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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Faith When You're Frustrated with God

Robert Barron - Faith When You're Frustrated with God

Robert Barron - Faith When You're Frustrated with God

Peace be with you. Friends, our Gospel for this weekend is a marvel. It's from the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, and it's a theological gem, but it's also something of a literary masterpiece because Mark manages to sandwich one very dramatic story in between the two parts of another very dramatic story. And then he thereby establishes a dynamic tension, a dynamic relationship between the two. So it's beautifully told, and with typical biblical economy of expression. I might urge you this week: take out your Bibles. Go to Mark, chapter 5, and you'll find this great story. Mark begins with a synagogue official by the name of Jairus. Now, to say synagogue official was to say someone of substance, someone of great importance in the community. He comes to Jesus.

Now, we know Jesus as the incarnate Son of God and so on. Jairus would have known him as this man with a reputation for great teaching and for healing. The fact that this synagogue official kneels at the feet of this carpenter from Nazareth shows how desperate he is. What does he say? "My daughter is at the point of death". Not just sick, not just having some minor difficulty; she's actively dying. And here's her father, desperately reaching out for help. Move into his space, we've all been there, haven't we, at different times? Someone that we love is in great danger, and we want God, we want someone to help.

So how thrilled he must've been when Jesus signals a willingness to go with him. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope after all. And setting out with him and Jesus comes a great crowd. So it's a very exciting moment. "Here comes the healer. He's going to come and, I hope, help my poor daughter". His sense of urgency must've been extraordinary. To get this healer to his daughter as quickly as possible: that was uppermost in Jairus' mind. "Get this man to my daughter ASAP". Well then we hear now the story in the middle. As Jesus is going with the crowd, and the people are around him, a woman (we hear) who for twelve years has suffered from a flow of blood, now, that meant she was physically ill, but it also meant in her context that she was ritually unclean. Anything or anyone she touched would be ritually unclean. She was excluded from worship. Read the book of Leviticus for the details.

So here's someone who’s suffering physically, yes, but also suffering emotionally, psychologically, even spiritually. She says, "If I could just touch the hem of his garment, perhaps I'll be healed". And so she does. Jesus, it says, feels the power go out from him, and he said, "Who's touched me"? Now, it's marvelous. The woman is healed. Marvelous. We, the readers, are caught up in the beauty of this moment. But I want you to keep your eyes fixed on Jairus. "Come on. I want you to get to my daughter. That's why I called you. I need, she's dying. Get to my daughter. Why are you dawdling with this woman? I know she's sick, but she's been sick for twelve years. She's not dying. My daughter's dying".

How he must have felt as this was going on. Well, Jesus asks, "Where is it"? And finally, the woman presents herself and Jesus engages her, and she tells the story of these twelve long years of suffering, and she just got worse after she's talked to doctors. And we say, "Wonderful". We're caught up in this. But again, and here, I'm relying on Timothy Keller, the great Protestant writer and preacher, keep your eyes fixed on Jairus. As the woman's telling this story and undoubtedly taking some time, and Jesus is spending this moment with her, he must be thinking, "Why don't you get on with it? Why aren't you coming"?

And here, I think again, we all can identify with Jairus. Aren't there times, everybody, when we wonder what in the world God is doing? There's somebody that we know and love who's sick, maybe, like the daughter of Jairus, at the point of death, and we pray, we ask, we summon, "Lord, come. Lord, help". And he seems to dawdle. He seems to take his sweet time. Haven't you caught yourself saying, "Lord, what are you doing? What are you up to"? Or even at the limit saying something like, "If I were God, I certainly would have my priorities straight. I certainly wouldn't be dawdling with a woman, yes, I know she's suffering, but not from a life-threatening illness. She's been suffering for twelve years. My daughter is actively dying. Why isn't he doing it the way he should be doing it"?

