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A Cost/Benefit Analysis

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat  to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-43)

When it comes to many important decisions in life, we often way the cost of a certain action and the benefit before deciding what to do. It may sound crass to do this in relation to the question of whether we will or will not follow Jesus. But Jesus himself invites us to do so. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)

So what is the cost of coming to Jesus for help? Let’s look at what it cost Jairus. First, it cost Jairus his prejudices.

Jairus was the ruler of a synagogue. The synagogue was the local gathering place for the Jewish people in Jesus’ time. It was the place where they would come together to learn God’s law. Jairus was the president of the congregation. He was responsible for the management of the synagogue, for the conduct of its worship services. The ruler of the synagogue was one of the most respected men in the Jewish community of that time.

Now, as we have already seen in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus was beginning to be regarded as a dangerous heretic. After all, Jesus was doing and saying things that only Yahweh got to do and say in the Hebrew Scriptures. To associate oneself with Jesus was certainly despised by the Jewish authorities. Thus, Jairus had to abandon the prejudices of the entire crowd he ran with to come to Jesus for help.

As we all know, prejudice means a judging beforehand. It is judging something or someone before examining the evidence.

The story is told of a Chinese man and a Jewish man who were eating lunch together. Suddenly, the Jew gets up, walks over to the Chinese man and socks him in the mouth, sending the Chinese man sprawling on the floor. The Chinese man picks himself up, rubs his jaw and asks, “What in the world did you do that for?”

The Jewish man answers, “For Pearl Harbor!”

The Chinese man says, “For Pearl Harbor? I didn’t have anything to do with Pearl Harbor. It was the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor!”

The Jewish man responds, “Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese—they’re all the same to me.”

With that, both men sit down again. But before long the Chinese man gets up, walks over to the Jew and sends him down to the floor with a hard right to the jaw. The Jewish man yells, “What did you do that for?”

And the Chinese man says, “The Titanic!”

The Jewish man yells, “The Titanic! I didn’t have anything to do with the Titanic!”

And the Chinese man replies, “Goldberg, Feinberg, Iceberg—they’re all the same to me!”

Prejudice can be a real problem!

Pre-judging Jesus prevents many people from coming to him for help. I say—don’t let it! You don’t know what you’re missing.

The second thing that coming to Jesus cost Jairus was his dignity.

We read that Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet. This was not a customary posture for a ruler of a synagogue. It was not dignified for a middle eastern man in those days to throw himself down at anyone’s feet. But the desperation of Jairus’ situation drove him to do it. He would do anything to find a cure for his ailing daughter. Any parent who has had a terminally ill child can relate to this kind of desperation. Jairus was willing to go anywhere, seek anything or anyone who could help his daughter get well again. It cost Jairus his dignity to come to Jesus for help.

I wonder: are you afraid of losing your dignity by coming to Jesus? I ask this, because I know what kind of people we are in this church. We tend to be on the prim and proper side. I get that. We tend to eschew enthusiasm in worship. I mean—how might we react if someone raised their hands when singing or praying? Or what if someone fell on their face in the middle of the aisle? Or what if someone shouts an “Amen” as our friends from Teen Challenge did last week? How do we react?

Perhaps I’ve told you this story before. If I have, forgive me. I remember a Communion Sunday in a former church where I served as an assistant pastor. We had a woman in the church who was a new Christian. She came out of a background with a lot of problems. She lacked, shall we say, some of the social graces common to others in our upper middle class church. And on this Communion Sunday she must have been feeling a bit low, perhaps a bit desperate. Therefore, when it came time for people to receive Communion, before the pastor had a chance to say anything or serve anyone, this woman got up from her seat, ran forward to the pastor, took the bread and ate it, grabbed the cup and drank from it, and then she ran out of the room. We were all stunned. No one knew what to say. And yet, I have thought many times since, that while that young woman’s action was not socially correct, it taught us all something about the need to fling dignity aside and run to Jesus for help.

A third thing that it cost Jairus to come to Jesus was pride.

Jairus had to consciously humble himself to come to Jesus. Most people don’t want to be dependent on others. People in positions of authority usually find it hard to admit need and ask for help. We don’t want to be in another’s debt. We like to think that we can live life in a self-sufficient mode. But life really doesn’t work well that way.

Many years ago, when Muhammed Ali was in his prime, he was about to take off on an airplane when the flight attendant reminded him to fasten his seat belt. Ali responded: “Superman don’t need no seat belt.”

