5th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 8) LSB # 524
Text – Mark 5:39-40
And when He had entered, He said to them, “Why are you making a commotion & weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at Him. But He put them all outside & took the child’s father & mother & those who were with Him & went in where the child was.
THEY LAUGHED at HIM In the United States it’s a famous quotation which comes from a letter written in 1789 by a very famous man, one Benjamin Franklin. He wrote: “Our new Constitution is now established, & has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death & taxes.”
A lot of people accept that statement as the gospel truth, & I’ll bet money that not one of you has seen a formerly dead human being climbing out of their grave. If you’re a child of God you may believe that Jesus can raise people from the dead, but the Bible teaches that the resurrection is coming on the day the world ends.
Death is harsh & cruel & plays no favorites. Two days ago, an escaped & convicted murderer was shot & killed while resisting arrest in the state of New York. Eleven days ago, nine Christians were murdered in their church while doing Bible study. You’ve asked me to pray for the sick & do funerals, but none of you have asked me to raise someone from the dead.
Maybe you thought I’d laugh at you because that’s a pretty tall order, but when it’s someone you love; death is not a laughing matter. Yet, in the sermon text, the mourners laugh at Jesus when He says, “The child is not dead but sleeping.” What you need to realize is that these mourners knew death well. They were paid to weep & make a commotion.
They were like the guys from the funeral home who show up wearing all black suits, every one of them with a somber face. They’ve seen death a hundred or more times, & they know when it’s for real. The daughter of Jairus was stone cold dead, & everyone knew it. The tension came from the fact that Jesus recognized the girl’s physical death was a far cry from the spiritual death of hell. That is real death – absolute, complete & total separation from the Creator of life. Professional mourners, though they were, they had never seen that kind of death, not even once. So they may have thought, “Who’s this hillbilly rabbi, telling us she’s asleep?”
They truly thought that physical death was the end, & laughed at Jesus to the point of scorn. This wasn’t just your average, ha, ha, ha. They thought Jesus was a fool, & they worked at rubbing it in. People are still laughing at Jesus today.
They laugh at His teaching that God makes a person whole through the waters of baptism. They laugh when Holy Scripture tells us that baptism gives a life which can never be taken away from us, not even by death. Yes, it’s true that we can reject that life. We can walk away from it just like people walk away after hearing the Gospel.
However, in John 10:28, Jesus tells us: “I give them eternal life, & they will never perish, & no one will snatch them out of my hand.” It’s easy to believe in Jesus when the world is with you. It’s true faith when you still believe in what Jesus teaches even while the world is laughing at you. Through us, the world is still, & also, laughing at Jesus.
Our culture encourages people to focus solely on what they want, even if God warns that it’s harmful. Our culture tells people to completely ignore what the heavenly Father says is detrimental to their wellbeing, or to the wellbeing of mankind. The culture around us says, you have total freedom to choose whatever you want & God will have to bless it.
Instead, rather than telling us what to do, or how to do it, or when, Jesus took our place on the cross. When He physically rose from the dead on Easter morning, He restored life to the human race. He crushed the power of death so that it can no longer harm us for eternity. In fact, death is now our gateway to the heavenly dimension. If we seek 1st that kingdom – God’s Kingdom, then He will add all other things – ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’. So God’s plan is first to give us life, but He gives us that life in Jesus. Then we focus on our neighbor’s wellbeing along with ours. Since the Father in heaven created us, He knows how we function best – by following Him, by living in Him.
So the Gospel of Mark begins through telling us about John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus. After John is arrested, Jesus begins His public ministry to the people, by proclaiming the Good News of God. This good news is that all sinners are being reconciled to their Creator. Yahweh is, through His Son Jesus, restoring our relationship to the Holy Trinity.
Jesus’ message is that the due time is (now) fulfilled, & the reign & rule of God has drawn near. It’s at hand. So repent & believe in the Good News – now! The good news is that we are no longer enslaved to sin. So turn away from it. It leads to eternal death.
Now, we can freely, & without fear, confess our sins, for God’s Kingdom has come to earth & is now reigning over all things. The truth of that is absolute, but our sinful nature darkens what we see, & it blinds our vision. That’s why Jesus teaches us that He is the Light of the world, & He calls us out of darkness & into His marvelous light.
However, it’s easy to see why the world laughs at the Word of God. Though Yahweh is reigning & ruling right now, it is very difficult to see, even for God’s children. The people who’ve rejected Jesus as Lord can’t see anything at all of the true reality.
That’s why a young man can sit with people for an hour, in a church, studying the Word of God, & still shoot nine of them dead at the end of that hour. He sees nothing of the true reality.
For those of us who do trust God’s Word, though we can see dimly, as in a mirror, it is also very, very difficult to see what our Lord is doing by allowing nine of His children to be shot dead while they are studying the Word of God. Because we struggle to see sometimes we laugh. Because unbelievers cannot see at all, they laugh. They laugh to scorn their very Lord & Savior. They see or hear the Word of God & they cannot comprehend the truth it reveals. Five of our nine Supreme Court justices have no comprehension of the truth that God’s Word reveals.
