Sermons

Faith in the Power of Christ

May 3, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Breeding Series: The Gospel according to Luke

Passage: Luke 8:40–8:56

Faith in the Power of Christ

As Christians, we confess that our lives are to be lived by faith. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, and we now live by faith alone, depending upon the grace that God alone provides in the gospel. This is foundational. Christians are a people who live by faith.

And yet, we should also confess that it is sometimes difficult to carry out this life of faith, isn’t it? We spoke a few weeks ago about the need to exercise faith, but there are moments when that act of exercising faith seems as hard as moving a mountain. Have you had those moments as a Christian? I know I have.

And so, the question arises – What should we do in those moments? We know faith is foundational to the Christian life. We sing and confess that truth quite often. What do we do when even the exercise of faith seems difficult?

Our passage this morning in Luke 8 provides some encouragement at precisely this point. Here in Luke 8, we witness faith in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. What Luke describes in this memorable passage is the triumph of faith over fear. Jesus encounters two situations that appear hopeless, at least from the human perspective. These are the kind of situations that strike fear in the heart of most people. And yet, in both instances, faith is exercised, and the Lord works in remarkable ways.

And it’s that last piece that is the key, both to this passage and to the exercise of vibrant faith. What makes the difference in these seemingly hopeless situations in Luke 8? Not the people who have faith, but rather the One in whom they place their faith. Do you see it? Faith triumphs over fear in this passage because faith looks to Jesus Christ – the One whose power knows no limits.

In fact, our text today is a pinnacle point in Luke’s presentation of Jesus, at least here in chapter. If you start back in v22, you’ll notice a growing picture of Jesus’ power. Follow it with me:

Vv22-25, Jesus has power over the physical realm – he calms the storm. Vv26-39, Jesus has power over the spiritual realm – he drives out the army of demons. Now, vv40-56, Jesus has power over unseen and ultimate foes – he heals incurable diseases and even raises the dead.

Luke could not have made the picture any clearer. From the physical realm to the spiritual and on to death itself, nothing rivals Jesus Christ. He is God in the Flesh, the Son of God sent for the salvation of his people, and he has power that can deliver from any hardship. That is the truth that stands at the center of this passage – Jesus alone has the power the save.

And therefore we can and should trust him. That’s why Luke puts these truths together the way he does in chapter 8. Truth gives birth to godliness. Truth strengthens and sustains faith. And so it is here in this text. The truth of the passage is that Jesus alone has power to save, and the takeaway, then, is that we can trust him, no matter the circumstances.

Let’s spend our time this morning considering three features of the kind of faith that depends on Jesus alone. As you look at the text, you can quickly see that this passage is a masterpiece of presentation. There are three parts to the passage – vv40-42, Jesus meets Jairus; vv43-48, Jesus and Jairus are interrupted by the woman in physical distress; and then vv49-56, Jesus finally gets to Jairus’ house. The two storylines – Jairus’ daughter and the woman – are woven together. We’re supposed to read them in light of one another. In fact, even the details clue us in to this. Notice – how old is Jairus’ daughter? Twelve years old. How long has the woman suffered? Twelve years. Also – Jairus is concerned for his daughter, and what does Jesus call the woman, v48? Daughter – the only time Jesus does so in the entire Gospel account. Both the presentation and the details are telling us – read these stories together. And when we do that – when we read these stories together – what we find are three features of the kind of faith that depends on Jesus alone. Let’s note these features together.

 

The Humility of Faith

First of all, in vv40-42, Luke shows us the Humility of Faith. Jesus has now returned to the western side of the Sea of Galilee, v40, where he finds that the enthusiasm for his ministry has not decreased. The crowd continues to welcome Jesus, and there is still a sense of expectation surrounding his ministry.

But in the midst of this crowd, a man approaches Jesus. Notice again v41 – “And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue.” This is the first time we’ve met Jairus, and after this passage, we don’t meet him again. Luke tells us Jairus is the ruler of the synagogue. What does that mean? Synagogues, as you probably know, were the local places of worship within the Judaism of Jesus’ day. You would go to Jerusalem and worship at the temple during the various festivals, but throughout the rest of the year, you would worship at your local synagogue.

Jairus, it appears, is responsible for that weekly worship. He’s not a priest or a Pharisee, but Jairus is a man with religious authority and social standing. People know this guy, in other words. This is not some random man from the crowd approaching Jesus. This is a synagogue ruler.

But notice, then, what this man of authority and standing does as he approaches. Again, v41 – “And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” Now, we should use our sanctified imaginations and picture this moment. Here is a man whom everyone knows – a man of authority and standing – and he falls down before this itinerant preacher, Jesus. Jairus falls down, and he begs for Jesus’ help. His daughter – his only daughter, Luke adds – is near the point of death.

