God cares about our concerns, even when we’re not brave enough to talk about them

Tomorrow night in Bible study, I’m going to cover Mark 5:21-41. Since I actually put some work into preparing and actually wrote something halfway substantial for probably the first time this year, I thought I’d share it here.
Special thanks go to Jeff King for inspiring this largely derivative study, and to God for using Jeff and his talents and insight to answer two simple prayers from last night.

Let’s let Mark start the story:

21When 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. 22Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23and 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."

Now remember, most of the religious leaders of the day didn’t have a whole lot of use for Jesus. And being a synagogue ruler in this day and age, he was in the upper crust. But on this day, He needed Jesus.

So this aristocrat comes up to Jesus and wants something from Him. Jesus had this big crowd around Him. Yet Jesus dropped that opportunity and went to help him. Even though Jesus had something else to do. And even though Jesus could have used this opportunity to teach the aristocrat a lesson.

The lesson for me: God does not have better things to do. God wants to hear my voice. Yours too.

And there’s a second lesson: God “teaching us a lesson” doesn’t necessarily have to be painful. Sometimes it is. But He prefers, as we’re about to find out, to be unbelievably kind and loving.

24So Jesus went with him. 25A large crowd followed and pressed around him.

The crowd expected something. I guess Jesus had a reputation. The hard question for me: Do I expect God to do something?

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

Anyone who made contact with this woman became ceremonially unclean. (See Leviticus 15-25-33.) She was an inconvenience. A nuissance. This woman lived in loneliness and isolation for 12 years. Not to mention the physical pain she must have suffered.

Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but I can handle pain. I deal a whole lot worse with loneliness. When I’m in pain and lonely, personally, it’s the loneliness that I want to go away. To me, 12 hours of it is more than enough, so I can’t even begin to imagine this poor woman’s plight.

27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,

What I want to know is why this woman that nobody wanted to have anything to do with knew about Jesus. And that raises a question: Is there anyone in my life or yours who nobody wants to have anything to do with who needs to know about Jesus?

28because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

This has always troubled me, because I’ve wondered whether this was faith or superstition. Faith is good. Superstition isn’t. But God knows faith when He sees it. Here’s a question: What had the power? The cloak, or Jesus? The answer is the difference between the two.

If you think I think there are a lot of superstitious Christians, you’re right. Take the Prayer of Jabez (please!): There is absolutely nothing special about the words, "enlarge my territory." Say that to me and I might give you a quarter if I have one and nobody else has asked me today. But if you say it to God, trusting in the power of God and not in some magic words, and it’s God’s will… then it’s something special. But wouldn’t God rather hear your own words?

Here’s something else that strikes me. She was afraid to just ask Him for what she wanted. Maybe she didn’t want to trouble Him. He was off to stop someone from dying, after all. He had something better to do, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, a million times plus infinity wrong. God isn’t like your overburdened unapproachable boss. God isn’t bound by the constraints of time. God always has time for you.

Is there anything that you’re afraid to ask God for?

29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

Jesus healed her. Period. End of story. Right?

30At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
31"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ "
32But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.

I used to think Jesus was angry here. Maybe He was mad about her making Him physically unclean. Maybe He was mad about her being superstitious. Maybe He had some other reason. Now I believe differently. Of course Jesus knew who touched Him. He only asked because He wanted her to approach Him. Why? I don’t think Jesus was satisfied with healing just her physical ailment. We’ll see why in a second.

33Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.

She thought the same thing I used to think. She’s a genius! She agrees with me!

34He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

Look at what Jesus said. What word jumps out at you? The word that jumps out at me is "Daughter." "Daughter" is a loving word. It’s a special word. How special was it to Jesus? It’s the only recorded instance of Him using this word.

Now, if you’ll indulge my overanalysis for a minute: She’s in pain and she’s lonely. If she could get rid of her bleeding, then human contact suddenly becomes a possibility. Solve the root problem, and then she can see about finding some companionship. Maybe she had some relatives. Maybe she could make some friends. She didn’t dare ask Jesus to love her.

But what she wanted wasn’t nearly as important to Jesus as what she needed. Jesus didn’t dare keep on walking without telling her that He loved her.