In the Garden of Eden, the Serpent told a lie to Adam & Eve. All of your troubles in life began at the very moment that Eve ate of the fruit of that lie. Adam was right there. He could have spoken the truth of God’s Word for his wife, but he chose not to. In a sense, they were laughing at the Word of God. They didn’t trust the truth it revealed. They trusted Satan’s lie.
Our heavenly Father established marriage as the fundamental building block of civilization. Men & women are to live together as husband & wife, thus providing structure & order to society. That structure & order provides a safe haven for raising children, which bring into place a succeeding generation.
Whatever logic & reason you apply to that, if you get away from one man & one woman together until death parts them, you are getting away from our heavenly Father’s design. Adam & Eve got away from God’s design when they ate the fruit of the one tree God had forbidden them. The damage that caused is blatantly evident & at times horrifying.
If the fundamental building blocks of society are swept away it’s a foregone conclusion that our society will no longer function as our heavenly Father designed it. Apart from Yahweh’s intervention, the only result can be the loss of civilized society. I would add, that due to the rampant sexuality of our culture, our society is already well on its way there.
Here are some words on this topic from the president of the Michigan District of our denomination (Rev. Dave Maier). They were sent out after the release of the Supreme Court ruling:
Much of what we are experiencing seems to be the result of the ‘sexual revolution’ of the sixties which has continued on an exponential pace. ‘Sex’ was divorced from marriage, commitment & even psychological connection. We’ve seen the initiation of sexual activity at an earlier & earlier age. Use of pornography – which certainly encourages lust in the mind & heart, which is adultery – is epidemic & leads to further sin. Sex before marriage has led to sex outside marriage, which has led to multiple liaisons, divorce & what's been called serial polygamy. In a few decades, we’ve gone from ‘making love’ to ‘having sex.’ Yet, interestingly, although this may seem counter-intuitive, more & more ‘sex’ has led to fewer & fewer children.
Not just the ruling today is troubling, but also the undeniable reality that same-sex marriage completely cuts the tie between marriage & children. Some heterosexual couples choose not to have children. Others are unable to have children. With ‘homosexual marriage,’ we’re applying the label to couples which, by their very nature, are incapable of reproduction – part of God’s original design (Genesis 1:28) – severing the already tenuous connection between marriage & procreation. More importantly, the Bible plainly tells us that this is NOT what God intended ... no matter what the President of the United States or the Supreme Court says. Marriage is clearly the union of one man & one woman for life.
As we continue to live & minister in this day & age may we remember that because of God’s great love for us, because of His mercy & grace extended to us in His Word & Sacraments, because of the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith, we are ALL children & servants of the most High God. In eternity we were chosen by Him to live at this particular time for His purposes with the powerful weapons of the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom of God. Listen to St. Paul in the Areopagus in Acts 17:26-28:
"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; & he determined the times set for them & the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him & perhaps reach out for him & find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live & move & have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'"
As we look to our God for His continued protection & guidance, to the Holy Spirit working in the Word & Sacraments, & to our [denomination] for continued advice as to how we remain the salt of the earth & the light of the world, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – & all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)
The Day, when everyone will be raised from the dead, is certainly approaching. There will be no going back at that time. There will be no ‘do-over.’ The attitude of our hearts today, might be the attitude we live with for all of eternity. Blatantly disregarding the Word of God may seem laughable today. Some of us may not be around to see tomorrow.
As we heard in the readings from last Sunday, today is the day of salvation. Straying off the path that Jesus trod is not something we should take lightly. It is faith in Jesus Christ alone that overcomes death & gives life. Today’s Gospel reading takes the broad theme of suffering & places it in the narrower context of the family. A man’s daughter is dying. There appears to be no hope on earth left for her. No hope except that which comes from believing in that man Jesus. Jairus’ call for help is one that comes out of desperation.
He’s a man of influence in the Jewish community, but today the only thing that matters is the influence Jesus may have over things not seen. Jairus’ faith takes action. It moves him to kneel in humble prayer before Jesus. Jairus’ faith not only ends in the healing of his daughter, but also in Jesus pointing to him as an example of faith for the disciples.
As Jesus entered this house of the dead, so He enters our world of cynical despair. Death is what’s real to the world. It even tried to turn Jesus into its victim, but with a touch Jesus turns mourning into gladness. He drives death out of the girl’s body & brings her back to her parents.
When He awakened her, He was there to welcome her to new life. He does the same for us. Yet people laugh at us as well. Through the Gospel the Holy Spirit has called us to faith, & in that faith we hear & believe His words, “Because I live, you also will live.” This is the wake-up call for those who hear Him.
This is the promise that turned St. Paul’s life around & moved him to confess, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” When Christ calls a child by name in Holy Baptism, Easter happens. Life happens. It’s time to rise & shine forth His praise & glory. The laughter of today’s gospel reading was caused by unbelief.
In heaven, God’s children will laugh purely from the joy of living in God’s presence & in His true reality, called heaven. Amen.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds, & drives away our fear. It makes the wounded spirit whole & calms the heart’s unrest; ’Tis manna to the hungry soul & to the weary, rest. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet