Archives - July 2018

Take Heart

July 29, 2018
By Rev. David French


Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. It was, I don’t know, about five years ago thatI was listening to an interview with Dr. James Voelz, one of our seminary professors, who was in the process of writing a new commentary on the Gospel of Mark at the time. He said that one of the major themes of Mark’s gospel is that, with one major exception, all of creation knows exactly who Jesus is. The major exception, he said, is the human race.

God the Father announced the identity of Jesus at His baptism and again at the transfiguration. The demons in Mark are terrified because they know exactly who Jesus is as He casts them out. All sorts of diseases and harmful conditions know who Jesus is as He heals them. Death knows who Jesus is as He raises the daughter of Jairus. The wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee know who Jesus is as He calms them with a word. And still, even His own disciples … the ones who witnessed these things … even they don’t have a clue who Jesus is. In Mark’s gospel it’s not until the centurion in chapter 15 who witnessed the death of Jesus on the cross that a human being finally says, Truly this man was the Son of God!

Today’s reading began with Jesus making His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side. Interestingly, the word Jesus uses can also be translated as compelled or forced. It’s as though Jesus is anxious about something and really wants to get His disciples out of there.

But why? Well, to understand that we need to remember our reading from last week. Jesus had just finished providing bread and fish for 5,000 plus and certainly, in a subsistence culture where only the privileged few were regularly ‘satisfied’ after a meal, this was more than just an impressive miracle as you can tell by the people’s reaction. I mean, you don’t hear about the people wanting to make Jesus their king after healings or casting out demons or even raising the dead.

The problem, of course, is that Jesus didn’t come to be an earthly king, but as He said, The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus recognized the temptation for His disciples and moved quickly and decisively to get them out before they, like the crowds, were tempted to see Him as just a “bread king.” So, Jesus puts them in the boat with instructions to go to the other side. Then He dismissed the crowds and finally He went up into the mountains to pray.

As Jesus was praying, His disciples struggled to get across the Sea of Galilee. Unfortunately, the wind was against them. Now, this wasn’t like the time that they were caught in a storm while Jesus slept in the back of the boat. That time they were terrified. This time, they’re frustrated. In spite of all their experience on the sea, at some point they stopped making progress. They were, in a very real sense, stuck in the middle of the lake no matter how hard they worked.

Mark tells us that the disciples struggled on the lake while Jesus prayed on the mountain until the fourth watch of the night, the one just before sunrise. That is, the disciples had pretty much been on the lake all night, and Jesus had pretty much been praying all night. Jesus finished praying and looked down onto the lake from the mountain and saw that the disciples were still out on the lake. So, He walked down the mountain to the shore, walked across the shore to the water, and He just kept right on walking … on the surface of the water. Again, we see that the water knows who Jesus is and at His will obeys and supports His weight.

The disciples on the other hand, think Jesus is a ghost. Their frustration with the wind turns into fear as they see a figure about to walk by them on the water until Jesus identified Himself saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. Now the phrase, it is I, is actually a form of the very name of God that Moses heard from the burning bush: God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And so, Jesus basically told the disciples not to be afraid because He is the God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush.

Then Jesus got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. Again, we see that the wind knows it is serving Jesus. Still, the disciples don’t get it as Mark goes on to say, They were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

These disciples had not only witnessed healings, resurrections, exorcisms, control of the weather, food production for large crowds, walking on the water, but if you recall from a couple o f weeks ago, they also … went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them and yet still God’s word tells us that their hearts were hardened.

My friends, in the Scriptures the boat has long been a symbol of the church. The turmoil of the sea often represents the evil that attacks the church. When the disciples were in the boat by themselves, the more they struggled, the more everything stayed the same. The church is no different. We can work our hardest, but if Jesus is not the focus of our church, we’re stuck and the church is a shipwreck waiting to happen.

The terror of the disciples reminds us of the terror people still have when they first meet Jesus not knowing who He is. Now, to be sure, if you were raised in the church, there’s not a time you don’t remember Jesus, but the Scriptures make it very clear that before we come to know and believe in Jesus as our Lord, we by nature wrongly believe He is our enemy, and so He frightens us.

