Sermon notes 06-27-21  Seeking the Touch of Jesus

 Mark 5:21-43 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “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.”24 And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But 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. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. 

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been working our way through portions of Mark’s Gospel where Jesus has been crossing back and forth across the sea of Galilee, teaching great crowds gathered along the shore, performing miracles of healing, and demonstrating that he is God by displaying his divine power over the forces of nature.  In the passage Brock just read for us, Jesus is once again with a great crowd who have gathered around him by the sea, when he is interrupted by a ruler of the synagogue, a man named Jairus, who is in desperate need.  His daughter is at the point of death and she needs Jesus’s healing touch.

Jesus consents to go with Jairus to his daughter’s bedside, but on the way there another interruption takes place, when a woman who has been suffering from a discharge of blood makes her way through the crowd so that she might touch Jesus’s cloak and be healed.

Some have called this passage of Scripture the miracle on the way to a miracle, or the healing in the midst of a healing.  The beginning and ending of the passage tell the story of the miraculous healing of Jairus’s 12-year-old daughter.  Sandwiched in between is the story of the miraculous healing of the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years.  As we take a closer look at these healing stories, I want to primarily emphasize three points: the compassion that Jesus demonstrates throughout these healing stories, the importance of both faith and touch in these healings, and the nature of healing in our lives today.

Let’s look first at how these two healing stories demonstrate the compassion of Jesus as he attends to the desperate needs of both the synagogue leader and the hemorrhaging woman.  The story begins when Jairus comes to Jesus, falls at his feet and earnestly implores Jesus to come lay his hands on his little daughter.  In those words, “my little daughter” we can sense the deep affection and love this father has for the girl.  I’m reminded of the words I have always used to refer to my own daughter: I call her “my sweet little baby girl.”  She’ll turn forty later this year, but I still call her that.

But back to the story.  Notice that when Jairus makes his request, Jesus doesn’t ask any questions, such as, how long will it take us to get to your home, or, what is the nature of your daughter’s illness, or, have you tried calling a doctor?  No, Jesus apparently doesn’t ask a single question or say even a single word to Jairus; Mark tells us simply that Jesus went with him.  He leaves the crowd behind to go meet Jairus’s desperate need.  Jesus demonstrates his compassion by his willingness to be interrupted and sidetracked.

As the story continues, we see that Jesus’s compassion and his willingness to be sidetracked are not limited to the case of Jairus and his daughter.  Jesus is not in such a rush to get to Jairus’s home that he is unwilling to stop when he realizes that healing power has gone from his body.  No, he stops in his tracks and turns and looks around and asks, “Who touched my garments?”  The disciples are bewildered at his question, and they wonder rather, with the crowd pressing all around Jesus, who hasn’t touched him?

Initially, Jesus’s reaction and his question might give us the mistaken sense that he is indignant or angry that someone touched his garments and received healing, much like you or I might react upon discovering that someone has picked our pocket.  But it becomes clear that Jesus is not angry.  He stops in order to seek a relationship with the woman who received his healing power.  Jesus waits until she comes and, falling at his feet, tells him the whole story.  Then, Jesus endearingly calls her “daughter” and comforts her with words of assurance and peace.

In the very next verse, Jesus further demonstrates compassion through his obvious concern for Jairus’s feelings.  Immediately after Jesus uses the endearing term “daughter” in speaking to the woman healed of her hemorrhage, the term “daughter” is used again in a much more ominous way.  Some people come from Jairus’s house with the worst possible news.  We can imagine the gut-punching, heart-crushing impact those four words, “Your daughter is dead,” would have had on Jairus when he heard them.  But Jesus overhears those words, and he immediately moves to comfort Jairus by saying to him, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Then, when they finally arrive at Jairus’s house, they find a crowd of loudly sobbing and grieving mourners.  Jesus clearly understands how upsetting all the commotion and weeping and wailing would have been to Jairus.  And again, Jesus speaks words intended to comfort and reassure Jairus and his wife who is now present.  Jesus says to the weepers and wailers, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”   

