Pentecost 4 (July 2, 2006)
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?" Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe." He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Grace, mercy and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Gospel according to Saint Mark chapter 5 is a great text and yet I feel like there’s nothing to say. The obvious is obvious. Just like in those first 4 chapters of Mark, Jesus continues to bring the miracle into the lives of people. You could check off almost every theological presupposition we have about Christ and they would be proven true. #1 – Messiah. Check. #2 – Fully human, and yet obviously fully God. Check. #3 – A healer, but not just a physical healer, he’s a spiritual healer, a bringer of forgiveness. Check. #4 – He continues to confuse the religious elite. Check. #5 – He continues to serve and recognize the commoner. Checkmate. So simple. Here’s to 2 minute sermons. Amen.
But that’s too easy. The Gospel is simple and easy, but there’s always a complexity beneath it that comes to life. It is accessible to the uneducated, but still has a way of confusing the PHD. I’m not sure I ever realized that till I was meditating on this particular text at the beginning of the week. Reading. Praying. Researching. Translating. Praying some more. And then I realized a few things.
#1 – The Context
If we look at the chapter before we should remember that Jesus and the disciples took the boat to the region of the Gerasenes, thus giving Jesus the opportunity to quiet a storm and remind the disciples who he is. When they reached the other side, Jesus invited a legion of demons to leave a man and enter a herd of pigs and rush over a cliff. Remember, this man was the most demon-possessed man we can find in Scripture. Broken, destroyed, and now Jesus has rescued him. If you want to know why we had to go through that storm guys, it was to rescue this man from sin, death, and the devil.
And so in verse 21 of our text today we again see Jesus crossing back over the lake. They made the journey through a storm, across the lake just to rescue this man. And now they are back. It’s as if Jesus wanted to put an object lesson together with his parables. He told the parable of the sower, then the lamp on a stand, and then the mustard seed. And perhaps to put a stamp on these parables, he demonstrates the Kingdom of God. In my own words, “The Kingdom of God is like a sower, it’s like a mustard seed, but so you really see it, let me do it. And so he rushes the Kingdom of God into the Region of the Gerasenes, and of course the forgiveness and redemption of Jesus Christ gave a man back his life again. Now Jesus is back in front of the people who heard the parables, and have now probably heard of the exorcism, and they are throwing themselves at him. Crowding around him as it says in verse 21. Jesus didn’t just teach the faith, he lived out the faith, and now they are really listening.
#2 – The People Involved
The second thing I realized when meditating on the Gospel for this week was the people. We have to identify the people to really see the miracle. First of all you have Jairus, a synagogue ruler falling at Jesus’ feet begging for help for his dying daughter. Notice the incredible circumstance. This is a man who (A) shouldn’t be asking Jesus for help; (B) is possibly a Sadducee and thus doesn’t profess the possibility of eternal life; (C) has probably checked off every ceremonial ritual possible in trying to help his daughter – his presence at Jesus’ feet serves as testimony to the inadequacy of the Old Covenant alone to help his daughter. Jesus points no fingers, corrects no theology, but instead agrees to help and follows him to his home.
Then of course we have the bleeding woman. Her touch has stopped Jesus in his tracks, delayed him. She had been bleeding for 12 years and was now poor having spent all she had on doctors and temple rituals. She was likely bleeding as a result of child birth – at least that’s what all the commentaries assume. She reached out to touch the corner of Jesus’ prayer shoal. This is surely an act of faith in Jesus as a healer. We are even able to read about her thoughts when she confesses “perhaps if I touch his garment I will be healed”.
We also have the daughter. A 12 year old (that Mark makes sure to make clear) who is ready to enter womanhood. Her death before the age of 13 was a blow to her father if also for the reason because she had missed that important milestone. We also have the servants from the house. They again indicate the beliefs of the people present. Since Jesus didn’t make it to the house on time, and the girl had died, all hope is gone. Without belief in eternal life, death is it.
#3 – The Significance
Now here’s the beautiful part – the significance of all this. Why does Mark put all these people together? Is it possible that the woman was bleeding for 12 years as a result of the birth of that daughter? Perhaps Jairus is her husband, and because of an abuse of the ceremonial laws she was deemed unclean because of her bleeding. Perhaps they reasoned that the bleeding was a result of some sin and the consequence of that sin is the death of her daughter. Maybe after trying doctor after doctor and ritual after ritual she was sent away. Surely those 12 years meant abandonment from any type of organized worship – she couldn’t even enter the temple according to Leviticus.
Now my thoughts might just be the mindless thoughts of a desperate theologian. I accept the fact that I’m fallible, sinful, etc. However the significance would be profound. Jairus, a religious expert, would surely have gone to the ritualistic extreme to find an answer. The woman would have been blamed for her disease. When Jesus’ power leaves him and heals her, so much would have been restored. Her faith, her health, she could even feel the grace of God “immediately”. And it’s at that exact moment that the servants come and pronounce her dead – “don’t bother the rabbi”. But Jesus doesn’t end the story there. He took Jairus, the mother, and of course good old Peter, James and John in and raised the girl to life. His words are profound – “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” The faith of the woman, the belief of the 5 in the room. God’s grace works through faith.
What would all of this done? It would have restored 2 lives by faith in Jesus. That in itself is miracle enough. Absolutely beautiful. It also would have meant a lot to the disciples who had once wondered if Jesus cared about them. They wondered if he would have let them drown in the boat just a chapter earlier. Now they can clearly see Jesus’ care as well as his divinity. It also would have restored a family. A husband to his wife, and a child to them. But it also stood as a living testimony to this synagogue ruler that all the ceremonial rituals in the world aren’t enough. Only the Son of God can usher in a Kingdom so incredible that the forgiveness of sins and eternal life are the result.
I see significance in the age of the girl (12 years) and the bleeding disease of the woman (12 years). But even if I’m wrong the significance is the same. Jesus is ushering in something better. He is here to bring faith, to bring peace, and to end suffering. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life.” Jesus went to the cross so that no one would perish. Not from sin, not from death, not from the devil. His cross brings the faith, peace, and end to suffering that had trapped this woman and this daughter. The same suffering that traps all of us.
Resist the temptation to call Jesus a teacher. His parables speak volumes because of what followed. A man being released from demons, a woman being healed from bleeding, and a child being rescued from death. The Kingdom of God is here.
Let’s Pray: God, give us the faith to call on you for help. We cling to the cross for the faith, peace, and end to suffering that only it can bring. We pray this through the love of the Father, the blood of the Son, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.