Then the disciples heard His words, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. They learned from His words that the figure coming toward them on the water was not their enemy but their teacher and friend. So it is in us. As the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God, faith is created just like we read in the book of Romans: Faith comes from hearing, and hearing (comes) through the word of Christ. You see, it’s as the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts through the Gospel that we come to know and believe in Jesus as our Savior.

Jesus doesn’t come to drive us to the depths of despair with His judgment. Jesus is our friend; a friend who took the punishment earned by all mankind upon Himself. And with His blood, Jesus paid for that sin and so purchased salvation for all sinners. And Jesus still uses water to bring that salvation, but now it is through the waters of our baptism. There, He freely offers to all the gifts of forgiveness, peace, and eternal life.

The account of Jesus walking on the water and the stilling of wind proclaim Him to be the Son of God. The hard hearts of the disciples reveal that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him. He must come to us, and He does. Through the Means of Grace, offered to you and to all, He comes with forgiveness and healing in His hands.

When Jesus entered the boat, everything became peaceful. That is, the church can only know peace when Jesus and His word are found within her. Without Jesus, the church is a shipwreck waiting to happen. With Jesus, the church is safe and sound. May God grant that you, who by grace through faith have come to know His Son, would in the midst of your daily lives and struggles remember Jesus’s words and take heart, because He is always with you.

In His Name, Amen.

Tags: Mark 6:45-56


July 22, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert


+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel lesson, specifically where Mark records, And taking the five loaves and the two fish, [Jesus] looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

There are many here who are of German ancestry, but even those who don’t have German blood in their veins have likely heard an infamous toast often sung auf Deutsche. It’s very popular at gatherings like Oktoberfest, and it goes like this: Ein Prosit! Ein Prosit! Der Gemütlichkeit! Ein Prosit! Ein Prosit! Der Gemütlichkeit! Roughly translated, it means, “A toast! A toast! To cheer and good times!” I say “roughly translated” because one word in there, in particular, does not translate well into English: Gemütlichkeit. This is a word that has many deep and rich connotations that cannot be adequately summed up in a single word in English. Yes, it has connotations of jocularity, but it also has overtones of friendliness, warmth, belonging, hospitality, and leaving your troubles behind you at the door, as you come to feast on rich foods and drink good drinks with your family, friends, and community. This is Gemütlichkeit, and I think it’s a word that should become part of the vernacular here in the States, especially in the Church!

You may find that odd, given the usual context in which the word is used, but it seems obvious to me that this spirit of Gemütlichkeit fits well into our Lutheran theology and practice, and I’d argue that the concept is biblical. You do see it in Scripture, and I’d argue that you see it here, in our Gospel text. We’re looking at one of the best known miracles of Jesus: the infamous feeding of the 5000, with little more than a snack: five loaves of bread, and two fish. Truly, it is an astonishing miracle, but like most miracles our Lord performed, the action in and of itself isn’t really meant to be the focus. Instead, there is a deeper, fuller, and richer meaning behind it, a more profound and real reality. Let’s look at the text and try, in our broken and sinful human nature, to find it.

So, after returning from doing the work He had sent them to do, the disciples withdraw with Jesus at His command to a desolate place – you can read that as a desert place. Jesus wants His disciples to rest, away from the crowds, after the work that they had done – casting out demons, healing the sick, and proclaiming that people should repent of their sins. So they withdraw across the lake. Though they try to escape the crowds, the crowds follow them. Indeed, they run on ahead of them, to beat them to where Jesus and the disciples would land. Once Jesus sees them, sees their longing, Mark tells us that He has “compassion” on them – that’s probably the best English translation but it doesn’t really do the word justice; in the original Greek, the word denotes more of a “gut-wrenching anguish” on behalf of another person. Jesus sees these people in their lostness, their shepherdless-ness, and the seat of His affections, His inmost being, is moved to the point that, instead of taking the time to rest, He teaches these sheep without a shepherd. You start to see the spirit of Gemütlichkeit showing itself.

