by Fr. Anthony Mario Ozele
Luke 8:40-42, 49-56.
He’s just hopeless! I don’t think she’ll ever make it! I am never going to make it! They have no future whatsoever! They are hopeless! Are you ever tempted to speak like that? Do you ever feel that way about somebody, maybe even about yourself? Hopeless? Watch out. Because there is nothing more blasphemous than to declare that someone is hopeless. There is nothing more faithless, nothing more unspiritual, than to suggest that someone is a hopeless case. If I insist that someone cannot be redeemed, cannot be reclaimed, if I refuse to acknowledge that someone cannot be brought back from the depths, I have written God off. I have been faithless, even blasphemous.
Think about those so-called hopeless cases. Think about how Christ deals with hopelessness.
Let me tell you about what most people would call a hopeless case. Let me tell you the story of a desperate man with a dying daughter. Almost a tragic story; one with which several of you can identify in your own experience. This man’s anxiety must have been sky-high. But his faith gave him something wonderful: not a give up but a get up. LUKE 8:40-42, 49-56.
One of our key spiritual problems is that we give up too soon. We give up on ourselves and we give up on others; we give up hope too soon. We want a quick fix, and we are not willing to wait and to believe that God in Jesus Christ is able, in His own time, to go to a life and make a difference. We give up too soon; and that is faithlessness.
Let’s imagine the scene for a moment. This is a good man; this is one of those pillars of the community. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue; a church leader, an upstanding man, gainfully employed, well-recognized, the kind of person who probably had had things go well for him. If his beliefs were typical Jewish beliefs of that day, well, bad things didn’t happen to good people. No sir, not to him and to his family. Why, we are on the Lord’s side, don’t you know? God and I, we’ve got it all sorted out.
But then the unspeakable happened. Jairus’ young daughter, only about twelve years old, caught some mysterious illness. She became a sick, unhappy, miserable child. Now you know how it is with parents: they start out thinking the child is faking, just wants to get attention, just wants to play lazy. But then you feel that brow and you know that, no, something is going on here. This child really is sick. At first you think it will pass with a day or two of bed rest. Then, however, you see that this child isn’t getting better, and you begin to suspect that something serious is happening … so call the doctor, get some help, do something. Panic! Anxiety!
I’m sure that’s what moved Jairus. Jairus came running and fell at Jesus’ feet, begging Jesus to come to his house. Feel the intensity of this moment. Jairus – the ruler of the synagogue, the elder statesman, maybe sort of stodgy and cautious, dignified –- has left all his dignity down the pike and has come racing to find the teacher Jesus. And when He finds Jesus, there is nothing inhibited, nothing cautious, nothing held back. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, for his only daughter was dying.
Friends, when we face apparently hopeless situations, if we love somebody, we will not give up on them. We will do for them whatever has to be done. Most of all, we will pray for them. We will lose our dignity and scrap our inhibitions and pour ourselves out, in faith and intensity, before Christ. We will invest our very hearts in prayer.
Now, let’s test something out. What do you think that Jairus’ prayer sounded like What do you hear in your imagination? “Oh, uh, Mr. Jesus, if you don’t have anything else on your busy schedule, maybe sometime you could sort of stop by and see my daughter. Probably won’t help, but it won’t hurt either. Whatever.”
Or how about this? “Dr. Jesus, let me read you this prayer to you, which I carefully crafted last night: “O thou who art infinite compassion and mercy, thou in whose hands lie eternal wisdom and superlative knowledge, if it be thy gracious will, and if thy feet would deign to walk within my humble courts … ” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. No, no, no. Jairus got intense. Jairus got personal. Jairus got down and dirty with Jesus. “Jesus, you’ve got to come!”His body and his soul were wrapped up in imploring the Lord to do something. Hopeless cases stay hopeless if you and I cannot bring heart and soul and mind and strength to Christ. Wishy-washy praying will not do it. Half-hearted formulas will not get it. Pray with profound, consistent, intensive concern. And when you think you are all prayed out, pray some more.
I dare say there are some here today who would not be on earth right now if it had not been that somebody was praying for you in that way. I will even say that there are men and women and young people who are being brought back right now from the edge of disaster because somebody cares enough to pray for them with all of their heart; with intensity.
If you think it’s hopeless, fall at the feet of Christ and beg His presence. If you think she’ll never make it, beg Jesus Christ for healing. If you believe you yourself are never going to be what God created you to be, then drop all the pretenses, drop all the fronting, lose the dignity, and just speak your heart to Christ. Don’t give up; get down and dirty; and in a while you will hear Him say, “Get up.”
However, there is a devastating temptation that comes when we are working on hopeless cases. We need to be aware of what feelings do to us, or, you might want to say, what the tempter will do to us. There comes a point in working with hopeless cases when we are tempted to give it up, and forget it all, write it off as a loss, and go home. There comes a time when we think we’ve done enough and prayed enough; and if, at that point we are faithless and give up, we will miss the get up. In my experience, it is exactly when you feel you should quit that you should start all over again!
Jesus went with Jairus toward that home. But on the way the crowds demanded His time and attention, and one woman in particular drew some of His power. And so while Jesus, ever so slowly, made His way toward Jairus’ house, somebody came and said to Jairus, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.”Someone, while trying to console him said, “Jairus, it really was hopeless, you know; drop this futile appeal to Jesus. Give it up, Jairus; you knew all along it wouldn’t help.” But Jesus, hearing that, replied, “Do not fear. Only believe; and she will be saved.”
Stay with it a little longer, grieving father; it’s not over until it’s over.
Don’t give up when tempted to give up.
Don’t give up just because it seems like the sensible thing to do. That is precisely the critical moment in which Christ wants to work His “get up”.
The Lord says, “Do not fear. Only believe, and he will be saved.” Don’t give up when the tempter says give up; it is the tempter who pushes you to give up. Call no one hopeless; for at the very moment we think they are hopeless, that is the very moment at which Christ wants to move in and do a get up instead of a give up!
Now watch. They are at the door of Jairus’ house. Jesus seems intent on His mission. At the door of the house, He turns. Peter, come with me. You too, James. And John as well. Now, father and mother, you come in with us. Everyone else, stay away. But the crowd is going into that shrill and awesome wail that Eastern people offer up when there is a death. The streets resound with cries and howls, the sounds of despair and hopelessness. Even the stoutest heart would crumble under this.
Inside her room: a broken-hearted father; an anguished mother … but they are there. They have come in faith. Unfaith was left outside, to assault the heavens with its harshness; it will never see the miracle. Faith came inside, still hoping to see what God might do. He is taking her by the hand; He is looking into her young face, full of all the potential of youth. “Child, get up”! “Child, get up!”
She is stirring; there’s a yawn. Color is coming back into her cheeks. “Mom, hey mom, I’m hungry”!
Child, get up! That is what the Christ is always saying. Child, get up.
To the man who has lost his dignity, stripped of his pride. Child, get up.
To the young woman reduced to laying down her body just so that she can make ends meet. Child, get up.
To the father who has made a mess of it all, whose marriage is in a shambles, whose children have rebelled, who is barely getting by in a dead-end job. Child, get up.
To the mother who has raised her children on her own, but cannot begin to see how they are going to get a decent education. Child, get up. Don’t give up; get up.
This child’s spirit returned, and she got up at once.