him show His power and authority over things like disease and demons and disasters like the storm, and even death itself, like with Jairus’ daughter here. 

Well, anyway, here’s another one of those where He casts out a demon, and Matthew just rolls right through it, “and the multitudes marveled,” as they should, “saying, ‘Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.'” They’re just in awe and filled with wonder, and it’s inspiring them in so many ways. “And the Pharisees,” these are the religious leaders, “they were saying, ‘He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons,'” by Beelzebub, it says elsewhere. This is just their willful unbelief. It’s not doubt. I think I know what doubt is, my last name’s Thomas. I think that doubt, if it’s honest doubt, is actually a sign you might be thinking and praying. That’s a good thing, you know, so if you’ve got questions, good. We’re talking about an infinite God. You should have some questions. I have some questions. But this is willful unbelief. “He casts out demons by the power,” or the ruler, “of the demons, Beelzebub himself.” They’re showing their true colors. They are resistant to faith, and it’s such a contrast here because we’ve seen a religious synagogue leader, we’ve seen a woman with chronic illness, we’ve seen a house full of people, musicians that were laughing and mocking Jesus. There’s a great contrast going on throughout this entire thing between those who have faith and are trusting in the right object of their faith and those who are resisting or mocking faith. 

Verse 35 through 38 is kind of a summary, but it shows us the heart of Jesus. Would you look at it with me? “Jesus was going about all the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” There are five things here: one, teaching in their synagogues; proclaiming, two, the Gospel of the kingdom, that’s the content of His teaching; and three, healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. So this is what Jesus can do. He teaches. He proclaims or preaches the Gospel. He heals. His words and His deeds go together. We get to peek into His heart in verse 36. “Seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and downcast,” and see, that’s why they were desperate. They were distressed and downcast, and it led to a desperation on all of their parts, just like the desperation you and I have felt in some point in our lives. “But these,” this is sort of Matthew’s summary statement, that the multitudes were distressed and downcast. Why? Because they were like sheep without a shepherd in Jesus’ view. 

Jesus looked at the world, as crazy as it was, and perhaps as it is, and sees us distressed, downcast, like sheep without a shepherd, and He comes. Didn’t have to, didn’t owe it to us. We didn’t have a claim on Him. We didn’t have God’s Son owing us the favor. No, He chooses to come because we’re like sheep without a shepherd. Maybe you feel like that yourself today. They don’t know who I belong to. I’m vulnerable. I’m weak. It’s chaos. I’m afraid. Whatever it is, sheep without a shepherd is the way He summarizes it. “And then Jesus says to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful.'” In other words, it’s ripe. The harvest is ripe, “‘but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'” That’s His harvest. It’s out there. It’s ripe. It’s ready. People are ready to hear the Good News, ready for the Gospel.

Why are we so mute, so dumb spiritually? Silent, incapable, or unwilling to speak. Good questions, and a very challenging passage for me as I was going through the week and just thinking about this, and all the desperation. Here we have in this entire story, we’ve got this desperate father, desperate woman, doubting musicians, dead daughter, two blind men that lived in darkness, a demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak. I mean, that’s a lot of need there, a lot of desperation. I found an article, that I heard referenced a couple of weeks ago when we were in the Langham Partnership weekend out on the West Coast. It tells the amazing story of a small plane attempting an emergency landing on the USS Midway. It’s like 47 years ago. I want to read part of this article for you. It’s by Marcella Lee, and she wrote it around Memorial Day, talking about Vernon Jumper, that’s his real name. I think he’s like 90. His wife is 95. They live out on the West Coast, and he’s actually a volunteer on the USS Midway out there on the West Coast. He was there on the day that that little fixed-wing, it’s actually a stolen airplane, by the way, attempted to land. 

