This week’s reading: Matthew 9:18-26
This week, we read in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 9 verses 18 through 26, some of my favorite stories which, once again, prove that Jesus has authority over everything and everyone, including diseases and even death. In fact, I love these so much, because they are so very good, that I’m going to read the entire two stories as noted in this Gospel. But please make the time to check out the other two places in the Bible, that’s Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56, where we can gain even more details about these stories. But first listen to this one:
“While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.’ Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’
Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.
When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, ‘Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.” Mt 9:18-26 NIV
Empathize. A huge part of walking this Christian journey is learning how to, not only sympathize with others around us, but also get to the point where we empathize with them too. So what’s the difference, you ask? Good question! To sympathize means to feel sorry that someone is going through tough situations. It can move us to do whatever the Lord puts on our hearts to do to help them out. This is an awesome way to live this life, because it is not only beneficial to the ones suffering, but also to us who choose to help. The sense of peace and joy we gain when we step out of our own little MMI world to be a blessing, gives us a glimpse of what it must be like to be God, Who only and always seeks to provide relief for His people. But if we truly want a taste of what it’s like to be Jesus, then we must continue to grow spiritually until we begin to empathize also. You see, Jesus became one of us. To empathize is to actually feel what those who are broken, weak and afflicted feel. The Bible puts it this way in the Book of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” In other words, put yourself in their shoes. Allow yourself to experience what they might be experiencing. Now of course, we are all individuals, who bring our own unique viewpoint based on all our life’s observations into what others are going through, so we might not be able to exactly do what Jesus did, but the more we choose to sympathize and empathize, the more we can, not only offer a helping hand, but also offer an ear and a shoulder too. Let me give you an example. After my Beckie passed away, the one human who helped me mourn the best was my then 10 year old son, Joshua. He would simply sit next to me, place his hand on my shoulder and bow down his little head in silence. And this while he was experiencing his own grief, of course. Sometimes those hurting do not need words of wisdom, they just need to know they are not alone. That someone gets them. That someone cares. Oh, how often have I sensed Jesus doing this exact same thing for me?! Think about your own life. Can you look back and discover such a moment in your own struggles? Because this is one of the many ways our God continues to empathize with His children. He feels what we feel. When we cry, He weeps along with us. Not because He cannot change anything…think about the story of Lazarus in the Gospel of John 11:1-44. He wept because we weep. Death was never a part of God’s original plan, my Friends. But because it entered into this world to try to steal, kill and destroy us, so too Jesus our Lord, entered to be like you and me, to feel what you and I feel, to experience all the good things and bad things of this fallen world. Jesus certainly sympathizes with us, but moreover, He empathizes. And there, on the Cross, He completely stood in our shoes…and killed death so we would never have to know it eternally. Let’s sympathize, but let’s not stop there.
In their shoes. I am currently writing my second book with a working title of, “In Their Shoes.” It will be a series of stories of different people and characters of the Bible where we will attempt to place ourselves in their situations. I will encourage us to think about what they might have been going through in order for us to learn some lessons that we, ourselves, can apply to life so that our lives might be more abundant. But don’t wait until I finish this project! Let’s start sympathizing and empathizing today. Although I know you will want to run out and purchase it the second it comes out…LOL! All kidding aside, let’s do this very thing here today. As we delve into these amazing words, let’s remember to place ourselves in the shoes of each of the main people involved in both events. First, we will empathize with this ruler who has just lost his daughter…wow, can I truly understand his heart! Then, we will look at the woman with a bleeding disease, as she is often called. But last and certainly not least, we will sit a moment with our Savior, Who had to endure all sorts of objections and ridicule, even as He was granting such amazing miracles. Let’s delve in.
This ruler’s Faith. In the other Gospels, this synagogue ruler is named Jairus, but the thing I want us to see is how deep his Faith was in this most desperate moment. Sometimes it is desperation alone that gives us the courage to step out of out little box, and run to the only One Who can truly help us. This certainly was my story. Yet this was a potentially dangerous endeavor for him because, as a ruler, a leader in the Jewish community, just coming to Jesus was going against “the powers that be” who had already passed their judgment on this trouble maker from Nazareth. Yet this ruler did not only come to Jesus, but fell at His feet when he came into His Presence. What a lovely image! Can you sense his aching heart? Can we imagine the desire to surrender everything, his position and reputation, just to save his dying daughter? Feel his anguish. What would you and I do? Well, I know what I did as my own daughter fell into what would be the first of countless comatose states. Similarly, running to Jesus in full and complete abandonment, this ruler falls to his knees and shares such a great testimony of pure Faith. Did you hear it before? Let me repeat it: “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Not she might live. Not I wish You can help her, perhaps, maybe. No. She WILL live! There is no doubt, no hesitation in his words. Just Faith.
Pure Faith! Do we see another reason why it is so important to sympathize and empathize with others? You and I just might catch their Faith, because Faith can be wonderfully contagious! Yes, we must trust God’s Will over our own because many times His Plan is different than ours. But there have been so many times in my own journey where I “just knew” God was going to grant us the impossible! I can’t even fully explain HOW I knew, I just knew. As we walk closer and closer with our Lord, He will give us insight into His marvelous Plan, and we will be able to display this pure Faith, just like this courageous ruler. And as if all those challenges weren’t enough, some men later come from this ruler’s home to announce that his daughter has indeed already died, so he shouldn’t bother the Teacher anymore. Bother Him?! This displays the complete opposite of pure Faith! That statement is a lack of Faith. My Friends, don’t ever think you are bothering God with your heart’s cries. Hearing you, helping you, comforting you, all these and more is exactly what our loving God desires to do for us, with us, in us. Our Father wants us to come to Him with all our joys and woes. Our Savior delights when we come to Him with Faith, trusting Him to ease our problems. Our Holy Counsellor looks forward to guiding us, granting us insight, moving us forward towards either resolution or endurance, no matter what we are going through. Oh my Friends, it is Faith that grants us entry into this most amazing relationship with our Creator, and it is Faith that keeps us by His side so that we can have and live the Abundant Life. Listen to how Jesus responded to these men who came trying to discourage this ruler, “Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” (Mk 5:36) Just believe! This ruler chose to place his Hope in Jesus because he had already placed his Faith in Him. Let us learn to do the same.
