Summary: Jesus does holy work even in what seem to be ordinary interruptions.
Scripture: Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it.But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Four years ago, one year before I arrived as pastor here, there was a community service where this field right behind me had a lot of cows in it. Even though I was not here for that service, I have heard many times over that the cows arrived while this gathering was singing. I have heard that the cows stuck around and were mooing as everyone serenaded the bovine. Not only is this a retold story, I hear it alluded to once or twice a month. And remember: I wasn’t even here when this happened! This experience is well fixed in the memory of our community. It is, in fact, a small piece of our community’s culture.
A person might ask, why did that one service four years ago stick in people’s memory so well when we have trouble remembering what we had for breakfast four days ago? What was the reason that that event sticks in the memory when there are more recent stories that do not? I think we remember it more clearly because it was a situation where things did not go as everyone expected they would. The interruption in our annual routine surprised us and left a happy memory that we get to share as a community.
Today we heard a story from Mark that had an interruption in it. It is the story of how Jairus approached Jesus to have him heal his sick daughter. How things normally go in the Gospels is that someone asks Jesus for help, the Gospel writer omits talking about the travel to the location, and then the healing occurs. Here, we have ten of today’s twenty-three total verses dedicated to an interruption from the routine. An unnamed woman who had been suffering from bleeding for twelve straight years takes up nearly half of today’s story. It is a big break from the established pattern! The story is a break from the normal flow of these stories.
Much like the incident with the cows four years ago, the interruption of the woman touching Jesus’ clothing, was surprising enough of an interruption that it was a story that was remembered for years. It was an event that stuck with the first followers so much that they were able to tell Mark about the event, and he thought that it should be included in his Gospel account. Maybe what surprised everyone was that this showed in the ordinary interruptions of everyday life, Jesus still does holy work. Or this incident stuck with the people of God because it is a story where we see that Jesus’ very person enacts miraculous healing.
There is a temptation in this story. There is a temptation to hear this as a story where the woman healed herself. That temptation is especially apparent in our country where a person has a chance at starting a successful business. The danger that is posed by this kind of thinking is that one can start believing they can approach God apart from the grace and faith God alone gives.
Remember: it is our Christian confession of faith that Jesus is God. Jesus is not simply a prophet or a miracle worker; Jesus is God the Son, who is co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. If we were to have any control over the God who created the entire Universe, one would need to wonder if God is a true deity or not.
It is noteworthy that Jesus explained that the woman’s faith had made her well. Whenever faith comes into the picture, we must remember that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Leading up to when the woman pushed through the crowd to simply touch Jesus, the Holy Spirit moved her heart to a glimmer of faith. That glimmer of faith brought her into contact with Jesus who built a relationship with her. All of this was provided by God.
Remember: this happened because God is the creator of time itself. Whenever we say that God is eternal, we are saying that God is greater and beyond time. Time is a servant of God. For us creatures who are caught in Time’s stream, it is hard to conceptualize this and we can sometimes mistakenly think God to be within the boundaries of Time.
This is important to realize because interruptions are events which happen in time. Interruptions are events that happen counter to our expectation of what we think is supposed to happen. But for God, what are interruptions for humans are not interruptions. And so, the event of the healing of the woman was not an interruption, even though that is what it looks like for us humans. When events happen with Jesus, it might seem like an interruption, but it is actually the Providence of God.
Every time we gather in the name of Jesus and the Gospel is proclaimed and the Sacraments are administered, Jesus is there. This means that when everyone was gathered for worship four years ago and the cows were mooing, we were in the midst of Jesus. What I am saying is this: those cows were not an interruption. I am not sure yet why Jesus had that happen, but he clearly had some reason in mind.
Today and the previous five Sundays, we have been going through a series called Holy Ordinary, Holy spelled H O L Y, as in sacred. The series has been focused on how Jesus shows up in our ordinary day to day life. It has been the thrust that Jesus can show up at any time he chooses and any place he chooses, and much more often than not, that is in what we might call the mundane.
Why is it that Jesus shows up in the boring ordinary of this world? Well, the reason is that Christ is for Creation. Jesus is for the healing and improvement of Creation. Christ is for the betterment of all the Universe. This particularly is true for our communities and neighborhoods, both the human and non-human. In the stories of the Christian faith, this is an underlying theme through everything. You can see it especially in how Jesus healed both the woman suffering from hemorrhages and the little girl who had died. Christ was for their betterment as well.
The reason that Jesus Christ is for Creation and creates what seem to us to be interruptions is that Jesus has a deep love for the whole of Creation. Jesus Christ, our God in flesh, loves the whole of the Universe so much that he died so it may have life. This love is what the Church names Grace, and it is the gift that is freely given. Jesus loves every part of Creation on its own terms, which means that Jesus Christ loves you as an individual. Jesus has chosen to love you. Unlike in life where things never seem to go according to plan, there are no interruptions in the love Jesus has for you. That is the gift we can tightly hold onto. For that, we thank God. Amen.
(This sermon manuscript is copyrighted by Paul Tomkiel, reprinted here with permission)