Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Mike Turgeon “Discipleship by the Sea: Healing” February 13, 2011
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.‘ So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ‘He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.‘ And they laughed at him.
Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!‘ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5: 21-43
In Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth he teaches the congregation about death and resurrection. Maybe you recognize some of his words from memorial services:
“O death, where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:55
The sting of death dominates this story of Jairus’ daughter and the story of this lowly woman stricken with bleeding. The slings and arrows of life, which include the sting of death, get our attention like nothing else can. But death is not the final answer here.
Despite the social and economic disparity between the little girl and the woman, through Jesus, they are both healed. There’s a lesson there, no? Perhaps that lesson is that in the kingdom of God there are no favorites. That’s a worthy sermon. But not the one that needs to be preached today.
Or how about a sermon based on the fact that the two stories are sandwiched together? Jesus unerringly finds the right priority, dealing with the interruption as seriously as the task at hand. That would preach, wouldn’t it? I mean, with death at hand for Jairus’ daughter, you would think that Jesus would stay focused on her, but no, Jesus introduces a longer-term vision.
At first glance this miracle story of healing seems to turn on what we consider to be non-credible in our contemporary world. Clothing that transmits medical solutions, that’s an impossible leap to make for you and I with our rational minds. And is that little girl really dead, or just in a coma of some sort like Jesus suggests? Of course we’re skeptical...and curious.
But that’s not really the sermon here either.
This is a lesson in the power of faith above all else--the power of faith to heal from the inside out.
From fear to faith
Let’s look at Jairus. For all his position and prestige, he is powerless to help his ailing daughter. I guess in that way, death strips us defenseless. No matter how we try to define ourselves by what we do, and Jairus was a doer of the first order, in the end we are defined by the quality of our relationships. And Jairus is, above all, a daddy.
A daddy of a little girl who adored him, who crawled up into his lap. A little girl who sang songs to him, wanted nothing more than to play with him. Now she’s grown to be fully 12 years old; not far from a marrying age back then. Not far from being able to have children of her own to delight Grandpa Jairus. And now, on the verge of womanhood, she’s dying. What daddy, what parent, what person who has ever lost a love can read the story without getting stuck on death’s sting?
Not only does death strip away our defenses, it exposes all our perceived privileges, does it not? Jairus, at the end of his rope, having used every inch of that rope in seeking an answer to his prayer--Jairus still finds that his daughter is gravely ill. Even his friends tell him, “Don’t bother the holy man, there’s nothing more to be done. Death is on the scene!”
But he is not hopeless, he reaches out to Jesus anyway. Is it really that simple? We don’t want to lose all of our stuff. And by stuff, I mean the important stuff, our friends, our loves, our lives. That part is simple. We lose it all in the end. But can hope be as simple as reaching for Jesus and his promise?
The most important moment here is the moment when Jesus becomes an eves-dropper. Did you know Jesus did that? Well, according to Mark he does. It says right here: “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’
From birth to death, our biggest obstacle is fear. With good reason. Life is a scary proposition. It is based on risk. From the very earliest moments to the final curtain, life asks, “How much are you willing to risk?”
We may spend a lifetime minimizing risk, but to what end? Sure, a certain amount of that goes a long way. But I wonder what our lives might look like if we were not only to minimize risk, but at the same time to maximize hope?
When life's greatest heartaches come our way, we need never lose hope because like Jairus’ daughter, we have been touched by the miraculous love of Jesus Christ. By all accounts, this moment for Jairus is about his worst, wouldn’t you think? Yet, Jesus offers him a way to get from fear to hope. “Only believe,” Jesus says; and with those two words he establishes the formula for true healing--faith.
Healing and faith
Faith in God's generous love in Christ heals the dead places in our lives. I don’t care what your wound is, Jesus certainly didn’t. And with Jesus, there was no pecking order to get your wound healed. All you had to do was ask. All you have to do is ask.
Do you need healing from grudges and scars from long-ago battles? Regrets for opportunities not taken? Un-named and un-processed grief? Maybe your wound isn’t as raw as the one that Jairus is dealing with, or maybe it is. Faith in Jesus lets you be confident that despite life’s blows, your spirit need never be diminished.
All of that is in play now that Jesus is on the scene.
And what about this nameless woman? What a pathetic situation.