Interruptions. Once again, put yourself in this ruler’s shoes. Jesus had agreed to go to his home to do what He alone could do for his daughter when…when they were interrupted. He must have been thinking, “Wait, what about my daughter? Why are You stopping and asking who just touched You? We gotta get to her!” Yet we do not hear him protest, do we? I mean, even Peter and some disciples questioned Jesus. (See Mk 5:31; Lk 8:46) But this ruler? Not a peep. Please see this as Faith, my Friends. He trusted Jesus could do the impossible, and did not question His timing either. Hmmm…do we encounter interruptions in our own lives, but then have a complete meltdown because things are not moving according to our own plans and timing? Oh, is it only me then? No. I am sure I am not alone. Once again, let’s learn as we place ourselves in this ruler’s shoes. His Faith in Jesus must have been even deepening more and more as they walked towards his home…ahhh and what awaits him there is breathtaking, isn’t it? Ok, let’s turn our attention on this interruption first.
This woman’s Faith. Along their journey, Jesus notices that some power has gone out from Him. This does not mean He became power-LESS, but rather that He knew some of His anointing had flowed from Him to someone in the crowd, and that it resulted in a healing miracle. Perhaps we do not understand this woman’s courage since we might not be familiar with all the legal requirements of the Jewish Law concerning women who were actively bleeding. They were considered unclean and could not be in the company of any other person, least they pass on their uncleanliness to those around them. Do we empathize a little more with her now? And this disease had been going on for 12 years, mind you! We also read how she had been to countless doctors, suffered under their care, had spent all the funds she had AND was only getting worse! Yikes. I won’t go into what I had experienced with Beckie and some doctors who did this same thing to her, but man, I get it! This woman was also desperate. Jesus was her last Hope! So it is her Faith that moves her to step out into the crowd. Listen to what she said which she probably was repeating to herself, over and over again, as she slowly approached this amazing Teacher, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mk 5:28) Not I might be healed. If He can heal me. No! I WILL be healed! Do we see the pure Faith? But do we venture out, but then stop at the first obstacle? Do we allow the enemy to put wrong thoughts in our minds, so that we don’t allow Faith to determine our actions? Again, as we empathize here, let’s also learn to follow in their footsteps because this is part of walking in someone else’s shoes. We begin to imitate the strong attributes and understand the weak ones. You know the rest of this story. She is immediately healed, but Jesus takes the extra time to coax her out of the crowd, to urge her to share her story with those around her. This woman’s Faith heals her…and it is our Faith that can heal us of a disease much worse than what she had. Faith heals our sinful nature. It changes our destination. It joins us with our Creator, our Holy Father, our Lord and Savior, our Counsellor, Teacher and Advocate. By Grace through Faith…because God has done it all, we can receive it all, by Faith, by choosing to trust what God has already done on our behalf. Yes, it IS as simple as that! But my goodness, we humans complicate everything, especially Salvation, don’t we? Pure Faith. That is all that is required, yet way too many miss the simplicity of this…and they end up mocking our Lord.
Their lack of Faith. After Jesus heals this woman, He continues on to this ruler’s home. He encounters many people weeping and carrying on. Now at first, we might think this is what we would expect to find. After all, this young child has just died, right? But Jesus calls them out for their false mourning rituals. You see, they often paid people to come and mourn at the death of loved ones, so this may not have been sincere crying, but just a ritual. Something people did because they thought it would, somehow, make them holy and impact God’s heart, as if we need to impress Him, as if He does not already know every single detail of what is happening, as well as the secret places of each heart…anyway, Jesus will have nothing to do with their performances and tells them to “go away” because, after all, she is only sleeping. This is when the ridicule comes flooding out. Luke 8:53 says that these people “knew” she was dead, so in contrast, this Teacher must have been completely clueless, right? What we must never forget though is, the way we see things of this world, the major issues of life itself, is often completely different than the way Jesus views it. These folks thought they knew beyond a doubt that this child was dead and her story was over. Yet Jesus says, she is just sleeping. To you and me, as well as those there at that time, this sounds ridiculous, but if we are living by Faith, then we are not telling God “what is what,” but we are listening intently for Him to teach us “what is what.” The child’s parents, as well as the three disciples Jesus brings with Him to witness this wonderful miracle, are keeping their minds open to what Jesus can, and will do. And they experience such an incredibly beautiful gift! The daughter is revived from death back to life and returned to her parents. Oh, if we would choose Faith over fear! Oh, if we would choose to allow God to work all things together for our good! Oh, if we would choose to have and display pure Faith! What would our lives be like? Would we have things that seem dead and gone in our lives, like maybe our marriages or finances or careers, returned to us whole and full of health instead? Would we step out of our little manmade box and experience miracles? Would we end our suffering that has been going on for way too long? Only God knows…but the more I walk with Him, the more I desire to know too. And by His Grace, one step at a time, He reveals His Plan for the Abundant Life He desires for me to have, enjoy and share. Want that too? Then won’t you join me?
Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.
<>< Peace, Diane