Mark 5:21-43

(sermon note:

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.

This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a man who died and showed up in heaven. When he got there, he saw an angel sitting down at a desk with a book. “What’s your name, and how did you die?” the angel asked. “Bill Thompson, and I fell down my stairs,” the man replied. The angel flipped through the book and then looked back up to Bill. “It looks like it isn’t your time to die just yet,” the angel explained. “Shall I send you back?” Bill eagerly nodded in agreement. Back on Earth, Bill found himself fully healed at the bottom of his stairs. He took a minute to compose himself before going outside to work…only to immediately get run over by a car. “NOW it’s your time to die,” the angel said.

Not particularly fair to Bill having him die twice, God! Once is enough for anyone. It’s gotta be a terribly disorienting experience, who would want to go through it more than once?! We hear the stories from people who have “near death” experiences, experiences in which they might see a warm, inviting light off in the distance and feel a pull towards it. Sometimes they get glimpses of the heavenly realm, even brief encounters with God himself or loved ones who have long been dead. Many attest to an overwhelming sense of peace and calm and few of them long to return to this world. But like that joke suggests, it just isn’t their time to take up permanent residence in their eternal home. For whatever reason, God sends them back to this world for a while longer. Hopefully a little longer than Bill had in that joke!

And though it is a grim joke about death, there are elements of hope to it. Bill could have been greeted by a far more sinister entity than an angel. Bill did receive a second chance at life and was fully healed of his injuries. The angel did listen to Bill’s plea to return to this world. Perhaps we have more control over our destiny than we’re led to believe. Perhaps we have options in this world and the next after all. Our reading for today seems to reinforce this belief as well. The poor woman had suffered for 12 long years and seen multiple physicians in vain attempts to ease her suffering. No doubt she was at the end of her patience with God and the people of this world whose job it is to ease the suffering from physical ailments. Physicians ought to cure disease and sickness or, at the very least, ease the suffering. But sometimes they simply can’t. Believe it or not, medicine has its limitations. Not all diseases or sicknesses can be cured by medicine, nor can all suffering be alleviated by medicine. Medicine is only so good and unfortunately the woman had to come to this realization. At the same time, her faith in God’s ability to heal had to grow. She had to become less dependent on medicine and more trusting of God. Eventually she was emboldened enough to seek out Jesus and “steal” his healing power from him. “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Finally, she took matters into her own hands and healed herself. Is it fair to suggest that this woman stole her healing? Not necessarily, God’s blessings can’t ever be stolen. God’s blessings are so abundant and so eagerly bestowed on us that it would be difficult to take them without God’s permission, not to mention overpower God’s control over his blessings. Good luck trying to steal anything from God, the all-knowing, all-powerful master of our lives! No, the woman didn’t steal from Jesus, she simply asserted her right to his healing. She deserved to be healed because she is a person, and all people deserve Jesus’ healing.

The woman’s act of touching Jesus clothes was itself an act of faith and God rewards faith above all else. These last few weeks we’ve heard several stories of Jesus’ healing the sick and demon-possessed. In every story, the afflicted people or those around them exhibit some degree of faith and its their faith that makes them well. The demon-possessed acknowledge Jesus’ authority and power over them and sure enough he casts them away. The sick and their loved ones believe Jesus can heal and sure enough he heals them. Belief is the key to true healing. It’s no wonder there are limitations to medicine. We’re too eager to place our trust in medicine above God and God will not be ignored nor unappreciated. Our God is the source of ALL healing and to believe otherwise is foolish. We must always trust him above all else. We must have the same trust that the prophet Jeremiah had. We hear him proclaim, “heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise.” (17:14) Again, the same sure confidence shared by the woman in today’s reading. We ask for healing, and we can be confident that God WILL heal us, WILL save us. Why? Because our God is a God of love. Our God is a God of restoration as we heard last week. Our God WANTS to heal us and save us! We hear James tell us, “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (5:15) In prayer, we come to God and ask for his healing. We become vulnerable before God and acknowledge his awesome power to heal and that’s all it takes to receive it. Simply trust in God!

Jesus went on to heal Jairus’ daughter because of the faith and trust that Jairus had. We ought to learn from both healings in today’s lesson, that God has healing powers beyond our understanding. We ought to sing as David sings in his 147th psalm, “he heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds.” (vs. 3) Let us give thanks his gracious and generous healing! Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.