Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Don't be afraid. Only believe

Luke 8:40-56

There’s a common theme through Chapter 8 of Luke’s gospel: fear. We see it in the eyes of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. We see it in the demons that had tortured man across the Sea and in the people living there after Jesus freed them. We will see it today in a man facing the worst: the death of his only daughter. How do we handle fear? It’s such a common thing we all face. Franklin Roosevelt said famously that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s a nice sound bite but really doesn’t do anything to alleviate our fear. In a conversation with Yoda, Luke Skywalker of Star Wars fame said: “I’m not afraid.” Yoda replied: “You will be. You will be.” In our lives we do face fear—a dread of a known or unknown force or circumstance that could hurt us. In this Chapter of Luke’s gospel Jesus shows who is in charge of those circumstances and how to help deal with the fear we all feel.

40 – 42

Jesus returned to the Galilee region. Notice the contrast here. Back across the lake the crowds rejected Him and told Him to leave. Here in Galilee, at least to this point, the crowds welcome Him and were looking forward to His return.

A man comes to meet him, just as the possessed man in the previous account—but this man is different. Instead of a likely Gentile on the outskirts of his society—Jairus was the synagogue leader, probably the chief elder who conducted the services. He was at the center of his society and Jesus likely knew him, having spoken in the synagogue a number of times. But like the man across the lake, Jairus had a need beyond what his ability or place in society could fulfill. Like the demon possessed man, Jairus comes and falls on his knees before Jesus.

We can’t help but see the contrast and commonalities here. The contrast: the crowd across the lake wants Jesus to leave. The crowd here wants Him to come. So how often do we go by what the crowd is saying around us: our peers, friends, socio/economic class. But crowds can be fickle. The people of Israel, although welcoming now, ended up calling for Jesus execution later on. The people of the Decapolis, though initially doubtful, ended up listening to the gospel witness of the man who had been freed from demons and received the gospel themselves. We need to look at the commonality: falling on our knees before Jesus—no matter what anyone around us is saying or doing.

I think one thing Luke shows us here is that truly every knee will bow—and no matter your condition or your standing—we all have needs that go beyond our ability to handle and we will find the answer in nowhere else but to fall on our knees and beg Jesus for mercy.

Jairus name means: “whom Yahweh enlightens”. Today, God will bring light into this man’s dark world in a way he never expected—but will require him to do something he probably didn’t foresee.

Right now the only thing on his mind is the fact that his only daughter of 12 was sick and about to die. It’s amazing how position, stature, power, wealth, and all the things this age have to offer simply pale when it comes to the issues of life and death. We don’t know what Jairus thought of Jesus’ preaching, but we know that now he has a need and the person he thinks of is Jesus. Is that true for you?

Now he asks Jesus to come to his house—and on the way two things of importance take place.

42 – 44

So all kinds of people are jostling with Jesus and His disciples as they walk along. And in the crowd is a woman who has likely suffered some sort of menstrual bleeding for over a decade. Luke, the doctor, notes that she’s spent everything on doctors, but to no avail. Medicine was practically non-existent in that time, or was very primitive at best. So in her desperation she comes up from behind and touches the tassel of Jesus’ robe.

By the way, her bleeding put this woman in a perpetual state of uncleanness (Lev 15:25-31; Ezek 36:17). So why did she touch the hem of His garment? For lack of time I’m not going to go into great detail here but it is likely that what she was actually touching was a tassel of Jesus’ prayer shawl. If you want more information there’s an interesting article on this available. But suffice it to say that the woman was reaching out for the promise of Malachi 4:2 – to find “healing in its wings” – meaning healing to those who feared the name of Yahweh. A similar picture is found in Ruth when Ruth asked Boaz to cover her with the corner of his blanket—the word there is also “wing”.

It’s an incredible move—here she is potentially making Jairus, Jesus and all around her unclean, but she must reach Jesus. I’m sure she didn’t know whether it would work, but to her shock, it does!

But then comes something more.

44 – 48

Luke doesn’t explain why Jesus is apparently unaware that the woman touched Him. Or perhaps it was like God in the Garden after Adam and Eve sinned. God called out to Adam “where are you?” (Genesis 3). God knew where Adam was, but wanted Adam to acknowledge where he was (apart from God—something had changed). So perhaps Jesus wanted the woman to acknowledge the change as well.

