II Samuel 1:1, 17-27, Mark 5:21-43
July 2, 2006
Today we have two very interesting stories woven together by Mark, one story inside the other. Both are stories of healings performed by Jesus. And though they are different, they’re related, not just by their timing, but by the very way Mark presents them. They seem to go together so well they almost seem like one story.
As this passage opens, Jesus and his disciples had just returned over the sea of Galilee. He had been on the other side, the non-Jewish side, where he had just cast demons out of a man which then entered the herd of pigs. Maybe you remember that story. That’s the one where the pigs then went mad and ran and drown themselves in the sea.
Well, at that point, the man, now in his right mind, asked to follow Jesus. But Jesus told him instead to go and tell all that God had done for him – which he did. He proclaimed throughout the land what had happened to him and what Jesus had done, and everyone was amazed.
So now Jesus has gotten back into the boat, and he has come back again to the same side of the sea where he had been teaching before. And again a huge crowd gathered around him as often happened.
The next thing that happened, as our story begins, this man named Jairus came to Jesus, fell at his feet, and begged Jesus to come heal his daughter. Now I want you to see two things right away. First, I want you to see how this shows us the controversial nature of this man, Jesus. You see, it wasn’t’ simply a matter of all the religious leaders opposing him. The fact was, they were divided over him. Even to the end of his time on earth there was a division among the religious counsel. There were those for Jesus and those against him. Remember Nicodemus from last a few weeks ago.
The reason I say this was that this man, Jairus, wasn’t just anybody. He was one of the leaders of the synagogue. And he comes to Jesus with this desperate need. That’s the second thing I want you to notice. This religious leader didn’t come trying to undermine Jesus like some of the others. He didn’t come trying to discredit him and make him look bad in front of the crowd. He came to Jesus because there was no where else to turn. His young daughter was dying. He was willing to try anything. How many of us would have done the same thing?!
Maybe he wasn’t completely sure about Jesus, although he did show great faith, saying if Jesus came and touched the daughter, she would be well. But maybe he had his questions about Jesus, as did many of his colleagues. It didn’t matter. When it came to this desperate life situation, this crisis, he set all that aside and acted.
People came to Jesus for various reasons. And they still do today. I want you to think about that. People come to Jesus for different reasons and in different ways, and they may not be the same as yours. Some come to Jesus purely through an intellectual process. And then there are those who have nothing to do with Jesus unless they have a crisis in their lives. That may have been the case with Jairus. We’ll never know. What we do know is that whether it’s an intellectual process, or spiritual or emotional, it is with our whole selves that we come to Jesus. Even if it’s an intellectual decision, we should get it into our hearts. If it’s a pouring out of our hearts in desperation, it should then get into our heads.
In this case, this is definitely a pouring out of the heart. For Jairus, the intellectual process was second, but it was not set aside. He lead with the heart, but he “reasoned” that he had nothing to lose coming to Jesus. Nothing except his reputation, perhaps! But do you see how both elements, the head and the heart are intertwined?
Now, that would have made for a great story all by itself. But interwoven with that story we have this other story of the woman who had had a “flow of blood” – a hemorrhage – for twelve years! And keep in mind that there was a religious dimension to that problem. Women going through “that time of the month” were considered impure for that time and were often excluded from certain parts of their religious lives. So this woman who had this problem had been excluded for a long time.
This was not just a physical condition. So we can see how she was desperate to be cured and have some normalcy back in her life – religious or otherwise. So she had spent all her money and resources. Mark gives us that detail. And I think it’s an important one! This is also a case of desperation, isn’t it! The difference here is that instead of making a request, like Jairus, this woman believes first, then acts. Mark tells us specifically that she had said earlier, (either to herself or others,) “If only I can touch his clothes, I will be made well.” And what I want you to see in this is that both these courses of action are honored by Jesus.
In the first case, Jesus is responding to a request. Jairus comes to him and pours out his heart before him. In this case, the woman believes that he can help her, so she takes a more timid approach. Perhaps one that might have been expected of women in that culture. She moves close to him in the crowd, hoping for just the “slightest tough.” And that “slightest touch” heals her.