“It was April 29th, 1975, the intense rescue operation began, and lasted through the night as a steady stream of helicopters filled with evacuees hovered above the aircraft carrier, waiting to land. It was the final phase of the evacuation of the American forces and citizens and the at-risk Southern Vietnamese citizens and military, and as the Air Boss of the USS Midway, Vernon Jumper, who is in charge of all the flight operations on the ship, said this, quote, ‘The chaos the complications involved were just tremendous,’ the retired Navy commander recalled. ‘I was so frightened that one of these helicopters was so low on fuel, they might flame out and crash onto the flight deck.'” Of course, that would ruin the whole rest of the evacuation. This person that wrote the article interviewed Jumper from the very same tower on the Midway, which is parked right there in San Diego, where he called the shots like 47 years ago. “He said, ‘When I looked out, the flight deck was covered in people and helicopters. Of course, at one time, helicopters came up, and they were hovering alongside the ship. They had less than five minutes of fuel remaining,’ and he was almost eye-to-eye with the pilots from his perch. At one point during the operation, he counted more than 20 South Vietnamese military aircraft circling above the USS Midway. The video from that operation shows some pilots hovered just long enough to unload passengers, their helicopter, and then they go to the side of the ship, where they jumped out wearing the life vest, careful to clear the rotors as their helicopters crashed into the South China Sea.” They ditched their helicopters. “All of a sudden,” Jumper says, “I saw this 0-1 Bird Dog.” It’s a fixed-wing aircraft. “And it is passing over the carrier Midway.” Jumper said, “The pilot dropped a note on the flight deck, but the wind blew it back off the deck. He did it a few more times, and the notes kept blowing over the side of the ship. Finally, the pilot circled again and dropped another note, this time in the leather gun holster to keep it weighted down, and the message, they got it, it read like this: ‘Can you move any of those helicopters to one side so I can land on your runway? I have one hour of fuel left. Please rescue me, Major Buang, wife and five children.'” Jumper says, “I immediately ran this note to Captain Larry Chambers, our commanding officer at the time. Chambers gave the go-ahead to clear the runway, and because there was no room on the deck, the crew began to push more than $10 million,” and that’s in 1975 dollars, “$10 million worth of helicopters over the side of the aircraft carrier to allow Major Buang to land his plane with his family. And he had never seen an aircraft carrier, he told them later, and of course, had never landed on one, but it was his only chance at survival.” Jumper says, “He made a beautiful carrier landing without a tail hook,” and Jumper had the flight deck crew lined up to grab him before he went over the end. They’re grabbing this tiny little plane, and he came to a stop just a few feet short of the edge of the aircraft carrier. “The crew surrounded the family of seven. As they exited the tiny plane, they cheered,” and he says, “They were all so proud to be part of an event that saved this family’s life.” 

That’s just a powerful story of a very desperate situation, and it’s the kind of desperation I’ll bet Jairus felt for his daughter, just in a different way with a different number of people involved. “What do I do?” Desperate father. And this woman, for 12 years running, “What could I possibly do? Where can I turn for help?” And these two blind, “Where do we go? We can’t see.” And this demon-possessed guy and all of his friends around him, “We’re friends of this, we love this guy, and yet, he can’t speak, but what do we do?” Desperation everywhere, pretty amazing. I have a picture of what I think is actually where Jairus worked here. I want to throw it up on the screen for you. This is the synagogue in Capernaum. This is the ruins of it. The foundation that we can actually walk on and stand on is dated to the fourth century AD, but below it, there’s another layer of foundation that’s dated to the first century, and Capernaum’s just not a big town. It’s not one of those towns where there’s like five synagogues in it. This is likely the place where Jesus met a guy named Jairus or where a guy named Jairus heard Jesus preach, where a guy named Jairus saw Jesus perform miracles to people with withered hands in his synagogue. Maybe after hearing all that about Jesus, he thought, “That’s who I need to go talk to when it comes to my daughter.” A man who left to go talk to Jesus as she was dying, and then later, some of his friends come and tell him, “She’s gone. Why bother the Teacher anymore?” 

