Rev. Martha Jacobs
Believing with Our Heart
Psalm 46 and Luke 8:40-42, 49-56
June 19, 2022
Last Sunday, I talked about my rabbi colleagues with whom I had traveled to Israel in May. At a meeting two weeks ago, they mentioned that they learned a great deal from the Christian clergy on our trip because they observed us using our heart as our way to connect with our faith. I talked about how they said that they go to their head before they go to their heart, while we Christians go to our hearts first.
After worship, several people talked with me about their own faith and how they could identify with using our heart first. They said that sometimes it doesn’t make sense initially, but that eventually, they come to understand what was going on and why leading from their heart was so important to their faith. And they asked that I spend more time talking about the difference.
Well, since this is Father’s Day, and the story of Jairus and his love for his daughter is perfect for Father’s Day, I thought I would pick up on last weeks’ theme of believing with our heart through Jairus’s encounter with Jesus.
Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue, turned to his heart, which I am guessing, was unusual for him, since he was a leader and one of the teachers in the synagogue. As my Jewish colleagues commented, they are more comfortable working from their head. So, chances are, Jairus was as well. However, when it came to his daughter, as we learn, that is not the case.
Jairus put his love for his daughter above all else. He was willing to be chastised for going to Jesus and publicly pleading for his daughters’ healing. It doesn’t appear that he thought about the scorn he would face or the grilling he would get by the other leaders in his synagogue. He was willing to risk being ostracized and lose his status in his community for calling on Jesus, this person who the leaders of the community rejected and who was not welcome in some villages. Jairus was willing to give up his status and place in the community on the chance that his daughter might be healed.
And since women were considered “less than”, it is even more telling that Jairus was willing to risk his status. He clearly loved his daughter very much and so, he put his heart before his head by not worrying about whether or not he would put his status as a leader of his community in jeopardy. It seems that what was most important to him was his daughter being returned to good health.
I wonder what it was about Jesus that made Jairus trust in him? Jairus fought his way through the crowd that was surrounding Jesus, falls at his feet and begs him to come and heal his twelve-year-old daughter. He truly believed that Jesus could save his beloved child. I guess he had heard the stories about the healings Jesus had done. I wonder if he had initially scoffed at the idea that Jesus could heal people until it happened to him?
I also wonder what it was that made Jesus willing to go with Jairus to his house. So many people were wanting to be healed by Jesus. Why Jairus’s daughter? Perhaps Jesus was impressed with his love for his daughter and his willingness to jeopardize his status in the community.
Then someone comes from his house and blurts out – “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” Jairus must have felt like a knife stabbed him in his heart. But, Jesus, turns to him and says, “Do not be afraid. Only believe and she will be saved.” The writer of Luke doesn’t tell us what Jairus says or does when Jesus tells him not to be afraid but to believe. However, it seems that he listened to Jesus and believes Jesus and hangs onto his words. He loves his daughter so much that believing Jesus is much easier than those who came and tactlessly told him of his daughters’ death. He accompanies Jesus to his home and to his wife and daughter, who he now knows, is dead. And he tries to maintain hope, as Jesus has asked him to do.
When they enter the house, Jesus says, “Do not cry, for she is not dead but sleeping.” Those who are weeping find their crying turning into laughing. They don’t think Jesus knows what he is talking about. This is the first time Luke records that people laugh at Jesus and scorn his words. Luke doesn’t tell us Jesus’s reaction to their scorning him. They choose not to believe Jesus; but Jairus does.
Jairus is by Jesus’ side as he takes his daughter by the hand and the spirit of life returns to her body. Jesus not only gives life to this little girl – he gives life to her mother and to her father as well. I can’t imagine what they were thinking as they saw their daughter seemingly dead one moment and sitting up the next. But really, that probably didn’t matter to them – they had their beloved child back and Jesus was telling them to get her some food! I can picture her mother scrambling to do so as quickly as she could.
