Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

July 1, 2018

Mark 5:21-43

Desperate Faith

   We have the great feasts of the Church Year such as Christmas and Easter, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, and the Annunciation that celebrate major events in the life of Christ and of the Church. We also have the saints days’ such as the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist which we celebrated last week to remind us of those that have died as a result of their service to Christ. There are plenty of them for us to look up to; plenty to emulate for the great things they have done in the name of Christ and the extraordinary circumstances through which they endured. But what do you make of the woman and the man in today’s Gospel reading?

They do not do anything extraordinary. They are not faced with any circumstances that stand in the pale. They do not conduct any marvelous deeds in the name of the Lord. Their lives are much more common and more ordinary than any of us would like to admit. The scene that we find in today’s Gospel reading could have happened yesterday. It could have happened among us for the events are all too similar to the kinds of things that we experience all the time.

Take the woman for instance. She had a chronic condition which she had suffered for years. She had reached the point where she had used up every favor that she had ever had coming to her in an effort to find healing. She had capitalized on every connection to find just the right specialist and every alternative possibility. She was now broke, destitute, alone, and drained. She is in worse condition than she was each preceding year and in more need of healing than she had ever been. Now she was desperate. Nothing had worked. For twelve years she had tried everything and nothing could help. There were no more suggestions. There were no more ideas. There were no more remedies to be tried. Now she had one hope. She placed her trust in the One that walked before her. She had to believe for there was nothing else in which she could believe.

The crowds were large. They thronged about Jesus as our text describes. It is as if He had to wade through them as one wades into the ocean. He was being touched on all sides. Certainly others were pawing at him, clawing at Him, and grabbing hold of Him as beggars do in other countries still today. But it is this one brush with His clothing that Jesus takes note of. The faith of the woman was such that she received what others that had touched Him did not receive.

What about Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue? He thought that he could be no more desperate than he was as he came to Jesus. His daughter lay on her death bed. There had been none that could help her. He was at his wits end. What was he going to do to help his daughter? There was this healer who had come out of Nazareth. The teacher that many of his peers had dismissed and would soon seek to destroy. But certainly this healer was a man of God. His teaching was authoritative. His miracles were something that truly only God could do. This Jesus could do what no others had been able to do. He was the only one that could bring healing to his daughter.

What joy and relief must have overcome the man when Jesus had agreed to follow him home. What hope for his daughter’s health and her future must have welled up within him to know that this healer’s journey would be sidetracked through his own home to bring health and healing. But what a disappointment it must have been when Jesus was sidetracked yet again and delayed by a woman in the crowd. It could not have been worse had she been a pick pocket stealing money from Jesus for every moment counted. Jairus was just desperate for healing, he was desperate for it to be accomplished quickly; before it was too late; before his daughter succumbed to her illness. O, how his heart must have caught in his throat when he saw the party from his house approach and must have collapsed, at least inwardly, as they verbalized the news that the Teacher was no longer needed.

We share their condition. We know their fears. Every one of us bears the sickness, scars, and desperation that sin has brought into this world. Each of us was, has, and will be afflicted with some chronically plaguing physical, mental, or emotional condition that will limit and even debilitate us. There is not one of us that does not or will not know the helplessness of sitting beside a loved one whose eyes grow dim or suffers calamity or in some way departs this life leaving us to wonder if there wasn’t something that could be done to save them. Every one of us is desperate, even if we don’t know it. Infected by sin, there is no remedy found in this world to heal except that which comes as the healing of the nations, our Lord Jesus Christ. In their desperation, the woman and the man in our reading turn to the only one that can help them and they trust because they know that they can trust in nothing else other than Jesus.

There is no cry from them of “Why me Lord,” as if they didn’t deserve what came their way or as if somebody else deserved it more. They knew what it means to live as sinners in this sin broken world but they trusted that Jesus was the very one that came to lift sinners above the consequences of sin, to bring forgiveness and restore what sin had done to the creation by defeating sickness and death, sin and devil, and ushering in the reign of God once more into the lives of humanity.

As the Gospel accounts are histories that record the events of our Lord’s life, I guess it would be easy to think that that was then and this is now. Those things happened as Jesus walked among them in the land of Israel and we just have to wait until He returns. This longer green season of the Sundays following Pentecost are to remind us that Jesus wasn’t just present in the world for some thirty years or so but He is continually presents among His Church even today and unto the Last Day.

We don’t do it often, but the Gospel procession, that time when we collect the torches and the crucifix and make our way down the center aisle to read the Gospel lesson from the midst of the congregation is a reminder to us that Jesus is always present among His Church in His Word. Wherever two or three are gathered in His name, there He is among them. It is not just symbolic but representative of what truly is. The same Jesus that walked among the crowds healing and teaching is the same Jesus that is present here among you today. We read amidst a throng of needy souls and power goes out from His Word granting that which is most needed by sinners – forgiveness. In those words He lifts us above the consequences of our sin and rewards us according to the faith that is created by the very same Word proclaimed. And as He entered in Jairus’s house to bring life were death had fallen, so too, does He enter this house destroying death through Holy Baptism that unites us to His death and resurrection and granting life in the medicine of immortality, His body and blood, to all who believe.

We are gathered here as a crowd for more than just a hearing of what happened so long ago. As a throng of people in need, we are here for more than just a glimpse of what those so long ago saw and touched and experienced. We are here to touch and be touched by the same Jesus who still lives, who still brings the reign of God’s kingdom, who still heals and gives life to all who believe.

He encourages you to not fear, but only believe as He encouraged Jairus. He bids you, O daughter, and you, O son, to come near and believe, for your faith in Him, in His death and resurrection for you, makes you well, grants you forgiveness, gives to you life, and salvation according to His promise.

He is just the one for desperate people; people that have nowhere else to turn for an answer to their dilemma. He is just the one for you. The one who brings peace and healing for that which ails you.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

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