March 1, 2009

Even Authority Over Death

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Matthew Scripture: Matthew 9:18–35


Even Authority Over Death

Matthew 9:18-35
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Pastor Randy Smith

Even in a troubled economy there is one profession that always has business. Maybe some have scaled back on the fanfare, but there is always a need for funeral homes and cemeteries. Regardless of our medical advances, bodies are still being embalmed and graves are still being dug. Despite the fact that nothing brings us greater grief, we have not overcome the inevitability of death. In just the past three weeks, I have attended four funerals for family members related to this church.

Death is ugly, but death was not part of God's original plan. The Bible teaches us that death is the result of sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). And this ultimate wage of sin is meted out to all without discrimination. It is a destructive thing as it severs us from those we love, deprives us of our most precious possessions on earth and tears us apart from our physical body. Death is unavoidable. Death is indeed the last and greatest enemy.

Jesus Himself faced the horrors of death. Just before the crucifixion He had His Gethsemane experience in which His "soul [was] deeply grieved, to the point of death" (Mt. 26:38). When He contemplated His death, He recoiled at the sight of it. He would face all the agonies of death that we dread the most - the separation from the body, the separation from blessedness and the separation from God. He could foresee the physical, spiritual and emotional pain.

We must all face the reality of our earthly termination. Yet in today's passage we will see that Jesus is able to identify with us. He has experienced a shade of death well beyond anything we could ever imagine. He knows our greatest fears and freely comes to us with care and grace. Did He not weep when He attended the funeral of Lazarus (Jn. 11:35)?

We need a compassionate Savior, but what we really need is an omnipotent Savior. Beyond the sympathy, we need One who can reverse the curse. We need One who is able to overcome even death.

In the verses that I read this morning and from the passages that we've studied in chapters 8 and 9, we have witnessed the authority of Jesus Christ. As 9:35 says, we have seen Him heal "every kind of disease and every kind of sickness" (8:1-4, 5-13, 14-17; 9:1-8, 18-26, 27-31). We have seen Him cast out demons (8:28-34; 9:32-34). We have seen Him control the events of nature (8:23-27). We have even seen Him demonstrate the authority to forgive sin (9:1-8). But what about the final enemy? Does Jesus Christ have authority even over death?


Let's begin first with the desperation of a father.

I was fairly new in my Christian faith, but it didn't take long to be exposed to the realities of church discipline. To the best of my recollection, a man in my former church had a very sick daughter. She was getting worse and nearing the point of death so he reached a point of desperation and was willing to attempt anything to save his daughter's life, even if it meant denying his faith.

He obtained some kind of contraption that promised mystical healing through a picture of the child. The man's daughter suddenly became well. Although it was God's grace apart from his witchcraft that made his daughter well, the man credited the device and began to promote his voodoo apparatus to others in the church fully assured in his own heart that he was correct.

In our account this morning we see another father desperate for the healing of his child, although his faith is directed to the right source.

According to the other Gospel writers, the man's name is Jairus (Mk. 5:22; Lk. 8:41) and his daughter was 12 years old (Lk. 8:42). Our text indicates he was a "synagogue official." This means he was high-ranking representative of the religious community in his town. He was the chief elder. He rubbed elbows with our Lord's harshest critics. It was his peers in verse 34 who said, "[Jesus] casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."

Yet in his moment of desperation, verse 18 says, "[He] bowed down before [Jesus]." No doubt aware of His miracles in the vicinity, he knew that only Jesus had the power to answer his request. Regardless of his pride, regardless of his reputation, regardless of his job security, in his moment of desperation, he knew Jesus was his only solution.

This is true for everybody who comes to Christ. No one will ever seek the Savior and prostrate him or herself before Him until such a person reaches a point of desperation and sees their greatest needs met in Him and Him alone. Remember this: proud people are never candidates for the work of Christ. He opposes the proud but give grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

With incredible faith the man in our account said, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live." Remember the centurion from chapter 8? He believed that Jesus could heal from a distance. This father from chapter 9, even though he invited Jesus to his home, exerted greater faith because he believed that Jesus could raise the dead!

We don't see this kind of faith even among key characters in the Bible. The disciples are repeatedly rebuked as being "men of little faith" (Mt. 8:26; 16:8). Or how about the esteemed Martha and Mary? When confronted with the immediate resurrection of their brother Lazarus, Martha said, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (Jn. 11:24) and Mary said, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (Jn. 11:32). Even the bystanders said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying" (Jn. 11:37)? All Jesus needed to say was, "Lazarus, come forth" (Jn. 11:43).

Jesus always responds to faith. At the request of Jairus, verse 19 informs us that "Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples."


But before they can make it to Jairus' house they are delayed along the way - our second point.

Put yourself in this father's shoes. You finally get Jesus to visit your daughter, and He makes time for an intrusion along the way. It is like waiting in a long line for customer service. The moment you begin your explanation to the clerk the phone rings behind the counter. Immediately that person on the phone is given priority attention. It doesn't seem fair and the momentary delay seems like hours! Jairus would come to learn that time is not a factor for Jesus. As a matter of fact, Jesus often uses delays for His glory (Jn. 11:6). And while Jairus' needs seemed to himself greater than all the needs in the world, Jesus is not one to show partiality. This might have been the greatest test of Jairus' faith.

Verse 20, "And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak."

Until the recent turn of events, Jairus had a daughter that brought him joy for 12 years. On the other hand, this woman had known 12 years of misery.

We cannot pinpoint her bleeding condition. Some have said it was a woman's issue, others a tumor. What we do know from Mark's Gospel was that she "endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse" (Mk. 5:26). Luke does not mention this in his Gospel probably because he was a physician! We know she was without money, without hope and being ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:25-27), without affection. This probably explains why she "came up behind [Jesus]." She was ashamed. She was embarrassed. But she too was also desperate. She had heard about Jesus healing others with a touch and probably thought she would be healed if she could only touch Him.

