God is the last person or ‘thing’ most people think about – until there is a crisis. And then the invariable response it to blame him for what’s gone wrong. Our sense of self sufficiency and independence is such that we think that we are invincible – until things go badly wrong, e.g. the current health crisis worldwide. Then God and the fundamental question of our existence return to our thoughts.
Our sense of independence of God and that we don’t need him, even if he exists, is a reflection of our condition. We are sinners; we are tainted by being divorced from relationship with God; we are blinded by the deceitfulness of our rebellion against him; we refuse him his rightful place in our lives.
But just occasionally the state of the world – or the circumstances of our own lives – forces us to realise our vulnerability, and to become aware of our ultimate fears and uncertainty.
Even so, most still refuse God.
Some, however, begin to realise their need of him, and begin to look more closely.
What do you do ?
In the Gospel of Mark in the Bible and chapter 5, we read of two instances where people had no other resort but God in the person of Jesus Christ. All man’s methods and answers had failed, and there was literally no other place to go but God.
The two stories are intertwined in the record with one intervening in the course of the other. The main story is of a young girl at the point of death; her father comes to Jesus and begs him to come and lay hands on the girl that she might live. As Jesus is going to the man’s home, a woman suffering from what appears to be haemophilia touches Jesus cloak as the crowd presses round him. She does so in the extremity of her need, knowing it is the only hope she now has to be healed.
Jesus is aware of her faith in him, and stops and challenges the person who approached him in this way to make themselves known. The woman, realising that she is healed, acknowledges her act before Jesus and the crowd.
In speaking out her need, and speaking out what she had done and why, Jesus responds to her with the words:
DAUGHTER THY FAITH HATH MADE THEE WHOLE; GO IN PEACE AND BE WHOLE OF THY PLAGUE !
She came to Christ in utter desperation and complete faith that he could, and that he would, heal her. She had heard tell of Jesus and that he healed. She therefore took herself off to where he was to find him and to lay hold of him. And in her sense of unworthiness and her sense of his greatness, she believed she need only touch his garment – that way she would not have to trouble the great Healer with her individual problem.
But Jesus Christ does take the time and trouble, and he affirms her value and person when he calls her “Daughter”.
And that is how we must come to God – in expectation and in dependence; in knowing our unworthiness, and mindful of his greatness; and relying on his sense of our value, not our own.
But the story does not end there. The man’s daughter is worse. In fact she has died. The man has gone to so much trouble for nothing. As a ruler of the synagogue he has risked his place and reputation in turning to Christ to save his daughter. And now this !
But Jesus is there in the ultimate extremity of need. He continues to the man’s home; he continues despite the incredulity and scorn of the crowd [as should those who minister for him today] and he continues to do as he was bidden to do in the first place. He touches the girl’s hand and speaks the healing to her.
The girl is revived and her father’s faith is vindicated.
In the instance of the woman on the way, the person healed had faith for herself. But in the instance of the young girl, the faith was with her father. The desperation for God to act and heal came from one who loved her beyond all else, and from one who prayed to God for her. It came from an intercessor – that is one who acts on behalf of another, as an intermediary.
The apostle Paul told the Galatian believers [chapter 5, verse 6]:
FOR IN JESUS CHRIST NEITHER CIRCUMCISION AVAILETH ANYTHING NOR UNCIRCUMCISION; BUT FAITH WHICH WORKETH BY LOVE
Going through rituals like some sort of evil incantation is not how Christian spirituality works. It works by faith inspired by love and concern for others.
Because that is how Jesus Christ is motivated and how he works.
Let us note too, that the father interceded for his daughter. And that is what the apostle Paul tells his prodigy, Timothy, the church should do for this world – pray.
In his first letter to Timothy and the opening verse of the second chapter, Paul writes:
I EXHORT THEREFORE THAT FIRST OF ALL SUPPLICATIONS, PRAYERS, INTERCESSIONS, GIVING OF THANKS BE MADE FOR ALL MEN; FOR KINGS AND FOR ALL THAT ARE IN AUTHORITY; THAT WE MAY LEAD A QUIET AND PEACEABLE LIFE IN ALL GODLINESS AND HONESTY. FOR THIS IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR WHO WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME UNTO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.
FOR THERE IS ONE GOD AND ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS WHO GAVE HIMSELF A RANSOM FOR ALL …
In the current health crisis with all its disturbing constraints of quarantine, and its unknown but grave and widespread consequences, the church needs to pray.
The gathering of believers – the churches – need to tell God our Maker and our Judge that we have no other recourse but him; that he alone can meet our need; and to plead with him to act – confessing our manifold sins…