And the flight attendant shot back, “Superman don’t need no airplane either!”

Ali fastened his seat belt.

In our heart of hearts some of us like to think we are super men and women; we may even like to think we can get through most of life without God. But then we run up against a bit of experience in life that we can’t handle on our own, and we realize we are going to have to sacrifice pride and maybe come to Jesus for help. It is one of the greatest realizations we can have in life.

A fourth thing it cost Jairus to come to Jesus was probably his friends.

It is rather strange that an important man like Jairus would come to Jesus asking for help, rather than sending a messenger, especially when his daughter was on the point of death. Why would he leave her to ask Jesus for help? Perhaps he could not get anyone else to go for him. Perhaps no one in his circle of friends approved of him approaching Jesus for help, so he was left to make the trek on his own. After all, we see in this story that the men from his house were awfully quick to tell him not to bother Jesus anymore, once the girl was dead. It may be that Jairus went against the court of public opinion in asking for Jesus’ help. But you know what I think? I think the man or woman, boy or girl who seeks Jesus’ help is the wisest person in the world. It does not ultimately matter what our friends think.

I think of my own father, who went against all his friends in organized crime when he committed his life to follow Jesus Christ. I am sure that many of them thought he was a fool. It cost my father some friendships, and it came close to costing him his life to follow Jesus. But he counted the sacrifice as worth it. And I’m glad he did.

Now let’s turn to the woman in this story and see what it cost her to come to Jesus for help. First, it cost her some embarrassment.

G. Campbell Morgan tells us that: “All women suffering from hemorrhage in that age were suspect. Consequently, by the very law of her people, she was divorced from her husband, and could not live in her home; she was ostracized from all society, and must not come into contact with her old friends; she was excommunicated from the services of the synagogue, and thus shut out from the women’s court in the temple.” This woman was treated in a similar manner as lepers have been treated through the ages, or more recently, in a manner like AIDS patients in the 1980s.

This woman probably didn’t think she could just come to Jesus and ask for his help openly, because she was, in the religious terminology of the time, unclean. If she were to touch Jesus, that would make him ritually unclean as well. In addition, if she went to Jesus openly and asked for his help then she would have to tell him what her problem was, it would be embarrassing. I imagine that this woman didn’t want to risk embarrassment, or possible rejection. That is probably why she came up behind Jesus secretly and touched the hem of his garment. Perhaps she had seen other people healed by Jesus’ touch and maybe she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

In the event, Jesus figured out that someone had touched him. He felt power go out of his body. And so he asked, “Who touched me?” I imagine that this woman could not resist Jesus’ searching gaze. Thus, she came forward and confessed what she had done.

It cost this woman some embarrassment to come to Jesus for help. But I imagine she was desperate. She had been to many doctors and none were able to help her. In fact, her situation grew worse. So she took the risk of embarrassment.

But there was a second thing it cost this woman to come to Jesus and that was anonymity. I imagine this woman wanted to remain anonymous because she was afraid Jesus would reject her if he found out she was unclean. Thus, she tried to “steal a healing”.

But Jesus would not allow her to remain anonymous. Jesus’ question, “Who touched me?” invited her public confession of faith.
In Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus says, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” I believe Jesus wants us to publicly acknowledge our faith in him. He does not want us to remain anonymous Christians.

Anonymity is the name of the game for many people today. The desire for anonymity is one reason why mega-churches, or virtual churches via television or the Internet, are becoming more and more popular. People want to have spiritual experiences, but they want to do it while maintaining anonymity. Many people don’t want to be known by a pastor or by fellow church-goers. More and more today, people are doing everything they can to preserve their privacy. Some people go to work, don’t relate to people at work, they come home, drive in the driveway, open the garage door, drive in the garage, close the door, and then they cocoon. Perhaps we are afraid of being known by others and by God, because we are afraid of what others and what God will find when they look inside of us. We think, “If God knew what I was really like, he wouldn’t love me.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is: God knows everything about you and he loves you anyway. Jesus loves you right where you are, and he loves you too much to leave you where you are. He loves us too much to leave us in our anonymity. Jesus wants to know us and he wants us to know him. We must pay the price of giving up anonymity if we really want to know Jesus.

So what are the benefits? Why would anyone want to pay the price to know Jesus? In this story, we see the benefits of going to Jesus for help.

