Seward United Methodist Church
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
God's Desire to Heal
We pick up Mark’s Gospel soon after last week’s lesson. After the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus crossed to the other side. After he healed a demon-possessed man, he was asked to leave the region. So he and the disciples came back across to the western shore of Galilee, the region around the town of Capernaum, Jesus’ “home base.”
There the leader of the synagogue or synagogue ruler, named Jairus, came to him. The synagogue ruler was basically the equivalent of a lay leader in a church today. He was the chief liturgist. He oversaw the care of the building and its contents. He was the administrator of the synagogue, though he was a lay person, not a rabbi or priest.
His was a highly respected and dignified position. It was also a position that put him at odds with Jesus because most of the synagogue rulers closely allied with the Pharisees, and hence not friendly toward Jesus. But Jairus was eager to forget his allies and his dignity because he was desperate. His twelve year old daughter was dying.
It is said that the loss of a child is the hardest of all to endure. The expression I’ve heard is that losing a parent is like losing the past. Losing a spouse is like losing the present. But losing a child is like losing the future, losing all the hopes and dreams and possibilities that come with a future. It’s hard to live without the past or the present, but it’s far harder to live without a future.
But Jairus believed Jesus could help him. Regardless of where his loyalties lay, he believed in Jesus’ power. He begged on his knees, and Jesus went with him. The crowd followed, curious what would happen.
But there was one in that crowd who was also seeking Jesus’ healing power. Unlike Jairus, she will always be nameless. She had been bleeding for 12 years, and the implication is that this was something like menstrual bleeding. By their customs, this would have made her unclean. She would have been cut off from society because anyone who touched her would also become ceremonially unclean and unable to participate in society or in religious rites. It may have been a physical problem, but it had social and even spiritual dimensions. She was cut off from people and in their view, cut off from God by her uncleanness.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of doctors. Most “doctors” of the day were little better than witch doctors. Their prescriptions were more folklore and superstition than medicine. For example, one of the prescribed cures for this persistent bleeding was to carry
around the ashes of an ostrich’s egg in a bag. Apparently, shockingly, it didn’t work for her. She had spent all her money seeking a cure, which brings another aspect to the story: Financial hardship brought on by a physical ailment, something that we can relate to today in an age of modern medicine where many people who would have died 100 years ago can live, but often at a great financial burden.
She had suffered for twelve years. She was cut off from family. Cut off from society. Cut off from friends. Cut off from the synagogue. Cut off from God, according to many. She was poor. And she had lost the hope of a normal life.
But Jesus gave her hope again. She said, “If I can just touch his robe.” Actually what she wanted to touch was the tassel on the corner of his robe. She dared not touch him in her condition, but maybe his clothes. Once again, there is superstition at work. It was believed the power of a holy man or prophet extended into his or her clothing.
When she touched him, she was healed, and she knew it. And he knew it. He knew power had gone out from him. This reveals something interesting about Jesus’ healing: It drained him. It consumed some part of him to give healing to another. That shouldn’t be surprising. We always use up some part of ourselves to bring order out of chaos, life out of death. But Jesus was willing to pay that price, to be drained.
But he wanted to see her and talk to her, too. He asked, “Who touched me?” The disciples thought it was weird, since obviously many people touched him in such a crowd. But she knew it was her he was talking about. And she was afraid, afraid to face him after what she’d done. But also afraid because of the power of God she’d experienced.
Finally, she confessed herself to Jesus. And that is also an act of healing: To confess our brokenness before God.
Jesus said to her, “Go, your faith has made you well.” Literally, he says “Your faith has saved you.” The same word in Greek means to save as well as to heal. They are closely related concepts. God’s desire is to make us whole in every way, spiritually, physically, emotionally. To heal the body is not so different from healing the spirit.
Just then, messengers arrived to break the news to Jairus, “No need to trouble Jesus anymore; she’s dead.” But Jesus said, “Fear not, have faith.”
He would only allow his inner circle of disciples in with him. Inside the house was chaos. Mourning rituals in Hebrew culture were intense. They tore their clothes. They wailed as loud
as possible. They played loud music and sung dirges and chants full of grief. And there was more, such as not eating or working or traveling.
It was also normal practice to hire “professional mourners” to lead the wailing and chants. Apparently there were some there already, because when Jesus said, “She’s just asleep,” their grief quickly turned to laugher. Not very professional, were they?
Jesus sent them all out and said to the little girl, “Talitha koum,” Aramaic for “Get up, little girl.” It’s another one of those little details that tells us this was an eyewitness account, probably Peter’s who would never forget seeing a dead person rise as Jesus spoke those words. Jesus gave her back to her parents, and gave them back their future.
Both stories are marvelous accounts of God’s ability to heal the body. But there’s so much more than just the healing of the body. God’s desire is to heal the broken spirit as well. Jesus doesn’t just stop bleeding and bring a dead girl to life: He puts an end to shame and grief and guilt and fear and hopelessness and loneliness and more. The Greek word for “heal” is SOZO. It means to save as well as to heal. God wants to save us from all our brokenness.
Let’s talk about something important here. There is a difference between healing and curing. They are separate, although related concepts. Curing is a matter of the body. It’s about the physical. But healing is a matter of the spirit.
Those two don’t always go together. Often they do, but not always. We can be cured of something physical but still live with the scars of the experience. And we can be healed in our spirits but still suffer from the uncured physical ailment.
Curing is temporary. Jairus’ daughter? She died again after he raised her from the dead. All curing is temporary because sickness and death cannot be removed from this world until God makes it new again.
But healing has eternal repercussions. God can heal us of our brokenness forever. He can take away our shame, our guilt, our fear, our anger, our hopelessness, our neediness, our grief, and everything else that shows our brokenness. God may not cure you, but if you ask him to, God will heal you. It may not be easy or quick, but he can do it.