On Sunday, David preached a powerful sermon from Mark 5 about two different people whose dire circumstances caused them to come to Jesus in desperation. Jairus was a prominent religious leader whose young daughter was near death. He was likely wealthy and was respected by his peers, most of whom were suspicious of Jesus’ ministry, at best. The second individual was a woman, unnamed by Mark, who had spent all of her money seeking a cure for twelve straight years of illness. Rendered ceremonially unclean because of her medical condition, she wasn’t allowed to worship in the temple and was ostracized in the community.
In spite of their many differences, Jairus and the woman had at least one thing in common: desperation. Totally powerless to change their situations, both of them came to Jesus in faith that He could do something. Dignified Jairus hit his knees and begged Jesus to heal his daughter. The outcast pushed her way through a large crowd to touch Jesus’ clothes, believing that would be enough to bring the relief doctors hadn’t provided.
We may not be able to empathize with Jairus or the woman, but I’d assume most of us have experienced a sense of helplessness at one time or another. It can be tempting to despise our difficulties, but Mark 5 teaches us to do otherwise. The desperation we feel when life becomes more than we can bear is the very thing that compels us to run with abandon to the One who “daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). Desperation can be a life-sustaining call to action like the hunger that tells us to eat or the thirst that tells us to drink. Had their circumstances not been so difficult, Jairus and the woman likely wouldn’t have approached Jesus with such determination. Perhaps they wouldn’t have even come at all.
If comfort and happiness are the most important things to us, we’ll end up resenting the gift desperation so often delivers. When life becomes more about avoiding pain than knowing Jesus, our efforts to sidestep suffering will prevent us from heeding the invitation to come to Him and find rest for our souls. We’ll miss out on the opportunity to “taste and see” His goodness firsthand (Psalm 34:8).
In Mark 5, Jesus’ intervention took an unexpected turn in both circumstances. The stories are woven together, and the unnamed woman’s encounter with Jesus interrupted Jairus’ mission to get Jesus to his daughter as quickly as possible. Because of the delay, his daughter died. Meanwhile, the woman – who undoubtedly would’ve wanted to avoid attention – was singled out by Jesus, publically validated, physically healed, and spiritually cleansed by grace through faith. When the story shifts back to Jairus, Jesus raises his daughter to life.
Although both individuals eventually got what they wanted, Jesus demonstrated that He works in His way and in His time. Jairus’ expectations of the Great Physician were exceeded by an encounter with the One who raises the dead. The woman came to know Jesus not just as Healer, but as Savior. When our desperation causes us to run to Jesus, we often discover He’s so much greater than we imagined.
God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the ways we expect, but we can trust Him to work for His eternal glory and our ultimate good in every situation. Through this lens, our challenges look less like obstacles keeping us from Jesus and more like invitations to draw near.