Monday, July 06, 2015

Sermon on Mark 5:21-43, 5th Sunday after Pentecost, "We Need Jesus"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Much is familiar to us in the Gospel reading today. The experience of families who wrestle with the terminal illness and the death of a child. The experience of individuals with chronic disease, incurable by doctors, growing progressively worse while money runs out. The experience of suffering and death by those inside the church community, and the isolation and loneliness of those experiencing the same outside the church community. The wish to remain invisible in the crowd, or the urgency to get Jesus’ help quickly and without delay. They are all familiar emotions to those who struggle with the daily challenges of life, with faith and prayer to God. Even the experience of being mocked for believing that death is not final, holding out hope against all despair, that Jesus can deliver us even from death.
Jesus, who is at the center of it all, does not behave as the people there that day expect or necessarily want Him to. He sees the situation from a different vantage point, and is not blinded by the fear or doubt or even scorn that holds the others captive. He does not accept the finality of death, and knows that He holds power over it. He is resolute, determined, and yet when the needs of another woman come into the picture, He has all the time in the world to give her the attention she isn’t even seeking, and show that He cares for her too. This same Jesus cares for our needs, hears and answers our prayers in His own good timing and mercy.
For Jairus, who ruled the synagogue—similar to a pastor or president of our congregation today—to come to Jesus and ask for a healing, was huge in itself. Jesus was still an uncertain figure around the synagogues—sometimes welcomed tentatively, but often rejected and turned away. There would likely have been many disapproving eyes in the crowd, critical that Jairus would turn to Jesus. As Christians, do you look over your shoulder and worry about what someone else thinks about your faith in Jesus, or do you simply put your full trust in Jesus? The great need of his daughter drove him to the One who could truly help. Jairus, his wife, and daughter, they needed Jesus. And we have great need also. Our sins that weigh us down, our fears and doubts that blind, and our illnesses and sufferings, and the needs of our loved ones. We need One who can help. We need Jesus.
When the needs of another woman, a woman with chronic bleeding, interrupts the scene and delays Jesus, I cannot help but imagine that there was some nervous, agitated, and impatient squirming on the part of Jairus and those who were urgently trying to get Jesus there before his daughter died. We have urgent prayers and requests that we feel cannot wait, and sometimes we cannot understand why God seems to delay, or not answer. For us there is usually only the “NOW”—but for Him there is eternity. Our earthly vantage point does not see time, suffering, and death as Jesus does. For Him there are no obstacles.
Her particular suffering went on for 12 years. 12 long years of hoping for a cure, spending every dime on medicine and doctors that didn’t help. We give thanks when modern medicine offers cures, but we also relate to those that are never helped, never healed. Those who tried everything, and only got worse or died. 12 years certainly seems long enough for us to give up hope. But Jesus brings hope when hope seems gone. Her suffering was not merely whatever pain or weakness she would have experienced, but it also meant 12 years of uncleanness, isolation. She couldn’t enter worship while unclean. She was isolated from the community of faith. But she too needed Jesus, and had faith that Jesus could heal her.
Her hope was simply to touch His garment and be healed—to remain anonymous in the crowd. It would have been easy for her to do so, and for Jesus to ignore her, as His disciples even expected Him to do. The people like this today, who are outcasts or outsiders, by choice or not, are probably not in our churches this morning. They may nurture a hope and a faith in Jesus that they too can be healed, but for whatever reasons they are outside, alone, anonymous. The power of Jesus’ name is known and is effective well beyond these walls. But Jesus searched the crowd nevertheless, to find her. To find the one who had sought His help for her need. And Jesus is looking for those today who need His help, who cry out silently amidst the sea of suffering humanity, and whom He hears. And they are not nameless or faceless to Him.
We can pray that God also open our eyes to see those who are hurting and lost with the eyes of Jesus. To have compassion on the people whom God places in our way, and not to just be unfeeling towards suffering because there is too much or we fear we cannot make a difference. As Pastor Greg Finke told us at our District Convention, we are not able or responsible to do the good that “fixes” someone, and all their problems, but we are able and responsible to do the good that blesses them. Even if that “good” is simply to bring them Jesus. We may more often than not find that we have no solution to the earthly problems someone faces, but we can bring them Jesus. We can listen, pray, share an embrace, as Jesus was unafraid to do, for an outcast.
Still, when the woman finally made herself known to Jesus, and fearful of what He might do—He surprises her by loving her and calling her “daughter.” “Daughter.”  You are not forsaken, alone, or lost. You are my dearly beloved child. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Her healing, her rescue, was in body and soul. The same healing and salvation that is a final promise for us in eternity. Healed in body and soul, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God’s attention is not divided or distracted among the 7 billion residents of earth. And though we may fear that we are, or even want to be anonymous, Jesus knows our name, He knows our needs, and He even knows the hairs on our head. Jesus knows all His sheep by name and He calls them, and we hear His voice and follow Him.