And Jesus knows it. He turns and confronts her, asking who touched him, knowing, as Mark puts it, that power had gone forth from him. He wanted the woman to identify herself. He wanted to talk to her about her faith. And I love this little exchange with his disciples. “Who touched me?” he said. And they’re like “What are you kidding? Look at this crowd! Everybody touched you!” But we know there was more to it.
I want you to think about that “slightest touch.” That was all it took. That’s all it takes with us, too. Though I know sometimes we humans need more than just a slight touch, don’t we? Sometimes we’re like the mule the farmer bought because the man who sold it said it responded to voice commands. When it did nothing at all, no matter what the farmer said, he took it back. And when he complained, the man picked up a big stick and whacked the mule and yelled “Walk!” The farmer said, “I though you said it responded to voice commands!” The man said, “It does. But sometimes you have to get it’s attention first!”
Sometimes we’re like that, aren’t we? Sometimes we do need something big to get our attention. Maybe it is a desperate situation. Maybe it’s great pain. C. S. Lewis once said, “Pain is God’s megaphone to wake a sleeping world.” Maybe sometimes that’s true.
However it happens, I want you to see that it is this touch of God that makes all the difference in our lives, whether that means the first touch of a person who never knew God, or the ongoing touch of God on our lives as believers. I like to describe the personal connection with God as a matter of our reaching out with our spirit and touching the spirit of God. However you describe it, that feeling of the “touch of God” is so important to our faith. And it’s both physical and spiritual, as it was in the case of both of these people in this passage.
In this second story, (actually it’s the end of the first story) Jesus honors this outright request – this desperate plea. Actually, he left right away when he heard Jairus’ words. And of course the crowd went with him which is why they were pressing in all around when this woman touched him. And though the whole bit with the woman didn’t seem to delay things very much, the girl died anyway. People came and met them on the way to tell the bad news. Perhaps, she had died even before Jairus reached Jesus. We don’t know.
At any rate, Jesus said to Jairus, who had watched the whole exchange with this woman, don’t forget, “Do not be afraid, but believe.” In other words, “Have the faith of this woman!” And of course, he had some of that faith, or he wouldn’t have come to Jesus in the first place!
Then there’s this incredible scene. They come to the house, and see the people weeping and wailing loudly. That was the custom, by the way. Maybe you’ve seen scenes of funerals in that part of the world and have watched these people crying and wailing loudly. That was part of how they mourned the dead in that culture. In fact, there were actually people who were “professional mourners” who would come and make those loud wailing cries for you! (Even though they may not have known the person!)
In the middle of all that, Jesus stepped up and said, “Why are you wailing and mourning? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” And they laughed at him! “Hey, we’re professional mourners! We know dead when we see it!” But then Jesus takes Peter, James, and John (maybe not even Jairus!) and goes in and calls the girl back to life, with only his words – not even the slightest touch!
As we think about these stories, I want you to think today, how has God touched your life? Has he healed you? Has he turned your life around? Have you felt him tangibly? Has your spirit ever been uplifted, in a way that is beyond words? Have you been “whacked by a stick” to get your “spiritual attention?”
Many people need God to heal them physically. But I think many more people need God to heal them spiritually! People are starving for the touch of God. They’re living in a world where God has been removed from so many places. And they need God in their lives, whether they know it or not. Maybe it will take something desperate to make them see that. Maybe it will take that pain, that megaphone, to wake them spiritually. Maybe they will realize then that they are spiritually desperate for God.
What about you? Do you think about all this? With all my heart I know that we need God’s touch. And we need it every day. We need to approach Jesus, to fall at his feet, to pour out our hearts. We need to move closer to him like this woman, reaching for even the slightest touch of his garments. Too many people hold God instead at arms length. And as I often say, then they wonder why God feels so distant, or why their faith just doesn’t seem to work.
Don’t be one of those people. Reach out to God. Strive to feel his touch and to know his presence. It doesn’t happen all by itself. But everyone who seeks God with all their heart will find him!
Help us to know your presence in our lives. Help us to feel you touching us as we seek to touch you. Fill us once again or for the first time with the joy of your kingdom and the peace which passes all understanding. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.