But, then comes an odd request: Jesus tells them not to tell anyone what had happened. That is such an odd request – especially since so many people had witnessed Jairus begging Jesus to help his. Further, those who were in the house weeping and then laughing, would also know once they saw his daughter walking around, that something obviously had happened. I wonder if that was Jesus’s subtle way of getting back at those who had laughed and scorned him – they were not going to get an eye-witness account of what happened. Imagine how disappointed they were not to know the juicy details of how Jesus healed her. They would have to wait and hear it from others – and who knows if it would be accurate then – you know how stories get blown out of proportion as they are told and re-told. Well, that is my imagining why Jesus would tell them not to say anything… perhaps to teach those who scorned him that they too should believe in him.
This story reminds us that Jesus says to us as well – to believe in him, to trust in him. Jesus reminded Jairus in that very moment when he heard that his daughter had died, that he needed to rely on his faith. We too need to help those who are struggling to remember that we need not go through whatever is going on for us, alone. Jesus, through us, will help us get through whatever is happening when we open our heart, when we trust our faith, and our faith community, which can help us get through difficult times.
The psalmist does his part by reminding us that God is our refuge and strength and that we need to be still and know that God is God and is a very present help when we are troubled. God was a very present help for Jairus. Jesus telling Jairus to “only believe” is another way of saying “be still and know that I am God.” Jesus is asking Jairus, and us, to do just that – to believe – through all of the ups and downs of our lives – the difficulties and the joys – the grief and the dancing – the living and the dying – that we need to remember, in the tough times, to believe, to hang onto our belief and know deep within our heart that God is our refuge and our strength. When we move through life with our heart open to God, it is harder to judge others and ourselves. Perhaps that is part of why we lead with our hearts – so that we are less inclined to judge others and be hard on ourselves.
On Father’s Day two years ago, we were in the midst of the pandemic and in quarantine. At that time, that time of immense difficulty and isolation and fear, I used this story of Jairus and his daughter. I asked us if we could still open ourselves to Jesus who helps bring about life-changing healing. That was such a difficult time for almost all of us. I am not sure that we could imagine opening ourselves to Jesus and believing in him during that difficult time. So, I reminded us that Jesus crossed boundaries and showed us how to cross them too and I wondered if we could still do that, even while in quarantine. I suggested that we still needed to help people, even during a pandemic. I asked us to reach out to others to remind them that they were not alone and that it was important to maintain those feeling connections.
In hindsight, that was a tough thing for me to ask, similar to Jesus asking Jairus to believe in his heart that his daughter would be well, despite having been told that she had died. Jesus was asking Jairus to trust his heart and let his heart guide him and not his head. His head would probably lead him to think it impossible to bring his daughter back to life. Perhaps some people thought I was a bit off because I was asking you to reach out, in the midst of a pandemic, to help others.
Well, we have come out of most of the pandemic restrictions. So, I wonder if we can believe with our hearts that we can make a difference and can bring healing to our troubled world now? With all of the craziness of our world, can be we be still and know that God is God and that we are called to continue to do what God has asked us to do?
If we pause and believe with our hearts, the answer must be yes. Yes we can and yes we will step out and like Jairus, lead with our heart and not with our head. We can step out and not worry what others will think of us as we seek to help those who are most in need of being reminded that they are not alone especially when they stand up against hatred in all of its forms. Can we support those who are worried that their children will not be safe either in school or walking down a street? Can we support those whose skin color has made them the target of hatred? Can we walk with someone who is fearful because of their gender identity or their sexual orientation? Can we be there to stand up to hatred in all of its forms? Can we lead with our hearts and help remind people that God loves them? Can we too love them, despite the differences between us?
I pray that we can help those who struggle to understand that God is their refuge and strength. I pray that we will be able to show them, through our own actions and words that God is asking us to not only believe, but to open our heart anew and help others perhaps to achieve the seemingly impossible – not by leading with our heads, but by believing and leading with our hearts.