Now, Jesus is still presumably teaching, when the disciples approach Him, concerned about the late hour, and ask Him to send the people away so that they can go somewhere (not in this isolated area) and get some food. Instead, Jesus commands them to provide these shepherdless sheep with sustenance. Obviously caught off-guard, and intimidated by the physically and financially daunting task that’s been set before them, they ask, in essence, how they are to accomplish this monumental assignment. Jesus asks what supplies are on hand; the disciples check it out, and report back: all that they have is five loaves of bread … and two fish – as if that was supposed to help the situation. Nevertheless, Jesus takes what they give Him. He blesses and gives thanks for it, and somehow, in a miraculous and inexplicable way, provides enough of that same food to completely satisfy the hunger of each and every person present, with a copious amount of leftovers – 12 full baskets, in fact. Logically, it doesn’t make any sense. The first law of thermodynamics dictates that matter cannot be created nor destroyed, but here we see this Jewish rabbi in the desolate countryside of 1st Century Judea, doing precisely that. This is an incredible event, but what is happening behind the scenes? Incredible as this miracle is, once again, it’s pointing beyond itself to a greater, more incredible reality.

Some have thought that this miracle is indistinguishable from the institution of the Lord’s Supper – after all, some of the verbiage is quite similar ... Jesus taking loaves of bread, giving thanks, and giving it to His people. Well, not quite. This miracle certainly isn’t the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and the effect of partaking of that miraculous bread isn’t the same as when the disciples (or us, for that matter) receive Jesus’s true body in, under, and with the bread, but I will say that the two are nevertheless related; they are both pointing forward to the new creation, to the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end.

That is the summation of Jesus’s mission – to renew and restore all things, to make all things new, and to gather all His flock to Himself, but here we get a glimpse, a foretaste, of that new creation, of that feast, of that holy Gemütlichkeit. What we see here, and what really sets the eschatological tone for this miracle, is how Jesus is fulfilling what Isaiah had written: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples, a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. According to Isaiah, YHWH Himself was going to host this incredible feast, presenting it before His people … and here in Mark, we see YHWH incarnate, hosting a sumptuous, satisfying feast, providing for His people in a way that echoes what He had done centuries before with manna in the wilderness. All this imagery of feasting and being in community with one another and with God, all point to the eschaton, the new creation when Christ returns and ushers us into the ultimate feast, to be with Him and one another for all eternity!

As those ancient Judeans had a foretaste of this feast while they ate bread in the presence of Jesus, YHWH incarnate, so do we have a foretaste of this feast whenever Christ Himself provides us with His true Body and Blood in, under, and with bread and wine. However, we know that whatever feasting, hospitality, belonging – whatever Gemütlichkeit we are able to have here in this broken world is incomplete, unfinished, so we wait. We wait – eagerly – for the return of our Shepherd-King, when we will finally see what true Gemütlichkeit looks like: belonging in and to Christ and one another, partaking of that marriage feast which our Good Shepherd will spread before us, and singing His praises forever and ever in the new creation. Prost!

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: Mark 6:30-44

Not Wanted Here ... But Needed

July 15, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert


+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Old Testament lesson, especially where Amos records the words of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

Amos begins his prophetic work with the words, YHWH roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers. After a few words of condemnation against the nations, he moves to his longest and most scathing word of rebuke against the worst nation mentioned: Israel. He calls them to task for their corrupt and faithless living, Amos calls those same miserable sinners to repentance, ultimately pleading with the Israelites to Seek the LORD and live.

Apparently, it doesn’t work, because the shepherd-turned-prophet from Tekoa then presents his hearers with two visions that he has received from YHWH, neither of which is terribly comforting. The first is a vision of locusts that descend upon the land of Israel and consume everything, including the young crop recently planted. The second is like the first, with an unquenchable fire so intense that it consumes everything, even the waters of the deep. In both cases, Amos demonstrates his love for God’s people and His covenant with them as he intercedes on behalf of Israel, begging with YHWH, “O Lord God, please forgive, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” In both cases, YHWH relents, saying “It shall not be.”

THEN … we come to our text, and we have the third vision God gives to Amos. YHWH holding a plumb line against a wall, and the wall is Israel, and it is not plumb. It’s certainly not as dramatic as the previous two, but YHWH’s response to this un-plumb wall, the faithlessness of Israel, is certainly chilling: Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them – that is, forgive them – the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. And for his part, Amos … is silent. He no longer attempts to intercede on Israel’s behalf. The opportunity for them to repent, to turn from their exceedingly wicked ways was over. The way is shut, the clock has struck midnight, and now it is only a matter of time before YHWH deals the killing blow.

Wow. If you’re taken aback by this, it’s not surprising. Here we do not see what we often think of when we think of our gracious and merciful Triune God. This hardly seems like the “Jesus so meek and mild” we so often imagine. This is no bleating lamb, but rather the roaring Lion of Zion, the righteous judge, punishing the sin and the sinners who love to wallow in their transgression. The time for mercy toward those faithless people is over, and it is terrifying.

It’s no surprise, then, that, as our text moves into the single instance of narrative writing in the book of Amos. Here, we have Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, who is less than pleased with what Amos has been preaching. See, Bethel was the center of worship in the northern kingdom of Israel, but more than that, it was the epicenter of all the unfaithfulness and the downright diabolical behavior of the people of the north. There, the people worshipped YHWH … in addition to other deities they had adopted from the surrounding culture. These syncretistic worshippers allowed their worship of false gods to affect their conduct, resulting in the trampling of the poor while the crème de la crème indulged in gluttony, slavery, adultery, and all-around hedonism. What’s worse, they felt their affluence was a sign of YHWH’s (or perhaps Molech’s or Ba’al’s) pleasure with them. In any case, the idea that YHWH was a lion, roaring from Zion against them, was far from their thoughts!

This is reflected in how Amaziah misrepresents to King Jeroboam what Amos actually said, and sneers at Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” In other words, “Listen, Amos, we do things different here; there’s no need for you to trouble yourself with what we do here in Israel. Go back to Judah; make your living by prophesying there. There, you’ll be welcome! But this? This is my turf, the temple and sanctuary of King Jeroboam! Get outta here!”

It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but obviously there are parallels between Amos’s presence in the northern kingdom of Israel and where we find ourselves as Christians living in the world. Here, we find ourselves as strangers in a strange land, a land that tolerates any and every message but the message of Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins. Hedonism is still a thing – it’s a rampant infection, really. Egocentrism and narcissism are a plague upon our land. Idolatry certainly still exists – not only with actual false deities, but with more subtle and dangerous apparitions like the love of money or the worship of movie and sports stars. When we bring God’s Law and His Gospel – as both are needed in our proclamation – like Amaziah, people will reject the word we bear, saying “Go elsewhere with that tripe; you do you, and I’ll do me!”

Those who are of this world … reject the Christ. They reject the forgiveness that is found in His life-saving cross. They forgo the life that is found in His shed blood. They treat with contempt the very idea of life everlasting for all those who hold onto the promises given in baptism. They reject the Christ, and they certainly reject His prophets and all others who bear His message. It’s not surprising that church attendance, across our synod, across denominations here in our country, and, indeed, across the entirety of Western Civilization, is down. They do not want our Jesus. They do not want to be told their sins are forgiven; they want to be told YOLO, you only live once. They want to be told what their itching ears long to hear, that God will love them even if they carry on, full-steam, diving headlong into unrepentant sin – indeed, in the joyous indulgence thereof!

But we would do well to remember that we, ourselves, were there once. All mankind is born spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God, and that includes us. We are no better than every other lousy, rotten, no-good stinkin’ sinner that has ever lived or ever will live. We have all been there, and of ourselves, as we confessed mere moments ago, “we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.” It is only by the grace of God, by His favorable attitude and disposition toward us miserable sinners that any of us can – rightly – declare that we are saved from the consequence of our sin on account of Jesus the Christ and His redemptive work. Certainly, as believers who have been forgiven much, we want to spread the full Word, the Law and the Gospel, to all people so that they may stand side-by-side with us and all believers on the Last Day as we enter into the presence of Christ the King.

