The Hope of the Hopeless
Text: Mark 21-43
Proposition: In the face of fear and desperation, Jesus invites us to believe in Him, faith is the conduit through which He creates and points us to a future hope.
Introduction: Board games can be a lot of fun as long as you don’t take them too seriously. We were playing a game called Settlers of Cattan the other night and as the game was beginning I thought that I’d try a unique strategy. I put my pieces on the Board as my turn came and heard the comments of my opponents… ‘Hmmm interesting’ or, ‘that’s clever’ or, ‘very cagey’. That wasn’t what they actually said but I knew it was what they were thinking. It turns out it was the worst possible move I could have made. I read recently about a fellow who discovered a similar principle while playing chess against a far superior opponent. This was his observation, “There’s a hidden benefit to the hopeless situation ... When you know you’re going to lose no matter what, you can stop playing to win, and start playing to learn instead.” How do you handle hopelessness… in Board games… in business…in bodily health? Is there a moment when you are able to move from winning to learning? Sometimes the issues at stake can amplify hopelessness and that might be one of the reasons why the Scriptures are so full of those amplified times… a man seized by a thousand demons, a storm about to sink the boat, a paralyzed man lowered down through a hole in a roof…larger than life situations that invite us to learn about hope. This morning we are going to look at the lives of two people dominated by fear and desperation, two people whose lives were changed through faith in the character and person of Jesus. Turn with me to Mark 5:21-43.
I. Faith Is the Garden Hose, Jesus is the Water. As Jesus leaves the region of the Gadarenes and Legion goes about his new assignment, Jesus returns to the shores near Capernaum. The disciples in their travels with Jesus must have been wondering two things:
1. Wow, had did we manage to get through that
2. What’s going to happen next. So much of how faith operates in our lives comes from these two perspectives.
One looks to the past and sees the amazing hand of God in our lives through all the ups and downs. The other looks to the future with the certain expectation that God is still at work in your life and is about to lead you in the next steps of faith. In between these two perspectives is the present, the place where we get to learn the lessons of faith and hope. For Jairus and for the woman who had the hemorrhage, the past reminded them of what had worked or not worked in their lives. They remembered accounts of the power of Jesus, the character of Jesus, the truth that Jesus produced for all who would receive it. And both of them had a deep future expectation, “If you lay your hands on her she will live”, and “if I can just touch the hem of His garment I shall be healed”. Future expectations that coupled with past evidence made both of these people, whether rich or poor, male or female, come and bow down at the feet of Jesus in faith. Think for a moment of what Jesus said to both of them, “Daughter your faith as made you well”, and, to Jairus , “Do not be afraid, only believe.”. Was it their faith that that was the agent of healing, actually no, it was Jesus and the power of God to create in Him. But faith was crucial, it was the conduit through which the creative force of Jesus was able to be directed to effect healing. Perhaps at this point there are two questions in the back of your mind:Is faith always answered by the creative power of God flowing through it?What is the relationship between faith and hope, especially for the hopeless? Let’s try to answer these questions through the details of the story before us.
II. The Anticipated Response of God to Faith May Be Deferred, But Still He Creates. In the case of Jairus the crowd becomes an inconvenient barrier, they stand between what needs to happen and the One who can make it happen. And yet the crowds are the very thing that God is about to use to create the opportunity for faith to be exercised. If the crowds had not slowed Jesus down, the woman who had been weakened by the bleeding could not have gotten close to Jesus. So the delay for Jairus became her opportunity. The response of Jesus to Jairus was deferred or delayed, yet at the same time He still creates. Our faith is often tested like this. James 1:3,4 says, “Knowing this, that the testing of your faith produces patience, but let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” The same test of faith could be said of the woman, her healing had been immediate but there was something more needed before it became permanent. She could not just remain in obscurity having been changed by the creative power of Jesus Christ. Jesus knows that the power of God had proceeded out of Him to create healing, He stops the crowd and asks, “Who touched me?”. What He is really asking is, ‘ Who touched me with faith, expectantly looking for result?’ It isn’t until the woman comes forward and briefly explains her situation and her act of faith that Jesus then pronounces upon her the full creative act of healing and restoration. He tells her that her faith has made her well, go in peace, be healed of your affliction. He rewards faith, He assures her of His good will, He restores her in the eyes of the community. He creates on several levels at once! One commentator that I read pointed out the principle that is evident throughout Scripture, namely that when blessings descend from heaven they must in the form of thanksgiving be returned to heaven. Consider Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” God creates glory for Himself every time faith reaches out its hand to touch Him. Faith revealed glorifies God, and that was the case with this woman. Is faith always answered by the creative power of God flowing through it? Yes, but on more levels than we might expect.
III. Faith, Which Begins as a Gift From God, Is Essential For Hope. We know from Romans 12:3 that God has allotted to each person a measure of faith, we know from Ephesians 2:8 that faith is a gift from God that leads to salvation and we know from John 6:44, 65 that no man can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him to Jesus. By these verses alone we would affirm that saving faith begins as a gift from God. But how is faith related to hope? St. Anselm of Canterbury captures the essence of faith, “I do not seek to understand so that I may believe, but I believe so that I may understand, and what is more I believe that ‘unless I do believe I shall not understand’ Faith is what drew Jairus to Jesus, understanding didn’t precede belief, belief preceded understanding and as he believed he understood more and more. Faith then is an act that happens in the present, a belief in Jesus that He is able to know me this moment and that He cares in this moment about the concerns of my life. Hope is future tense, it looks for the eventual outcome. Jairus has faith in Jesus as the Lord who is merciful and Jairus has hope that Jesus will heal his daughter. First came the present tense action of faith that moved him to beg Jesus to come to his house, then came the future tense movement of hope. Without faith there can be no hope. Hope always accompanies faith, but if there is an absence of faith then there is no way for hope to occur. You remember the words of Paul when he said, “Now abides Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is love”. In other words Paul makes the distinction between faith and hope, they are not synonyms but rather express two aspects of relationship, especially in our relationship with God. So what would the implications be for a person who is experiencing hopelessness? If there is no hope what is missing? It’s faith, a faith that believes rather than understands, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for me and my family. It’s faith that Jesus has the power to create and still creates no matter how much the destroyer has destroyed. He creates new nerve cells, new eyes, new minds, new spirits. By faith we approach Jesus and stretch out our hands to touch Him. Our hope is that He would take our children by the hand and raise them up, that the life of ruin would be made whole, that the sorrows of this life will be comforted by the promises of kingdom life. Our hope is that where He is, we one day will be. The strategy of Satan is to destroy hope by destroying faith. Jairus heard that it was too late from the people that had been in his own house, “Your daughter is dead, why bother the Teacher any further?” Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” The mourners’ voiced the same unbelief. Even the disciples missed the moment when they laugh at the question, ‘Who touched Me’. Don’t let the enemy destroy your hope by ruining your faith. Jesus is the hope of the hopeless.