The Bible text: Mark 5:21-24a; 35-43
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." So Jesus went with him.
Some men came from the house of Jairus , the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said, "Why bother the teacher any more?"
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Donít be afraid; just believe."
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the childís father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in to where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Taliha koum!" which means, Little girl, I say to you, get up. Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
My father used to tell me a true story about the day when as a boy he went swimming in the river with his friends. This was a favorite place where the neighborhood children would gather in the summertime. The current was very fast in the river, added to by the wake from great lakes freighters as they passed. Kids would swim and dive there, careful not to get more than a few feet from shore where the current might carry them away. "Right there," Dad said to me, "is the place where I nearly drowned. I got caught in the current and couldnít get to shore." He said he would have surely drowned if an older boy by the name of Ralph hadnít risked his own life and gone out after him. For the rest of his life, Ralph was Dadís hero and savior. I am thankful for Ralph too, whoever he was. If it hadnít been for him, I wouldnít be here today.
The scripture we have just heard is about a the miracle experience of a child and her family. In her short meeting with Jesus, this girl was caught up in the greatest struggle she would ever face, and she was only twelve years old. Death swept her away but Jesus brought her back to safety from the other side.
The story tells us the things that children really need. I relates three things that parents can give their children: the example of faith in God, the sense of confidence in time of need, and a savior who can deliver them from death. These are the things that children need most today also.
It was a terrible dread that drove Jairus from his home to seek out Jesus that day. His precious little girl, twelve years old, his one and only daughter, lay seriously ill at home on her bed. He, like any parent, would do absolutely anything for this child, but what should he do? The doctors were no help. She was dying and time was short. The thought of living without his little girl was unbearable. He had to do something, but what?
He went to see Jesus. When he found the crowd, he pushed to the center and threw himself down on the ground right in front of the savior. He was not ashamed to kneel down before this traveling preacher. He pleaded earnestly with Christ to come heal his daughter. Just a touch was all he wanted. "Put your hand on her and she will be healed and live," he said before all his neighbors. By pleading with Jesus in this way, Jairus, an important man in the community, humbly showed faith in Jesus as the source of all life.
We all want the best for our children. The best food, the best education, the best health care, the best home life, the best recreation. But these things are not enough. What a child needs is the example of a parent who trusts in God. When trouble comes our way, and it will come, the children are watching how we respond. Do we go to the Lord in prayer? Do we rely on the Bible lessons we learned when we were children? Are we, like Jairus the synagogue ruler, humble enough to bow down before the Lord in public and plead with him?
This is the difference between self esteem and God esteem. Children need to see adults who rely not only on themselves, but on the Lord who made them in time of need. They need to know that we adults have failed before God and that we seek the Lordís forgiveness daily. Learn this lesson, and they will be connected to the greatest source of spiritual strength. Miss this lesson, and they are in for a life of struggle and hardship. First of all, children need the example of faith in God.
On the way to the house, news came to Jairus that his daughter was dead. "Why bother the teacher any longer. There is nothing he can do now," they said. Imagine receiving this kind of crushing news yourself. Jesus strengthened the grieving father and said to him, "Do not be afraid; just believe."
This is the second thing that children need today: the example of people who are not afraid but believe in the power of God to save. Isnít that why weíre here today at church? Why we brought the children with us? Itís important for them to know how to trust Jesus. Sunday School, home devotions, daily prayers, these are all important. But meeting together in the presence of God every Sunday, rain or shine, happens because we realize that only Jesus can calm our fears.
Only by the Word of God can we receive faith. Only in the sacraments that God has instituted can we touch the face of Christ. This gathering is not for adults only, but also for the youngest infant.
Jesus is with us in the divine service, encouraging us, forgiving us, strengthening us. Just as he said to Jairus when that bad news came to him, so also he says to us here again today, "Donít be afraid, just believe."
It is important for us to teach the children to come to church. It is okay for parents to lay down the law in the home and say to the children, as long as you live in this house, you will go to our church. That isnít going to damage their faith. Itís okay for you to expect your five-year-old to pay attention to the service, sing the parts of the liturgy they hear every Sunday, to stand and sit with the rest of us. God is here for them also. Allowing endless trips to the bathroom and drinking fountain teach them otherwise, and disturb your brothers and sisters in faith. Teach them proper respect for Jesus who is with us here.
Even if you donít have children, we all have a responsibility to the children of God. I can think of dozens of single people and childless couples who have given of themselves to mentor and teach the faith to the children of others. Grandparents must model the godly life. This pleases the Lord God.
Your friends may not agree that religion is important for children. You can expect that from the crowd. They laughed at Jesus when he told the funeral crowd that the child was not dead, but sleeping. Educational experts will not point out how important spiritual formation is.
But being different from the crowd is one thing you want to teach your child. It is a skill that will help them throughout life. It will allow them to stay close to Christ in the teenage years, the college years, on and on. They will learn this from you when you do not fear the criticism of others but believe in Jesus.
The third and most important thing children need is a savior who can lift them from death to life. Jesus went into the little girlís room with her parents and some of the disciples. He brought with him no medicine, no medical school.. He simply took her by the hand and said, "Little girl, get up."
The word of God brought the girl back from the dead. Everyone was astonished by the power of Jesus. The gathering turned from a dreary funeral into a birthday celebration.
The most important thing children need is a savior. Take heed, because children do not come into the world as innocent souls. Psalm 51 says "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5) Children need a savior just as much as adults do. They are born into a state of living death also. That is what the childís funeral shows us.
Children do not need every new toy they see advertised on television. They will not be failures if they are not in softball, soccer, piano lessons, dance class and boy scouts all at the same time. If fact, if they are doing all this, itís got to be having a harmful effect on the family.
Children do not need to be wearing the most expensive and coolest clothes. They do not have to have the best grades in the class.
What children need is the example of faith in God, the sense of confidence in time of need, and a savior who can deliver them from death. As Godís people, we heed the word of Jesus which says, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Mark 10:14)
That is why the Lord chose you to raise His children. He knows you and trusts you. That is why he has brought so many children to this congregation, because he trusts that we will bring them to him.
You might be wondering what happened to Ralph, the boy who pulled my father out of the river and saved him from drowning. He was a surrogate big brother to Dad throughout his youth, until World War II came and he was lost at sea in an airplane crash. My father never forgot his courage, and neither will I.
Jesus loves the little children. He calls them his own. He picks them up and holds them in his arms. He raises them up, even from death, and leads them home, just as he would save all of us through his death and resurrection. What children need most in this life is saving faith. God offers this to us all. Amen.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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