Let’s look at what the woman received. First, she received immediate healing.

I believe, as Scripture says, that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He can heal in the same way today that he did 2000 years ago. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus always answers our prayers in exactly the way we want. Sometimes when we pray for healing or for other things, Jesus says, “No, I love you too much to give you that. But I have something much better for you.” Sometimes the something better is a lesson he wants us to learn. Sometimes the something better is the ultimate healing of taking us to heaven. Other times, in response to our requests, Jesus says, “Wait.” Still other times he says, “Yes, and here’s more.” No matter what answer he gives, Jesus is always the best person to go to no matter how big or how small your problem is. There is no problem too big for his power, and no person too small for his love.

Secondly, this woman got more than what she bargained for. She got an encounter with Jesus on top of her healing.

This woman wanted to remain anonymous. Instead, she got to look into Jesus’ eyes and receive a loving word from him. How tender Jesus is in the way he speaks to her! How desperately we all need that look of love and that loving word that Jesus wants to give us.

One of my favorite plays is Our Town by Thornton Wilder. One of the main characters in the play, Emily, dies, and we get a glimpse of her life after death. She is given the opportunity to go back and relive just one of the days of her earthly life. She chooses to return to her twelfth birthday because she remembers it as a very happy day. Emily enters her childhood home, but now she sees everything from a different perspective. She comes down the stairs on the morning of her twelfth birthday to find her mother busy in the kitchen fixing breakfast. Her mother kisses her in a nonchalant way, but she never looks into Emily’s eyes. Finally, Emily blurts out: “Oh Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me… Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another.” Tragically, Mrs. Webb still does not look at her daughter. Emily asks to be taken back to her grave and as she is leaving she asks the question, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?”

I believe the answer of the Gospels is that we can realize life while we live it. We can receive that look of love we so desperately need. We can receive it when we come to Jesus, when we live with Jesus, when we walk through life with Jesus as our constant companion.

What did Jairus receive when he came to Jesus? He received his daughter back from death. This is such an amazing miracle many people have a hard time accepting the truth of it. But if there is a God who created the world, and if that God put himself as a character in the world he created, then why shouldn’t that character—Jesus—be able to raise people from the dead?

A letter came from Health and Human Services to a resident of Greenville County, South Carolina: “Your food stamps will be stopped, effective in March, because we received notice that you passed away. You may reapply if your circumstances change.”

The circumstances of death don’t usually change; they don’t usually reverse. But that doesn’t mean that death can’t be reversed. How do we know what is and isn’t possible for the Creator of the Universe to do?

Secondly, Jairus got more than what he bargained for; he received a lesson in patience. Think of what must have been going through Jairus’ mind when he was on his way with Jesus to have him heal his daughter. Jesus is stopped by this woman who touches him in the crowd and Jairus must be thinking: “We have no time to lose. Hurry up Jesus. Let’s move on. Don’t waste time on this woman. My daughter is dying.” And in fact, Jairus’ daughter does die. And he must be thinking, “If Jesus had only hurried, if he hadn’t stopped, then my daughter might still be alive.”

The lesson here for Jairus was not just that Jesus could raise the dead to life again. The lesson was one about waiting. There are lessons learned in the waiting room of life that cannot be learned anywhere else.

In One Inch from the Fence, Wes Seeliger writes:

I have spent long hours in the intensive care waiting room…watching with anguished people…listening to urgent questions. Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again? How do you live without your companion of thirty years?

The intensive care waiting room is different from any other place in the world. And the people who wait are different. They can’t do enough for each other. No one is rude. The distinctions of race and class melt away. A person is a father first, a black man second. The garbage man loves his wife as much as the university professor loves his, and everyone understands this. Each person pulls for everyone else.

In the intensive care waiting room, the world changes. Vanity and pretense vanish. The universe is focused on the doctor’s next report. If only it will show improvement. Everyone knows that loving someone else is what life is all about.

Could we learn to love like that if we realized that every day of life is a day in the waiting room?

Yes, there are lessons that can only be learned in the waiting room. And this too is one of the benefits of coming to Jesus. Often, he teaches us how to wait and he helps us learn new life lessons while we are waiting.

The cost of following Jesus is great, but I believe the benefits of following are worth it. And in the midst of it all we need to remember that Jesus paid the ultimate price. He paid a price that we could never pay, so that we can enjoy forgiveness, healing, eternal life.


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