Will it always go well? No; it is entirely possible that we end up like John the Baptist, whose strong word of rebuke and call of repentance to King Herod earned him nothing but prison time and a rather grim death sentence. But frankly, that matters little. Our call is to proclaim God’s Word to all people – including those who refuse to hear it! We are called as Christians to spread the Gospel near and far, regardless of the reaction people have to it.

Make no mistake, it is a holy and terrifying thing to bring the Word of God before an unbelieving world. Amos knew it. John the Baptist knew it. But as those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, it’s what we are called to do: to speak the truth of the Law that kills, so that the healing balm of the Gospel may make alive again. May we all be so bold, to speak God’s Word to a world that doesn’t want it, but nevertheless needs it.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: Amos 7:7-15

A Very Important Difference

July 08, 2018
By Rev. David French


One of Christianity’s most basic confessions about God is the fact that He is omnipotent (all-powerful). To the best of my knowledge, no Christian Church body denies that truth. Even the youngest of our children make this confession as they sing, “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do,” a basic teaching that no faithful Christian would ever question or doubt.

And yet, as we read our Gospel lesson for this morning, we’re faced with a rather stark contradiction. [Jesus] could do no mighty work among his hometown people, except lay His hands on a couple of sick people and heal them. What? Jesus could do no mighty work? Now that’s a problem! According to Mark, our all-powerful God was left powerless. The almighty One … does not look so almighty. So, what does this mean?!

Well, let’s think about this for a minute. Our lesson clearly says that Jesus could do no mighty works in the presence of the hometown folks who doubted Him. But does that mean Jesus didn’t possess the skills, the abilities, the resources - the power - to work powerful things among them? Or could it mean that Jesus (because of God’s specific plan) was not permitted to work these powerful signs among them? You see, there is a difference—a very important difference!

Remember Jesus’s lesson for the bleeding woman last week … it was not just touching me that made you well, it was believing that I am who the miracle says I am which made you well? You see, you can have all the skills, abilities, and resources in the world, but if you’re not permitted to use them, that is if you’re stopped from doing your work, those resources don’t do anybody any good. The truth is, if someone refuses to receive, you can be made powerless to give no matter how much power you truly possess and are willing to share.

So it’s true that Jesus could not do any mighty works in His hometown, but the reason is not found in Him. The reason, again, was that they refused to believe He was who the miracle said He was; that is, the people there doubted Him.

Remember the words, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” These people heard the very Word of God, both Law and Gospel, proclaimed by God with the authority of God and they not only rejected it, they were offended by it. And that really hasn’t changed.

“Who does this guy think He is? What right does He have to judge me!” They, with mere human strength, prevented Jesus, the almighty Son of God, from working His powerful life-saving, life-giving gifts of repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. And so do we.

Now, could Jesus, as almighty and all-powerful God, have simply spoken a word and made them change their minds?  In effect, take away their free will? Absolutely! I mean, He raised the dead with a word. Certainly He can make us change our minds. But if He did that, He would no longer be a loving and gracious God. He would no longer be the God He has revealed Himself to be. He would instead be a forceful, tyrannical God; a puppet master pulling His strings. “You will serve, honor, love, and obey Me, whether you like it or not!”

You know, it really is sad that this same faithlessness seen in Jesus’s hometown crowd is still seen today. People still deny and prevent Jesus from working all the time. Many complain about all the trials and tribulations they endure and then ignore the very Means of Grace which God offers to comfort and strengthen us during those very trials and tribulations.  Countless Christian parents keep their children from Christ’s life-giving power in baptism because while the words sound nice … all they see is water.

Christians across the world this very day will share crackers and juice and call it communion and then openly teach against Scripture that Jesus isn’t physically present, but only figuratively present with His body and blood to remind us about the forgiveness of sins.

