Pastor Michael Frye:
The two stories we heard about Jesus this morning couldn’t be any more different from each other.
In the first story, one of the leaders of the local synagogue came to Jesus with a frantic request that Jesus come lay his hands upon his gravely ill daughter and heal her (just as Jairus had heard that Jesus had done for others many times before).
The thing is that Jairus was a very powerful person in the community who was charged with the administration of worship in the synagogue.
He ordinarily would have been among Jesus’ detractors.
But he had one overpowering reason to set aside any arguments he may have had against Jesus – the life of his twelve year old daughter.
He had tried everything he knew to do.
Physicians were of no help.
He was desperate, but he also displayed faith in what he had heard about Jesus’ miraculous powers.
Jairus’ frantic pleas so moved Jesus that he changed his plans and went with him toward his home.
Many in the crowd had overheard this conversation, so they surrounded him on his journey to the home.
You can imagine the jostling and shoving that must have been going on around Jesus; and yet, this woman who had no business being anywhere near a crowd, or near Jesus (according to Jewish Purity Laws) who had been hemorrhaging for as many years as Jairus’ daughter was alive, believed enough in Jesus’ healing powers to reach out and touch the hem of his cloak.
“If I but touch his cloak, I will be made well,” she thought; and she was immediately healed.
Did Jesus feel her touch his robe?
Probably not; I mean how many others had reached out to touch him or brush against him?
Yet, he felt power surge from himself into the woman.
“Who touched my clothes?” he asked, as he turned around. Of course, the disciples would have thought this to be some kind of joke.
What do you mean who touched you?
Do you see this crowd?
But the woman hesitatingly approached Jesus, fell down on the ground in front of him, and confessed, although she knew she could have been punished severely for having made Jesus ritually unclean by touching him.
“Daughter,” he said… “Daughter (like she was a beloved member of his family), your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
We have no idea what happened to her after that, because while Jesus was still speaking to her, people came to Jairus and said, “your daughter is dead.
“Why trouble the teacher any further?”
After all he had been through to get to Jesus, the news was like a dagger in Jairus’ heart (the hope left him drained and in despair).
Jesus had a different thought in mind, “Do not fear, only believe.”
They left the crowd and went together, along with Peter, James, and John to Jairus’ home.
Of course, they found family and friends weeping and wailing, as was the custom in that day.
Can you imagine the looks Jesus must have gotten as he sent them out of the house, saying “the child is not dead but sleeping.”
That went over like a lead balloon with people who had experienced death before.
They looked at Jesus like he was crazy, but they did as he said.
When he was alone with the parents and his three disciples, Jesus touched the dead girl (another thing he was forbidden to do by law), took her by the hand and said “Little girl, get up!”
Can you even begin to imagine the amazement and emotion that must have filled that room as these parents hugged their daughter, and Jesus’ disciples being totally bewildered by it all?
All Jesus said to them was don’t tell anyone about this, and by the way, give her something to eat (in other words, this is no ghost, folks, she’s a little girl whose needs must be met).
What amazing stories!
And, they both involved touching and being touched by the Son of God.
Jesus overcame barriers of Jewish law and ritual in order to deliver healing to the daughter of someone who should have been his enemy, and to a woman who should never have been in his presence in the first place.
There is a passage from the Wisdom of Solomon which says, “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.”
We know this to be true, because we know that God’s perfect creation was without death or disease until sin raised its ugly head and created a confounding mess that God has been dealing with ever since.
The people in today’s gospel story are not unlike us.
Jairus and his wife had a profound love and fear for their daughter that all parents and grandparents have for their children’s health and welfare.
Jesus’ compassion for the parents and their daughter is no less strong for parents and their children in this century.
The same thing goes for those who face critical illnesses and diseases in our world today as did the woman in our story from centuries ago.
We are confronted in this world by ailments of all sorts, both as individuals and communities – physical, spiritual, psychological, and interpersonal.
Michael Lindvall points out that some are healed, some are not.
That doesn’t mean that those that are not are any less valued by God.
It does remind us that we still live in that world in which sinfulness and separation from God still play havoc with God’s original will for his creation’s well-being and welfare.
But God hasn’t given up on us, and neither should we give up on ourselves, or on God’s plan of salvation that will one day bring about restoration of all into God’s perfect kingdom through his Son.
When Michael Lindvall was speaking with a friend who had been Living for years with Parkinson’s disease, his friend said, “I have been healed, not of Parkinson’s disease, but I have been healed of my fear of the disease.”
He goes on to say that prayer for healing is not a matter of bending God’s divine will toward our will, or our needs, or our hopes, rather to edge us into a deeper relationship with God so that our hearts and minds will be more receptive to coping with the trials thatwe must face on this earth.
How do we hold onto faith when healing does not occur?
By remembering that God’s presence can bring a sense of peace and acceptance, even in the midst of disappointment and times of despair.
By remembering Jesus’ words, “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”
By remembering that all of Jesus’ miracle healings were his way of reminding us that our God in heaven is in charge of the universe, and that he holds us in the palm of his hand.
Barbara Zink-Sawyer reminds us that the two stories in our gospel today challenge us to examine our own faith, asking how we find the strength to claim God’s promises of healing and hope for ourselves, and how we empower others to do the same.
It is that empowerment of one another that brings us back to the miraculous properties of “touch” that we found in the gospel.
David Leininger shared this article called “Touch in Church” that I thought you might find to be interesting.
Please bear with me as I read it to you:
“What is all this touching in church?
“It used to be a person could come to church and sit in the pew and not be bothered by all this friendliness and certainly not by touching.
“I used to come to church and leave untouched.
“Now I have to be nervous about what’s expected of me.
“I have to worry about responding to the person sitting next to me.
“Oh, I wish it could be the way it used to be; I could just ask the person next to me:
“How are you?
“And the person could answer: Oh, just fine, and we’d both go home… strangers who have known each other for twenty years.
“But now the minister asks us to look at each other.
“I’m worried about that hurt look I saw in that woman’s eyes.
“Now I’m concerned, because when the minister asked us to greet one another, the man next to me held my hand so tightly I wondered if he had been touched in years.
“Now I’m upset because the lady next to me cried and then apologized and said it was because I was so kind and that she needed a friend right now.
“Now I have to get involved.
“Now I have to suffer when this community suffers.
“Now I have to be more than a person coming to observe a service.
“That man last week told me I’d never know how much I’d touched his life.
“All I did was smile and tell him I understood what it was to be lonely.
“Lord, I’m not big enough to touch and be touched!
“The stretching scares me.
“What if I disappoint somebody?
“What if I’m too pushy?
“What if I cling too much?
“What if somebody ignores me?
“Pass the peace.
“The peace of Christ be with you.
“And also with you.
“And mean it.
“Lord, I can’t resist meaning it!
“I’m touched by it!
“I’m enveloped by it!
“I find I do care about that person next to me!
“I find I am involved!
“And I’m scared.
“O Lord, be here beside me.
“You touch me, Lord, so that I can touch and be touched!
“So that I can care and be cared for!
“So that I can share my life with all those others that belong to you!
“All this touching in church – Lord, it’s changing me!
“What was it that woman said so many centuries ago?
“If I but touch…I will be healed.”
What is your touching story?
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.