The Eastern Orthodox church has a legend that this woman’s name was Veronica, and that she followed Him literally to His death. The legend says that when Jesus fell underneath the weight of the cross on His way to Calvary, Veronica reached out to Him and wiped the sweat, blood, and dirt off his face with a handkerchief as the soldiers seized Simon of Cyrene and made him carry Jesus’ cross the rest of the way. She was there for Him when His disciples had abandoned Him. It’s only a legend, but isn’t it a beautiful picture of a reaction to God’s love?

35While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?"

If “trouble” wan’t Jesus’ least favorite word before He was incarnated, it was by the time He died. Remember what I said before about God not being bound by the constraints of time? You’re not any trouble for Him.

36Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don’t be afraid; just believe."

Faith is enough. The amount of faith doesn’t matter. The smallest possible amount of faith in the right thing–God–is more than enough.

37He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James.

Peter, James and John were Jesus’ inner circle. This was one of many things they alone were priveliged to see.

38When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep."

As far as God is concerned, death and sleep are the same thing. Jesus wasn’t lying.

40But they laughed at him. 41After he put them all out,

God isn’t mocked. But Jesus didn’t punish them; He just gave them the same fate as the other 9 disciples: They had to wait outside.

he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ).

Look at some of the words here. Gently. Taking her by the hand. “Talitha” is an endearing way to say “little girl.” Jesus loved that girl.

42Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Let’s look at the two halves of verse 43. First half: Jesus didn’t want to be famous. Jesus wanted to help people. Jesus was the very embodiment of humility. This raises a tough question for me: How many times have I boasted about something God did, hoping that someone would think more highly of me simply because I happened to be there? Don’t we sometimes seem to be preoccupied with appearing to be spiritual powerhouses? I hope I’m the only one.

Second half: Jeff King, a friend of a friend, brought this one up. Do you see the parallel with verse 34? Jesus raised this girl from the dead, and once again, He wasn’t satisfied. First He’s concerned that she’s sick and in pain. Then He’s concerned that she’s dead–a valid concern, possibly. Did she believe before He raised her from the dead? Not likely. I’m sure she did afterward. So now that He’s healed her ailment and saved her soul, what’s He concerned about? He didn’t want her to be hungry.

God derives no pleasure from your hunger or mine. None.

I’ve asked a lot of questions tonight, but I want to ask one more. What have you been afraid to talk to God about?

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®: NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Fair use statement: NIV quotations are permitted without express written permission provided they are fewer than 500 verses, do not amount to an entire book of the Bible, and do not constitute more than 25% of the total text of the work.

14 thoughts on “God cares about our concerns, even when we’re not brave enough to talk about them

  • July 10, 2003 at 10:56 pm
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    I stumble over here now and again…where I got the link originally from, I’m not sure. But it’s in my favorites now.

    How did you know what I needed today?

    I think I’ll go talk to Him. I hope you do too.

  • July 11, 2003 at 5:38 am
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    Dave,

    you lost me after the boat landing. I like boats..

    Still, you seem very committed and that is very admirable.

    And i didnt even know the bible was copyrighted, I though it was life plus 50 (bit like my marriage).. Go figure…

    Jimbo

  • July 11, 2003 at 8:02 am
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    Jimbo, individual translations of the Bible are copyrightable like any other work. The Hebrew and Greek manuscripts are public domain, of course, and the copyrights on a number of translations are expired, such as the King James Version and the American Standard Version. But most of the translations that use modern language are under copyright, and given current law, will probably remain so pretty much indefinitely.

    The same goes for any other work that’s translated from another language. If I did a new translation of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, copyright law doesn’t care how long de Tocqueville’s been dead.

  • July 11, 2003 at 12:41 pm
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    comment
    Dave,

    I like how you expanded the Mark study. I love the simplicity of the gospel and how the Lord addresses everyday life. This is a very creative and thought-provoking site. I’m looking forward to reading some of your other material. Blessings and shalom,

    Jeff

  • July 11, 2003 at 1:21 pm
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    Dave,
    Alone is not loneliness. Alone, you might hear the call.

  • July 11, 2003 at 10:15 pm
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    Dave,

    thanks for clearing that up.

    I must admit I am a little concerned that the bible may be corrupted by translation upon translation, sorta like a chinese message.

    Still, I figure if i do unto other and all that, i’ll be fine.

    Jimbo

  • July 12, 2003 at 8:02 am
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    I hear that translation-and-re-translation argument fairly frequently, Jimbo, but the way you avoid that with ancient texts is to continue to search for earlier and earlier manuscripts, and Biblical manuscripts are more numerous than other ancient works and extremely consistent.

