Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | July 1, 2012

2012.07.01 “Who Gets Healed?” – Mark 5: 21 – 43

        Central United Methodist Church

Who Gets Healed?

Pastor David L. Haley

Mark 5: 21 – 43

July 1, 2012

 

        “After Jesus crossed over by boat, a large crowd met him at the seaside. One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” Jesus went with him, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling him.

A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years — a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before — had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”

But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.

Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”

While he was still talking, some people came from the leader’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?”

Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”

He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader’s house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: “Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn’t dead; she’s sleeping.” Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn’t know what he was talking about.

        But when he had sent them all out, he took the child’s father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child’s room. He clasped the girl’s hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room. Then he said, “Give her something to eat.” – Mark 5: 21 – 43, The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson

You know how it goes … you decide to do the laundry.  You start down the hall and notice the newspaper on the table. OK, I’m going to do the laundry … BUT FIRST I’m going to read the newspaper. After that, I notice the mail on the table.  OK, I’ll just put the newspaper in the recycle stack … BUT FIRST I’ll look through the pile of mail and see if there are any bills to be paid. Yes. Now where is the checkbook? Oops … there’s the empty glass from yesterday on the coffee table. I’m going to look for that checkbook … BUT FIRST I need to put the glass in the sink. I head for the kitchen, look out the window, notice my poor flowers need a drink of water, I put the glass in the sink and there’s the remote for the TV on the kitchen counter. What’s it doing there? I’ll just put it away! BUT FIRST I need to water those plants. I head for the door and – Aaaagh! – Step on the cat. Cat needs to be fed. Okay, I’ll put the remote away and water the plants.  BUT FIRST I need to feed the cat.

At the end of the day, the laundry is not done, the newspapers are still on the floor, the glass is still in the sink, the bills are not paid, the checkbook is still lost, and the cat ate the remote control … When you try to figure out how come you got nothing done all day, you’re baffled because you KNOW YOU WERE BUSY ALL DAY!

There are times when the story of Jesus according to the Gospel of Mark begins to read this way, today being one of them Jesus is on an errand of mercy – no, make that an emergency – when he gets interrupted to take care of someone else. Which is more important? Who will be healed? In the end, both are, not one but two daughters of Israel receive mercy, and both stories, told together, mean more than just one story told alone.

And that question: Who will be healed? It’s still a question we ask today, which gives even more significance to these two stories in Mark’s Gospel  The question for us is not an academic one: “Who will be healed?” It is not even a curious one: “Which of these two women will be healed?” It is a personal one: “Will I be healed?” Because almost all of us have some ailment – whether physical, spiritual, psychological, or interpersonal – that aches for healing. For some, it is urgent.  For the rest, the day will come when it will become urgent. Equally clear to all is that despite our need for healing, some are healed and some are not.

While I’m thankful for the parishioners and patients I’ve known through the years who were healed or rescued from death, I’m also haunted by those who did not make it. I remember a parishioner from a previous church, a young woman about my age, whom I went to see at Prentice Women’s Hospital. She had just received a diagnosis of cancer, and I can still see her face in that hospital room when she said to me: “I don’t think I’m going to make it.” Sadly, she didn’t. I have struggled myself, and consoled other paramedics, after calls where we wish we could have changed the outcome, but did not, could not.  Despite our best efforts, whether as healers or those who seek to be healed, the mystery of who lives and who dies is not always in our hands.

Even that day in Galilee when Jesus arrived in town, this would be the case. Not everyone seeking healing could be healed, and not everyone would be.  Today’s Gospel tells the story of two who were, but who they were may be more important than that they were.

So how did Jesus choose who gets healed? Was there some system of triage? Was it those most wealthy or most prominent? Those worse off? Those who could yell the loudest or get the closest?  Was it at Jesus’ discretion, or even circumstance?

Parenthetically, don’t you find it inexplicable that twenty-one centuries later, in one of the richest countries on earth, we are still having this discussion? Those who are wealthy and have the most resources? Those worse off? Those who yell the loudest or can – by any means possible – gain access to the health care system? Is it at the health care system’s – discretion? You would think that after 2,000 years, since it is a timeless universal that at some point we all get sick and need healing, we would have figured this out. In all the controversy about Obamacare, I did find this one funny, as well as relevant to our text today: “President Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free healthcare . . . you’re thinking of Jesus.”

So, given the difficulty of choosing who gets healed, both then and now, it is all the more illuminating to see who got healed on that day: two daughters of Israel.

The first one to get Jesus’ attention was exactly who we might think would get first attention: a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue. Yet that day, Jairus wasn’t making his appeal for himself, nor on the basis of his position, he was doing it for his daughter, who was dying. Abandoning all dignity, he fell at Jesus’ feet, begging: “My dear daughter is at death’s door; come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.”

I don’t think there is a parent or grandparent here who can’t identify, who wouldn’t do the same, if it came to it.  To hear that our child will not live is not an acceptable answer, if we can do anything on heaven or earth about it, including lifting cars and running long distances, if we have to. So we understand Jairus’ doing what he did, willing to do whatever it takes.

Jesus went with Jairus, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling. In the middle of this, suddenly Jesus felt a touch, felt life-giving power go out of him. Halting, the crowd halting with him, he cried: “Who touched me?”