Jairus is desperate, isn’t he? But do you know what else he is at this point? He’s humble. Jairus knows he cannot help his daughter. For all his authority and all his standing, Jairus is helpless. He clearly loves his daughter very much, but still, even the most intense feeling of love can’t stop this illness. Jairus needs help, and that help must come from where? From outside of himself.

And so, Jairus goes to Jesus, and he goes because, on some level, he believes that Jesus has the power – the ability to help his little girl. That’s why Jairus comes – because he believes Jesus can help. I’m not saying Jairus expresses fully-formed, mature faith, but he does trust that Jesus has the power to meet his need. And that trust is expressed in v41 through humility.

Brothers and sisters, this is an important point as we learn to think biblically about faith. At its core, true faith is always marked by a humble recognition that I cannot meet my own need. I must rely on Someone other than myself for the help I cannot provide. That kind of humility is at the core of true faith.

And as Christians, that humility should always lead us to Jesus Christ. We see our need, we feel our desperation, and in response, we place our trust in Jesus’ power to help, to deliver, to save. No matter how much we mature as Christians, we never mature beyond this kind of humility. On some level, every day of the Christian life is marked by this confession – “I cannot help or save or sustain myself. I must cast myself before the feet of Jesus, trusting that he has the power to save.”

Is your life marked by this kind of daily humility? Each day, do you place yourself, through prayer, before the face of God and acknowledge your trust in his power alone to sustain you? Or, have you slowly embraced the opposite mindset, the prideful self-reliant mindset – the mindset that says faith is a one-time thing for the Christian, and that after you believe the first time, you’re pretty much capable of handling life on your own? That kind of thinking is an expression of pride. Have you thought of unbelief that way? It is an expression of pride. It’s the confession that I am quite capable enough on my own, thank you very much.

And so, faith – and I’m talking about the daily exercise of faith in Christ Jesus – faith is a humbling of ourselves, where we trust in Jesus alone to sustain us. And through this humility of faith God works to keep us faithful to him.

Let’s not breeze too quickly past Jairus there in v41, bowing before the feet of Jesus. What we see from this synagogue ruler is the kind of humility that must mark our daily expression of faith.

 

The Boldness of Faith

But as we continue on in the passage, we quickly find that there is someone else in the crowd who is also in a desperate position. The scene shifts in v43, and with that shift, Luke now pictures for us the Boldness of Faith. In v43, we’re introduced to a woman whose life is heartbreaking. Notice what Luke writes, v43 – “And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.” V43 makes clear that this woman’s life is very difficult. To begin with, she has considerable physical suffering. She has this affliction – likely an internal hemorrhage – that has caused her pain for twelve years. But what’s more, she’s also financially destitute. She’s spent all her money on every doctor she can find, and nothing has helped. Physically afflicted and penniless – like Jairus, this woman is desperate.

But the worst part of the woman’s condition is the social cost. According to the Law of Moses – Leviticus 15 – this woman is ceremonially unclean, and she has been for twelve years. She is unclean, and everything she touches is also made unclean. In fact, if you touched something she touched, then you were unclean too. Do you see how this woman’s condition essentially makes her an outcast? She cannot live in the community.

And taken together, the only conclusion at this point is that the woman is hopeless. Physical suffering, financial devastation, social outcast – by all appearances, we should just write this lady off! Her situation is hopeless.

But notice what happens, v44. It is staggering. The woman does what every social convention would tell her not to do. She boldly reaches out in faith, v44 – “She came up behind and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” Brothers and sisters, don’t miss the remarkable display of power here from the Lord Jesus. It shows up in two ways. One, he is not made unclean by the woman’s touch. Remember, everything she touches – whether it be a couch, a chair, a shirt, her friend – everything she touches is made unclean. But not Jesus. He is not made unclean.

Rather, and this is the second display of power, he immediately makes the woman clean. Do you see it? Immediately, Luke tells us, the woman’s condition is healed. Now, the physical healing is amazing enough, but consider what this means for the woman’s life overall. She is no longer an outcast. She is clean. She can live in the community once more, without the fear or shame of contaminating those around her. It’s hard to overstate what a change this would mean for her life. People won’t recoil from her anymore. She won’t have to be careful where she walks or sits. Everything is changed. She is healed, and she is clean.

Now, that raises the central question of the encounter – Why would the woman touch Jesus? Remember, it was not acceptable for her to do such a thing, so why does she do it? Guess what? The Lord Jesus himself shows us the answer. Notice how Jesus draws the woman out, beginning in v45. Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” Or course, many people are touching Jesus because the crowd is swarming around him, and even Peter is frustrated by the question.