But why? I don’t need to be reminded that Jesus paid for my sin, I need to be forgiven.  Scriptures clearly teach Jesus saying He gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sin. But apparently, those enlightened Christians even while seeing what He says know what Jesus “really” meant. And so, well-meaning Christians stop Christ from giving them the life-giving gifts of His Body and Blood. I truly don’t understand such blatant indifference within the Church at large. And this is just looking at things inside the Church. We also prevent the truth of God’s love being shared in our daily lives as well.

We certainly don’t like to admit it or even think about it, but we routinely deny and prevent Christ from working His gifts of life and salvation for any number of reasons or no reason at all. We stay away from church because we’re not in the mood, the weather, the time, the hymns, the sermons … the whatever.

How many times have you stopped yourself from opening your mouth and proclaiming God’s love to those in your life who you know need to hear it? I know that you all know someone who isn’t here today who needs to hear again about God’s love and mercy for them, or maybe just need the shoulder of a fellow believer to lean on.  But, have you reached out to them? What’s stopping you from speaking the truth of Christ in your own circle?

Lord, forgive us, but surely we’re not surprised that He marveled at the unbelief of the people during His days on earth. No doubt He still does. And if we stop and think about it, it really is sad because through all these things that happen in our lives, our almighty God is calling to us and reaching out for us so that He might work and speak with us, and also work and speak with others through us. He is calling to teach us and to teach others through us; to feed and nourish us and to feed and nourish others through us, all with the gift of Christ.

And more often than not, our response is to muzzle Him and stop Him from working the life-giving, life-saving gifts He so desperately wants to give to all who are born of sin; gifts of grace, mercy, repentance, forgiveness, peace, and everlasting salvation.

My friends, It is finished, your place in heaven has been and is secure in Christ alone and because of Christ alone. The powers of sin and death were left behind in the tomb by the almighty power of Christ’s all-redeeming life, death, and resurrection. Last week we were reminded there is nothing to fear. This week there is no reason to doubt, no matter how dark this world or your circumstances in this world may seem. Our all mighty God has declared it to be so, and so it is. That is your baptismal reality.

My prayer is that through the eyes and ears of saving faith, which God has freely given to you as His gift, a gift which enables you to recognize, repent, receive and give thanks for the mighty and powerful workings of God through His Word and Sacraments, that here on His altar you see not just the earthly means God has chosen to use, but the true giver of these gifts, that is, Jesus - your all-powerful, loving, and gracious Lord and Savior; the very Son of God who willingly and freely laid down His life for you and the forgiveness of all your sins.

In His Name, Amen.

Tags: Mark 6:1-13

When Jesus Calls

July 01, 2018
By Rev. David French


The Gospel reading we just heard is the record of one miracle set inside another.  Jairus came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter who was very ill.  Then, while Jesus was on His way to heal the daughter, He encountered a woman who suffered from a bleeding disorder.  And even though this woman only came to Him for physical healing, Jesus knew she needed more.

This, from a human perspective, is the problem.  Should Jesus stay and help the woman or continue on with Jairus?  If He stays, Jairus’s daughter may die before Jesus can heal her.  On the other hand, the bleeding woman has needs that go far beyond physical healing, and Jesus might not see her again.

But Jesus, of course is not bound by human limits or perspective.  He took time to heal and teach the woman even though it meant that the girl would die and then He who is life goes and speaks words that even death must obey and gives her back to her parents.

I imagine that when Jesus stopped and turned around in the middle of the crowd, no one was more surprised than the woman who had touched His garment and was healed.  Certainly, according to Mark, she wanted her healing to go unnoticed.  She would just touch His garment and be gone.  But Jesus did something unexpected, He turned and asked, “Who touched my garments?” and a few verses later we learn, … the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.  You see, this woman was afraid she had done something wrong and was about to be punished.

The truth is, the nature of her bleeding was such that it left her as permanently unclean as a person with leprosy.  The law, as you can read for yourself at Leviticus 15:25, is clear.  She was unclean and had exposed others to her uncleanness.  Just being there defiled all the others, and when Jesus called for her, she no doubt rightly expected to be punished for violating their ritual cleanliness.  Jesus, however, simply said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

You see Jesus understood that if He had just let her go on her way, she would still have been carrying the guilt of her sins.  Not just the stealing of Jesus’s power, if you will, but the guilt for all her sins.  Physically, she would have been just fine, but for eternity she would have gained nothing. 

