Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pentecost 4 Sermon -- Mark 5:21-43 (LSB Proper 8B)

June 28, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

Seeing [Jesus], Jairus fell at His feet and implored Him earnestly, saying: “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.”

In this episode from Christ’s life, both the young daughter of Jairus and the older woman with a bleeding disease need the touch of Christ. They need what only He can provide, since their afflictions cannot be relieved by the hand of normal men. No man can touch a dead girl and make her live. The Gospel writer ensures the audience knows that the older woman received no help from physicians. The sources of aid normally turned to are of no avail.

So both Jairus and the woman seek out Jesus. They both have heard of Him. They both know His capabilities. Reports of Jesus had spread throughout Galilee. Jairus had Jesus present in his synagogue, hearing the Teacher’s words and seeing His actions. The woman “had heard the reports about Jesus.” So both come to His presence: Jairus falls at Jesus’ feet; the woman “came up behind [Jesus] in the crowd and touched His garment.”

In both cases, faith drives these individuals to Jesus. They believe what they have heard about Him. They come in their desperation because they trust that Jesus is willing and able to help. From His teaching and actions, they know His character and capabilities. Jesus is a strong man, one who carries power from heaven above, but He uses that strength for the good of others. Jairus and the woman believe in Jesus’ ability which is compounded with His compassion.

In faith, Jairus and the woman come to Jesus. Neither is disappointed with what happens. The woman believes that “if I touch even His garments, I will be well.” And upon touching Jesus’ cloak, “immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” Jairus believes that Jesus will heal his daughter and brings Him to the house. And Jesus “taking her by the hand said to her: ‘Talitha cumi!’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking.”

What the Gospel writer provides for us in this portion of his account are two patterns which describe us. St. Mark illustrates what takes place in everyone who trusts in Jesus for restoration of body and soul by telling of the healed woman. He also depicts the actions of those who have already received Christ’s aid but want it for others by speaking about Jairus. Both the woman and Jairus serve as examples for us to emulate. They are also visible displays of what happens in the soul and mind during the lives of Christians. You and I act like these two characters of the great drama of salvation.

Knowledge of our poor condition drives us to seek a remedy. So we act like the woman in the Gospel Reading. Recall how she tried to find a solution to her illness: “[She] had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.” How we do that! Like the woman, we know that we have a great problem—the disease and ill effects of sinfulness. Our lives bear the scars of our faults and transgressions. The symptoms of our sin are constantly seen like the unending flow of blood from the woman. But often, we turn to our own devices to find a solution. We encounter our sins and their effects, but we want to find a different way of dealing with them other than confessing our guilt and receiving forgiveness for them.

So we exhaust all our options. We spend everything that we have on books, counselors, programs, different patterns of behavior. And we can suffer much in that process as our guilt never goes away, but hangs around our necks and weighs us down. When our attempts at solving the insolvable fail, we realize our need for a greater solution—the only solution. The only help for what plagues us to the core—for the unrighteousness of body and soul—is the touch of Christ. “Hearing the reports about Jesus,” only after receiving His Spirit through the message the there truly is a Savior who absolves sin and guilt, we come to Him. By His touch we are saved. And His reaction is not to chide, but to commend: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

But after we have been given this faith, we act on our conviction about Jesus. After our own reception of what Jesus provides through His Word of forgiveness, we then want others to receive it, too. So it was with Jairus: he knew what Jesus could do and he knew well that his daughter needed it. So what does Jairus do? He makes it so Jesus with His capability and compassion will be at his daughter’s side: “He fell at [Jesus’] feet and implored Him earnestly, saying, ‘My daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be well and live.’ And He went with [Jairus].”

For most of us in this room, that is how we first came into the salvation that Jesus provides. Our parents had been forgiven by Jesus and knew that His suffering, death, and resurrection were not only for them, but for their children also. And so they implored Jesus to lay His hands on us and make us well, to bring us to the waters of Holy Baptism, so that divine grace and forgiveness would be given to us. As the promises of Christ were spoken at the font, our dead souls heard His words—not a magic formula—but the dynamic words of the Gospel: “Little child, arise!” And we were brought to life and given the instruction to be nourished, to be fed more and more of Christ’s words of forgiveness.

Many of you have done the same with your own children or other loved ones. You ran like Jairus to ensure that your child would be in the presence of Jesus. You knew their fatal illness of body and soul that only Jesus could cure. And when your child was there before Him, Jesus did not ignore them, but took their hands and spoke the enlivening, dynamic word of salvation that brings life to the dead. In faith, believing in Christ’s capability and compassion, you acted.

The Gospel writer includes this episode of Jesus’ life, so that you and I can be assured that capability and compassion are meant for us. The Old Testament Scriptures speak of this. You heard from the Book of Lamentations: “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.’” And in the Gospel accounts of Jesus, you see that put into action. Jesus acts in steadfast love, displaying pity to those who needed it. He does not turn away those who come trusting in Him, but commends their faith. For that is His character: “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”

That commendation of faith is what Jesus wants to ring in our ears. He wants us to constantly hear and believe what He says to the healed woman: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Our faith in Him has made us well, even if our bodies do not display health. For our faith has received the newness of life that His forgiving word provides. As we have faithfully come to His presence, Jesus commands us to rise from death; His hands are laid upon us in Holy Baptism and Confirmation; even the touching of Him in veiled form in the Lord’s Supper delivers forgiveness, life, and salvation. But our Lord does not want us to come only when we have exhausted all options, but to come running like Jairus when we encounter the spectre of sin, death, and Satan in our lives. He speaks to us: “Do not fear, only believe.”

Christ’s capability and compassion are meant for us and for all whom we bring into His presence. The results of His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection are the source of our salvation and eternal wellness. In pity for us and our sins and all the ruinous effects of our unfaithfulness, Jesus took up His cross and offered Himself in our place. In answer to our looming unending death, Jesus rose from the grave and shares His mastery over it. You are meant to receive it, like the woman and Jairus’ daughter, because it is the Lord God’s will.

And so the Lord Jesus has laid His hands upon you and commanded you to live. It is true now and will be so at the Last Day. And when that occurs, then you will fully rejoice in Christ’s capability and compassion, just as the Psalmist does: “I will extol You, O Lord, for You have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me. O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You restored me to life from among those who go down to the grave.” That will be the effect which the touch of Christ has in your lives now and forever, as your faith in Him has made you well.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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