Look at verse 21, "For she was saying to herself, 'If I only touch His garment, I will get well.'" She did and at that moment the frame freezes. Everything goes blurry and only this woman and Jesus are in focus. How would Jesus respond to a woman touching Him? How would Jesus respond to someone ceremonially unclean touching Him? How would Jesus respond to someone with weak faith touching Him?

Verse 22, "But Jesus turning and seeing her said, 'Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.' At once the woman was made well.

What a great verse! Jesus demonstrates such compassion with the woman. He knew her fears and He knew her needs and by His sovereign decision He chose to minister to both. He also wanted to make it clear that it was not her superstition that healed her for touching His garment meant nothing. Rather it was her faith, said Jesus, that enabled her to be the recipient of our Lord's blessings.

And the Greek word used to be made "well" is not the word found in chapters 8 and 9 for the physical healings. Rather the word used here is sozo, a verb we commonly translate, "to save." I believe this woman was also saved that very moment that she was made well spiritually.

At times Jesus healed physically without faith. Other times He chose not to heal physically even when the recipient had faith. But where there is saving faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed, Jesus will always respond to the person spiritually. In other words, sometimes He honors our faith in healing, but He always honors our faith in saving. The mysticism of touching His garment meant nothing. And obviously today we cannot touch His garment (even if we wanted to), but our faith will always touch His heart.


So after this brief interlude, this narrative returns to Jairus (our third point). Verse 23 informs us that they finally made it to his house. Yet when they arrived the funeral was already in progress. Unlike the quietness that surrounds funerals in our culture, the average funeral for a first-century Jew was very loud. The verse says, "When Jesus came into the official's house, [they] saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder."

Let's remember that this synagogue official was a big man in the community. No expenses were spared for the death of his daughter. Flute-players were hired along with professional mourners, both customary fixtures for any Jewish funeral. The musicians were doing their thing while the mourners were wailing at the top of their lungs, everybody trying to create an emotional environment. Matthew simply describes it as a "noisy disorder."

Yet in the midst of the chaos Jesus purposefully makes His way to the casket and says in verse 24, "Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." These folks who were given a lot of money to do their job were now told to get out. This girl that was clearly dead is now pronounced sleeping. Pull this stunt at a funeral today and I don't think too many people will find it very funny!

However, verse 24 informs us "they began laughing at Him." These professional mourners obviously were not emotionally involved. In a split second they could turn the tears to laughter. They mocked Jesus as if He were a clown. They laughed in His face. Possibly they snickered among themselves, "Who invited this guy to the party? Can't he spot a dead person when he sees one? After all this is a funeral and she's lying in a casket!" Maybe their ridicule went along these lines, "Look folks, it's the miracle worker we've been hearing so much about. He's taking his success way too far. The popularity has gone to his head. Now he's going to try to raise the dead. Let's watch him make a fool of himself!"


Point number 4, "The Deliverance." Verse 25, "But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up."

The other Gospel writers tell us that everyone was sent out except the parents and the inner three disciples (Mk. 5:40; Lk. 8:51). At that time Jesus took the young girl by the hand (what a tender Savior!) and again according to the other accounts said, "'Talitha kum!' (which translated means, 'Little girl, I say to you, get up!'" - Mk. 5:41). And far from the dead body defiling Him, the text says, "the girl got up." Luke says, "her spirit returned" (Lk. 8:55).

J.C. Ryle in his commentary said, "He restores to life one that was dead. How wonderful that sight must have been! Who that has ever seen the dead, can forget the stillness, the silence, the coldness, when the breath has left the body? Who can forget the dreadful feeling, that a mighty change has taken place, and a mighty gulf been placed between ourselves and the departed? But behold! our Lord goes to the chamber where the dead lies, and calls the spirit back to its earthly tabernacle. The pulse once more beats. The eyes once more see. The breath once more comes and goes. The ruler's daughter is once more alive, and restored to her father and mother. This was omnipotence indeed! None could have done this but He who first created man, and has all power in heaven and earth" (Matthew 9).

Verse 26, "This news spread throughout all that land." You bet it did! This wasn't just about bringing a corpse back to life. This was giving to all humanity hope in the midst of despair. Someone overcame death! This was as verse 35 says, "Proclaiming the gospel!"

The Canadian scientist G.B. Hardy once said, "When I looked at religion I said, 'I have two questions. One, has anybody ever conquered death, and two, if they have, did they make a way for me to conquer death? I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied, and I checked the tomb of Confucius and it was occupied, and I checked the tomb of Mohammed and it was occupied, and I came to the tomb of Jesus and it was empty.' And I said, 'There is one who conquered death.' And I asked the second question, 'Did He make a way for me to do it?' And I opened the Bible and discovered that He said, 'Because I live you shall live also'" (John Macarthur, Matthew 81-15, p. 75).

When John the Baptist was confined in prison doubt was beginning to rise as to whether Jesus was the Messiah. An envoy was sent to our Lord and He responded, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Mt. 11:4-5).

By this time in the Gospel of Matthew we see that Jesus fulfilled all the Messianic credentials. Meaning, Jesus holds authority even over death. And as was according to plan, He went to the cross to deal death its final death blow. And then He proved His victory by rising from the grave. The curse has been reversed. Death has lost its sting (1 Cor. 15:55). The physically dead can live again because the spiritually dead can be given life. "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57).

other sermons in this series

May 1


The Great Conclusion

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 28:16–20 Series: Matthew

Apr 24


Resurrecting Hope (2)

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 28:1–15 Series: Matthew

Apr 17


The First Prerequisite To Resurrection

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 27:57–66 Series: Matthew