Sunday, 15 June 2014

"Get behind me, Satan!"

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; only believe". Mark 5:36

When I was a child I was taught that it was rude to ignore people. If someone spoke to you, you should reply. And that is surely right.

But there are times too when it's right to - let's put it like this - turn a deaf ear. And here is a case in point. Jesus is heading for the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader, whose small daughter is desperately ill. On the way some of Jairus' neighbours meet them with bad news: the girl has died. What does Jesus do? He "ignores what they said". No, he wasn't being rude. But his act of ignoring is important, and it suggests to us that there are times when we should do the same.

What sort of times? Well, the most obvious example would be when there are voices of gloom and despondency, as here. Of course, in our situations there is no way we can just brush bad news aside - it would be foolish and irresponsible to do so. This instance is an exception, because Jesus knew something no-one else knew - that God was going to use this grim situation to do something very special. A miracle was on the way.

But the fact is that there often come into our minds voices of doubt, fear and even despair, and that is when, as those who trust in Jesus, we need to learn to block our ears. I love to imagine that preciously personal moment when, having overheard the news, Jesus turns quietly to Jairus and says, perhaps in a whisper, "Don't be afraid; just believe". And so with us. When those doubting, negative voices come into our heads, we need to listen for Jesus as he speaks those words to us.

It might be to do with our personal circumstances - "Oh, you'll never get that job... you'll never pass that exam... you'll never find the happiness you're looking for... you'll never make a success of that ministry you felt God had called you to..." It's so easy to listen to those voices rather than to the voice of Jesus. 
it might be to do with bigger events, especially regarding the life of the church - "Oh, the Christian church will be as good as dead in thirty years... you'll never hold on to the children and young people... other religions are on the march, there's no way you can compete..." This, putting it bluntly, is the voice of the devil, and it can be very plausible and seductive. But once again, if only we have ears to hear, there is also the voice of Jesus: "Don't be afraid; just believe".

There's just five words there. The first three are a comfort, the other two a challenge, but both the comfort and the challenge are a command. And we need to give weight to both of them. But if we do, who knows, we could be paving the way for a miracle.

One of my favourite Old Testament characters is King Hezekiah. He and the people of Jerusalem were on the receiving end of arrogant,
demoralising bullying from Sennacherib, King of Assyria. We read that Hezekiah told the people not to reply to Sennacherib's messengers - just keep a dignified silence. In effect, ignore him. But Hezekiah himself "went into the temple of the Lord" to pray. When, later, a threatening letter arrived, he "went up to the temple... and spread it before the Lord". (Why not take a few minutes to remind yourself of the story - 2 Kings 18 and 19 - and don't stop till you get to 19:35-37!)?

The message for all of us is simple, though not always easy to carry out: block your ears to the voice of the enemy; open your ears to the voice of God. You might just have a miracle heading your way...

Dear Father in heaven, please forgive me that I so easily become anxious, fearful and cast down. Help me to block out the voices of doubt and discouragement, and to hear those beautiful words of Jesus: "Don't be afraid; only believe". Amen.

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