Hello. My name is Jarius. I am an elder in my little synagogue on the edge of the land the Jews call their own, near the lake that Jesus seemed to always be going back and forth on during his ministry—the Sea of Galilee. I wasn’t a teacher or a preacher. Instead I was the one that cared for the building, prepared the elements for worship, I planned and prepared the prayer services, and I would teach the children’s classes while the rabbi taught and led the rest of the community. I was in essence the lay leader of my little congregation.
There in our little town on the edge of the lake I lived most of my life. It was hot, dirty, rugged, and beautiful. My marriage was arranged, and after I learned my trade and established myself and took a wife.
Those days were wonderful days. Days when your dreams for you future take up more space in one’s mind and heart than do one’s past and one’s present. We had planned to have a whole quiver full of kids, as the Psalms put it. We were going to fill our house with love for the Lord and love for one another. We were so excited.
After a few years, God blessed us with a child. A beautiful little baby girl. In the following years, we had hoped for more, but we could not have more. That was ok. It seemed that when this little girl smiled, the whole world just lit up. And when she giggled, our whole world was filled with joy. We treasured every moment with that little girl. She was our everything.
One day, everything seemed to go terribly wrong. She started out with a little cough. The cough soon turned to a fever. The fever soon became hotter and hotter. Our little girl alternated between chills and sweats. We tried every remedy we could find. None of them worked.
I was lost. I would run to the synagogue to do some chore or errand, and time seemed to stand still. The task that usually took me five minutes would take me an hour. I was lost for ideas. I prayed. I cried. I asked out loud, “What should I do, Lord, what should I do?” It was apparent without some change our daughter was going to die soon.
So I looked out toward the lake. I don’t know what I was looking for. All of the sudden I saw a boat heading in our direction.
I knew which boat it was. It was such a rickety boat. It was always on the verge of sinking at one point or another. Yet, it carried a very important passenger.
The boat that was coming our direction was the one that carried Jesus of Nazereth and his disciples. They were coming back across the lake from another one of their missionary and teaching ventures. Word was, Jesus had cast demons out of a man possessed by them, and sent the demons into pigs, who in turn ran into the lake and drowned themselves.
I had heard of the many miracles Jesus had done. Was this the man that could help us? Our rabbi as well as our doctor seemed convinced that our 12 year old little girl was going to die. “Begin preparing for the worst,” they told us, “It is only a matter of time.”
I told my wife, “I am going to go down to the city, and see if I can find Jesus, and see if Jesus will come with me. I can do a lot of things, but I am not just going to sit here waiting for her to die and not do anything!”
I walked down toward the harbor where the boats always land and tie up. I walked through a number of small little villages of 50, 30, or 100 people. They all knew me or knew of me, and I them.
I walked along talking to myself, my hands flailing everywhere. I was trying to work out exactly what I was going to say when I met Jesus. People would look at me and look away. They knew who I was. They knew what I was dealing with. Folks are used to seeing people walking around and talking to themselves in some small towns. Everyone has been caught talking to themselves without knowing it. Some of us are just a little bit more embarrassed about it than others. Besides, walking along and talking outloud is the way a lot of people prayed in our time.
So I got down to the city, down to the docks, and it became obvious from looking behind me that other people were also becoming used to seeing that rickety old boat. They were all coming toward Jesus. I fought my way to the front of the crowd. I fell at my feet. I made the speech I had been practicing. I kept it simple. I said, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.”
Jesus agreed to come with me. Praise the Lord! He was willing to heal her! Oh, my heart was about to explode with joy. Thank God for his sense of good timing, sending Jesus to us at this moment! And so we began to walk. Together. Toward my home.
As Jesus and I began to walk, crowds began to gather en masse. People were not impeding our progress, they knew the urgency of the situation, but they were pushing in on us from every side.
Then Jesus stopped. He paused. He frowned. He looked around. “Who touched me?” He said.
His disciples thought this was a silly question. I did not quite get it either. Everyone was touching everyone.
Everywhere Jesus went was like a political rally. People pressing in from everywhere. Standing room only. Room to walk and wiggle. But people were shoulder to shoulder.
Jesus said that he knew someone had touched him. He then waited for a while to hear the response. He said that he knew someone had touched him because he had felt power go out of him. Eventually a woman came forward.
