Mark 5:21-43 • July 1, 2012
I hope you were paying attention to our gospel reading. Did you catch that there were two stories wrapped around each other in today’s text. This is a pretty common practice used by the writer of Mark’s gospel. A story within a story of sorts and although they are individually unique stories, together they tell one story. The two stories that we hear are amazing stories of healing, one sandwiched in the middle of the other.
The first is of Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead and the second is the healing of the hemorrhaging woman. One has been suffering for twelve years, while another has only been alive for twelve years. Both of them need to be touched.
Two times in this text Jesus is either touched by or touches someone who is unclean. Don’t take lightly the fact that Jesus is not contaminated by these encounters of touch. In fact, one of the most significance parts of these stories, is that the ones who were contaminated are restored to wholeness and given new life – not because of anything they have done, but because they are touched.
By the time we reach these miracle stories in the fifth chapter of Mark’s gospel, it is very clear that Jesus will cross boundaries that once defined the community; he will rewrite the rules, and is revealing a new day and a new way of life that has begun through him.
An important thing to notice about Mark’s gospel is just how significant the faith is of people who are not Jesus’ disciples. Many times in Mark, it’s Jesus’ closest followers, namely the disciples that are the last to figure out something or know what is going on. I’m not sure I believe that is only true of Jesus’ disciples 2,000 years ago. I think it’s often true of experiences that you and I share today.
As people who seek to follow the risen savior Jesus Christ, I believe that we have all experienced times of hopelessness.
There are times when we’ve kept a secret from our family or closest friends.
Maybe it has to do with our health or our marriage or another relationship in our life.
Maybe there is a relationship that defies healing.
Maybe we are concerned about the path a son or daughter has taken.
There are times when we are burdened with unbearable stress and anxiety. Maybe our business is failing or a devastating financial situation is consuming us with no end in sight.
Maybe there is a secret sin that has you in its grip.
At times like these, times with overwhelming feelings of hopelessness. Times when we hear a voice that cries out with the same desperation that Jairus and the woman has. You know the voice that I’m talking about. It’s the one that says, “If I but…” And too often in the middle of our desperate plea, the door of hope quickly slams shut with the response, “DO NOT TOUCH!”
But Jesus response is different. Jesus shows us that there is something tremendously powerful in touch. Touch heals us. Touch sets us free. Touch restores hope.
In the film The Hunger Games there is a powerful scene where President Snow, the dictator-esque ruler, asks his chief Games-maker why he thinks they must have a winner in the games. The chief doesn’t really understand the question and so President Snow says, “hope.” He wants to give the oppressed people that he rules over hope that maybe, just maybe, the odds will be in their favor and they will win the Hunger Games and escape their life of oppression. “Hope,” he says, “is the only thing more powerful than fear.” The president wants his chief games-maker to know that they must control and contain the hope they offer their people. “A little hope,” he states, “is effective; a lot of hope is dangerous.”
Jarius’ hope – if Jesus but touches my daughter is a dangerous hope. The woman’s hope – if I but touch his clothes is a dangerous hope. What’s your hope today?
I came across an essay this week called “Touch in the Church”. The author is writing about her experience with touch in her congregation.
“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 pastor asks us to look at each other. I’m worried about the hurt look I saw in that woman’s eyes.
Now I’m concerned, because when the pastor asks 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 like 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 Jesus Christ be with you”
“And also with you.”
And mean it.
Lord, I can’t resist meaning it any longer.
I’m touched by it, I’m part of it! I do care about that person next to me! I am involved! And I’m scared.
Lord, be here beside me. You touched 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 others that belong to you.
All this touching in church – Lord, it’s changing me!”
There is no way to do the work of Jesus in this world without touch. God calls you and me to reach out and touch. God also calls you and me put down walls that we have built up and let others touch us. To touch the lonely, the unemployed, the immigrant, the widow, the addict, the elderly, the sick. To touch me. To touch you. To touch the person sitting next to you right now. To feel Jesus’ touch of hope. Touch that is not effective, but a dangerous and life-giving revelation of God’s love for you.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t be afraid to be touched by the hand of God. And don’t be afraid to reach out and touch someone else with hand of God. Amen.
- No Longer Drained of Life – A Sermon on Mark 5:21-43; Proper 8B (interruptingthesilence.com)
- Where can I find Jesus? (garycottrellfaith.wordpress.com)