Listen, the miracles of Jesus do at least four things. They reveal His compassion. He actually cares about these people. I bet when Jesus opened the eyes of the blind guys, and maybe they’re seeing for the first time, right, and they see His face, can you see Jesus’ face light up? You know, it’s like can you just see Him be excited to be the first face they’ve seen in a long time or possibly the first face they’ve ever seen? And then those guys begin an incessant string of questions. “What’s that? What’s that? What’s that?” “Oh, that’s a bird.” “What’s that?” “That’s a building.” “What’s that?” “That’s a woman.” And Jesus is just as excited Himself to see what happens and how people respond. So, He loved these people. These miracles display His authority and power over disease, over demons, over disasters, and over death itself. 

They affirm His identity as the Son of God. If He really is and was the Son of God when He walked the planet, you would think He could do some of these kinds of things. If He is the one that created everything out of nothing, if He’s one with God, the Son of God, as John the Apostle would call Him. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So if Jesus is actually there in the beginning of the creation event, when gravity itself was created, you would think Jesus could control gravity Himself and do things like walk on water, if He can create everything out of nothing, and as I’ve said so many times, Genesis 1:1, if you believe that God created everything out of nothing, then walking on water is a piece of cake. It’s really nothing for Him to be able to do that. They would affirm His identity, these miracles. They would inspire faith, gratitude, and worship. In other words, this isn’t just a religious sideshow. It’s not just a bunch of sensationalism, and it seems, at this point anyway, He’s not really trying to make a huge groundswell following. He’s not got some kind of ego that He’s trying to do that. 

He’s kind of pacing it. He’s tamping down. “Don’t tell anybody,” He says, “just yet” and He seems to be controlling the pace of what’s happening so that He can get to more people, and there are probably other reasons as well. C.S. Lewis said, “The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see,” and that would be the musicians who laughed at Jesus, too large for them to see. That would be the Pharisees at the end of the chapter here that say, “Oh, He’s doing that by the power of Satan.” Letters too large for them to see. They are unwilling to see it; therefore they cannot see it. 

So just a couple things from this passage, three things. I think these four miracles that we see here, and you could count them differently and say, “Well, there was two blind men, so that makes five miracles,” or you could talk about the miracle that He worked in the synagogue official’s heart as well. There are so many different ways to count these miracles, but let’s just say there’s four. They describe desperate people, and desperate in a lot of different directions at once, in ways that seemed to them at the time impossible. In our family, we like to create little words, and so one person in our family has created the word “irrefixable.” “That’s irrefixable. Yeah, I don’t know about that. That thing looks irrefixable,” and that’s where some of these people are, these two blind men, irrefixable. Demon-possessed guy, can’t speak, irrefixable. Until Jesus comes along. He turns our desperation into salvation. “Human beings do not readily admit desperation,” Philip Yancey says. “When they do, though, the kingdom of heaven draws near.” Is that you? Are you in a place of any kind of desperation today? That makes you His cup of tea, you know that? “The kingdom of heaven draws near.” Psalm 34 says it this way, “The Lord draws near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” I read these accounts here in this chapter, and I kept seeing broken hearts. I kept seeing crushed spirits, and they were just His cup of tea If you are in that category, you are His cup of tea as well. The second thing I see here, is that these miracles describe people with imperfect faith. I would ask you to raise your hand if you have an imperfect faith, but we’d all need to raise our hands. I have an imperfect faith too. There’s so much more to learn. 