My friends, every one of us has known the fear that this woman had.  Deep down inside, we know we don’t measure up.  We know that we need help, and we know that that help can only come from God.  At the same time, we know that God has every right to either reject or punish us for our sin.  We find ourselves in the fearful situation of needing help from the one who terrifies us.  We find ourselves in the situation where we want God to help us when we think we need Him, but we also want Him to stay at arm’s length the rest of the time.  That really is the definition of fear.

To be sure, that fear began in Eden as we heard Adam say, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”  Adam and Eve sinned, and ever since, whether we admit it or not, the presence of God has terrified those created in His image.

Since that day, humanity has labored under the false idea that now we must somehow earn our way back into God’s favor, somehow fix what our first parents broke.  That’s why so many people believe that religion is all about becoming a better person, about getting right with God.  But anyone who has honestly tried to get right with God, if they’re honest with you, will have to admit that they couldn’t pull it off.  So, God terrifies them.  For the unbeliever, human wisdom promises nothing but a painless non-existence after death.  For the misguided believer, death is full of terror because no one can assure them that they have been good enough to go to heaven.

The sad thing about all of these terrified people is that their idea of religion is all wrong.  True religion is not about you living a righteous life for God.  True religion is about God taking on human flesh and living a righteous life for you.  It’s not about you getting right with God.  It’s about God dying on a cross so that He can give His righteousness to you.  It is not about you paying for your sin.  It is about God paying the debt of sin for you with His own holy and precious blood.  True religion is not about a God who demands and takes, it’s about a God who offers and gives.  As St. Paul writes, God shows his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Remember, in our lesson Jesus didn’t allow the woman to leave with just her physical healing.  He wanted to heal her in body, mind, and spirit.  So He turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”  Why?  Well, He asked that question for the same reason He asked Adam where he was in Eden.  Just as He knew exactly where Adam was, certainly Jesus knew who had touched Him.  In Eden, He asked in order to call Adam to Himself.  In the same way, He asked, “Who touched my garments?” in order to call the woman to Himself.  If God knows all things, He knew exactly who had touched His garments and He left her no place to hide, leaving her trembling and full of fear as she approached Him.

It’s then that Jesus gently and lovingly speaks, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”  You see, Jesus didn’t just heal her disease, but first spoke of her faith which brings His peace, a fruit of being forgiven.  The woman didn’t seek Jesus for healing of spirit or mind.  In fact, once her body was healed, she tried to fade into the crowd and just disappear.  But we can see she did receive those as well because when Jesus calls to her, she comes and is assured and comforted.

The second miracle in today’s Gospel highlights that very point because Jairus’s daughter did indeed die.  And certainly all would agree that, being dead, she could do nothing to help herself.  Still, when Jesus calls to her, she comes from death to life.  You see, it’s easier for Jesus to wake a person from death than it is for one of us to waken someone from sleep in the morning.

Jesus is still calling to those who are sick and hurting, still speaking His words of peace and healing; words that even the apostles did not immediately understand, but that the Holy Spirit brought to their memory and opened their minds to.  We hear His words when we hear the reading of the Holy Scriptures as the Holy Spirit said through the apostle Paul, “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19–20).

Our Gospel reading told us of a woman who was afraid when Jesus called to her, fearing He would exposed her as the sinner she was.  In the same way, your sinful nature is afraid when God, through the Gospel, calls to you.  But as we were just reminded, she had no reason to fear, and by the continued outpouring of God’s grace, neither do you.  Jesus wants only to give you a peace and healing that will last not just for a moment or a day or even a lifetime, but for all eternity.

Jesus offered His life as the payment for all sin.  And now offers you salvation freely through His Word and Sacraments.  Don’t be afraid, only believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).

In His Name, Amen

Tags: Mark 5:21-43
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