Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 5:21–43
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 27, 2021
My family and I just returned from a week at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and it was glorious! With the lifting of pandemic restrictions, this summer is looking very different from last summer. People are more than ready to do some traveling once again, and do that safely, of course. Like many of you, my family and I have found that there is something very healing to be at the seaside; the combination of sun, sand, and surf is rejuvenating. The smell of the salt air and the sound of the crashing waves coming in at the shore refreshes the spirit. We all need such places in our lives where our spirits can be rejuvenated and refreshed. It might be the beach, or your own backyard and garden, or the neighborhood swimming pool, or doing something that you love doing. Whatever it is, that place of healing is necessary for wholeness and wellness in life. In today’s Gospel lesson, we hear about healing touch – not through a place, but a Person. We hear of Jesus’ healing touch that brings wholeness and wellness to two individuals: a woman afflicted with a physical ailment that had plagued her for twelve long years, and the young daughter of a man named Jairus. The message for today, based on that Gospel lesson, is entitled “Healing Touch.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
In this long season after Pentecost that runs through the summer and fall, we continue our journey through the Gospel of Mark. Week by week, we learn more about Jesus of Nazareth who calmed the storm, who cast out demons, who healed the sick and raised the dead, who gave his life on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for all our sins. In Mark’s Gospel – the shortest of all four Gospels – there is a sense of urgency as Jesus the Son of God moves on to proclaim that in him – his life, death and resurrection – the kingdom of God has broken into our sin-sick world. Today’s Gospel is a story within a story. Jairus, one of the rulers of the local synagogue, came to Jesus and begged him to come and bring his healing touch to his little daughter, who was critically ill. Jairus was a desperate man. Like any good parent, he was willing to do whatever it takes to get the help his daughter needed. That young girl was so critically ill, she was actually at the point of death. Scripture records no hesitation or delay on Jesus’ part, so we can safely assume that Jesus immediately left to go to Jairus’ house. And then we come to the story within the story: the unnamed woman with that chronic and terrible malady that had rendered her ritually unclean (see Leviticus 15:19ff.). According to the Law of Moses, not only was this woman unclean, but so was everything and everyone that she touched. We can well imagine what daily life must have been like for her. Like Jairus, she was also desperate. She had lived with this gynecological problem for so long that she likely thought she would never be whole and well again. What’s it like to live in this way? Some of you know first-hand from your own experience or from that of a loved one, what it’s like to live with a chronic illness. It is debilitating, frustrating, and limiting. The woman’s experience that she “had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse” (Mark 5:26) is very real for many people still today. And then she heard about Jesus; of how he had helped others. What did she have to lose? And so she came, seeking Jesus, and saying: “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well” (Mark 5:28). Did the woman know Jesus as the divine Son of God who is true God and true man? Did she believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah who came to fulfill all that was written in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44)? Probably not, but she did know and believe that Jesus could help her when no one and nothing else could. And that is faith.
Despite the crush of people surrounding Jesus, the woman was able to get close enough to touch Jesus’ clothes, and in so doing we are told this wonderful and amazing news: “And immediately the flow of blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease” (Mark 5:29). But instead of rejoicing, there was fear. The poor woman thought that she was going to get into trouble for doing what she did, after Jesus sensed that power had gone forth from him and asked, “Who touched my garments?” (Mark 5:31). Jesus asked this not to chastise or condemn, but to know who it was that had been on the receiving end of his healing touch. And so the woman came forward expecting the worst, “in fear and trembling” (Mark 5:33) we are told, and she told Jesus everything. Jesus’ healing touch now leads to healing words, which are just as important: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34). That unnamed woman was set free after twelve long years of suffering and isolation. The words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled in Jesus: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
All of this proved to be a costly delay for Jairus’ daughter, who died before Jesus could get to her. But that is no obstacle for Jesus, who tells Jairus: “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36). In time of great need in our own lives, when crisis or tragedy strikes, we, too, become fearful. We think that Jesus has come too late, and it’s all over. Jesus’ words are spoken not only to Jairus, but to us as well: “Do not fear, only believe.” The weeping and wailing for a child who has died must have been overwhelming. Jesus’ words to the mourners, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39), are met with laughter. Like those people, how often do we think we know better than the Lord! We see with our own eyes and we know what death looks like. We, too, may join in laughing Jesus to scorn. But the Savior is undeterred, and after putting everyone outside except the girls’ parents, Jesus who stilled the storm and cast out demons, who healed the sick, now raises the dead: “Talitha cumi… ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise’” (Mark 5:41). And she did arise, and started to walk around. The witnesses present were astounded; overcome with amazement. And then after charging everyone not to speak of what they had seen, we read these touching and very practical words about Jesus: “[he] told them to give her something to eat” (Mark 5:43). Jesus’ healing touch touches even death itself. That’s the ultimate healing, not just for Jairus’ daughter, but for us today, as our Scripture memory verse from today’s Epistle lesson reminds us: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus died for us that we might live for him. In Jesus, even when we die, yet shall we live (John 11:25).
Because of Jesus’ healing touch, we can say with the writer of Lamentation in today’s Old Testament lesson: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Amen.