Believe in Resurrection: the Power of Faith

Luke 8:40-56

Jesus heals two women

40 When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they had been waiting for him. 41 A man named Jairus, who was a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet. He pleaded with Jesus to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a twelve-year-old, was dying.

As Jesus moved forward, he faced smothering crowds. 43 A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had spent her entire livelihood on doctors, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the hem of his clothes, and at once her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When everyone denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are surrounding you and pressing in on you!”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 When the woman saw that she couldn’t escape notice, she came trembling and fell before Jesus. In front of everyone, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed.

48 “Daughter, your faith has healed you,” Jesus said. “Go in peace.”

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Don’t bother the teacher any longer.”

50 When Jesus heard this, he responded, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting, and she will be healed.”

51 When he came to the house, he didn’t allow anyone to enter with him except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 They were all crying and mourning for her, but Jesus said, “Don’t cry. She isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.”

53 They laughed at him because they knew she was dead.

54 Taking her hand, Jesus called out, “Child, get up.” 55 Her life returned and she got up at once. He directed them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were beside themselves with joy, but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

“Your faith has healed you.”  These are the words that Jesus tells to the woman who is suffering for 12 years.  Finally, thanks to her faith in Christ’s power she has been made well.  As a pastor this passage is both compelling because of the power of faith that is displayed.  It is also troubling because of the implications of that power.  I want to believe that through faith we can be healed.  When we are not healed, does that mean it is because of our lack of faith?

Faith in Christ’s healing power is displayed both by the woman, but also by Jairus, who seeks to have his daughter healed.  Both of these people believe that God has the power to heal.  In both examples they place their trust in God and that trust is rewarded.  If that was all that we learned from this passage however we would really be mistaken.  I do not think that this passage is meant to teach us that all we need is faith in God and then whatever we want will be granted.  God is not a genie in a magic lamp, simply waiting to grant our wishes.

Back in 2008 during the height of the financial crisis I read an article that talked about how bad theology was resulting in bad mortgages.  The prosperity Gospel is an idea that if we believe in God and are faithful, we will be rewarded.  In this line of thinking, good things that happen are a reward to us from God.  People who had been praying to God for help in getting a home felt that the amazing loan offers they were getting from the bank were a sign of that blessing.  God was working through the banks to let them buy their dream house.  Sadly, what was at work was not God, but bad lending packages that would soon cause harm to millions across our country.  Faith in God was not what caused them to get these loans, a flawed system had.

Many, if not all of us have had the experience of praying for healing and not seen the results.  We pray each week for people and sometimes we are able to share later the good news of what has happened.  Other times our prayers of healing turn to prayers of support for those who have lost a loved one.  We do not all have the same experience as Jairus, where our faith in God led to life.  How does this passage help those of us who pray and have faith and yet do not experience new life?

It would be a mistake to simply conflate that because our prayers were not answered it was because of a lack of faith.  That is not how God works.  That kind of thinking removes the power and agency from God and puts it on us.  It turns what is meant to be a relationship between us and God into a transaction.  We ask for something, and if we have sufficient faith we get it.  Prayer does not work that way.

Having faith in God is not about believing that God will do whatever it is we ask.  Having faith in God means we trust God enough to be vulnerable with God and let God know what we really want.  It can sound easy enough, but I suspect that many of you are like me and actually find it really hard.  Being honest about what we really want is not an easy thing.  If we have faith in God however, we will do it.

Marianne will be the first person to tell you that I am not easy to shop for.  My mother will be the second person to tell you that.  For a while I did not understand why that was, and then I began to realize the source of the problem.  It was me.  I thought I was easy to shop for because I knew what I wanted.  I was hard to shop for because I was not actually good at admitting it.  For a variety of reasons, I was not good at really telling people what it was I wanted and what I was hoping for.  Without this knowledge it was really hard for them to get me things.

The same thing can happen with our prayer life.  If we do not share with God what we want, what we really want, then how can we ever develop a real relationship with God.  We need to share with God not just so we can get the things we ask for, but because we need to develop a relationship with God where we have this deep trust and openness so that we can share things.  I believe when we are open with God then God can be open with us.

Where does this all begin?  It starts with asking God for a pony.  It sounds silly enough, but first we tell God we want a pony and in doing so we share what matters to us.  Does this mean we get a pony from God, no.  Maybe in talking about our need for a pony though we start to hear what God wants for us as well.  Maybe we see how what is more important than the pony is the need to be happy.  Then maybe from there we can see the joy that God is already giving us in our life.  Suddenly our prayers are answered, not because God gives us a pony but because once we share with God what we really want, happiness, we find the ways that God is already giving us that.

We have been talking a lot in the last month about believing in resurrection.  It is so important to me that we believe in resurrection for two reasons.  One, because the resurrection of Christ is the reminder that God’s grace can overcome even the worst things that we do.  Even when we kill God, God still has the power to forgive us, and to make things right.  Second, if we do not believe in resurrection then we start to set limits to what God can do.  I often don’t ask for things because I know that I will not get them.  I know that what I want is more than the other person can give.  Maybe that is true, but if I make that decision, what am I taking away from the other person?  If we believe there are limits to what God can do, then we might be tempted to hold some things back from God.  We will not trust our deepest pains and needs to God because we believe that these are the things God cannot fix.  When we believe in resurrection, we know that anything is possible with God.  When we believe in resurrection we believe that God can heal those illnesses we have carried for years like the woman in the story.  We believe that God can even bring to life that which we thought was dead.

 

Questions to Ponder:

What are the things you ask from God?

When was a time you feel God has answered your prayer and what happened?

Why is it easy or hard for you to trust things to God?