A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius," in addition to articles on other related subjects and many new era Christian sermons.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Be Not Afraid--Only Believe

The Miracle of the Bleeding Woman, and the Miracle of Jairus' Daughter are examples of an intercalation: a story within a story. Together they create a unity with a single point. I'll be honest with you, when I started this sermon I was not interested in the Bleeding Woman, OR Jairus' Daughter; I was interested in one thing only: Jesus's saying, "Be not afraid, only believe." And He only says it in two out of the three gospels! In Mark He says, "Be not afraid," In Luke He says, "Fear not," then, "Weep not," and in Matthew he doesn't say it at all. And yet the overwhelming message I get from this passage is the idea that faith can conquer all worldly troubles and tribulations, particularly, and especially, fear.

Here are the scriptures:

Matthew 9:18-26
18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.
19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.
20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
23 And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,
24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.
25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.

Mark 5:21-43
21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him; and he was nigh unto the sea.
22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jai'rus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
23 and besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
24 And Jesus went with him. And much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
35While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
36As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
37And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
38And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
39And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
40And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.
41And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
42And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
43And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

Luke 8:40-56
40And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.
41And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house:
42For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.
43And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
49While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.
50But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.
51And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden.
52And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
53And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
54And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.
55And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.
56And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.

One of this story's most compelling attributes is its humanity: it is really a beautifully, humanly told story; there are so many lovely narrative details that put the story in a real time and place: in the street, Jesus says, "Who touched me?", and later at Jairus' house He says, "Give that girl somethin' ta eat!" All the characters have their own unique attitudes, and their own biased take on the action: we have the poor sick woman whose disease has made her an outcast of society for 12 years (she has spent her whole fortune on doctors who can't do anything, she doesn't want faith, she just wants a cure); there's the poor father whose little girl is dying (he's pretty speechless and helpless bewildered and overwhelmed by the situation); and, of course, there are the onlookers, the crowd, the mob, (the extras in this Otto Preminger movie), who first chastise Jairus for bothering the Master when it is already too late, and then the mourners who mock Jesus' confidence that the girl is merely asleep; finally Jesus Himself plays a complicated role, trying to promote acts of faith in His followers, but always, at first, trying to keep His miracles a secret.

Everybody, even Jesus, wants something. Everybody is frustrated at not getting what they want: the bleeding woman is afraid of not getting healed, Jairus is afraid of losing his daughter, the crowd is afraid of not being right about what they are nosing around in. (Notice that, when Jesus proceeds to Jairus' house he gives the crowd the slip and just takes a reduced delegation with him (Peter, and James, and John the brother of James). The good news is that the main protagonists, the bleeding woman and Jairus, both get what they want, and they both get it through two slightly different kinds of faith.

The bleeding woman gets healed by slipping in the back door. Let's call her kind of faith "closet faith." In matters of the heart, there is no sin in hiding your love away. This woman has suffered enormously and all she wants is relief, she doesn't want to make a spectacle of herself in front of people, especially in case it doesn't work. So, sneaking in the back door, she robs Jesus of His virtue and all is well--EXCEPT that that is not good enough for Jesus. He demands to make a public event of this affair by exposing the woman to the crowd. Being put on the spot and possibly fearing that the healing will be taken away from her, she declares herself to the crowd allowing Jesus to make His magnanimous pronouncement, "Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." Thus, what might have been a private matter between the woman and Jesus is made a public matter. Jesus tries to deny taking responsibility for the miracle, by attributing it to faith, but I'm sure no one in that street is buying it.

On the other hand, Jairus comes publicly to Jesus, before the same crowd that has witnessed the bleeding woman miracle, and makes a fool of himself by asking for help when it is clearly too late. Instead of making a big deal of His coming, Jesus sneaks in Jairus' back door, so to speak, raises the girl from the dead and begs everybody to keep quiet about it.

Why the reversal? Why a flamboyant display on one hand, and a cloak and dagger on the other? Perhaps it was just that raising the dead was a bigger deal than curing someone's blood disease--
Interesting sidebar: In the Oscar Wilde play, Salome, the raising of Jairus' daughter is actually mentioned to Herod Antipas, and the king makes a proclamation FORBIDDING such shenanigans: ". . . thus saith Herod the King, 'I will not suffer Thee to raise the dead.' To change water into wine, to heal the lepers and the blind . . . He may do these things if He will. I say nothing against these things. In truth I hold it a kindly deed to heal a leper. But no man shall raise the dead . . . It would be terrible if the dead came back."