There’s so much more to experience what it means to be in a relationship with God. As Packer would say, if you ask him the definition of a Christian, “It’s one who has God as their Father.” So, it is to know what that means, to experience that on an ongoing basis. My biological father died when I was one. I didn’t know father. I don’t know what that means. But I’m thrilled with Who my Heavenly Father is, and He’s been so good and so faithful. He even receives my imperfect faith. When I pray imperfectly, when I, like Jairus, the synagogue official, finally run out of the resources of religion. He represents that. He runs to Jesus, the guy without the seminary degree, the guy without the formal training, but the guy who nonetheless seems to be who He claims to be. I run to Him as well when I read a story like this. When I think about this woman and her faith that’s kind of a mixture of superstition—”I’ve got to touch the tassels of His coat. If I just touch them, it’ll be like magic. It’ll work like magic.” She has faith mixed with superstition, and yet Jesus heals her, allows her to be healed in that moment. I love what Packer says. “God fixes our prayers on the way up. If He does not answer the prayer we made, He will answer the prayer we should have made. This is all anyone needs to know.” Period. And I love it when a guy like Packer just says, “This is all you need to know.” Hangs up. It’s just perfect. Yeah, He fixes my prayers and has done it so many times over and over, and I’m so grateful, and I’m grateful for that for you as well.

Thirdly, these four miracles also have this in common: they remind us that Christ is the answer to all our fears in life, and even our fear of death, whether that’s our own death or the death of someone we love. Somebody that we don’t even know is sick right now, or maybe it’s somebody we do know is sick, but last time I checked, this world is batting about one hundred percent until the Lord returns and sets things right. Death is coming to all of us at some point in time. You’re thinking, “Man, I’m so glad I came to church.” Now, while I tell you the reality of that situation, what I’m really excited to tell you is point number three. Christ is our answer in life and in death. He’s our hope for ourselves, but He’s also our hope for those we love, for those we pray for, for those we present to Him over and over again.

The solution to our desperation is not merely faith in faith, as some people might say in our day and time. “Just believe,” as if just believing in a kind of Disney approach to drumming up some faith on your own, as if that’s going to do it. That’s not going to do it. I’ve tried the believe in yourself approach to life, and I just keep finding out I’m a loser. I just keep finding out I fail myself. I just keep finding that I’m not trustworthy because I know what’s right, but I keep doing some things that are wrong. Quite naturally, I might add, so I need outside help, and if you need outside help, good news: outside help has arrived. His name is Jesus, and we point you to Him every single week, every chance we can. You may be here today dealing with a lot of different desperations, or you may just have a little bit of desperation, or you might be just about to go through some. 

These miracles remind us of the deep and tender compassion of Jesus Christ, but they also display the comprehensive authority and power. In other words, you can hope in Him not just for comfort, but He’s actually powerful enough to make the difference ultimately. If He doesn’t change the circumstances, or if He allows some suffering to happen, here’s what we can trust: At the end of all time, He’s in charge, and He will have the last, final word, and He intends to set things right. He’s made it very clear He intends to set things right. Everything that’s broken about this world, about you, about me and those we love, He’s going to set that right. He intends to, and He also can do it. How do I know that? The resurrection of Jesus. He’s defeated our last and greatest enemy. We can trust Him. Jack Miller has been a spiritual father to a lot of pastors who have been mentors and heroes of mine. Jack Miller used to say,

“Cheer up; you’re a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.”

Jack Miller

Don’t you love that? That is just great.

You’re going to hear: “There’s nothing wrong with you. You do you.” You’re going to hear: “No, you’re a worse sinner than you’ve ever thought.” You can’t even imagine how bad you are. You don’t even know. Why? Because your ego is always working to edge God out, E-G-O, and it’s always telling you that you’re bright enough, and you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people love you. Or if they don’t, there’s something wrong with them. The Bible is much more honest. I love the Bible. We hold it up like we would hold up a mirror to see ourselves, and it’s not a carnival mirror. It tells us the true reality of our situation. We need a Savior, and folks, here He is. Here he is! What a beautiful Savior He is. Dale Ralph Davis, one of my favorite Bible commentators and pastor teaches, “Desperation is never in trouble when it rests on omnipotence,” and Jesus is indeed omnipotence. He’s the Son of God. You need look no further. He really is the one. 

