IN THE STEPS STOPS OF JESUS…INTERRUPTED WHILE HEALING
October 1, 2017
The most despised, thankless job in a hospital is being an emergency room triage nurse. Every patient who enters the door of an emergency room is in distress to some degree and is desperate for help. And if I’m in pain, I don’t particularly care if you are in worse shape than me. Yet, it is the triage nurse’s role to decide who is most needing of attention from a limited number of physicians and staff. And so we wait impatiently for our turn. But at least we eventually get a turn.
In Jesus’ day, there is no triage nurse, no emergency room, no hospital, no organized health care. Jesus’ reputation as a healer is widely-known. He is the emergency room, and everywhere he goes desperate, hurting people vie for his attention, often interrupting one another in the chaos, hoping against hope that he will help and heal.
The following is an account of a typical day in the life of Jesus:
40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak and immediately her bleeding stopped….
DISPARATE, DESPERATE IRONIES…
The synagogue is the local center of worship in town. Jairus is the head of the synagogue. He makes sure everything runs smoothly. A deeply faithful, religious man, he takes care of administrative duties, he plans worship, he does maintenance. As such, he is one of the most prominent, respected persons in the whole town.
A while ago Jairus had witnessed this maverick, miracle-working itinerant preacher named Jesus of Nazareth heal Simon Peter’s mother-in-law in his synagogue. Now Jesus had returned to Capernaum.
Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter is dying of an incurable disease. He is desperate. He does what no self-respecting male religious leader would ever do–he elbows his way through the crowd following Jesus down the street, and he falls tearfully at Jesus’ feet, begging him to come to his house and care for his dying tween-age girl. We fathers can have a lot of bull-headed pride, but we would gladly swallow that pride for the sake of our kids’ well-being, would we not?
Jesus hears and responds to Jairus’ frantic plea. He and the crowd start heading with haste to Jairus’ home.
Suddenly, though, Jesus stops dead in his tracks.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asks.
When they all deny it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus says, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she cannot go unnoticed, comes trembling and falls at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she tells why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed of 12 years of physical bleeding and spiritual ostracism.
When I read this passage I think of the Marine who dropped out of my friend Burt’s church because of embarrassment. He was burned severely in a roadside IED attack in Iraq—destroying one side of his face, leaving him scarred and disfigured. Plastic surgery could only do so much. Folks in church, especially children, would stare in horror.
So this young man eventually gave up and quit attending. It broke Burt’s heart to see him isolate himself.
The woman who attempts to sneak up to Jesus incognito has been suffering from a severe gynecological condition for 12 torturous years. By Jewish law she is considered ritually unclean, and therefore is banned from participating in community of faith. She is alienated from God and God’s people. And yet, she also has faith that one desperate touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment can possibly bring a cure. And it does.
Yes, we see disparate, desperate irony on display: a synagogue leader and a synagogue outcast, clawing their way to Jesus, falling at his feet, seeking healing and hope.
And there is also great irony when you consider the number 12 is mentioned twice here: We see the prospect of a little girl living 12 years then losing life, and a woman living 12 years with essentially no life. Which is worse?
I have seen both as a pastor. I have witnessed the gut-wrenching grief of parents who have lost a child to illness or accident. I have also witnessed persons deal with chronic, debilitating pain that robs them of any semblance of pleasure or peace. Both are deplorably unfair. Life is not fair.
But the one assurance we can hold tightly to is that Jesus will not let go of us in our struggles. Jesus always makes time for the one in the midst of the many. He gives to us his undivided, unlimited attention. He loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love.
In Christ, we discover
WHOLENESS IS MAGNIFIED WITH TENDERNESS…
48 Then Jesus says to the woman healed of the hemorrhaging, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole. Go in peace.”
Daughter. What a term of infinite endearment! This is the only individual Jesus ever refers to by that name.
She is an outcast. She has no father. So Jesus will be her father. He will adopt her. She spiritually now belongs to Christ, and in this relationship she finds wholeness and peace.
We then read:
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”
53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
“Talitha Kum” – my little child, arise!” is the literal Aramaic translation of Jesus’ command. Words of tenderness that restore, revive, return life! Words that caffeinate the spirit! He takes the child by the hand and orders her to rise! And she breathes again! He tells her mom and dad to fix her a waffle. They are beyond disbelief and joy!
Death cannot reign in the presence of Jesus. He says to us, “I am the resurrection and the life! They who believe in me will not die but will live!”
Yes, Jesus’ ministry is that of restoring wholeness in the midst of brokenness. And he carries out this ministry of healing in the midst of constant interruptions, focusing totally on the needs of individuals one-at-a-time, showing utmost impartiality. Miraculous things happen.
I don’t know about you, but my $64,000 question is why do we not see these same miraculous works of Jesus happening all the time today?
Perhaps we do…to a great degree. Our Lord works through us flawed humans to repair disturbed minds and broken bodies. And though we cannot raise someone from the dead, we can through our encouragement and support breathe life into those who have given up all hope.
And we have the opportunity, if we so choose, to silence our smartphones and simply respond to those whom God leads to us each day, focusing our attention upon them, irregardless of their race, ethnicity, class or age. We can indeed carry out the work of Jesus, restoring wholeness to those whose lives are broken.
And one day, our attempts to carry out Jesus’ ministry will find glorious and perfect consummation. Just as it happened during his time on earth, ushering in God’s kingdom, God’s reign, in his presence…so one day the words of the prophet John about Jesus shall find fulfillment:
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children!