    It’s only the very first translations in a new language that are translated from, say, English. The English translations you find in a bookstore were done from the earliest available manuscripts, and, with few exceptions, by large numbers of people from various denominations (with several specialists collaborating on each book) which ensures checks and balances at the very least. So, theoretically, a modern translation ought to be slightly more true to the original than the King James Version was, because of the availability of better manuscripts.

    Some modern translations such as The Living Bible and the New Living Translation play awfully fast and loose with the language in the interest of making it easier to read, but what I tell people if they want to read those translations is to keep an NIV or NKJV around (at last count, I think I had 7 or 8 different translations on my shelf) and read the confusing verses in another translation. That’s a lot easier now that virtually every translation in current use is available online at sites like and . Listening to Christians talk about what translation they prefer can be as bad as listening to Unix sysadmins argue about text editors, but when you pin one to the wall, they’ll say the most important thing is to read something.

  • July 16, 2003 at 5:33 am
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    I’m just curious, but many of your writings, one way or another, touch the subject of your feelings on loneliness and isolation. How is it with your faith could you even imagine being lonely? I don’t imagine the woman tried to secretly touch Jesus’s garment instead of asking him directly because she feared Jesus’s anger. That’s at least acknowledgement. I think she feared most the possibility of being simply dismissed and rejected outright by God. (that would be loneliness) And God’s answer was – you needn’t be afraid. Sometimes we put a bit much on the Wizard of Oz solution. You don’t need a brain, but a diploma, not a heart, but a testimnial, not bravery, but a medal. Affirmations are nice and helpful, but if your head and faith are on straight, not absolutely necessary.

  • July 16, 2003 at 8:15 am
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    Dean, probably (hopefully) all of my Christianity-related writings touch very heavily on feelings of loneliness and isolation because those are generally the people I’m targetting with them. I think most people in their 20s and 30s feel that way at one point or another, but most churches don’t know how to present God in that way.

    A lot of people in their 20s and 30s rightfully feel abandoned by their churches and I want to make sure they know they’re not abandoned by God.

    Now do I feel isolated or abandoned as often as my writing probably suggests? No, not at all. I just go look for the strongest, deepest emotion I can find when I write and try to tap it for all that it’s worth.

    That was definitely a good, thought-provoking question. Thanks.

  • July 17, 2003 at 2:15 am
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    Dean, loneliness is an emotion even Yeshua (Jesus) dealt with. At the end of his earthly ministry, even His closest friends – the 12 disciples – abandoned Him. Isaiah 53 says prophetically that Messiah would be “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” In the gospels, Yeshua says to take the narrow road that leads to life. He calls His followers a little flock.

    Did the prophet Elijah feel lonely? After the miracle on Mount Carmel, he hid in a cave in fear and thought he was the only person in Israel who still followed the true God. Of course, the Lord set him straight, telling Elijah he had kept for Himself 7,000 who had not bowed to pagan gods.

    Living a crucified life can be isolating, but you still can find freedom and joy in Messiah. Even when our friends and family reject us for refusing to compromise the truth, the Lord says He will never leave nor forsake us.

  • July 17, 2003 at 5:13 am
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    My 20’s and 30’s were quite some time ago, but I can empathize with not relating to any church. At least any I know of, mostly because for me, they all emphasize the wrong things. When it comes to Jesus, why the miracles? life is a miracle. I don’t worry about ressurection or the revelation because faith tells me God will judge fairly. I don’t even think the notion Christ died for my sins is that significant. But if I do believe in the life of Jesus then I know God understands what it means to be me. To put it oddly, God sent Jesus to know what it means to be man. When Jesus on the cross cried out “God why have you forsaken me” maybe God withheld his answer a moment to learn firsthand that feeling of total abondonment. Yes there’s a lot more to Jesus life than that, but the important thing for me is – because of Jesus, I know God understands. That’s all, it’s enough.

    I spent 21 years in the military; experience and current events tell me folks on the front line don’t often know what the big plan is, but they know their assignment may get them maimed or killed. But they can usually accept that if they know the person making the decisions understands what they’ve been asked to do and the possible consequences. Apologies, I didn’t intend to get specifically theological. I just believe faith should be simpler than it’s often made out to be, and I’m always interested in the role it plays in people’s daily lives.

