David Kolander

Falling Asleep with Jesus Holding My Hand

by David Kolander on June 30th, 2024
Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43

Are you a good sleeper? If you aren’t a good sleeper, you’re in good company, because people who keep track of sleep statistics tell us that about ten percent of Americans have a severe sleep disorder that causes problems for their day to day lives, and that thirty percent of Americans have at least some symptoms of insomnia, which means they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or getting enough sleep. Thirty percent. That means it’s possible that almost one of every three of you out there has sleeping difficulties and sometimes has problems staying awake during the day. And we thought it was just our sermons! … Actually, we know that having trouble sleeping isn’t really funny and can be very frustrating and in some cases even dangerous, and those of us who are part of that group may well very have sought and received all kinds of advice about what to do about it, so that, even if some of us can fall asleep within seconds of our head hitting the pillow, the rest of us don’t want to find ourselves continually tossing and turning and thinking about every conceivable problem in our lives or in the world for what seems like hours — and just praying that God would somehow sometime soon let our mind and body relax enough so we can enjoy his blessing of blissful slumber. I know this isn’t medical advice, but maybe some good spiritual advice would be to think about what happened when Jesus took the hand of the little girl in our lesson, whom he had said had fallen asleep, and have yourself think about how comforting and peaceful it would be to have that be the case for you — to be falling asleep with Jesus holding my hand.

Now, Jesus obviously was talking about a totally different kind of sleep when he saw that little girl in the house of her father named Jairus, but falling asleep in the sleep of death can also cause different reactions in people, since death is not a natural thing, but a horrible intrusion into God’s perfect world because of the entry of sin into the world back in the Garden of Eden, even though Satan the devil in the form of a snake had told Eve, “You will not surely die,” if you eat of that forbidden fruit. But from that moment in which Eve and then her husband Adam took of that fruit, they began the dying process – they began to die — just as you and I from the moment we came to life actually begin the process of death, because from the moment we came to life we participated in the same kinds of sins that were part of the lives of Adam and Eve – just as has been the case for everyone else who came after them and everyone else who ever will…

That is not an easy thing to think about, is it? But in order for us to have a different view of death than so much of the rest of the world – like is our worship theme this morning – we need to have a different view of life, which God wants to be the case for all the world. We need to have an up-front and personal view of the one who is the conqueror of death and is therefore the Lord of life. We need to know Jesus – and what a great way our lesson from Mark 5 gives us to help us get to know Jesus a little better.

This synagogue ruler named Jairus knew Jesus well enough from what he had heard Jesus had been doing – and maybe even what he had seen Jesus doing – since, if he was a leader in the synagogue of the city called Capernaum, it was there and in that area where Jesus had been doing so many of his first miracles, like healing the legs of a man who could not walk and restoring the shriveled hand of a man so it could be used in the way God originally intended it, and casting out demons from any number of people, including what he had just done right before this – telling two thousand demons of Satan to leave a man and to go into a herd of pigs, with the result that those two thousand pigs rushed off a cliff and into a lake — leading the people to wonder what in the world was going on and who in the world this was… Jairus thought, If Jesus could do those things – and so many other miracles like that – surely Jesus could help my little girl. So Jairus said, “Jesus, my little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Jesus, the power of your touch and the power of your word can do what I cannot do… That is faith, isn’t it? Asking Jesus to do something, because you know he can do it – and that only he can do it. Otherwise, why ask?

The difficult thing for us, of course, is often Jesus doesn’t respond to our prayers in the way we pray them. Sometimes his answer even is no. But the thing that we ask God to help us keep remembering as best we can is that the very fact we believe Jesus is able to do whatever we ask is the same faith we want to have that recognizes that however Jesus answers whatever we ask is meant to be a good thing for us, even though to our human way of thinking it may not look all that good – or maybe even any good at all. But it is examples like this of what Jesus did for Jairus and his daughter that give us the confidence to trust the power of God and the love of God and the wisdom of God, so that when we pray, we can always ask for the will of God to be done – and then ask for the faith of a little, little child that can say, “Thank you, Jesus, for being so good to me. I love you so much.”

