Only Believe Mark 5:21-43
Given by Rev. April Blaine on Sunday, January 24, 2016
So, today’s Scripture is so rich and so good – that if we wanted to, we could probably keep this same Scripture for the whole month of January (with 5 Sundays) and every week be able to focus on a different part of the story.
Which we aren’t going to do, but I am going to try and capture just a bit of the extraordinary things that I believe are happening here.
So, it would be helpful if you had your bibles out so we can walk through this story together…
It’s a story of two miraculous and very different healings.
And the story all begins in a moment of great crisis - for a man named Jairus.
Who is Jairus?
Jairus is a leader in the local synagogue. Not probably so different than Robb or myself. A pastor of sorts. A religious man of authority. The fact that his name is recorded in the story tells us that he was both well-known and influential in the community.
But none of that really matters to him right now because why?
His daughter is dying.
Now, if you’ve ever been responsible for a child – you know the panic that can come when you realize that something might be very, very wrong.
And the first instinct, even back then – would be to call for who?
So, the fact that he is coming to Jesus tells us that he is desperate. Doctors and other more traditional healers have not helped. It looks like all hope might be lost.
But Jairus has heard of Jesus –
Jesus is developing quite the reputation as someone who has not only wise teaching but ACTIONS that reveal his authority.
He has just returned from a VERY eventful scene on the other side of the Sea of Galilee – where he cast out demons from a possessed man and sent pigs flying off a cliff to their deaths.
People are keeping tabs on where he is and word travels fast.
So when Jairus hears that he is nearby, he pushes his way through the crowd to ask him to come and save his little girl – for, he says – if you could just touch her – her life would be saved.
Now the word that Mark uses here is noteworthy – because the word for saving her life is bigger than just about physical healing. The word is about a spiritual and physical restoration. It is about salvation and wholeness. Not just restoring her to how she was but also making her new.
Jairus doesn’t ask Jesus to heal his daughter, he asks him to save her.
It is a preview of where the story is going.
And - Time is of the essence and Jesus begins to follow him.
And a great crowd follows as they quickly make their way to Jairus’ home.
Until – as life would have it – right – on the way – to the pastor’s house – to cure his daughter – who is dying.
Our story is dramatically interrupted.
And it is dramatically interrupted by a woman, whose name we do not know,
The only thing we know about her is that she is in desperate poverty. She has been plagued with an issue of blood, hemorrhaging for how long?
Like Jairus, she has gone to the doctors and the healers to try and fix the problems –
She has lost all of her money and she is no better. She is actually worse.
That means that she is considered ritually unclean and would have had to live as an outcast, isolated from most folks because of the rigid laws about who could come into contact with her.
But on this day, she has come out of her isolation and separation from the community.
Like Jairus, she heard the stories of what Jesus could do and that he is nearby. And so she takes an enormous risk and comes into the public area – into the crowd – and seeks him out.
And her plan is simple –if I simply touch his cloak – I’ll be cured.
Now, it seems that both Jairus and the woman’s idea of Jesus was that he was – what they called during that day and time – a “thaumaturge.”
A Thaumaturge was a person who possessed such strong magical powers that those powers could be transferred to anything that they touched. So, his garments would become magical and if you touched those – the same power could be transferred to you temporarily and provide healing and wellness.
And so she pushes through the crowd and makes it all the way to Jesus.
And the scripture says that - Just by touching his cloak, she can feel the hemorrhaging stop and her body becoming healed.
The experience confirms what she thought – Jesus is magic.
But then Jesus – in the midst of the journey to go save a dying 12 year old girl. Decides to stop. For he senses that something has just happened.
“Who touched me?”
Power has gone out from him.
And the disciples think it’s a weird question – since Jesus is surrounded by people.
But Jesus seems to sense what has happened. And it seems that the woman’s healing is not fully complete.
Now, for me – this is the most pivotal moment of the whole story. For in this moment, the woman must make an important choice.
Her body has already been healed. She has received what she came for. She could easily slink off among the busy crowd and be on her way. She does not have to face Jesus
And it’s a bit risky for her to do so. For a typical thaumaturge would request payment for services. You couldn’t just receive magical healing from a thaumaturge for free – it would be considered stealing.
But somehow in this moment – when she could have run and fled. The woman decides to face her fears, to take courage, to confess what she has done, and to ask for mercy.
It is a remarkable step of courage. And she does so in front of EVERYONE.
She is exposed and vulnerable.
But THIS is where the magic happens.
For when Jesus sees the woman falls on her knees, he looks at her with compassion and tells her “Daughter – Daughter –
your faith has made you well. Go in peace. And be healed.”
Now, when the woman had touched Jesus’ cloak, the scripture told us that she was healed. Meaning her sickness had gone away.
But the word Jesus uses here says – your faith has SAVED you.
It has healed you both mentally and physically.
And Jesus wants to be clear to her –
It wasn't my cloak that cured you. What I bring is not magic.
My presence and power gave you the courage to confront your fears and to look inside yourself - to find hope, courage, and worth.
I have healed your body, but
Your faith has saved you.
Jairus – who has been watching this whole exchange happening with surely some conflicting emotions about the fact that their urgent journey has been interrupted.
But it seems that seeing and observing this sacred moment brings on its own transformation in Jairus for in the very next moment – when the bad news comes – that the girl has died
And His deepest fears have been realized. What he was most afraid might happened has come to past.
Jesus looks at him and says, “Do not fear. Only believe.”
Do not fear. Only believe.
He has just watched a woman with nothing – face her fears and come before Jesus with courage – and be made well.
And now – just minutes later, Jesus is asking him to do the same.
And without a word he returns with Jesus. HE doesn’t argue with him. He goes. And he listens.
And he observes the same thing happen in the life of his daughter.
As Jesus says to her, “Little girl, I say to you get up!”
And with the same kind of compassion and care – tells them to give her something to eat.
We’re all captivated by the idea of magic – with the idea that our problems and our struggles and our fears could just instantly disappear through no action of our own.
The truth is though that if you look back at the moments in your life where things really turned around. It probably wasn’t magic. And it probably wasn’t instant.
But it probably involved some kind of turning. Some actions on your part.
And a real choice to… with God’s help and the help of those around us -
to face our real fears. To walk deeper into the struggle willingly. To step into the light with our full selves.
To have faith.
Those moments always take some courage and those moments always require some action.
And when we do.
When we are brave enough to look our fears head on –
We are often surprised to find that we have more power than we realize.
That we aren’t as alone as we suspected.
That God meets us and so we find that we are different on the other side of that choice–
Healed in a sense
And God brings to us the kind of transformation and salvation that goes from the outside in – often in ways that leave a permanent change.
Faith isn't about believing in magic. It's about recognizing that gods power works through us - in partnership with us - the power of God in you - a power that is greater than your fears. That with gods presence and power – gives us the courage to face our fears so that we might indeed be transformed and whole.