So, the chapter closes, verses 35 to 38 offering great insight into what motivates the heart of Jesus: His compassion, telling His disciples that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. In other words, He chooses. He’s infinite. He is God. Yes, He could wave His hand and just clear out all the hospitals and just automatically treat us all like robots and just automatically save everybody. He could do it, that’s true. He has the power to do that. Everything belongs to Him, that’s true, but He’s chosen to give us the dignity of participation and joining Him in His mission in this world. The question is will you? Or, like the mocking musicians, are you just going to laugh at Him, or like the Pharisees, religious, self-righteous religious leaders, are you going to try and blame it all on something else or try to marginalize Him and shut Him down in some way? People are longing for a Savior who shows compassion and has the power to turn their desperation into salvation. Let’s seek the Lord as to how we might join Him in His mission in the world. Let’s continue to do that. 

I love our church for its attention and commitment to prayer, to worship, to singing, to Bible teaching— all that. But I also love what we do with missions, that we see missions as really important here at The Village Chapel. Whether we’re talking about sending somebody or some of you going or some of us going, we’re involved and engaged in the mission of God in this world, locally, nationally and internationally. I love that about our church. I was telling Chris Parker this morning,”You know, even as I get to thinking about my vacation and stuff like that, I keep thinking to myself, ‘Man, I’m going to miss being here. This is the church I’d go to if I didn’t work here! I love this place! I love what God is doing here.'” I had the pleasure to meet Christopher Wright at the Langham Partnership event, and he’s written a great book called “The Mission of God” a bunch of us have copies of and have read most of. “It is not so much the case that God has mission for His church in the world, but that God has a church for His mission in the world.” I love this. “Mission was not made for the church. The church was made for mission, God’s mission.”

If you get that wrong, what you think is, “I’m going to go to church and receive, and I’ll always just be a receiver. I just, you know, hope the pastor tells one joke or two, keeps me awake. Let’s hope the music is good and doesn’t sound like a funeral dirge. Let’s hope that when they pray, they listen to my prayers and make sure my stuff is covered, and let’s make sure somebody says hi to me. If I walk in, and nobody says hi to me, I’m not coming back.” Or you might think, “If the pastor isn’t wearing a tie, I’m not going to come back.” There are so many reasons. “If they talk about money.” There’s so many reasons, and you walk in with the things that motivate you when you come through that door. How about coming through the door, all of us, myself included, with a view toward God’s mission in this world, and honoring Him as we come together, and as we lift our voices and as we sing to Him to praise His name? That’s the kind of thing we were designed for, and I hope you’ll join with us in all of that. 

I know some people say, “Oh, I don’t need to speak. I don’t need to say anything. I just live my life and let my life speak,” and I’m thinking to myself, “I used to think that way,” but one day, it dawned on me that I’m just not that righteous. Are you that holy that you cannot speak and you just let your life do it? Do you really think you’re that holy? Because you’re not. That’s the bad news. None of us are. We really want to join God in His mission in the world. Let’s take courage and remain confident in the love of God in Christ, so much so that it overflows, spills out of our hearts and minds with a great joy even in the midst of chaos. Let’s overflow with a great joy even in the midst of desperation all around, even personal desperation, that somehow or another, there is still this joyful confidence in who God is. Even if we’re weeping, even if we’re grieving on the other side of it, we know He will hold us fast. He has got the final word. Christ is our hope in life and death, amen?– Amen.

Let’s pray: Lord, take the good seed of this Word here, and I pray that You would cause it to take root and bear fruit in our lives today, as we have opened our hearts and our minds, and as You have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken to us through the study of Your Word. I pray, Lord, that our hearts, my heart, is fertile soil, and that You would plant this Word deep in me, that it would change some of us that have been Christians for way too long and haven’t seen much transformation. Lord, change and transform us, and send us back out into the world to tell this beautiful story about our beautiful, adorable Redeemer, Jesus, in whose name we pray, amen and amen.

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