Rev. Dan Haugh
Please read: Mark 5: 21-43
In chapter five the gospel writer highlights three stories, moving from being hopelessly adrift in sea in the midst of a great storm, to more personal and intimate stories of human suffering and despair. In the midst of great despair, sometimes it the only place to discover transforming faith and new life.
As French existentialist philosopher and playwright Jean Paul Sartre once wrote, “Life beings on the other side of despair.”
In these stories just read, we experience two very different people who approach Jesus with a desperate need, having no hope apart from Christ. One, a named and respected leader of the synagogue with enough clout to summons Jesus comes because his daughter is dying.
The other, a nameless, outcast woman needs to be healed of bleeding that has kept her from worship, embrace, and family. Her gender, namelessness, uncleanness, and shame..none of these stop her from reaching out to Jesus and none of them stop Jesus from reaching out to her. Jesus breaks the barriers between clean and unclean.....
A powerful truth is illustrated that no matter who we are, we may come to God with our deepest needs, knowing that God has the power to restore us and heal us wholly.
He is interrupted by an urgent plea of someone who belonged to the Jewish group of synagogue rulers.
His need was so urgent that he jettisoned all dignity and pride and literally fell down at the feet of Jesus. This action causes me to pause and begs the question....Have you ever been in so much need or state of hopelessness that all you can do is fall at the feet of Jesus in desperation?
Like these two individuals coming to Jesus as a last resort, having tried every other cure the world had to offer.
And so...”Jesus went with him”. It may sound like a simple statement but is profound for it testifies as to the purpose of Jesus: to minister to human need and to the immeasurable worth of the human individual. Jesus drops his agenda and sets out with this man who hopes that Jesus is the answer. As Jesus is making his was through crowds of people, a woman searches for help.
Try to imagine this scene. The celebrity status of Jesus has clearly been growing and now he is in popular demand by a noted leader.
Yet, on the road of hurriedness and pre-determined priority, Jesus noticed something. His disciples were so quick to dismiss it and move on, perhaps eager to get Jesus through the road to the “real” ministry.
In an ironic twist, we find the disciples are more out of touch with Jesus than is the unclean woman.
Rather then see this as a distraction, Jesus’ spiritual sensitivity told him that someone had touched him and someone needed to be reached out to. He wanted to find her, not to rebuke her (which is probably what she was expecting), but rather to make personal contact with her and share that her faith caused God to heal her.
As NT commentator James Edwards notes, “Jesus is not content to merely dispatch a miracle, he wants to encounter a person. In the kingdom of God, miracle leads to meeting.” Discipleship is not simply getting our needs met, it is being in the presence of Jesus, being known by him, and following him.
Mark notes, not the orthodoxy of this woman but rather her faith leading toward action. She heard; she came; she touched...and she was healed.
In this incredible story of the unclean woman, 12 years of shame and suffering and frustration are resolved in a momentary touch of Jesus. For me, the poignant moment is when Jesus addresses her as “Daughter”.
The same word used for Jairus’ little girl, Jesus uses for this forgotten woman. Jesus speaks out her true identity, not as an untouchable, broken, unlovable and unnamed woman, but as a beloved daughter of God. Jesus speaks Peace to her “Shalom”.
This woman came broken, hopeless, ashamed, afraid, but left her brief encounter with Jesus healed her fully in body, soul, and spirit. Restored physically, spiritually, and relationally. This is what the ministry of Jesus did. This was the announcing of the kingdom of God.
Do we believe in the freedom of God’s healing touch?
Will we make time for random yet divine appointments in our lives?
In the midst of our busy and frantic lives full of agendas and ambitions, will we be spiritually sensitive enough to hear and see the needs hidden among the crowds of people? Especially in Paris, the opportunities are everywhere!
As Pastor Scott so powerfully preached last week, often in the storms of our lives we panic rather than trust that God is present in our midst. This seems to be our nature. Mark’s story continues: News reaches the entourage that the daughter is dead; all hope is now lost. There is nothing the teacher can do. They are in an hopeless situation.
The natural response to this kind of loss and experience of the finality of separation is indeed mourning. In our first text from Samuel we read of the mourning of David over his close friend Jonathan. In this story the family is mourning the death of a daughter taken far too soon. There would be no coming of age, no marriage ceremony, no celebration of grand children.
Imagine not walking your daughter down the aisle, watching her graduate from high school, go to the prom, meet the person of her dreams.For some this is a reality.
Remember last week the disciples were afraid and panicked while Jesus was....well sleeping! Here the crowd is weeping and wailing, tearing their hair and garments. And Jesus? He was calm, quiet, and in control. Why? Because Christ knows that ultimately death has lost its eternal sting. Christ came to announce through his works and sacrifice that sin and death will not have the final word.
Faith is key for it assures us of this promise and we can experience the calming and controlling presence of the Almighty even in the midst of the storms and the despair we face.
One of our strongest affirmations of faith is that in life and in death we belong to God. Ultimately even death cannot separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. To be sure death is an enemy. Disease. Despair. Distrust. Abuse. Jesus demonstrates his power and authority over Death. “Talitha cum” little girl get up!.
As the unclean women was restored back to worship and society, this little girl is restored back to her family.
I must acknowledge the difficultly in the stories found in Mark 5 and possibly for some of you hearing, a message like this. For while I confess to believe in the healing power of Jesus, I am keenly aware of stories and people who have not been healed. I am sure you do as well.
As I shared my exciting news with you about our pregnancy, I had difficulty in sharing the news with my sister knowing her reality of not being able to conceive.
We also know many couples of great faith unable to have children. Why us and not them? Why are some healed and others not? “Would my loved one have been healed if I only believed more? Why do some claim victory over addictions and ailments while others suffer terribly for their entire lives?
I do not know. But I believe there is more going on that we can understand or comprehend and I believe that no matter the situation, God is present with us
As I prepare to lead a group to Gabon next Sunday, I am reminded daily of the tragedy that brought me to Gabon in the first place. A 26 year-old young man named Brian was killed in a car accident. He was a star athlete at Syracuse U., a world-traveler, new business entrepreneur and...a great guy. There was no healing in this story.
Yet, his parents held on to the hope they have in Christ and vowed to make Brian’s dream of impacting Africa come true. Thanks to their support, 20 students from New York and now 15 from Paris have an opportunity of a lifetime to experience God in a new way and bring the good news of Christ to Africa.
In today’s stories there is a striking contrast between the chaos of the crowds and and the moment of reaching out to Jesus
Between the mourners and the peaceful and calm presence of Jesus;
between the extremes of human despair and divine possibility.
It is the difference faith makes.
The great fact of the Christian life is that what looks completely impossible with men is possible with God.
Do we chose to believe only in what circumstances allow, or to believe in the God who makes all things possible and one day will make all things and all people new?
We are called to not be afraid but to believe; to hold onto faith rather than give into fear, trusting that faith can and will carry you through to the other side..for that is Faith that Heals.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.