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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 5:21–43

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 5, Proper 8, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jun 28, 2015 

The Gospel we just heard is a record of one miracle nested inside another.  Jairus came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter who was very seriously ill.  Then, while Jesus was on His way to heal the daughter, He encountered a woman who suffered from a bleeding disorder.  Although this woman only wanted physical healing, Jesus knew she needed much more.

From a human standpoint, this causes a dilemma.  Should Jesus stick around and deal with the woman or continue onward with Jairus?  If He sticks around, Jairus daughter may die before Jesus can get to her.  On the other hand, the woman has needs beyond mere physical healing, and Jesus may not be able to find her again later.

Fortunately, Jesus is not limited to the human viewpoint.  He took time to deal with the woman even though it meant that the daughter would die.  But then, He dealt with the daughter not just by bringing her back to life, but by bringing her back to perfect health.

When Jesus stopped and turned around in the middle of the crowd, no one was more surprised than the woman who had touched His garment for healing.  The account makes it fairly clear that she wanted her healing to go unnoticed.  She didnt want to be any trouble.  She would just sneak in, touch His garment, and be gone.  No one needed to know.  No one was more shocked when Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, Who touched my garments? (Mark 5:30) Never the less, the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. (Mark 5:33) She was terrified that she was about to be punished for her actions.

You see, the nature of her bleeding condition had rendered her just as unclean as any leper.  The law concerning a woman with her condition was fairly clear.  If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. As in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. (Leviticus 15:25) Not only was she unclean, but she had also exposed the entire crowd to her uncleanness.  Strictly speaking, this woman had sinned against every member of the crowd.  Her mere presence should have forced them to go to the priests for the purification ritual.  She rightly expected punishment for violating the ritual cleanliness of every member of that crowd.

Of course the account tells us that Jesus had nothing but Gospel for the woman.  He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease. (Mark 5:34)

Jesus understood that the bleeding condition was the least of this womans troubles.  If Jesus would have let her go on her way, she would still carry the guilt of her sins.  Not just the guilt of sneaking through the crowd and stealing some of Jesus power, but the guilt for all the other sins in her life.  Physically, she would be fine, but eternally, she would still be condemned.  Jesus words comforted her and gave her His peace.

Every one of us enters life with the same fear that this woman had.  Deep down inside, we know we dont measure up.  Deep down inside, we know that we need help.  Deep down inside, we know that that help can only come from God.  At the same time we know that God has every right to punish us for our sin.  We find ourselves in the painful situation of needing help from a source that terrifies us.  We find ourselves in the situation where we want God to help us when we get in a jam, but we want Him to stay far, far away the rest of the time.  This is fear.

Of course, this fear began in Eden.  They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, Where are you? 10And he said, I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself. (Genesis 3:810) Adam and Eve sinned, and ever since, the presence of God has terrified people.

Ever since that day, humanity has labored under the false notion that we must somehow earn our way back into Gods favor.  Somehow we must fix what went wrong in Eden.  That is the reason that most people believe that religion is all about becoming a better person.  It is all about getting right with God.  Of course, anyone who is half-way honest will readily admit that they cant pull it off.  Therefore God terrifies them.  They know that they will not meet Gods standards on the day they must go to meet their maker.  The best that the false religions can do is promise a painless non-existence after death.  Otherwise, death is full of terror because no false religion can assure you that you have been good enough.

The sad thing about all these terrified people is that they have the idea of religion all wrong.  True religion is not about you living a righteous life for God.  It is about God taking on human flesh and living a righteous life for you.  It is not about you getting right with God.  It is about God dying on a cross so that He can give His righteousness to you.  It is not about you paying the penalty for your sin.  It is about God paying that penalty for you as He hangs on a cross and endures the punishment you deserve.  It is not about a God who demands and takes.  It is about a God who offers and gives.  God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Since we live in a sinful world and our own sinful nature fills us with the false religions of terror, then how can we receive the true religion of forgiveness, life, and salvation?

In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus did not allow the woman to sneak off with mere physical healing.  He wanted to heal her in body, mind, and spirit.  So He turned about in the crowd and said, Who touched my garments? (Mark 5:30)

He asked this question for the same reason He asked Adam where he was in Eden.  Just as He knew exactly where Adam was, so He also knew all about the woman who had touched Him.  In Eden, He asked in order to call Adam to Himself.  In the same way, He asked, Who touched my garments, in order to call the woman to Himself.  He knew exactly who had touched His garments and He gave her nowhere to hide.  She had to come forward.

It was then that Jesus gently and lovingly laid the Gospel on her.  He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease. (Mark 5:34) Jesus did not just heal her disease, but He also gave her His peace.

The woman did not seek out Jesus for healing in mind and spirit, but only for physical healing.  Indeed, once her body was healed, she wanted to sneal off never to be heard from again.  Never the less, the woman received mental and spiritual healing because Jesus called her to Himself and gave her His peace.

The other sign in todays Gospel demonstrates this even more, for Jairus daughter did indeed die.  As a dead person, she could do nothing to help herself.  Never the less, Jesus called her and she woke up from death.  It is easier for Jesus to wake a person from death than it is for one of us to waken someone from simple slumber.

Jesus still gives His words of peace and healing today.  We have His words given to His prophets before he was born.  We have His words given to His Apostles out of His very human mouth Words that the Apostles did not immediately understand, but that the Holy Spirit brought to their memory after Jesus ascended into heaven.  We hear His words when we hear the reading of the Holy Scriptures as the Holy Spirit said through the Apostle Paul.  You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:1920) So it is that the Holy Spirit works faith in us through the Word of God.  It is the Holy Spirit at work through the Gospel that converts us from the false religions of fear and death to the true religion of forgiveness, life, and salvation to the religion that looks to Jesus on the cross as the source of all the gifts God gives to us.

The Gospel we just heard told us of a woman who was afraid when Jesus exposed her deed.  In a similar way, your sinful nature is afraid when the Holy Spirit calls you by the Gospel.  Just as the woman had no reason to fear, you have no reason to fear.  Just as Jesus gave peace and healing to her, He wants to give eternal peace to you.

Jesus has died on the cross to take away all your sins.  He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He has earned your salvation and gives it to you freely.  Dont be afraid, but believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31).  Amen

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