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STRETCHING YOUR FAITH

STRETCHING YOUR FAITH

Mark 5.21-43
Rev. Dr. Warner M. Bailey, Parish Associate

As he hurried toward the home of Jarius, the ruler of the synagogue whose daughter was dying, there were many who pushed and brushed against Jesus in the crowd, but only one who touched Jesus and was made whole. Why was that? We do not even know her name or whether she was a Jew or Gentile—this hunched over and shriveled woman who darted out bird-like and touched the hem of his backside. She was a wallflower, a marginalized non-entity, in the jostling crowd who were going to see Jesus help a much more important person. Yet she demanded and got her fifteen minutes of fame, or at least her fifteen minutes of well-being.

The entire episode gets started by an interruption. Jesus is teaching a large throng by the Sea of Galilee when he is interrupted by the ruler of a synagogue. He abandons this large crowd for the sake of attending to this man’s deep distress. Here is a distraught father. Let’s go see what I might do for him.

His audience, now so abruptly forsaken, doesn’t seem to mind, however, for they sense in the stricken cry of the ruler of the synagogue the makings of a healing spectacle which they don’t want to miss, so they hurry on with Jesus and Jarius in a seething, pushing mass.

But all of a sudden it’s like all forward motion is frozen in a single frame of the camera. Jesus stops dead in his tracks, and says, “Uh oh! Something’s happened. Who did it? Who touched me?”

His disciples are shocked. You’re asking, “Who touched me?” in all this mob? That’s the most stupid thing we’ve heard you say! Don’t you see this father here, dancing up and down with escalating agony, while you look around dazed and befuddled? Don’t you see that every second counts?

But Jesus knows that power has gone forth from him. He is so saturated with life that power spills over into those around him. And he knows that he cannot just leave it at that. Anonymous, quick fix, single shot, massive jolt. WHO! touched me?

This poor woman has for many years has been a bleeder, has had to learn the skills of living among non-bleeders without calling attention to herself, without really being one of them, has had to endure their talk of babies and husbands and nurseries, and she has found a home among the wallflowers, at the edges of the crowd. That was her comfort zone. But Jesus’ steady, strong, gentle repeating “Who touched me?” presents to her a need that she cannot avoid. She breaks from the anonymity of the crowd and falls at his feet, telling him the whole truth. What is the truth of her tale?

I think she told Jesus that she came at him with the superstition that his clothes were full of magic, and that if she could get hold of just a teensy-weensy bit of that magic, maybe right at the back-end of the hem of his robe, she could get over her problem of 12 years. He wouldn’t miss it, wouldn’t break his stride toward that important date he had with the ruler of the synagogue. She was desperate enough to snitch just a little of Jesus’ mo-jo. Here was her one last chance.

But now she sees that this man is not content merely to let her fade into the crowd but actually wants to know her, to hear her story; that this man of great power is not too busy, not too much in a hurry, not too bedazzled by others to have time for me. That he is comfortable about letting Jarius’ daughter down the road die just a minute more. He wants to touch me face to face. In a flash she moves from superstition to grateful and obedient confession. Jesus calls her act of obedient confession of gratitude her faith, faith that saves. This story tells us that saving faith is a confession of grateful obedience to Jesus.

She had gotten over her bleeding. But what a cured bleeder misses if she doesn’t become a person of faith! How Jesus wants to give her so much more! Indeed, Jesus must give her so much more or she will be worse off than when her body was a mess. If she would not have answered Jesus’ call, “Who touched me?” she would not have received his greatest blessing, “My daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

There are people today who are only seeking the back-end of the hem of Jesus’ robe kind of religion. Let me stay in control. Let me plug-in and plug-out. Let me dump my kids off for Sunday school so they can receive a bit of western culture and values. For goodness’ sake don’t ask me to become involved, to look anyone in the eye, to make myself vulnerable to pain.

Do you see now why Jesus stands there, looking slightly stupid, calling out like a blind man, “Who touched me? Who touched me?” The blessings of Jesus are not for those who wish to remain anonymous, plug-in and plug-out, and in control. Indeed, whatever blessing that remains on an anonymous level will become in time a foul smelling and bitter tasting memory. Has he touched you? Are you a cured bleeder? Then answer his call! Your good fortune is just the faintest trickle of the coming torrent of blessing he wants to give you when you fess up and gratefully submit to him.

The honor of a family name—daughter, son;
The benediction of peace, well-rounded wholeness that extends into eternity;
The commission to go forward free and upstanding.
Do not play the wallflower. Answer.

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