Anger at God, frustration at God and the ways of God, I mean, anyone who's ever been involved in pastoral ministry knows all about this. Anyone, and I remember my early years when I was full-time in pastoral ministry, anyone that's gone to the bedside of someone who's sick or someone who's dying, a family member: there are a lot of people around that bed who feel the way Jairus undoubtedly felt. Well, filled undoubtedly with these, oh, conflicting emotions, "I want to get this healer to my daughter, and yet he's dawdling. What's he doing"?

Jairus continues to accompany the Lord. Arriving at the house, they see the mourners carrying on. The child has died. Here are Jairus' worst fears confirmed. "What if he hadn't dawdled with this other woman? What if he had just come directly as I asked him? My daughter would still be alive". How it must have seemed like a slap in the face to Jairus. And then, then, to make matters worse, as the mourners are carrying on, as the terrible word comes to Jairus, "Your daughter is dead," what does Jesus say? "The child was only sleeping". Now again, we know the story. We know who Jesus is. But Jairus didn't know at that point, and he must have thought, "Are you mocking me now? Are you just toying with me now"? His deep sadness now accompanied by rage.

Again, anyone that’s been involved in pastoral ministry knows it, and I bet a lot of people listening to me right now know exactly what that feels like. The deep sadness at the loss of a loved one, but also a kind of rage against God. "What is he doing? What is he about? Why didn't he act"? This must have been raging inside of Jairus at this moment. Well, what follows, and please, everybody, read it. When you have a chance this week, pick up your Bibles and read this beautiful story. What follows, I think, is one of the most touching scenes in the whole New Testament. Jesus bends down. He takes the dead girl by the hand, beautiful little detail, and then he says… It's one of the only three times in the Gospels when Jesus' own Aramaic language is preserved.

One is when he approaches the deaf man who cannot speak, remember, and he puts his fingers in his ears and he said, "Ephphatha". Be open. The second time is on the cross: "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani"? God, my God, why have you abandoned me? And the third time is right here. See how it must've impressed them. The Gospels, of course, are written in Greek, but how these words must have come down through the tradition before they were written down. The Christian community remembered this so vividly. He takes the girl by the hand. He says, "Talitha cum" in his Aramaic. Usually, the translations have it something like "little girl," "Talitha".

But they say, the experts say, it's even more endearing than that in a way. It's the way you'd address a little kid. Something like, "Honey, get up". It was a term of tremendous intimacy, familiarity. The way a parent would perhaps wake a child from sleep. "Talitha cum". And the little girl, we hear, gets up. What a moment. This double-barreled story now of these two female figures, one a bit older, one younger, both healed and cured by Jesus.

The woman with the flow of blood? Healed. And now this little girl who had died is raised back to life. We hear the astonishment of the crowd is complete. The Lord knows what he's doing, everybody. Jairus, standing here for all of us, who in the presence of the suffering of the world and the sometimes confusing activity of God, say, "What's going on? Why is he doing or not doing what he's doing and not doing"? Our confusion in the face of God. But here we see he knows what he's about. Jesus manages now beautifully and perfectly to bring to resolution both of these scenarios.

Now, here's the spiritual challenge to all of us. As we face similar conundra, similar puzzles, similar struggles and tensions, can we trust him? Can we turn it over to him? "Yeah, but why doesn’t he..." yeah, yeah. I know, I know, I know. From your perspective, you don't get it. Okay. That's the way it goes, our finite minds trying to take in the workings of an infinite mind, Christ who sees all consequences, all implications. See, and that's why, everybody, the intertwining of these stories is so important because even though Jairus naturally has his eyes fixed on his daughter, that's what he's concerned about, but yet her story is intertwined with another story and indeed with many other stories.

So, all of our suffering, it doesn't just belong to us. It's sandwiched in between, intertwined with all kinds of other stories. "How come Christ is not doing exactly what I want him to do right now"? Because he's seeing this whole arrangement, this whole complex of interrelated events and persons. And so, again, can we trust him? Can we acknowledge that he knows what he is about, he knows what he is doing, even though we can't always see it? I think that's the spiritual import of this beautifully told interweaving of two stories. Trust him. Trust him. Trust him. And God bless you.
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