For the first but not the last time that day, Jesus would be laughed at. This time, by his own disciples. “Jesus, what are you talking about? In this crowd, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ You have got to be kidding!”

But Jesus wasn’t kidding, and determined to find out, he went from one to the other, until finally, a poor woman stepped forward. She could have run, taking her healing with her, but there, in front of God and everybody, she told the truth, the whole truth

Turns out her status and story are the complete opposite of Jairus; in fact, she’s a nobody, not even named. For twelve years she had hemorrhaged, suffering much, doctor after doctor, test after test, lying on forgotten gurneys in hospital hallways, in ridiculously revealing hospital gowns, with nothing certain but the expense. For twelve years she had not only suffered physically, but had lived in isolation, her illness having also rendered her spiritually unclean, making her an outcast. Upon hearing this, I’m sure everyone in the crowd thought: “Great, thanks a lot, now we’re unclean.”

Everybody except Jesus. He then did something, said something nobody had said to this unnamed woman in twelve years.  “Daughter,” he said – with one word giving her a place in society and in God’s family – “Daughter,” you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed.” And so she was, in more ways than one.

As wonderful as all this was, think about this: if you had been Jairus, what would you have been doing during all this?  Looking at his watch, tapping his foot, himself pulling on Jesus’ garments? JESUS! She’s been sick 12 years, SURELY SHE CAN WAIT ANOTHER DAY! Meanwhile, my daughter is dying! This is a life-threatening, code-one, lights and sirens emergency! Let’s get moving!

Then, Jairus’ worst fear became reality: messengers arrived, saying: “Don’t bother, Jairus, it’s too late, your daughter is dead.”

I don’t think I need to go into detail about what Jairus might have done right then, or what we might have done if we had been Jairus. I pray none of us ever has to experience it. As a chaplain, I have broken such news to parents; sometimes, I have literally had to hold them up to keep them from collapsing.  Or, Jairus could have gone into a fit of rage, blaming and cursing Jesus, I’ve seen that happen too.  What would you have done?

Overhearing this conversation, Jesus said to Jairus, “Trust me.”  Off they all went, in a sad but hopeful procession.

I love how Mark describes what happened when they got there, especially as contemporized by Eugene Peterson:

“[Jesus] permitted no one to go in with him except Peter,          James, and John. [Was he afraid it might not work, or just worried          about HIPAA laws?] They entered the leader’s house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in      casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: “Why all this busybody grief and gossip?       This child isn’t dead; she’s sleeping.” Provoked to sarcasm, they told    him he didn’t know what he was talking about.”

For the second time that day, they mocked and laughed at Jesus. If we ever are tempted to think this whole business of faith and trust in God and love and hope are easy and reasonable, we only have to read the Gospels. They laughed at Jesus. They mocked him. They crucified him.  Are we sure we want to be his follower?

Jesus sent all the busybodies and mockers out. He took the child’s father and mother, along with Peter, James, and John, and entered the child’s room. He took her by the hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age.

Twelve years of age, the time of her first menstruation, in that time and place and even now, child-bearing age. Which she would never see, apart from Jesus’ touch.

Two daughters of Israel. Both female, both ritually unclean, one as a result of death and the other as a result of hemorrhage; both representing the number twelve (twelve years of hemorrhage and the twelve year old girl) in Jesus’ tradition (How many tribes of Israel were there? (12) How many apostles? (12); despite their status, both are regarded as daughters. Even as those around them lack understanding and compassion, across all the cultural and religious boundaries that separate them – Jesus’ touch restores both women to life.

Some of us are sick, and in need of healing today; some of us will find it, some will not. Some will find healing, whether or not we are cured; as one man with Parkinson’s disease said, “I have been healed, not of my Parkinson’s disease, but I have been healed of my fear of Parkinson’s disease.” If we are not sick today, someday we will be, and one day it will be a sickness unto death. Will then God have failed us, or will then – as I believe Mark is telling us – Jesus take us by the hand, to raise us to a life we cannot understand, any more than a child in the womb understands this life.

Maybe more than anyone else, Thomas A. Dorsey, who died in 1993, made this image of God taking us by the hand, real and accessible to us, in his gospel hymn, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” And the irony is, this wonderful song that has meant so much to so many, comes out of an experience of tragic loss.

In the 1982 documentary, “Say Amen, Somebody”, he told the story of how it came to be. In 1932, he was away from home in a revival somewhere, when he got a telegram stating, “Hurry home, your wife just died.” He said, “I don’t know how you would accept that, I couldn’t accept it at all.” He went home, and ran in, to see if it was true; sadly, it was. The baby lived about two days, then the baby died too. “What should I do, then and there?” he said.  A few days later, two friends were there, when Dorsey said,

“I was trying to make my little talk to the Lord; it was wasted, I think.  I called the Lord some one thing, one of the fellows said, “No,” that’s not his name, say ‘Precious Lord.’ That did sound good. I got several ‘Amens.’  Ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not, right there and then I begin singing, “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light: Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.”

Who gets healed? In this life, it’s hard to predict, and as this story of two daughters tells us, it’s not always who we might expect. But this story also tells us, as enslaved African Americans once sang, “God may not come when you call him, but God will be there right on time!”  Amen.

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