2021-06-27 5th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
One thing that has always baffled me is the concept of celebrity. Famous people. They are well known, house hold names. Usually rich. Influential. Powerful. Often above they are “above the law” when it comes to transgressions. They don’t face the same justice and penalties that other regular type people face for the same crimes. Singers. Movie Stars. Athletes. Reality TV personalities. There are no shortage of famous people in our world. There has always been such people. But what I find totally fascinating is how crazy the population goes if they get the chance to meet such people. If I say Elvis Presley, you don’t think about Peanut Butter and Banana sandwiches. You think of Hound Dogs and Suspicious Minds and Hunka Hunka burnin’ love - and … young, screaming girls! Yelling and cheering and even passing out just from attending a concert with the King, let alone meeting him face to face! The fame and glitz and glam spreads throughout the land and all over the world. Celebrity always creates quite a stir. And celebrity is where we are at with Jesus our Lord this morning too.
“And a great crowd followed Him and thronged about Him.” What is it about celebrity that makes people do this? Why do we feel the need to be close to the hype? And the closer the better. Is it so that we can feel cool by association? Have the bragging rights amongst all our friends at the coffee shop? Maybe. But this exact situation happens to Jesus. He’s sandwiched in the middle of two different conundrums. On his way to help the first, the crowd throngs around Him and the second comes along. When it rains it pours, even for Jesus.
Scenario 1: Jairus. He’s a big wig at the Synagogue, leading the worship there and lining up people to preach and read the scriptures. And, St. Mark tells us that his daughter is sick – to the point of death. This is serious. No time to dilly dally. If the leader of the Synagogue comes running to you, bows down on the ground, it’s legit. Time is of the essence. “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live!” Jairus pleads. Like any father with a sick child, you can feel the desperation in his heart and mind, you can hear it in his voice. On His way to help this family, Jesus is caught up in this throng of people. He is saturated in celebrity! There are people around Him on every side and He gets delayed.
Scenario 2: An ill woman. She comes rushing up to Jesus, with her own desperation in hand. She’s struggled with her health too we’re told, for some 12 years. Her disease caused her to bleed non stop. She spent all the money she had on countless doctors but never got better. Rather, she only got worse and worse. Then, she sees this Jesus guy, surrounded and sandwiched in celebrity by a huge crowd and she runs to Him. “If I touch even His garments, I will be made well” she believes. And behold, it’s true! She touches Jesus’ garment and immediately she’s miraculously healed! 12 long years of suffering, countless fortunes of cash, all over and done with in a few seconds. Power goes out of Jesus. That Divine energy emanating from the essence of God that creates, sustains, forgives, heals and saves goes out from Him.
“Who touched my clothes” Jesus asks. In a huge crowd of swarming people, how could anyone possibly tell?! The Disciples almost jokingly respond ‘You see this ginourmous crowd of people all around you and yet you ask which one did it?!’ But the woman came forward in fear and trembling and confessed to it. See, we think of this woman as a poor lady suffering with a disease. But in the culture of that time she was ‘unclean.’ She had to stay away from other people. Strap on a mask and 6 feet of social distancing for ever! Live a life of near solitude like a leper. Touching others was a big cultural no-no. If she did, they would become unclean too. And further more, women did not touch men this way, especially Rabbis! It was a culture of strict rules, boundaries and limitations. This poor sick woman broke all the rules to get to Jesus – and His response? “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Jesus calls her ‘Daughter’ because her faith was what made her well, that she was brought into God’s family receiving life and salvation. As a bonus, her bodily illness was also miraculously healed!
And this is what matters most, above all things. Our eternal healing is key. It is what really matters the most in all of life. We often think of our bodily health as the number one thing. We fret about our aches and pains. We lament that we can’t do what we used to be able to do. We dread catching Covid19. But that’s the nature of all life on this earth. It’s marred by death. It’s stained with sin. It’s passing away. It’s our bodies that start dying the moment they live. Nothing on this side of heaven will ever change this predicament. That’s why our attention must be focused on the eternal. The promise of everlasting life, death defeated and sins forgiven by this same Jesus who healed this poor woman. We confess our sins and we receive life from God. We, like this poor woman, look to Jesus by faith and we receive healing for our souls. Death becomes our defeated foe, even though our bodies continue to break down. But that leads us to the next point.
What about Jairus and his sick daughter?! Has Jesus forgotten about them? It seems like He was caught up in His own celebrity and the moment. “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Jairus’ servants come and tell him. Jesus took too long and now it’s too late. You can see the anguish on Jairus’ face at the news. He’d done the same thing this ill woman did, He ran to Jesus. But He helped her, and now it was too late for his daughter. She was dead. How often does life seem to work that way? We pray and pray for God to do something, to heal a disease, to save someone afflicted with an illness.
Sometimes it works out and people are healed, like the woman in the story. But other times, it doesn’t go as we would wish. People don’t recover. People aren’t healed. But does that mean that God doesn’t care or loves people any less? No. No it doesn’t. It means that God sees things we don’t. He has the whole big picture in view while often we only have enough light to see the step we are standing on. But that doesn’t change the fact that the greatest surprise is still in store.
“Do not fear, only believe” Jesus says to the brokenhearted Jairus. Believe? Believe in what? My daughter is dead! You can almost hear Jairus’ thoughts they are so loud. Peter, James and John go with Jesus to Jairus’ house. The big crowd, the buzz, the woman, the frenzy – they are all left behind. Inside the house is another much smaller crowd. No happiness, no celebrity, just sadness, wailing and mourning. “Why are you carrying on this way and weeping?” Jesus asks. “The girl isn’t dead, she’s sleeping.” Laughter and disbelief erupt in Jesus’ face. Jesus gets rid of this smaller crowd, further eliminating the buzz and hubbub. Only Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John and Jesus go to where the girl was. “Talitha cumi” Jesus says, “Little girl, arise.” And arise she did!
For 12 years a woman was bleeding with her illness. A 12 year old girl is resurrected back to life. 12, a perfect number, shows us that the perfection of God has come. Healing and wholeness result from the presence of God in Jesus Christ. As we trust and believe in Jesus our Lord and Savior, we are promised His healing of both body and soul. Perhaps we will be blessed with miraculous healing in this life in our bodies, and perhaps not. Regardless, we are assured that in the life to come, we will live in utter perfection. The amazing grace of our perfect God who loves and cares for His people in our Saviour Christ Jesus has spoken His word of life to us by His cross and empty tomb. He says to each of us “Dear child, arise!” Praise be to God now and forever more. Amen!