Mark tells us the people laugh at Jesus. Why?  Because they know for a fact that the little girl is not sleeping, but dead.  What they don’t know is that with Jesus, death does not have the last word.  Jesus doesn’t debate with the people, but instead Mark tells us that Jesus put them all outside.   I don’t know about you, but I wonder what that looked like?  What exactly did Jesus do to put them outside; how did he do it?  He may have done it without saying a word, with merely a look and perhaps pointing his finger in such a way that no one would have dared to do anything other than scramble for the door.  Or maybe Jesus used a little bit of physicality to help them find their way out the door.

At any rate, Jesus puts them out and takes the little girl’s father and mother along with Peter, John and James into the room where the lifeless little girl is lying.  He takes her by the hand, and speaks affectionately to her as he did to the woman who touched his garments.  He doesn’t merely command the girl to get up; he gently says to her, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” When she gets up and begins walking around, Jesus offers one more demonstration of his compassion when he tells the girl’s parents to give her something to eat.  Jesus isn’t about to let the little girl go hungry!

So, we see that the compassion of Jesus is demonstrated throughout these healing stories.  Next, we should notice the importance that both faith and touch have in these two stories.  Both the synagogue leader Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman have faith to seek the touch of Jesus.  Jairus asks Jesus to lay his hands on his little girl, because he has faith that the touch of Jesus will save her.  The woman expresses great faith by pushing her way through the crowd and deliberately touching Jesus’s cloak, believing she will be made well.  Jairus and the woman are both right; in both cases touch leads to healing, but Jesus makes it clear that their faith is the critical thing.  He tells the woman, “your faith has made you well.”  And he tells Jairus not to fear but to believe, which is also to say, “have faith.”  Friends, we all need the touch of Jesus, but do we have faith that he can bring healing to our lives?

Which brings me to my last point, the nature of healing in our lives today.  I believe healing is something every one of us would say we have needed or we still need, either for ourselves or for someone we love, whether it be physical, spiritual, relational or psychological healing.  In this Gospel passage, the hemorrhaging woman and the 12-year-old girl are both miraculously healed, but it is important for us to acknowledge that we don’t always get the healing we pray for in our lives.

Someone may even be thinking, “If Jesus was so concerned about Jairus, why was he not concerned about me when I lost my daughter or my son?”  Or, “Why did Jesus not heal my loved one of disease like he healed the woman in this story?” These are questions for which there are no easy answers.  But it is important to remember that, as we often acknowledge in our prayers for healing, our ultimate healing comes only when we are with the Lord in heaven.  The fact is that the woman with the discharge of blood and Jairus’s daughter both eventually died.  Otherwise, they would each be over 2000 years old and undoubtedly very famous!  The healing they received in this life was only temporary, but we trust that they have gone on to receive their ultimate healing in the presence of the Lord in his eternal heavenly kingdom.

Friends, it is good and right to pray for healing in this life as an act of faith, but if our prayers are not answered in the way that we want them to be answered, it does not necessarily mean that our faith is lacking.  I was reading earlier this week about a man who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was in his fifties.  He was a man of great faith, and he and his wife prayed that he might be healed of his Parkinson’s.  When he was dying from the disease 20 years later, he told his pastor that his prayers had been answered.  He explained that he had not been healed of his Parkinson’s disease, but he had been healed of his fear of Parkinson’s disease.  Sometimes we do not receive the physical healing we pray for in this life, but our hearts and our minds and our spirits receive healing instead.

Brothers and sisters, we have been reminded through these healing stories that we have a compassionate God who is never too busy to hear and to respond to our prayers and our pleas for help.  We all need his healing touch in our lives, whether our need for healing is physical, spiritual, relational or psychological.  It is good and right to pray in faith for our own healing and that of others, even as we acknowledge that we don’t always receive the healing in this life that we pray for.  May we hold on to our faith even when the miracles we pray for do not occur, knowing that one day, we will claim victory in Jesus over everything from which we need to be healed.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.