February 2, 2020

“Powerful Healing, Part 2”

Mark 5:21-43

A sermon for Hawaii Kai UCC by Janice Ogoshi

February 2, 2020


“Don’t be afraid, just believe.”  (Mark 5:36)


Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Jairus on that day when Jesus came ashore right in his town?  His daughter was gravely ill, and he was desperate.  The townspeople knew that she was sick, and many were concerned about her.  Jairus was a leader of the synagogue, an important lay leader and a respected man in their community.  So when they heard that Jesus, the healer, had come ashore, everyone rushed to him.  Many hoped he could heal the girl, and made way for Jairus to make his plea to Jesus.  


His hope was stirred when Jesus began to follow him home.  Jesus will do something.  He’ll bring her back to health!  The crowds jostled Jairus, Jesus and his disciples.  There were so many people!  He was like a rock star.  Everyone wanted to see him perform a miracle and heal somebody.  Some came to be healed themselves.  So they all pressed in on him, crowding around, hoping to witness something spectacular.


Suddenly, Jesus stopped and asked, “Who touched me?”  What do you mean, who touched you?  What a ridiculous question.  Everyone was touching Jesus.  The crowds were pressing in on him.  But he insisted on stopping because someone touched him.


The disciples pointed out the obvious to Jesus:  “You see the people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (v. 31).  What a ridiculous question!  There were dozens of people touching Jesus—he was being mobbed.  And they really didn’t have time to stop and sort it all out.  The sick girl was waiting.


Jairus’s patience was stretched thin.  Come on, come on, Jesus.  My daughter is hovering close to death, and you want to know who touched you?  


But Jesus knew that power had left him with that touch.  Someone had been healed without him knowing who it was.  “Who touched me?”


Then a woman came forward to confess that she was the one who touched him.  She was shaking, scared of being rebuked, yet—something had definitely happened.  She knew Jesus was talking about her because when she had reached out and touched his cloak, she felt something infuse her body—healing power—and she knew she was healed.  So she told Jesus the long story of how she had been bleeding for 12 years, and no one could diagnose the problem.  She had consulted with lots of doctors, and had run out of money doing so.  She was desperate for healing because her illness had made her unclean, and that meant staying away from her husband, her family, her friends.  The whole story came out.


It was important for Jesus to know who touched him because he needed to speak to her, to complete her healing, which was not just physical.  She had been only partially healed.  She had to know that she was not just healthy again, but that she was also free from the pain of isolation.  Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter”—he called her a daughter with such tenderness!  She was a beloved family member again.  “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (v. 34).  She had acted on her faith in Jesus, and she was healed.  Just like the man in last week’s reading, the woman’s healing made it possible for her to return to her family and community, ending her separation and loneliness.


While it was all nice and good that the woman was healed, Jairus could only think about his daughter.  Come on, Jesus, can we get going?  All you need to do is touch her.  It won’t take but a moment, but we need to hurry.  Let’s go!


Then Jairus saw people walking toward him.  No…please, no.  It was too late.  She died.  If only Jesus hadn’t stopped to talk to the woman, he would have been able to heal his daughter.  Darn that woman!  She could have waited to be healed by Jesus.  She wasn’t on death’s door.  Another hour, after Jesus had healed his daughter, his sweet daughter, saved her from dying, then the woman could have had her turn.  But no…Jesus was delayed, and now his daughter was dead.


But then Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (v. 36).  Don’t be afraid?  What does he mean?  How could he believe in Jesus when it was too late and his daughter was dead?


Jesus sent the crowds and the messengers away, taking only three disciples and Jairus.  They arrived at the house, and the funeral had already begun.  Jesus shooed everyone out of the house and went to the girl’s room.  He took her by the hand and told her to get up…and she did!  She walked around, like nothing had happened.  She was not only alive, but she was well again.


“Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Jesus’ word to Jairus is his word to us too.  Like Jairus, we have our agendas, our plans and our dreams.  We think we are in control and we know what is best.  And we go to Jesus to ask him to make our plans and dreams come to pass.  They aren’t bad plans or dreams, they’re actually pretty good:  We want our loved ones healed.  We want suffering to stop.  We want our church to be blessed.  We want our community to be safe from violence.  We want Jesus to bless us in particular ways, and we go to him, we kneel before him and ask.  We know that he is God, and has the power to heal, to make things happen, to bless, so we go to him.  We know that he is the Messiah, the Anointed One, who is over all, in all and through all, so we go to him.  There is an urgency to our prayers.  We want him to answer them now.