After the seeming “interruption” of this healing, Jesus and the crowd proceeds to Jairus’ house, but is stopped by messengers who advise Jairus to give up—it’s too late—your daughter is dead. In other words, embrace death and your despair, because hope has flown. But Jesus has a different vantage point, and He says, “Do not fear, only believe.” We hear the naysayers, and sometimes we are the naysayers, who face death as a defeat. Grief would easily swallow us if given the chance. But Jesus steps into the yawning throat of death, and snatches back one of its victims. Remember Scripture teaches that God swallows up death forever. Ancient theologians of the Christian church pictured death swallowing up Jesus on the cross, but that Jesus burst death’s belly. So Jesus answers our grief with hope and life. He shows the enemy is defeated, so we do not lose heart. “Do not fear, only believe.”
On scene at Jairus’ house, the unbelief and resistance to Jesus becomes hostile, with ridicule and laughter, when Jesus states that the child is not dead but sleeping. Here again we face today’s modern skepticism and even outright mockery of Christians. Belief in God or life after death is dismissed as fantasy or a crutch for those who can’t face the cold, hard facts of life. And presumably, the cold, hard fact is that death is the end. An increasing number of people today believe that death is the end. That it’s rational, or scientific, and to think otherwise is ignorance. But Jesus forcefully challenges that assumption, and throws the naysayers out of the house, while He and the parents and disciples go in. Jesus raises the little child from the dead, taking her by the hand, and saying, “Little girl, I say to you arise.” Jesus plainly demonstrated to them that death was not final, and that He was greater than death. Jesus, not death, was in command of the situation.
But the even bigger challenge to that assumption, was when Jesus Himself died on the cross. Even His own disciples, who had seen at least three miracles where Jesus raised the dead—did not seem to think that He could defeat His own death. But once again, Jesus would prove them and all the naysayers wrong. Jesus rose from His own grave, bursting the gut of death, on the third day from His death. People still will refuse to believe it, because they cannot get over the idea that death is the end. But they must ignore the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to do so, and the many eye-witnesses who knew with such certainty what they themselves had seen, that many went to their deaths giving witness to it.
The reasons they needed Jesus, are the same reasons we need Jesus. In the face of death, whether it be a child or an adult; in the face of chronic suffering and disease that finds no relief, we need Jesus. In the face of doubt or fear or loneliness or grief, we need Jesus. Jesus’ words echo back to us, “Do not fear, only believe.” There is no other person on the planet or in history who has kicked death and the grave, and promises to do the same for you. No founder of any religion, save Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, can say that they walked out of their own grave after three days in death. The trust that Jesus can make us well, and that we will live, is well placed in Him. Aside from Him, darkness, loneliness, despair, and anger are all rational responses. But in Him, fear, doubt, and despair are driven away. Hope is restored by His hands and words. Unbelief gives way to faith. You are a son or daughter to Christ Jesus, and your suffering and grief is known to him, however personal and private or public and open you have made it. He delights to call you His own, as a father delights in His children.
Life is such a precious and fragile thing, and death and suffering seem so threatening. We understand the fears and doubts, back then and today. But Jesus shows great compassion both for those who openly sought His help and the one who wanted to remain hidden. Neither risked losing His help at the expense of the other; Jesus helped both. We cannot understand God’s timing, and we face many deaths that seem premature by our timing. But God, in His perfect timing, knows and sees all, and forgets and overlooks none. And the life that Jesus comes to bring us will not be a frail, fragile thing, but His own imperishable life. Body and soul, the whole you, will be restored on that day when faith becomes sight, and we see face to face, no longer through a dim mirror. Then we will stand alive with our Savior Jesus. We need Jesus, and the good news is that we have Him. He has given Himself freely to all who put their trust in Him. As He said, John 11:25–26 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      Jairus, the synagogue ruler, would have been like a pastor or president of a congregation today. He was a lay person, but would have been responsible for the worship and instruction of the assembly. As such a prominent leader in the town, why might it have been “risky” for him to seek such help from Jesus? Luke 13:14. Why did he pursue Jesus’ help anyway? Did he have faith?
2.      How is the woman with the chronic bleeding connected by circumstance to Jairus’ daughter? Mark 5:25, 42. What would her bleeding have meant for her in regards to worship? Leviticus 15:25. How can we be more attentive to the lost and those who are “outsiders” to the church for any reason? What would it mean to see them with “the eyes of Christ?”
3.      What emotions and experiences do people today face, when they have chronic illnesses that are uncured by doctors? Did she have faith to be healed? Why did Jesus not let her go unnoticed? What did He want to say to her and call her? Mark 10:34.
4.      The onlookers seem to accept the “finality of death”, while Jesus does not. Do you see people expressing this same unbelief today? How do they respond to Christians who believe in eternal life in Jesus?
5.      What did Jesus do to those who laughed at Him? Mark 5:40. By Jesus’ word and touch, He raises the little girl. Where do we place our confidence when death approaches us or our loved ones? John 11:25-26
6.      What comfort is there in knowing that we are not a faceless crowd of sufferers to Jesus, but that He sees and knows our individual needs? How do we know this is true? John 10:3, 14; Matthew 6:8.
7.      Both the woman and little girl needed Jesus, and couldn’t be healed apart from Him. When we cannot give the physical healing that we would want to give someone, we can always still give them Jesus. Who is one person you know who needs Jesus, and how can you give them Him?

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