As I say, perhaps it was just that raising the dead was a bigger deal than curing someone's blood disease, but it might simply have to do with one of Jesus' main preoccupations--that the great shall be brought low and the humble shall be raised on high. Perhaps he approves of the quality of the bleeding woman's faith more than the noble and distinguished Jairus. Either way, they were both humbled by Jesus' power, but one was clearly more humbled than the other.

I also get a little Thomas vibe off this story. Remember when Jesus returns from the dead Himself, and Thomas has to stick his hand in the Master's side before he believes?
John 20:29
"Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed."

Faith from afar is indeed one of the skills Jesus wishes to teach his disciples. Perhaps one of the messages of the story is that faith from any distance, near or far, works its magic on the world, but faith in the unseen is a more potent and mysterious brand of faith.

Now, this week's Wikipedia quotation:

"Donahue and Harrington state that this episode shows that "faith, especially as embodied by the bleeding woman, can exist in seemingly hopeless situations".

The combined stories have been used as an example of intercalation, with one incident inserted within another, and of contrast comparing the older woman with a 12-year ailment and the 12-year-old girl. Michael Keene states that there is a link between Jairus and the woman: "The link between them is faith since both Jairus and the bleeding woman showed great faith in Jesus."
Walvoord and Zuck state that: "What appeared to be a disasterous [sic] delay in the healing of the woman actually assured the restoration of Jairus' daughter. It was providentially ordered to test and strengthen Jairus' faith." Lang also states that: "This delay would serve both to try and to strengthen the faith of Jairus."

Now let's talk about fear. The Bible mentions two kinds of fear--the good kind (fear of God) and the bad kind (fear of anything else):

Psalm 111:10
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

Jeremiah 5:22
"Should you not fear me?" declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in my presence?"

Proverbs 19:23
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm.

Proverbs 14:27
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Matthew 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Thus, fear of God is a good thing. The Hebrew words, yirah , yare , and pachad mean reverent fear, terror, or dread, normally translated simply fear. In the commentaries I read, there is some disagreement about the quality of fear of God one should have, but the term "reverence" definitely is part of the scenario.

There is one aspect of this definition, though, that points out a certain quality of the word "fear" that ought to be emphasized: fear always means putting something before something else; in other words, fear is a prioritizer; fear of God puts God before all other things while fear of anything else puts that thing before God. Emotional resonance aside, this is the main thing wrong with fear--it puts worldly considerations before God, particularly, and especially, because it denies God's ability and willingness to come to our aid. Fear gives power over us to things that ought not to have power over us. Moreover, fear is self-centered because it declares that our small-minded vision of the truth is more correct than the big picture that spiritual vision always has in view.

One of the main tip-offs as to the carnal nature of fear is its dedication to TIME. Fear is always embedded in some faulty time sense. Hear, once again, C.S. Lewis' Screwtape expound on the subject:

"The humans live in time, but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present--either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the Past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time--for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men's affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the Future. Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead."

Here, Screwtape is telling us two things:

1.) that fear lives in the future, not the present, and
2.) that it is possible to choose which time dimension you want to live in.
I say this because free will changes things,
causes things, and
chooses things.

The quality of choice can create different futures because spirit exists outside of time. Therefore, Anyman can change his destiny by attending to the spiritual dimension of his nature. THEREFORE, the man whose attention is fixed on eternity never has any fear of the future because his will and God's will are the harmonized in divine charity, which can never do ill. The present is always more beneficent than our fears of it. You say, "What about the pains we feel in the present? Those suck pretty bad!" Yes, life brings all kinds of pain and suffering, but just think for a minute--the physical pains we endure as human animals are never really as bad as the psychic pains we feel as spiritual beings. True, the pains of the past can plant the seeds of fear for a terrible or worse future, but, think about it, the FEAR of pain is almost always worse than the actual physical pain. Physical pains come and go, the pain of the past is gone, but people who live in fear are in CONSTANT excruciating pain that is ten times more uncomfortable than the physical pain it is dreading.

And remember that some of our pains of the present are God's will and have a benevolent purpose; sometimes the current pain is God's substitute for some potentially greater pain down the road.