But Jesus keeps pressing the point, v46 – “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has done out from me.” Several times in Luke’s gospel, we’re told that the power of God was with Jesus to heal. It’s not like some magical power that Jesus wields. Rather, it’s divine power that Jesus bears as the Son of God, divine power that he bestows according to his will.

And Jesus is evidently aware of when that divine power is at work. Now, Luke doesn’t tell exactly how Jesus perceived such power leaving his body. For my part, I’ll contend that Jesus’ point here is not about how his power works. I’ll contend Jesus is purposefully drawing this woman out. Jesus has a greater point to make, in other words.

And indeed, that is precisely what happens. Notice v47 – “And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.” Catch what is happening here. What does the woman do here? She actually testifies to Jesus’ power. Do you see it? By coming forward to confess that she touched Jesus, she ends up putting the spotlight where it ought to be – on the One who healed her. What happened in secret, the woman now makes public.

And all of the sudden, everyone sees a bit more clearly just how powerful this man Jesus is. He healed the woman immediately – the same woman who has suffered for 12 years. Her confession highlights Jesus’ power.

But the Lord is not finished with the woman. Remember, she came trembling before Jesus. She’s afraid, perhaps of being condemned or rebuked for what she has done. But Jesus has no plans to rebuke her. Rather, the Lord commends her. Notice v48 – “And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace.’” No one else in the Gospels is called by this title – Daughter. It is a term of affection and warmth, and Jesus bestows it now on the woman.

And by doing so, the Lord Jesus publicly affirms that the woman is clean. Let’s miss this point. Jesus has healed her physically, but now he restores her socially. Now, everyone knows the woman is no longer an outcast.

What’s more, Jesus also sends the woman out in peace. She no longer has to fear her status before God. She is not an outcast in the community, and she’s not an outcast before the Creator. She has peace, assurance, confidence – and that peace brings comfort to her soul.

You overall, it is a moving display of compassion on Jesus’ part. He doesn’t have to do this. He could have just kept on going, but he takes to time to deal with those who need restoration. He’s the Good Shepherd, remember? He heals, and he restores.

But the integral piece for us concerns the woman’s faith. Remember we asked a moment ago – “Why would this woman touch Jesus, seeing as it was not allowed?” Now we have the answer. She believed that Jesus could heal her. She trusted that Jesus’ power was greater than her hopeless situation. And through that boldness of faith, the woman touched Jesus’ garment.

Brothers and sisters, this is another important feature of thinking biblically about faith. At its core, faith is marked by a boldness that believes nothing is hopeless before Jesus Christ. Nothing is beyond the ability of the Living God to restore and change. And therefore, even when things seem hopeless, I place my trust in the God who acts for his people. I boldly go before God with confidence, as the book of Hebrews says, and I believe that he is able to do far more abundantly than I can ask or imagine.

And so, I’ll simply ask you this morning – is there some area of your life where you need this boldness of faith? Perhaps it is something you have needed to confess for a long time, and even now, the Holy Spirit is bringing conviction in your heart. How should you respond? Believe that Jesus is able to deal with such sin, even ones that have been long hidden, bring it into the light, and boldly trust that there is forgiveness in Christ. Please don’t overlook that aspect of this passage. Jesus heals the unclean. Jesus restores the broken and hopeless.

And so, you can come to him boldly today – not because of anything in yourself but because of who he is! He is the One who makes the unclean clean, and he does immediately! If you are far from Christ today – if you’re convinced that your sin is too bad, or that your life is too far gone – whatever hopelessness you face this morning, hear God’s Word, friend. Faith is marked by a bold trust that Jesus alone can heal. And so, Scripture calls to you – trust him.

 

The Focus of Faith

And this call to faith takes us into the final section of our passage. In vv49-56, the woman’s example is applied to Jairus’ need, and here we see the Focus of Faith. We don’t know how long Jesus has been talking with the woman, but in v49, it appears it was too long, at least for Jairus’ daughter. A messenger arrives with the horrible news – “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” So once again, what do we see confronting the people in this passage? Hopelessness. Think of how devastating this would have been for Jairus. His only daughter is gone, and was it because Jesus lingered too long? Was Jairus too slow in asking for help? All sorts of questions would be swirling in Jairus’ mind, many without answers, but the one thing he knows for certain is that his little girl is gone.

But as Jesus so often does in the Gospels, he flips the situation for Jairus. V50 – “But Jesus on hearing this answered him, ‘Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.’” Now, Jesus knows the circumstances. Luke is clear that Jesus heard the report. What is Jesus getting at? What is the Lord’s point?

