Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Would Jairus Do?

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 1, 2012
Now that the What Would Jesus Do? slogan appears to have gone away as a fad I’m going to campaign for a new one: What Would Jairus Do? The WWJD phenomenon, that is, What Would Jesus Do?, was always a well-intended slogan to get Christians to think about what the best thing to do is in a given situation. There’s a lot of good in that and we could probably use more of it than we have. The problem with What Would Jesus Do? is where it leaves you. It leaves you in a place where you in fact do not do what Jesus would do which is in fact why Jesus did what He did. That’s why the question of what has Jesus done is infinitely of more value to us than the question of what He would do.

We know what He would do in any given situation. He would do the right thing. He would do the best thing. He would do the thing that is of infinite value and benefit to us. We, on the other hand, often do what is best for ourselves. We do the opposite of what Jesus would do. We should always try to do the right thing and the best thing and the thing that is of value and benefit to others, it’s just that we fail so miserably at it, don’t we? There are moments where it really looks like we’ve got it. Where we do the right thing. Where we help the other person. Where we do the thing that is the best thing. And this is wonderful. But the thing about it is, it’s all by the grace of God and to the glory of God, not out of any notion that we can actually bring about doing the thing that Jesus would do.

That’s why a new WWJD slogan is needed to replace What Would Jesus Do? What Would Jairus Do? should be the question we ask. Okay, not really. And yet, the portrayal Mark gives us in today’s Gospel reading amounts to an exhortation to be like Jairus; even to do what he did. And Mark goes on also to show us a woman who touched Jesus’ cloak.

Jairus and the woman who tried to get close to Jesus were in need. They were in need and they were desperate. There was nothing they or anyone else could do for them in their need. So what did they do? They put themselves at the mercy of Jesus. They put their situation completely in His hands. The way we would say it is that they had faith in Him or put their faith in Him. This is what faith is. If the question were to be of what Jesus would do then we’d be left with unbelief because Jesus has perfect faith. We can’t have the kind of faith Jesus can. We try at times. But so often we fall short of the perfect fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

But that’s where looking at what Jairus would do comes in. The impetus for his faith in Jesus was his love for his daughter. There was nothing else he could do for his precious little daughter so he put all his faith in Jesus. There was no way he could do anything to prevent his daughter from dying so he did one last thing. That one last thing is the essence of faith. It is leaving it completely in God’s hands. And notice what leaving it completely in God’s hands looks like. It is going to God as He has made Himself known to us. Namely, in the human being that is Jesus.

How could Jairus have possibly known that this person, this man, this human being just like him, could bring his dying daughter back to health? There was, of course, the word that had gotten around that Jesus had performed many miracles and that He was a great teacher. But think about it, there’s a difference between those miraculous things happening to others and them happening to you. Sure, I’ve heard He’s done amazing things, but could it really happen for my little girl? He went to Jesus with just that request.

And that is what we should learn from this. What Jairus did is what we should do. We are in need. We are desperate. Illnesses and injuries ravage our lives and we very much want deliverance from those things. But these are symptoms. They are symptoms of disease. Whether you are struggling with severe illness or are in good health, you are wasting away in the disease that infects us all. It is original sin and there is no cure. There is no what would Jesus do and we can do that, because He is without sin. He alone was born into this world without being infected with this disease.

But there are no crowds thronging around Him anymore when we look to Him. He is instead all alone; everyone, even us, has deserted him. When we look to Him in our need and our desperate state we look to Him as He hung all alone on the cross. It’s what He has done that provides for us what we need. In the Collect of the Day we prayed, “Heavenly Father, during His earthly ministry Your Son Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. By the healing medicine of the Word and Sacraments pour into our hearts such love toward You that we may live eternally.”

Jairus got his daughter back. Not only did she recover from her sickness, she recovered from death. The woman who touched Jesus’ cloak was healed instantly from her long illness. But what did Jesus’ healing of these two people really accomplish? It accomplished just that and nothing more. The girl presumably went on to live a long full life and the woman at the end of her life presumably closed out the last years of her life free from the pain and suffering she had endured for twelve years. That’s why even as Jairus and the woman came to Him and fixed their eyes on Him, we ought to do the same. Jesus gave these two people a great blessing.

However, when we see them in heaven and ask them what it was like I imagine they’ll be much more interested in talking the way our Collect of the Day uses language to describe what we need from Jesus and what He has done for us. During His earthly ministry Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. Here we are two thousand years later facing the very same illnesses and unable to keep ourselves from death. That’s why at a certain point Jesus discontinued His earthly ministry with the throngs hanging on His every word and seeking mercy from Him for healing and He walked alone to the cross where He was nailed to it. It’s why in being nailed to the cross every sin and sickness and guilt was placed upon Him. It’s why He who was without sin died Himself as the one who took all our sinfulness upon Himself.

That’s what the likes of Jairus and the woman ended up coming to see in Jesus: the one who had given healing they had sought was the one who delivered them of all their sin. It’s why Jesus having suffered on the cross for the sins of the world no longer continued on in His earthly ministry. It’s why, as the language of today’s Collect says, He comes to us by the healing medicine of the Word and Sacraments and pours into our hearts such love toward Him that we may live eternally. Faith is hard. It is not some simple thing of, whatever it is you pray for Jesus will deliver to you. It is fully trusting in Him to do for you what you truly need.

The prayer we prayed in the Collect of the Day is the prayer of faith. Praying that Christ would give us what we need in the healing medicine of the Word and Sacraments and pour into our hearts such love toward Him that we may live eternally. We may want to be delivered from the pain we’re suffering through. We may want to be removed from the trials we are experiencing. What will our prayer be? Will it be the prayer of seeking what we want, or what we truly need? Will it be the prayer of our sinful nature, or the prayer of faith? What would Jairus do? He would pray to Jesus fully trusting that Jesus would give him what he truly needed. And what did Jesus do? Exactly that.

He delivered his daughter from death, to be sure. That kind of power and love is amazing. But it gets even better. It’s the kind of power and love that points to the other things Jesus did for Jairus. He delivered him from his sins. He went to death Himself so that Jairus would be raised from death as his daughter was. In the healing medicine of Christ’s Word and Sacraments He gives us this power and love. It is power over sin and death and it is love which gives us life eternally—life in which we live now and forever, in body and soul. Amen.