But then it seems that Jesus is distracted from our requests.  He doesn’t realize the urgency of our prayers, our immediate need.  He delays.  We don’t get an answer or we don’t get the answer we want.  Things change, but not for the better.  So we are disappointed in Jesus, and we blame him for not hearing us, for not answering our prayers.  We get mad at God for letting our loved one continue to suffer or worse yet, die.


Then Jesus comes to us and says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  


What does Jesus want us to believe?  As we have been reading the gospel of Mark, Jesus has been proclaiming the kingdom of God.  Remember, at the beginning of his ministry Jesus began preaching, “The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).  


Jesus not only taught about the nature of the kingdom of God, but showed what it looked like by healing people, casting out demons, and forgiving sins.  And while he wasn’t big on letting people know that he was the Messiah—not just yet—he was doing things that revealed that he was indeed the Messiah.  The kingdom of God had indeed come near in him.  So he said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”


Jesus asked Jairus, the disciples, the people and us to believe that he was the Messiah.  Put our trust in him, like the woman who was sick did.  Her faith made her well because she acted on her belief that Jesus could heal her.  Jairus could still act on his belief by taking Jesus back to his house, even though his daughter had died.  He did--and Jesus raised his daughter from the dead.  It was an even greater miracle, a hint of what was coming that was greater than Jairus’ original request.  Jairus had his daughter back.  Jesus knew what he was doing.


Jesus says to us, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  And I think this means that when we proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah, that he is our Lord and our Savior, we need to trust that he does have all things in his hands.  He loves the world—the whole world, and not just a few of us.  Jesus loves the world and is at work redeeming it, bringing it back to its goodness and beauty as it was at creation.  And he asks us to act on our belief, to place our trust in him by doing the things he taught us to do—love God, love our neighbors, forgive and be forgiven—even if the world tells us it’s too late, it’s no good.  And he asks us to trust that his love and compassion are big and deep enough to not only touch us, but the whole world.


Jesus may not answer our fervent prayers the way we want, or in the timeframe we desire.  But Jesus says to us, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Believe that he is Lord of all, and in control.  Believe that he is working for the good of all.  Believe that he has defeated sin and evil.  Believe that he is over all, and in all, and through all.  Trust that the kingdom of God is near, and will come in fullness at just the right time. 


In the meantime, it may look like Jesus has been distracted by others because he isn’t answering our prayers.  It may be that we are witnessing the death throes of the devil in the sin, evil, illness, and death that abounds.  But we also see that in Jesus, the kingdom of God is emerging, shining through.  Jesus is at work building and extending the kingdom of God among us.  Healing and resurrection are on the other side of death.  Jesus wants us to keep focused, like he is, on bringing healing to our world and reconciling people to God and to each other.


Jesus loves us, and he hears all our prayers, but he is focused on something greater—the redemption of the world.  And if that means healing some people so that they will be able to join in proclaiming the kingdom of God, so be it.  Rejoice in Jesus’ compassionate healing for them.  If, on the other hand, it means that some will not be healed, it’s okay because in the end, Jesus will reign, and we will be living in the kingdom of God in its fullness, without pain, illness, death.  Our loved ones we’ve prayed for will be whole again, alive to God.  Jesus knows what he is doing, he loves all people, and he asks us to trust and follow him.


Don’t be afraid; just believe.  Our reading, with two stories of healing, one interrupted by the other, is telling us to keep our eyes on the bigger picture, on the greater thing that Jesus is doing in our world.  Jesus is bringing God’s kingdom to earth, as it is in heaven.  


So friends, let’s not be afraid of the current state of the world, with all its pain and suffering, its evil and death.  Let’s not be afraid because we know Jesus, who is the Messiah, who has all things in his hands.  Let’s believe that Jesus came to bring salvation and redemption and restoration to this fallen world, and act on it.  Let’s join Jesus’ mission to bring God’s powerful love to the world, and see him redeem lives through the power of that love.  And let’s believe that, in the end, because of his great love, resurrection will come.


Don’t be afraid; just believe.