You might say, Jesus is putting two paths before Jairus. The one path is fear that focuses only on circumstances, while the other path is faith – this act of trusting Jesus. Now, we might think that this is somewhat preposterous on Jesus’ part, perhaps even heartless. Jairus’ daughter has just died, and Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; trust me.” I mean, death is ultimate, right? Death is as serious as it gets for human beings. This call to faith is staggering.

But don’t miss the kindness of the Lord here. What has Jairus just witnessed? He’s witnessed the unrivaled power of Jesus that brought healing to a hopeless situation. What’s more, what did Jairus hear Jesus say to the woman? “Your faith has made you well.” Put the pieces together. How can Jairus find faith in the face of such a hopeless situation? How can it be possible for this grieved father to turn from fear and trust Jesus? The answer, brothers and sisters, is found in focusing on who Jesus is and what he alone is able to do.

I’ve said this time and time again over the last several weeks, and really throughout the life of our church. Faith takes its strength from its object. The pathway to vibrant, strong faith is never found inside of us. It’s always found in looking to Jesus Christ. It’s found in turning our attention away from what assails us – whether it be our sin or our circumstances. We turn our focus away from those things, and we fix our focus on who Jesus has revealed himself to be.

And I do mean focus on him, brothers and sisters. I absolutely mean fix your eyes on what is true about Jesus and what is true about those who belong to Jesus. Go to the Scriptures every day, and dig the roots of your heart down deep into what God says about his Son – how he is the image of the invisible God; how he is the perfect prophet, priest, and king of the church; how his blood is the once for all sacrifice for sinners; how, even now, he reigns from heaven’s throne; how he is coming back one day and when he comes, no one and nothing will prevent him from gathering his people to himself from every tribe, tongue, and nation. You go to the Scriptures, and you sink the roots of your heart down into those truths, and then you pray for God to strengthen your faith.

Understand that growing strong in faith doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t just wake up one day with a more robust faith. No. It happens as we learn, by grace, how to turn our eyes away from what assails us and turn our attention toward who Christ has revealed himself to be.

Are you pursuing faith in this way? Are you purposefully and consistently putting Christ into focus in your heart and life? Or, are you trying to find the strength for faith from within yourself? Listen to the Lord Jesus here with Jairus. When he calls Jairus away from fear and to faith, he’s reminding us all – this is the pathway to growth. Don’t focus on the circumstances, and don’t look within. Look to me, Jesus says, and watch how my power strengthens those who believe.

And as we look at the end of the encounter in the text, we see a great encouragement. Here in Luke 8, Jairus believes. How do we know, you ask? He brings Jesus to his house, even though his daughter has died. Why bring Jesus if you don’t trust he’ll do something? On some level, Jairus looks to Jesus. He believes.

And the result is astounding. V51, Jesus meets the mourners, but he tells them not to mourn, v52. The girl’s situation is only temporary, like sleep. It’s not permanent, Jesus says. V53, people laughs, but Jesus is not deterred. He takes a small group with him to the girl’s room, and then, with absolute power, v54, Jesus raises the girl back to life. With his powerful word, Jesus gives life to the dead. And if that sounds like a statement loaded with gospel truth, that’s because I mean it to be. With his powerful word, Jesus gives life to the dead. The little girl sits up, they give her food, and Jesus tells them not to spread the news. Of course, that’s going to be a bit difficult to do, seeing as the little girl is now alive when she was dead. But even so, Jesus wants to avoid people missing the point of his ministry. He’s not merely a miracle worker. He’s the Son of God who has come to save his people by defeating sin and death himself. The call to silence in v56 is actually a call not to miss the point. Don’t get so focused on the miracle that you miss the One who performed it. With his powerful word, Jesus gives life to the dead.

And that’s where I’ll end this morning. The focus of faith is always on Jesus and his Word. Even here in Luke 8, you could say that Jairus found strength to believe by focusing on who Jesus is and what Jesus said. Jairus didn’t focus on the circumstances. He looked to Jesus; he believed Jesus’ word.

And so it remains today, brothers and sisters. Where should we focus when faith is difficult? Where should we fix our attention? We look to God’s Word, and in doing so, we focus our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I don’t know everything that you face today, but I do know that there is nothing on earth that rivals the power of Jesus Christ. He calms the storm, he conquers evil spirits, he heals the incurable, and he even overcomes death itself. Whatever you face today, humble yourself and take the bold step of focusing your eyes on Jesus Christ. Go to God’s Word, day by day, and find strength to believe. Amen.

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