Monday, June 29, 2009
Sermon - Pentecost 4 - Mark 5:21-43
Sermon – Pentecost 4
June 28, 2009
Just who is this man, anyway? That's the question of Mark's Gospel that we asked and answered last week, as we considered Jesus calming the storm. Today we have two miracles – one interrupting the other. And the same question could be asked as Jesus miracles point to who he is.
First we have Jairus, a respected leader, a man of some standing. A man who humbled himself to come and beg for Jesus to help. His daughter was dying, and Jairus heard of Jesus' miraculous power. He could help. He could heal. It was urgent, the girl was at death's door, and so Jairus was in a hurry. But Jesus was surrounded by crowds, and they must have slowed him down some.
Especially when that other miracle happened, and the woman with the flow of blood found healing in Christ. 12 years she had suffered (probably as long as the little girl had lived). 12 years she had prayed, and hoped for a cure. But now comes Jesus, and she has faith – even after 12 years – faith that God will heal her. Such faith that she didn't need a laying on of hands, a special pronouncement of Jesus. She wasn't even looking for him to talk to her. She just thought, “if only I could touch him. No, not even him, just the hem of his garment – then I will be healed”. A little bit of Jesus goes a long way, and the woman's faith was rewarded. Jesus not only healed her, but gave her an audience, called her “daughter” and bid her go in peace. More than she could have hoped for.
But all this must have tested Jairus' faith. As he stood by, perhaps drumming his fingers as Jesus spent time with this old woman. Doesn't he remember my daughter? Doesn't he know time is of the essence? Reminds me of the disciples' question from last week's reading, “Don't you care if we drown?”
Yet before they even arrived, Jairus' worst fears were realized. It was too late. His daughter had died. He heard a message, and was about to send Jesus on his way. But Jesus would have none of it. He pressed on to Jairus' house. “Don't fear. Only believe.”
When Jesus arrived, the mourning had already begun. Customarily, professional mourners were hired. Perhaps this was just such an occasion. For their weeping and wailing quickly turned to laughter at Jesus when he said the girl wasn't dead, but sleeping. Jesus, however, is undeterred again, paying no mind to their ridicule. He had a job to do.
Later, others would ridicule him in the shadow of death, “if you are the Christ, save yourself”. But he would ignore them too, and be about his Father's business.
And so Jesus found the girl, and tenderly took her by the hand. Any other Jew would have been made ritually unclean by touching a corpse. But Jesus is the source of all cleansing and healing and life. And so he touches her, and speaks to her, and she lives.
“Little girl, I say to you, arise”. “Talitha Coum” How precious that the gospel writers preserve Jesus' words in the original language for us. Two other times we have such an insight – when Jesus healed the deaf man, “Ephatha”, meaning, “be opened”. And when Jesus suffered the worst of the cross, “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani”. In all these cases Jesus was busy bringing health, wholeness, and life to his people.
The little girl arises to life – one of just three recorded times Jesus raised someone from death. The widow's son at Nain, also touched by Jesus – and Lazarus, who was raised simply by his strong word, “Lazarus, come out!”
And Jesus tells them to get her something to eat. Life is back to normal. Everything is restored.
There is so much to learn about Jesus from these miracles. He is the healer of disease. He is the one who gives life, even after death.
We who are beset by all sorts of sin and sin's effects – sickness, infirmity, troubles and trials, yes, even death. We need Jesus. We need him like Jairus, and the old woman and the little girl. We need to touch him, to hear him. We need him to come to our house.
It doesn't always happen like we expect. Sometimes there's some waiting involved. Sometimes life comes only after death. But Jesus doesn't give up when the going gets tough. He doesn't let time or death deter him from his goal.
One day, Jesus will speak a similar word to all of us. We Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead at the last day. One day he will call us from our graves, call us by name. Daughter, Son, arise. Come out of your grave and live. Join me in the mansions of heaven I have prepared. Yes, all his promises will be fulfilled in his time.
And so what would Jesus have us do now? The same as he told Jairus, “Do not fear. Only believe”. Easier said than done, but with God all things are possible. “Do not fear. Only believe”. Do not fear that God doesn't hear you. Do not fear that he doesn't care. Do not fear that he's forgotten even one of his many promises to you. Only believe.
And if you are sorry for your sins, do not fear that he holds them against you. Only believe what he says concerning them. That he who believes and is baptized will be saved. That sins forgiven on earth are forgiven in heaven. That our sins are made as far from us as the east is from the west. That he forgives our wickedness and remembers our sins no more. That though the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ. Do not fear. Only believe.
Believe in his Son Jesus Christ, who died to bring you life. Who lives that you may live. Who reigns and promises you a throne and crown. Do not fear, only believe, that the same Jesus who helped the prominent and the humble, who served the old and the young alike, has a place for you in his Kingdom of Grace. Believe in all that he has commanded you, and lo, he is with you always to the very end of the age.
In His Name, Amen.