She shared that she had been bleeding for 12 years straight. That she had been to every doctor and tried every self-help plan and none of them worked. Now she was broke and had no where left to turn.
She said she had been bleeding for 12 years. It made me think of my little girl. She was born 12 years before. The woman had been bleeding as long as my girl had been alive. Jesus was telling her that her faith had made her well. He was touching her. She was moved by his kindness….and in the middle of all of this I felt a hand placed on my shoulder.
I turned around. It was folks who had been sitting with my family up at my house. I looked in their eyes. I knew exactly why they were there.
She is gone, they told me. Your daughter has died. You should just tell him she has died. We no longer need him to heal your daughter. We need to begin funeral arrangements.
Just a few moments before I was thinking that Jesus had the best timing in the world, and that his arrival in this place at this time was some blessing from above designed by God to answer my prayers for my daughter. Now…I don’t know.
It seems like this interruption on the way, with this woman, was just…well…bad timing. Is everything lost? O Lord, help me, I prayed under my breathe.
Jesus replied, even as I was praying, lost in my grief, “Don’t be afraid, just believe!” The word he used is better interpreted “faith” from our language, but faith is a noun in your language, and always an action word in ours. In other words, Jesus said. Fear not, keep faithing…but believing sound so much better in a sentence.
At that point, Jesus’ pace increased. He just brought Peter, James, and John with him. He got near the house, and there was no mistaking where we lived. I did not have to describe which little hut was ours. There were people standing outside of it, filling it inside, crying and screaming. It was more chaotic than a season ending episode of New Jersey Housewives.
Jesus waded through the crowd and into the front door. “Why all this commotion and wailing,” he said, “the child is not dead. She is just asleep.”
The crowd looked at him. They paused. They said nothing. Then they laughed. The laughed loud at Jesus. They did not know what else to do. This man that was supposed to heal my daughter, they thought, must be going crazy.
So Jesus got a little bit angry. He forced everyone to leave the house, except his three guys, and my wife and I. He grabbed a chair. He looked at her lovingly. He grabbed her hand. Then he said, “Little girl, get up”. No magic works. No mysterious prayer. Just, “hey little girl, it is time to rise and shine, and give God the glory.”
And that is exactly what happened. She got up. Just like that. And she began to walk around. Then Jesus reminded us that she had been sick for days, and she might need to eat something if she was going to say healthy. We got her dinner. And she ate…a lot.
Jesus made his way down the road not too long after. He told us not to tell anyone what he did. Guess I am falling a little short with that here talking to you, but of course people have been reading this story for two thousand years. I think the statute of limitations has run out…
So, what does all this mean for us?
As I ponder this passage, the phrase that keeps coming to mind is “get up!”
This word “Get up!” is actually one word in Greek, also translated “arise!” The same word as “risen” in “he is not here, Jesus is risen” on Easter morning.
Jesus said to the young girl “Get up!” He said to this lifeless body “Arise!” And he says the same to us today.
Some of us here have spent our lives chasing after money or cheap thrills, thinking that these things would elevate us and our lives, and we have found that these pursuits have left us empty and tired, with our heads down. I say to you, get up, and embrace the new life that Christ offers. Arise to a new life, the life that God offers through faith in his son Jesus Christ.
Some of us have spent our lives slaves to our doubts and insecurities about ourselves. We have had dreams, hopes, callings, and goals, but we have shunned them because we have come to believe that we are not good enough, or we can’t, or that is not worth trying. We have forgotten that God can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We need to get up, and remember these oft quoted words:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. GET UP.
And there are some of you here, well, you are content to simply play at your faith instead of truly living it with passion and gusto. You try to do just enough to get by, say just enough to get by, in the hopes that you might do just enough to impress God and others.
My friend,,,repent of your half hearted faith. GET UP. Give of your best to the master. Make your last years your best years!
But don’t listen to all this just because I said so. Do it because of the one who went to a cross and died on a cross. He was dead and buried. And then on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. The Lord said, GET UP. And Jesus got up. Death could not hold him. Sin had no power over him. And now he sits at the right hand of God.
As we come to this table, we celebrate the hope this offers, that the one who gave his body and blood for our sins invites us to come to this table to celebrate his sacrifice. He invites us to remember though that his death is not the end of the story. That it allows us to proclaim that he will come again to rescue those who believe and give them eternal life.
Get up. Believe. Eat. Drink. Go. Share.