“But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.” –Luke 8:46-55
Just recently, I read these two stories during a time of morning devotions. The whole day, I could not shake these stories from my mind. Even in conversation with one of three pastors I met with today, we got talking about this. These two stories in Luke chapter eight take place basically simultaneous of each other and contain some key lessons and insights we can learn from and apply in our lives. More than that, I believe it is a timely word needed in this specific season.
First of all, as I read the story of Jairus, a synagogue leader whose daughter had fallen sick, it was as if the little girl was a picture of the current state of the church. Especially in America and Europe, there has been great concern among those who care most about her (such as key leaders, pastors, faithful people, etc) that she is dying. That is simply the truth. The church in the US and Europe is seeing it’s numbers decrease and influence or impact in society diminish. It simply is not overall as strong, healthy and vigorous as it can and should be.
It is also interesting to note that Jairus comes to Jesus on behalf of his dying girl and while Jesus begins to move towards her, he is “interrupted” and “stops” along the way, by an “unclean” woman who touches the hem of his garment. He is on his way to respond to one crises, when somebody elses crises suddenly is resolved not by him touching her, but her touching him!
This is a fascinating story. It is the only case we read about where it wasn’t Jesus touching somebody and they were healed, but them touching him and being healed. I have been saying lately that in order to touch the world for God, we need a touch from God. I still believe that, but as of today I am “modifying” that statement a bit due to the example of this woman. While we need a touch from God in order to touch the world for God; let us be like this woman and not “wait” for Jesus to “touch us”…let us go and touch him! Let’s get a hold of God! Perhaps part of the problem is that we are “waiting” on God to “come to us” and “touch us,” but what if he is “waiting” for us to come to him and touch him in and by faith? We pray; but do we pray in faith?
It is also interesting to note that there were lots of people “crowding” around Jesus that day. This woman wasn’t the only one there. Many were “touching” Jesus, yet her “touch” was different. She received something when she “touched” him. Power flowed from Jesus when she touched his garment! Her life was suddenly and instantly changed when she came in “contact” with Jesus. Health and new life flowed into her. There is a need for more people not to merely “crowd around” Jesus but to press through the crowd and receive something from Jesus. There is a need for a people not who wait for God to touch them, but a people who in faith and by faith touch God and thus come to know his power flowing and working in their lives!
Notice also, Jesus “stopped” when this woman touched him and power flowed from him. She tried to do this quietly and discretely; but no one who touches God will go unnoticed by Him or others! This was not to embarrass her, but to honor her. It was not to humiliate her but hold her up as an example for everyone else. When she came forth, he affirmed her and spoke peace to her. This was an amazing moment. This woman “stopped” Jesus! He stopped for her.
Curiously however, in stopping for her, the condition of the other girl he was moving towards worsened. So much so that rather than being in a state of “dying” she “died.” It seems to me right now that the “attention” of Jesus has been focused on those in other parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa where the church is growing and people are experiencing the power of God in their lives. They are “touching” him and he is honoring them. Yet as their “health” is improving it seems on the other side of the world the health of God’s people is worsening. In this passage, the girl’s condition in fact was so bad that someone came and said “it’s over.” “Don’t bother the teacher anymore. She is dead.” How many of us have given up and aren’t even bothering to pray anymore? However, Jesus responded and countered by saying to not be afraid, but to hold on and “just believe.” What appears to be a period at the end of a sentence, may actually just be a parenthesis!
Some of us who care about the health and condition of the church in America and other parts of the world, have been in a state of “wailing and mourning” (despair and defeat) over the condition of the church. In many cases it appears the “church” is dead and we have given up really praying or believing anymore. But as I read this story, it seemed like God was speaking to my heart about the church the same thing Jesus said to the people who thought this girls life was over: “stop wailing…she is not dead but asleep!” The church is very much “asleep” right now but she is not dead! And what a tender picture of Jesus taking this girl by the hand and calling to her to “rise up!” A “resurrection” took place as her spirit responded to Jesus’ command! She awakened.
Notice also that the first instruction given to the others who were “awake” was to “give her something to eat.” One evidence of a church (or individual) that is alive or “awakens” is that they become hungry for God’s word. May those who are already awake, not give into despair but be ready and prepared to feed her hunger with God’s Word when His church awakens again! In the meantime let us go to Jesus as Jairus did on behalf of his daughter’s condition and intercede for his mercy and power to bring new life, vigor and strength back into the church! Let us keep believing. Let us NOT “stop bothering the teacher…” He is more than a teacher and there is more to the ministry of Jesus than just teaching. He is the Son of God and possess all power and he is looking for those who will “just believe…and keep believing even when it seems hopeless and “over.” Does not His own resurrection remind us of this reality? We serve a Living, Risen Savior!
Both Jairus and the woman who touched Jesus were what we would call “intercessors.” They came to Jesus. One touched him and experienced his power at work in her life. The other came and prayed that he would come and touch his daughter. One touched God; the other experienced the touch of God in his daughters life.
The situation and condition the church finds herself in right now requires the supernatural power of God. Human effort and energy are not enough. It’s not about more programs, activities or even “more teaching.” The church is inundated with teaching. A lot of it is good but is falling on deaf ears. People don’t eat when they are asleep! Eating comes only after people wake up. And I pastored long enough, preached in enough churches and talked to enough pastors to realize this is a common problem. There is plenty of preaching and teaching but so little action and response. It’s one reason I left the church I was pastoring and joined the mission organization I am with. The church needs new life breathed back into her. We need a touch from God and we need to touch God. Prayer and faith are needed right now.
And although I am not pastoring now, I have not given up all hope (although I have at times!) on the church. In fact my hope is actually growing stronger now more than ever. I am convinced the church will awaken and there will be an “awakening.” But what I have come to realize is that it’s not teaching that will “wake people up.” Teaching has its place…but people need to be “awake” to receive it! What is most needed right now is the kind of unrelenting, un-distracted tenacious faith of the women in this story and the prayers of humble and broken leaders like this synagogue ruler, who will take an honest assessment of the true condition of the church and admit they need a touch from God…or it’s hopeless. It will take a people or person who will “press through the crowd of people” that gathers around Jesus all the time, but their lives are not really being changed nor experiencing his power flowing from him to them. It will take someone who will “touch” God and experience the touch of God in their lives.
May God give us strength to be like this woman and Jairus. May we be the one’s who press through and press on in faith and prayer for our own sake and the sake of his church! May new life be infused into our own lives and the life of the church. May His power be released in our lives and flow from him causing his church to awaken and arise once more!