Peter notices the obvious—that LOTS of people were touching Jesus in the crowd, but this was different. This was the touch of faith. You can rub elbows with Jesus and not be healed of your sin. But it is when you reach out in your need to touch His prayer shawl, that healing can happen.

She admits what she’s done—like Jairus she comes “trembling” and falls at His feet. Jesus tells her to “go in peace”. I love that. What Jesus does for her, He does for us (Romans 5:1) “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So what is really interesting here is that the delay for Jesus to talk to this woman is enough to mean the difference between life and death for Jairus’ daughter.

49 – 50

You can just picture the scene, right? Jairus is tapping his feet, impatient as Jesus deals with the woman. His daughter is dying. His need is urgent. Jesus seems unconcerned that time is short. Then Jairus catches a familiar face approaching. The expression on the faces would have been all that was needed. Jairus knew—it was too late. The friends or family members confirm to him that his daughter is dead. But they say something more that is more interesting. They say: “Don’t bother the Teacher anymore.”

This is all happening at the same time. It’s like Jesus is facing away, talking to the woman when He hears what’s said to Jairus. The Master turns and says the most astounding thing: “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”

So here’s Jairus, caught between those who say: “Give up on Jesus. It’s too late to help your need.” On the other Jesus telling him not to give into fear but have faith—to believe. The word means “to trust.” How often are we caught in that same dilemma—between fear and faith?

We face a terrible trial. We run to Jesus and ask Him to intervene. He seems unconcerned and our deadlines pass with no answer. All those around us and the circumstances then call for us to give up, to not bother the Teacher anymore—to give into the grief and anger, pain and fear. It is then that Jesus turns to us and challenges us: “Do you trust Me, no matter what?” Jesus promises Jairus that his daughter will be made well. That’s a little vague—and Jesus doesn’t always promise to give us exactly what we want—but will give us what we need. What Jairus needed right then was to trust Jesus more than his fear and his peers. It’s not recorded here what Jairus said, but it’s obvious he chose trust.

51 – 56

Jairus was a well respected member of the community. The more respected you were, the more mourners would be present. Already the professional mourners had arrived and were making a big show of the death of Jairus’ daughter. Everyone else had given into grief, as well they should. The daughter was, in fact, dead. But Jesus delivers such a shocking statement that the people laugh in derision. Without Jesus there is just grief. They are about to see that with Him there is the promise of new life.

Jesus takes only Peter, James, and John – plus the child’s parents and enters the room. He raises her from the dead with a touch and a word—commanding her to get up, just as He will do with Lazarus in John 11.

He orders her to be given food. I’m sure the parents were in such shock; food hadn’t entered their minds. Perhaps she’d been too sick to eat for days and was hungry. I love the little detail here that Jesus cared about not just the life of this girl but her hunger as well.

To conclude I want to focus back on the idea of fear. There is a wonderful pattern we see in Chapter 8. Jesus is showing loyalty, authority, and the power to restore in three sets of miracles. These are pictures or shadows of what life will be like in Jesus’ kingdom and involve threats that cause fear.

First we have threats from what we can see—the creation rebels and a windstorm threatens their lives. There are threats we can’t see—from the spirit realm as 6,000 demons take over humans. Then there the two things humans probably fear the most: suffering, and death.

Jesus doesn’t promise us we’ll have a life without threats in this age, but He shows us how in His kingdom that those things we fear now we need not fear.

  1. He causes the physical creation to rest
  2. He battles and wins over the spiritual creation
  3. He cleanses that which is unclean
  4. And He brings life where there is death.

But notice these are found in and only in someone who trusts in Jesus. They come from those who are humble, bow themselves before Him, and those who trust Him no matter what.

To the disciples who claimed Jesus was uncaring about their situation He asked “Where is your faith?” To Jairus He said in the midst of a tremendous choice: “Do not be afraid, only believe.”

In the things you fear in life: things you can see and those you can’t; fears of death or suffering—reach out and touch the prayer shawl of Jesus—knowing that He is always praying for you (Hebrews 7:25). Don’t listen to the winds or the words of those around you saying to give up—don’t be afraid because Jesus is the ultimate victor. Bow your life and death to Him and you will know the antidote to fear. It is knowing that Jesus will never leave you, has a plan for good and will bring it about (Acts 27:23, Hebrews 13:5, Jeremiah 29:11).

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