Psalm 23:4 says:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou are with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

The rod and staff of Jesus are NOT always comfortable, but, as human animals we must accept a certain amount of pain as the price of admission into the world; and, if we submit to the divine plan for our lives, the pain is never more than we can bear, and, moreover, it is never escaped nor reduced by being fearful of it. Over the years I developed the habit of looking for the positive purpose behind every apparently bad thing that happens to me--and I always find it. Admittedly, this is a lot like living in the future, but a future supported by faith brings even our hopes into the present moment, a present that links us with eternity.

Matthew 10:26 says:
Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

What is hidden from us now must eventually be revealed; and what is revealed is God's irresistible Will expressing Itself in the mundane dimension. If you put your faith in God's vision of the future instead of your own, you are protected from all doubt, because you know that God loves you. Faith in the future is faith in the eternal now. Fear of the future is fear without hope.

And this fear is so unnecessary. Many people live in fear because they are convince that the world is a crumby place and fear is their only defense against a threatening future. Yes, the mundane world offers us trials in legions that sometimes seem overwhelming. And yet, fixing out attention on the eternal not only reduces the magnitude of our momentary pains to insignificance, it reduces the actual pain itself to something we can manage. With spiritual aid, we can endure anything. Without it, we can endure practically nothing.

Listen to all these words of encouragement from the Old Testament:

Psalm 56:3-4
3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.
4 In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?

Isaiah 41:10
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

1 Chronicles 28:20
David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.

Thus, fear not only does us harm, it comes between us and the work we ought to be doing in our lives. Every single created life has a purpose and meaning. Fear just diverts our life's energies from their proper course into a carnal cesspool of vain and pointless agitation. Furthermore it makes us even more vulnerable to Satan's power than we already are.

From The Joyful Heart (Watchman Nee 主僕倪柝聲弟兄) we read:
"Fear is Satan's Calling Card
'Neither give place to the devil." - Ephesians 4:27'
"Without some foothold in us, Satan cannot operate. Hence, his first tempting of us will be aimed at securing some ground; the next will be an assault from the ground he has secured.
One very large territory, perhaps the largest, that he operates from is fear. 'Fear is Satan's calling card,' a beloved counselor used to say to me. Whenever you accept his calling card, you will receive a visit from him. Fear him and he comes; fear not and he is held at a distance. No child of God need be fearful of Satan, even though he roar as a lion and his teeth are drawn. Within us is One who by demonstration is greater than he."

Hear these verses from the New Testament:

Matthew 10:31
Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Hebrews 13:6
So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can Man do to me?"

2 Corinthians 4:7-11
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

1 Peter 3:13-14
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."

I love this verse from 2nd Timothy. Here are three different versions, each contributes something to the meaning:

2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7
God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

First "discipline" then "self-control" then "sound mind". I love that declension. And there is no contradiction, because all three terms refer to some kind of mental health and control--will. Indeed, in this verse, will and sound mind are equated, and for a reason: it MUST be admitted that fear makes us crazy. We have to remember that we are spiritual beings; our primary reality, even distracted as we are by the evolutions of the physical plane, is SPIRITUAL; getting stuck in a quagmire of worldly fears is contrary to our innate spiritual nature. Thus, the paradoxical nature of fear can cause our whole mental apparatus to burn out, and start feeding us lies, and more lies, until our very perception of physical reality is distorted out of all recognition. Crazy people are always sure they are right about everything. And crazy people are afraid. I don't care how right these people are, I NEVER WANT TO LIVE IN THAT DANGEROUS WORLD THAT HAUNTS THE EXISTENCE OF FEARFUL PEOPLE!!!

Now hear John:

1 John 4:18
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Love is the key. Love of God, love for others, love of self.

1st Corinthians 13:13:
"And now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three: but the chiefest of these is love".

The faith of the bleeding woman healed her own affliction. The faith of Jairus, strengthened by the test Jesus put him through, brought his daughter back from the dead. But it was the divine love behind these acts of faith that brought the miraculous idea into physical reality, and it will be love that heals all our earthly hurts. Love soothes the ravages of difficult times, love heals the broken heart, love raises us out of our mundane circle into bliss.

Let us pray: Jesus, thank you for bringing such a staggering example of divine love to us. Remind us that, in this world of transient illusion, there can be nothing to fear if only we can fix our puny powers of attention on the eternal now of your heavenly presence. Amen.

Glennallen, AK
June 19, 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment