Followers of Jesus are Comforted in Death

Pastor Ken Gast

Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43 (NIV) 21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him. 35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” 36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” 37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

I had planned a surprise for my wife’s 50th birthday. I would take the whole family to a nice place where her parents could also join us. We had dinner with friends near the airport in Milwaukee and stayed in a hotel near the airport. That night before bed she said one thing she wanted for her birthday was to sleep in (she worked early in the morning as a nurse at the time.) Those were the days before cell phones with alarms on them so I left a wake-call at the desk because the plane was leaving quite early. I was already in the bathroom shaving when my wife answered the phone to hear, “This is your 4:30 wake up call.” In bewilderment my wife asked why in all the world I had left a wake-up call that early. The surprise was broken. The negative in my planned surprise was that the whole family could joyfully look forward to being together in a nice locale. But the birthday girl couldn’t look forward to it. Not so with the wake-up call Mark talked about in the Gospel message a bit ago. In fact, the Holy Spirit caused Mark to write that account as he also inspired other accounts to give followers of Jesus comfort in death, our theme for today. (Read some verses) So let’s go to this word of our Lord and this comforting truth, FOLLOWERS OF JESUS LOOK FORWARD TO HIS WAKE-UP CALL. I. Followers of Jesus fall at his feet in faith in the face of death. II. Followers of Jesus know they will be wakened to life forever.

Last week we left Jesus and his disciples on a calmed Sea of Galilee heading toward the western coast. After they arrived there Jesus healed a man possessed by evil spirits. Then they boarded their fishing boats again and headed back to the other side, probably landing near Jesus’ home town at this time, Capernaum. Large crowds again gathered around the great Teacher and Healer near the sea. A man by the name of Jairus approached Jesus. He was a synagogue ruler. Perhaps his position was something like the president of the church council in our day. He was highly regarded and in a position of some authority. So it was a very meaningful thing when he fell at Jesus’ feet. This was a sign of humble respect and reliance on Jesus, not on what he had the right to demand or expect. It also showed submissiveness to however Jesus would respond to his request. It was all about Jesus and not him.

With this demeanor of humble trust he pleaded with Jesus, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” His little girl, dying. We know how that hurts and devastates so our heart goes out to this man. He was facing death, the last of life for one he dearly loved. And it never seems the right order to have one of our children die before we do. But he knew where to go as he stared death in the face. He went to the one who could prevent that death, heal, and keep alive. Well, if our hearts go out to him even though we don’t know him and lived long ago and far away, how much more the heart of Jesus who had come into this world to conquer death and bring life to lost sinners. So we are simply told, “So Jesus went with him.”

Fill in the blank in this well-known statement: “There is nothing as certain as _________ and taxes.” Well, I suppose taxes could possibly disappear, but not likely. But there is no question about the certainty of death, ours and loved ones. And it knows no age. This 12 year old was dying. Sure, we may think about it a bit more when we age as I do I must admit. Or we may think about it more if we have a chronic illness or are told the cancer is spread all over. But it can also be faced suddenly and at any age as in the sad violence of school shootings and drive by killings. The paper is full of obituaries on Sunday. Death is real. How do we face it? Denial? Say with the philosophers that is the greatest experience in life and kind of write it off? Just don’t even think about it? No, as followers of Jesus who is not only almighty God who can heal any disease, but even more is the one who died and rose again to make us dying sinners his followers, we do like Jairus and fall at Jesus’ feet in humble, trusting reliance and plead for life. But like Jesus did in Gethsemane, adding, “Not my will, but yours be done.” That’s the hard part. And we do know that the time will come that Jesus will not heal the disease or broken body. But there is comfort and hope in the face of death. Followers of Jesus look forward to his wake-up call knowing that they will be wakened to life forever.

Messengers arrived from Jairus’ house with the worst news a father could ever hear, “Your daughter is dead.” They advised Jarius not to bother Jesus anymore because, as it appeared to human eyes, it was too late. I mean, maybe he could calm storms and drive out demons, but no one can overcome death, right? Jesus overheard all this and knew this grieving father needed comfort, calm for his storming heart, and strengthening of his shaken faith just as we do in the face of death. So he did the only thing that can accomplish all this. He spoke his powerful word of love, peace and hope. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” With this encouragement Jesus acknowledged there is fear in the face of death. Even in a follower of Jesus fear and faith struggle with each other at that time. For death is a direct result of sin in the world just as God had warned Adam and Eve that in the day they sinned death would come. Paul reiterated that truth when he wrote, “Death has passed on all men for all have sinned.” But the words of him who overcame death with his glorious resurrection can bring some calm to the stormy sea of fear in the face of death.

With these words of strengthening they went on to the house where Jairus’ daughter lay dead. What Jesus found was a great deal of wailing and flute moaning to honor the little one. Knowing this was not at all compatible with what he was about to do, he removed the wailers and flute players and took three of his disciples and the parents into the room. Then the only One who has power over death said to the 12 year old, “Talitha koum!” This is the Aramaic spoken in that day which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” What a wakeup call! She rose from the sleep of death and walked and was given food to eat. Some may say she was just in a coma and woke when Jesus took her hand. But Luke’s account of this miracle of life does away with any such thought when he says as Jesus touched her and spoke his life giving word her spirit returned to her. Her soul returned to her body and she lived, truly lived.

Could Jesus do the same for us when we die or for a loved one who died? Sure, he raised others in the Scriptures. The youth of Nain. Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus. Elijah, Peter and Paul, by God’s almightiness, raised people from death. Then why doesn’t he, because death really hurts? I don’t know. There might be all kinds of reasons. He wants to relieve pain and agony perhaps. Maybe he foresees a falling from faith, if allowed to keep living in this world of sin. What you and I do know is he knows what is best and has the big picture of our salvation in mind. What we do know also is heaven is perfect peace and joy, and would we want our or our loved one’s soul brought back to this world of hurt and pain and death for a time? What we do know is Jesus rose from the dead. His tomb is empty and therefore so will ours be when we hear his wake up call. Jesus himself promised, “All who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out.” This will happen when he comes again to raise the dead on the last day. His followers will hear his wake up call and live forever. The souls or spirits gone to paradise when the spirit returns to God who gave it on that day return to the risen and glorified body, and we live with our dear Jesus in the house of the Lord forever. Now, does all this take away all fear and hurt in the face of death, our own or, even more, a loved one? Probably not. But as we hear the risen Jesus reassuring words regarding the death of one of his children or followers, it sure brings some calm in that raging storm. And then one day you will look around to all calm. It’s called heaven. Now, that’s something to look forward to.