Ear Open to Every Need

From “The Healing of Jairus’ Daughter,” Sermons on Bible Subjects (1855)

On His way to heal the daughter of Jairus, the Son of Man was accosted by another sufferer, afflicted twelve years with an issue of blood. Humanly speaking, there were many causes which might have led to the rejection of her request. The case was urgent: a matter of life and death; delay might be fatal; a few minutes might make all the difference between living and dying. Yet Jesus not only performed the miracle, but refused to perform it in a hurried way; paused to converse; to inquire who had touched him; to perfect the lesson of the whole. On his way to perform one act of love, he turned aside to give his attention to another.

The practical lesson is this: there are many who are so occupied by one set of duties as to have no time for others; some whose life-business is the suppression of the slave- trade— the amelioration of the state of prisons — the reformation of public abuses. Right, except so far as they are monopolized by these, and feel themselves discharged from other obligations. The minister’s work is spiritual; the physician’s temporal. But if the former neglect physical needs, or the latter shrink from spiritual opportunities on the plea that the cure of bodies, not of souls, is his work, so far they refuse to imitate their Master.

He had an ear open for every tone of wail; a heart ready to respond to every species of need. Specially the Redeemer of the soul, He was yet as emphatically the “Saviour of the body.” He “taught the people;” but he did not neglect to multiply the loaves and fishes. The peculiar need of the woman; the father’s cry of anguish; the infant’s cry of helplessness; the wail of oppression, and the shriek of pain, — all were heard by him, and none were heard in vain.

Therein lies the difference between Christian love and the impulse of mere inclinations. We hear of men being “interested” in a cause; it has some peculiar charm for them individually: the wants of the heathen, or the destitution of the soldier and sailor, or the conversion of the Jews, according to men’s associations, or fancies, or peculiar bias, may engage their attention, and monopolize their sympathy. I am far from saying these are wrong; I only say that so far as they only interest and monopolize interest, the source from which they spring is only human, and not the highest. The difference between such beneficence and that which is the result of Christian love is marked by partiality in one case, universality in the other. Love is universal. It is interested in all that is human: not merely in the concerns of its own family, nation, sect, or circle of associations. Humanity is the sphere of its activity.

Here, too, we find the Son of Man the pattern of our humanity. His bosom was to mankind what the ocean is to the world. The ocean has its own mighty tide, but it receives and responds to, in exact proportion, the tidal influences of every estuary and river, and small creek which pours into its bosom. So in Christ: his bosom heaved with the tides of our humanity; but every separate sorrow, pain, and joy gave its pulsation, and received back influence from the sea of his being.

Frederick W. Robertson (1816-1853) was an English Anglican priest, one of the most famous preachers of his age. After serving parishes in Winchester and Cheltenham, he served for the final six years of his short life at Holy Trinity Church, Brighton, where he attracted great crowds with sermons famed for their deep insight into the spiritual life. Many were published after his death, including Sermons on Bible Subjects, first published in 1855.


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