A Lesson on Faith
Sermon #237 St. James the Less #144 6/27/21
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 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 hemorrhages 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 hemorrhage 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 around 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.
“My little daughter (my baby girl) is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”
What must’ve been going through Jairus’ mind when he fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his daughter’s aid? Or worse, what was the state of his heart? You can hear the anguish in his voice.
Jairus is a father who is desperate for a miracle and he has run out of options. The crucial moment has come—it’s either life or death. And though many of the Jewish religious leaders where skeptical of Jesus, this synagogue ruler puts his reputation on the line by not only asking for Jesus’ help, but believing that Jesus could in fact heal his daughter.
Five chapters into Mark, and we could make the claim that no one has shown more faith in Jesus than this man.
You can then imagine his relief when Jesus agrees to help, and they start moving in the direction of his house. Yes, a crowd is slowing them up a bit, but his house is just around the corner—he knows exactly how many paces it is until they reach his front door.
He’s leading the way, and when he looks back, he must’ve been horrified at how leisurely Jesus was walking. This wasn’t supposed to be a Sunday stroll through the park. Didn’t he hear him correctly? His daughter is dying for crying out loud!
This is an emergency—it’s the point in an old western where Jesus would get on his trusty steed and race towards the house to save the day. At the very least he could consider jogging.
But he doesn’t and it seems intentional. And wouldn’t you know it, he gets distracted. Someone has touched his robe as he walked by, and somehow he could tell power went out from him.
The disciples see the desperation on the Jairus’ face, and they try to hurry Jesus along. Who cares who touched you Lord, you’ve got to save the girl! They understand triage, and this girl is code red.
But we all know that Jesus then meets the woman who touched him, a woman who has been suffering 12 years, the same amount of time the dying girl has been alive.
This woman, who remains anonymous, exemplifies some of the same characteristics of faith that we just saw in Jairus.
She falls down at Jesus’ feet and asks for relief from her suffering. She also takes a chance on this traveling rabbi. Though she’s desperate for healing, she is also risking something by reaching out to touch his clothes. She was setting herself up for disappointment. No doctor had been able to heal her. If nothing happened with Jesus, she was out of options.
And to be honest, she didn’t know the ends and outs of Jesus—she hadn’t studied his teachings closely or pinpointed his theology, but she knew that she was unwell and believed he could heal her. The details could come later. Who this rabbi really was, that all could be figured out at another time. What she believed was that Jesus could make her whole again in a way that no one else could.
And it is this radical faith in Jesus that ultimately heals her. That’s at least what Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well.”
If you can’t tell, faith is the key theme to this passage. The gospel writer is trying to show us the power and simplicity of faith. The complexities of theological arguments are all well and good, but what about that gut reaction? When Jesus walks by, is your reflex to reach out and try to grab hold or is it to idly stand by?
Mark is showing us two wonderful examples of people whose reflex was to grab hold of Jesus and not let go. This theme comes to its fullness when Jairus is told that his daughter has died. When he enters the room with her lifeless body on the bed, Jairus is asked to believe that his child would live even as he stood in the presence of death.
All the facts point to death, to mourning, and pain. And Jesus tells him something else is going on. Though what is in front of them looks hopeless—Jesus asks them to reconsider the facts merely by his presence in that room. Jesus being there changes the situation entirely. He simply asks them to trust him.
In one of the best reflections on this scene, one writer said, “Jesus enters the room in which death has established its outpost, and without further ado he launches his attack against it, taking the dead girl by the hand and commanding her to rise” (Joel Marcus 372).
Everyone saw death in that room. Jesus knew it and yet he challenged them to expand their expectations—not to suspend their expectations, but to literally think bigger, as if there were no limitations when he’s in a room.
This whole episode shows us who is in charge—Jesus the healer, the one who brings new life and is ultimately foreshadowing his own rising from the dead.
But that doesn’t mean we are passive observers. Jairus and the woman are known for their actions. Falling down and begging Jesus, or reaching out to touch his clothes. These two individuals will not let Jesus pass them by unnoticed.
It’s like when Jacob was wrestling the angel in Jabbok, and wouldn’t let him go until he received a blessing. The same idea is present in this story. They know this encounter with Jesus is too important to not reach out and try to receive a blessing.
The motivating force behind their action is faith. They are moved to act because they have faith that Jesus can make them well. Another way of talking about faith in this context is trust—they trust that Jesus isn’t a fraud, but that he’s the real deal; that his presence in a room is a game changer.
Remember what Jesus says to the woman, “Your faith has made you well, it has saved you.” Of course it’s Jesus who did the healing, but it was the woman who took the risk and acted on her faith and trusted Jesus. Acting on her faith is what saved her.
But faith is a tricky thing. So many times we get pigeon holed into thinking in terms of facts vs. faith or things that cannot be proved. If we’re waiting for all the facts to come in, or get more details, well, there are some good things about that mindset.
We say here at our church you don’t have to check your brain at the door—there’s plenty of room to ask questions and even to doubt, but faith and certainty are not synonyms. After all the facts have been presented there will still have to be a leap of some sort.
For both the woman and Jairus they had minimal details about Jesus AND YET they believed that somehow, someway Jesus could bring healing and restoration. Yes, they were desperate, but they were desperate because they knew how dire their situations were.
And to be honest, we sometimes forget how dire our situation is. We get comfortable and complacent. We all do it. When things get bad, we wake up to our need for God. But it’s a good reminder that even during the calm seasons in life we are desperately in need of Jesus who can heal us and make us whole.
There have been many times when I’ve been hiking, and for the sake of adventure gone off the beaten path to test myself. Everything is good until it’s not, and you find yourself lost in the backcountry at dusk.
Sometimes you don’t know something is wrong until you realize you don’t know where the path is, and actually haven’t been on it in ages.
The beauty of the church is that it is made up of people who are just as desperate and in need of healing as the people in our passage this morning. We have gotten in trouble as a church when we have forsaken the honest reality of our situation for a more polished look. The second we start worrying about image and status within the body of Christ we are in trouble.
One of the great blessings of this particular church is how authentic our members are. What you see is what you get. I have always been amazed at how down to earth and honest y’all are about life and what you’re going through. There isn’t even a trace of pridefulness or pretention when you walk through these doors.
I think it makes getting to know someone much easier when you don’t have these walls set up protecting an image or ideal of what we should be like. Forming relationships with you has been so easy because of that.
And so, it should not come as a surprise to you that the church is made up of broken people in need of Jesus’ healing touch, and not just the people in the pews but especially the one in the pulpit.
After reading this passage it’s worth asking what is broken or ailing in you? What needs to be bound together by the Great Physician? Or what is dead that needs resurrection in your life?
You probably have some idea what that is, though it may be something major or it may seem fairly small and insignificant at first glance.
Jesus undoubtedly has the power—the Source of our healing has never been in question, but faith is what bring us to him. Faith is what leads us into his presence, it drives us to fall at his feet and beg for help; to stretch out our hand just to touch the hem of his robe.
But you and I know, once we get a hold of him, we really shouldn’t let go.
As Jairus learned firsthand, when Jesus is the room anything is possible. All we must do is believe that he’s the real deal: the Lord of lords, the King of kings, and the Healer of our sin-sick soul.
5th Sunday after Pentecost. Year B. Proper 8. Mark 5:21-43. Mark, Anchor Bible Commentary by Joel Marcus. Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.