Isn’t that the kind of faith Jesus was talking about when he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, Jairus. Just believe.” Think about that for a moment. When did Jesus say that to him? Right after his prayer to heal his daughter? No. It was right after Jairus heard the people from his home tell him that his little girl had died. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” Believe what? Yes, certainly believe that I can heal your daughter, Jairus, and now raise her from the dead, because I am the Son of God who has come to save the world from its sin. But no matter what happens or does not happen, just believe, because I am the Son of God who has come to save the world from its sin. What happens or does not happen in your life or mine does not change the fact of who Jesus is and what Jesus has come to do. Jesus did not heal every single paralyzed man or restore every single shriveled hand or call out every single Lazarus from their tombs when he was on this earth. But our Lord Jesus Christ, who came as the Son of God to save the world from its sin, did the miracles he did do to show that he truly is the Son of God and that we can trust him when he says, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace. You will someday fall asleep with me holding your hand.”

Jesus asked,“Why all this commotion and wailing? This child is not dead but asleep.” The people who were understandably wailing and grieving at the home of Jairus at the news of what had happened to his daughter unfortunately laughed at what Jesus said. In fact, the word that is used here for laughing at Jesus implies that there were repeated laughs and mockings of what Jesus had just said. After all, it was obvious from any human point of view, that that little girl was not sleeping. But Jesus “took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around.” You can only imagine, can’t you, the kind of laughing there was now – total joy, total happiness, total thanksgiving, mixed obviously with total astonishment and amazement!

When it comes to the thought of death, I assume all of us are at different points right now in our lives, just as we may be at different points in life regarding our physical sleep. Some of us – or some people we love – may be coming closer to the sleep of death. Some of us – maybe all of us – have lost people we love, and that difficult memory remains with us. Some of us may not really have it on our minds all that much, because we are young or God has blessed us with good health or with a good life in general. And probably for most of us – if not all of us – it is just plain not a pleasant thing to think about, because it is sad and it hurts. That’s why, as we often mention at funerals, the reality of the death of that person is meant to have us take time to think about what the Bible calls “the rapid flight of our own days,” and that’s why the thought of death is meant to remind us of the need in perhaps a more striking way to do what we do every time we gather in worship and hopefully every day of our lives – and that is to confess to God and to one another that, because of our sins against our Creator and our Savior, we do indeed deserve not only death, but eternal punishment.

But God never leaves us there, and that is why, no matter at what stage of life you are at in how much you think about the end of life, our dear Lord always wants us to remember every moment of our lives that he sent his Son to help us deal with the reality of death, to help us see that death is not at all the end of life for a child of God, and to help us for that reason to look forward to a life after death as a life of unending peace and wonderfully uninterrupted happiness and joy, where there will be a reunion that we can only try to imagine how great it will with all those who have gone before us in Christ. And all this because our Savior Jesus gave his life to pay the price for what you and I have done wrong – and came back to life to prove that all that happens in our lives is just right – just right to enjoy this life and all the blessings God gives us, and, even if we sometimes have trouble falling to earthly sleep at night, just right to always be able to look forward to that day when we will fall to that different kind of sleep – and to know, because of what of our Savior has done as the Son of God who came to save the world from its sin – which means each of us can say he has saved me from my sin — and proved it with miracles like taking a little girl by the hand and bringing her back to life – to know with all our heart that that sleep will be the most wonderful and peaceful sleep there could ever possibly be, because on that day each of us will be able to say, “I’m falling asleep with Jesus holding my hand.

We sang it at the beginning of our service in our opening hymn. I pray it stays with us to the end of our lives.

 

I know of a sleep in Jesus’ name, a rest from all toil and sorrow;

Earth folds in her arms my weary frame and shelters it till the morrow.

My soul is at home with God in heav’n; my sorrows are past and over.

O Jesus, draw near my dying bed and take me into your keeping

And say when my spirit hence is fled, ‘This child is not dead, but sleeping.”

And leave me not Savior, till I rise to praise you in life eternal.

 

That, brothers and sisters, is what it means to truly be able to rest in peace…

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