  • July 17, 2003 at 10:45 am
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    Dean, I appreciate your honest and insightful comments. At the moment, I don’t belong to an organized church because I can’t find one that teaches the truth. Our family has “church” at home once a week.

    A lot of people believe in the life of Jesus, or know about Him, but true freedom, I’ve found, has come as a result of the power of His resurrection. I confessed and turned from my sins, received His grace freely and now have a restored relationship with my heavenly Father. I am not the same person. I know I deserved the blackness of hell forever because of my fallen nature. But Jesus atoned for my sins; I deserved the death penalty, not Him. It was the greatest act of love the world has seen. But every man has the free-will choice to receive or reject that new life.

    When Jesus cried out on the cross “Why have you forsaken me?” it wasn’t because He was separated from the Father. Jesus was reciting the beginning of Psalm 22 as a sign to the rabbis. Basically, He was saying to them that He was was the fulfillment of that Messianic psalm. It was a form of rabbinic teaching. The rabbis knew the psalms and knew what Jesus was saying to them from the cross.

    I certainly agree that faith should be more simple. The beauty of the gospel is that it is so simple a child can understand. Yet man has corrupted and complicated it with his rules and regulations and doctrines. The gospel is free, and it has the power to set a person free.

  • July 18, 2003 at 6:09 am
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    Jeff, honestly, I’m not qualified to comment too much on the various cross references in the Bible. While I genuinely respect your testament, it sort of illustrates my problem with religion. Example, the Gospels are not that simple, there are 4 of them, they’re writen for different audiences, and require sometimes a lot of explanation to account for the differences and some apparent conflicts. I very much believe in God, and the possibility of a personal relationship with God for all individuals. Which for me means being able to experience God without an interpretor or an encyclopedia. But people have very different mental abilities so to make that experience possible, God’s guidance must be simple, clear, but profound. I personally like the passage that goes roughly “there are but 2 commandments, the first is to love thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind and with all thy soul. The second is like unto it, to love thy neighbor as thyself” Yah I know, basically the Golden Rule, but to actively work to apply that to all aspects of daily life is not that simple or easy. But I do find it liberating, because if I’m going to give my life to God, then I needn’t worry specifics of the afterlife, whether my soul is resurrected whole or burned pure and recast doesn’t matter because God will use me as needed and that’s OK. Maybe my military background colors my explanation a bit too much but it seems to me being allowed to serve God in any fashion is a reward, and if God asks me to get in the car, it’s not my concern to ask where we’re going.

    I’ve gone on a bit, and I apologize. I hope you accept that I’m not trying to bait anyone into an argument about their beliefs. I’m definitely not in a position to argue superior insight since my own faith is a work in progress. My views are as much my questions. But it seems to me many religions keep trying to answer questions that don’t need to be asked. I guess I’m curious and maybe in wonderment about how sincere people, mainly Christians because Christianity is what I’m most familiar with, came to be certain about their faith, and how they use that faith in their daily life.

  • July 18, 2003 at 2:32 pm
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    Dean, you are on good ground when you say your faith is a work in progress. It should be! You have a good understanding of the depth – and simplicity – of God’s commandments: Love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself. I would encourage you to avoid religion at all costs and focus on building a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. He knocks on the door of the human heart, but gives people the free-will choice to receive or reject Him. To receive salvation, a person simply needs to be aware of his or her sinfulness and need of a Savior. They need to humble themselves, yield to God and, in their own words, ask for Jesus to save them. The gift of God’s grace is free. No one can earn it. Just receive it and believe by faith you are saved. Then the Holy Spirit will come to live inside you. At that point, you pass from death to life. You are a new creation. In other words, your spirit is not dead to God anymore.

    A couple years ago I was in my kitchen minding my own business. All of a sudden I felt God’s presence fill the room and heard Jesus whisper, “Jeff, you’re my treasure.” I cried. How could the Creator of the universe say that to me, a broken man? I know that word was not just for me. Jesus feels this way toward all His children, and He longs to be in restored fellowship with them. Sadly, most of them will refuse his grace and be separated from Him for eternity.

    Sorry if that got a little preachy. I’m just a simple man. I don’t have all the answers. But I know Jesus is the Truth, the Way and the Life. Dean, have a great weekend. It has been great talking with you.

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