“Your faith has made you well”
Back then a woman was only as secure as the husband she married and the children she bore; and who was ever going to marry this woman who could not bear children? For 12 years -- an achingly long time on the biological clock -- for 12 years she had been going to one quack after another, people only too happy to take her money and leave her broke, and always, always, bleeding.
No alternative career path for her; she was most likely uneducated, facing every day the harsh reality of hopelessness when she woke up and had to change her dressings. Sometimes you can couch a story like hers in a good news/bad news way where each misfortune is balanced by a good fortune. Not here.
On top of this, she was religiously unclean, this woman could not set foot in the synagogue. She was also in a social prison, as outcast as a leper. She could not prepare food for others, she could not touch anyone or be touched. Can you imagine no human touch for twelve years? Not a hand to hold, not one laid upon your shoulder in comfort? Perhaps you can.
Who does not hear her story and ache with her, if not merely for the sting that rejection added to her social poverty?
Jesus chose to look at none of that, obvious as it was. In the end, the only thing that mattered was her astounding faith. After she touched him, Jesus sensed that a healing had occurred. Not only did he seek her out, but he said words to her that boggle our minds: "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
There is a story of Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, walking down the street being interrupted by a man begging for coins. Tolstoy reached into his pocket, and found he had no money at all. Turning to the man he said, "I'm sorry my brother, but I have nothing to give.” The man brightened and said, "You have given me more than I asked for – you have called me brother."
This story is the only account in the New Testament of Jesus calling anyone "daughter.” That's how powerful this moment was to Jesus. A moment of amazing grace I’d say.
If life is what happens while you are busy making other plans, then grace and mercy is what happens when you have no reason to expect it. If grace comes to you when you least expect it, how then, do you give grace?
But that’s not the sermon I want to preach today, either.
Power from within
I want to preach about what Jairus and the woman had in common; it was more than just the looming sting of death and dread. Jairus came to Jesus in faith. The nameless woman’s faith was confirmed by Jesus. But these two had run out of options, does faith count if it is born of desperation?
Whatever kind of faith it was these two had, I want it, don't you?
I want it for myself and for my family, and I want it for everyone in our congregation who has a sick child or grandchild, a parent or grandparent; for everybody whose marriage is breaking up or has broken down; for everyone whose body or mind is starting to give out. I want faith for everyone who dwells in bitterness and spite, for everyone who sells himself short for the sake of the almighty dollar.
Jairus and the nameless woman had the kind of faith that the writer to the Hebrews described:
"the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
When they reached out, God responded with assurance and conviction: assurance that Jesus could help them, conviction that he would.
Somehow in faith they were able to see beyond the sting of death, able to see more than what flashed before their eyes. Jairus saw his daughter well again. The woman saw her body whole. They were convinced that what they saw in their hearts was as true a picture of reality as what they saw with their eyes.
We were watching Neil deGrasse Tyson speak the other night on TV.
He is rapidly becoming our nation’s Mr. Science, mostly because he right-sizes science for the average brain to understand. One thing he said stuck with me, it was this: “The great thing about science is that whether you believe it or not, it is still true.” I don’t have to believe in gravity, but I sure am bound by it.
So as a preacher, I immediately began thinking about faith in the same way. Let me try this one on--you don’t have to have faith, but it’s power is undeniable.
The power of heart and mind.
By faith I don’t mean wishful thinking--what we’d like to have happen. By faith I mean what happens when you trust and you begin to see beyond your own vision, toward God’s vision.
The Bible describes very clearly what God sees. No more children dying young, every person filling out his days. Every person enjoying the fruit of the vine, the shade of the fig tree. The lion and the lamb lying down together. Swords beaten into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. No more mourning or crying, no pain any more. A table spread with enough food for everyone; hunger forever banished.
Yes, we will all die; how then, shall we live? I’m choosing Christ, and all the hope therein. In Christ, we have the ability to look past problem to solution, despair to salvation, brokenness to wholeness.
Death, where is thy sting? Still, just about everywhere; there’s no getting around that. But viewing the world with the eyes of faith allows our hearts as much influence as our minds. Mind and heart aligned with God’s purpose for you is power beyond imagination. Our job is to put that power at Christ’s disposal.
As Jesus saw that little girl healed, he sees your brokenness healed. Will you trust his lead here? That is the sermon that needs to be preached, and you must preach