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When Jesus Calls

July 01, 2018
By Pastor David French

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When Jesus Calls
Mark 5:21-43

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