‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’

Mark 5:36
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’

            Last week we heard of Jesus calming the storm. ‘Who is this?’ those overwhelmed disciples gasped. Then at the beginning of this chapter Jesus arrives at a foreign land and a demon possessed man calls to Him, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?’ Now as Mark records Christ’s life for you and me, what do you think the Holy Spirit is teaching us? Certainly that Jesus is Lord over the wind and the waves, that He helps even the foreigners; but what does that mean for us here today?

            We are not foreigners to Him, in Baptism the Holy Spirit has united us to Jesus, into His Church, we are His body. And we are not wind and waves, though sometimes we might just go with the flow… Rather we are His people, together with all Christians we are His Holy Bride, His Church. And yet here on earth we see people wandering away from the Faith, congregations bleeding members; And we hear that congregations are closing, the church looks dead in many places, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark are the top three least religious countries in the world, and Luther’s Saxony is now largely atheistic; Cathedrals and Chapels become museums of a bygone age. The Bride of Christ, Jesus’ wife-to-be, this heavenly woman we are a part of, is suffering in this world as she awaits her Groom and Lord.

            And today we heard of two other women suffering as well, and there is a connection. Remember how 12 is the number of God’s people? 12 tribes, 12 apostles, a rich lady bleeding for 12 years, a 12yr old girl lying dead. Now this lady had spent her wealth on all the doctors she could, the experts, the naturopaths, looking anywhere for help, everywhere for help, and yet still she bled; and because of her bleeding she was not ritually clean, not allowed into the temple to be with God, to grow in that relationship. She was under immense physical suffering and also separated from God because of it. Like for us, when the going gets tough and we fall into despair and forget that the Lord is God our saviour. And the young girl, a daughter of a Pharisee, who knows how much she suffered as she lay there, who knows what killed her, but just imagine the pain and grief of those around. The bleeding woman, the dead, young woman.

            And yet, we hear, ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassion never fails … it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord … Let him bury his face in the dust – there may yet be hope … For no one is cast off by the Lord forever’. These words from the middle of the book of lamentations (3:22-33), a long poem mourning the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians; the people slain, the city ransacked, the survivors starving and broken. There may yet be hope! For the Church, the Bride of Christ, there may yet be hope! For you as you struggle, broken or bruised, there may yet be hope!

            For the lady, for the girl, we hear that hope fulfilled! “If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed!” “Come, lay hands on my daughter so that she will be healed and live!” Jesus healed the woman, and addressed her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” After 12 long years the bleeding stopped, there is an end to the suffering even perhaps in this world. And the girl who had died, Jesus told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” He went into that house, the mourners ridiculing Him for saying He would heal her, as so many ridicule Christ’s Bride today; Yet He sent out the mockers, He knelt down and took her by the hand and said, “little girl, rise up.” And just like Lazarus she rose from the dead. Here is proof Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, He is the one who can bring healing, and ultimate healing; and not just that, but He has promised this to His Church, to all His people who gather in His name, who are Baptised into His name, who share a meal and participate together in the Body and Blood, the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

            And you are here, part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Bride of Christ, this heavenly woman who has suffered so much. Abused from outside, and even from within; bruised and bleeding yet still she perseveres; she has hope, she knows Jesus will save, and down the ages He already has healed so much hurt within her. And here we are, many of us suffering in our own lives, and yet we know many times when God has helped even us individually; the timing of an accident or emergency, the help of a doctor or advice of a neighbour, even just a home cooked meal delivered to your door. And so much more, Jesus takes away our sin and guilt, you no longer need to live in it; He comes to us, the Holy Spirit dwells within and travels with us in truth and love. And even if the Church looks dead in places, she is not dead forever; for some of us there’s the childhood faith that waned as we grew and encountered this world, yet returned with strength later in life; and if we look to regions, there have been Christians in China almost continually since the 300s, despite many attempts to wipe her out, and today Russia has seen a great return to the church after the years under Soviets. She will not die, death cannot defeat us because our Bridegroom has already won.

Through our suffering we always have hope, a hope we can share with all who suffer! Jesus will come; He has saved us, brought us into the Church; He is saving us, dealing with our sin, our guilt, and sustaining and protecting us through all times; He will save us, when finally He comes in glory to make His suffering Bride His glorious Wife.

            Unto that time, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.