The Laugh of Unbelief

They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him” (vv. 38–40a).

- Mark 5:35-40a

Jesus was on His way to the home of Jairus, a ruler of a Galilean synagogue, when He encountered the woman who had been suffering from continual bleeding for twelve years. He paused in His journey to help Jairus’ daughter when the woman touched His garment, and while He was assuring the woman that her faith had made her well, bad news came from Jairus’ home. His daughter died while Jesus was on His way (Mark 5:21–35).

Under normal circumstances, it would have been understandable for Jairus to give up hope. But this was no ordinary situation—the Life-giver was present. So, Jairus was confronted with the choice as to whether he would continue to believe that Jesus could help him. Jairus came to Jesus in the first place because he trusted that the Lord could help his daughter, and at this new moment of decision Jesus called him to keep doing so. Our Savior’s words, “Do not fear, only believe,” are more literally translated, “Do not fear, keep on believing” (v. 36). Jesus’ call to Jairus at that point was a call to persevere, to keep on believing God and His goodness even though things could not have seemed more impossible.

Dr. R.C. Sproul has often noted that believing the Lord is our greatest challenge. It does not take much faith to believe in God, to understand that He exists. But it requires true faith to believe the Lord’s promises enough to stake our lives on them. Thus, Hebrews 11 commends many examples of persevering faith, men and women such as Abraham who trusted in the Creator’s goodness and in His faithfulness to His promises even when from a human perspective such might have seemed like nonsense. Christ calls us to exercise such faith, not only to believe Him when life is easy but also to trust in His goodness even when life is falling apart. And thanks be to God, this is not an impossible call, for He gives us faith in the first place and sustains it in all His children (Rom. 8:28–30; Eph. 2:8–9).

Such trust makes no sense to the unconverted, as is illustrated in today’s passage. Upon reaching the house and seeing the professional band of mourners that was there in accordance with Jewish custom, Jesus pronounced Jairus’ daughter to be asleep, not dead. Christ, of course, did not mean she was alive but only that her death was temporary—because He had the power to heal her. The mourners laughed at what seemed to them to be ridiculous words, for they did not trust that He could raise the dead (Mark 5:39).

Coram Deo

The type of persevering faith to which we are called is the faith that keeps its eyes on God and His promises. Unbelief scoffs at the Lord’s claims, but His people know that there is nothing surer than His Word. If you are facing impossible circumstances, ask the Lord to continue granting you the gift of persevering faith. If you are not facing a severe trial this day, pray that the Lord would sustain your trust if and when one comes.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 14:31
Psalm 78
Mark 9:14–23
Romans 4:16–25

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