21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." 24So he went with him.
Daybreak by James Marvin Phelps. Creative Commons image on flickr.comAnd a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" 31And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (NRSV)
It’s become a regular occurrence around here that people call and ask if we’re accepting clothing donations. In spite of the absolute deluge we keep receiving, we almost always say “yes.” But sometimes we have to say no.
Case in point: two weeks ago, a man calls to ask if we’d accept donations of Christian books: seventy-five cartons’ worth, to be precise. His brother had just died following a courageous, two-decades-long battle with Parkinson’s disease. “These books were his lifeline,” said his brother. There wasn’t much the doctors could do for him—so he turned to his faith. He bought just about every book in print on the subject of faith healing. He even spent tremendous sums of money to go see televangelists and faith healers in person.
His actions sounded extremely unreasonable at first—until I considered how terrible his sufferings must have been. I don’t think anyone can understand unless you’ve had the experience yourself—of losing absolutely everything that you’d built your life upon.
No matter who we are, our lives are built upon a foundation of building blocks: they include relationships with family and friends; physical and emotional health; skills and abilities; jobs and our finances. Much of the time, when we suffer a loss, we’re able to endure and overcome because of what we still have. As Christians, our faith and relationship with God gives us strength and peace. A life built on many building blocks will not fall apart if you take one of them away.
But what we see happening in today’s Scriptures is the complete devastation of everything. The prophet Jeremiah is lamenting the complete destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The twelve-year-old daughter of a synagogue leader named Jairus is at death’s door. A woman has been bleeding for twelve years.
This is the kind of suffering that no one could imagine, even in their worst nightmares. What’s worse is the impact this suffering had on their faith. For Jeremiah, there’s no question as to why Jerusalem’s destroyed: Israel had sinned and were suffering God’s judgment. Then you have Jairus, a respected authority in Judaism—and yet in all of his power and wisdom, he could do nothing to help his child. Then you have this woman whose bleeding would have made her a complete outcast—because her bleeding made her ceremonially unclean. Most people would have done everything in their power to keep their distance.
Make no mistake about it—all hope was lost. No one could say “at least you have this, or that…” So where do you go—and what do you do—when this happens to you?
And—as a person of faith, how do you begin to make sense of it all?
In times like these, there are so many questions; but there is one thing no one can question in today’s Gospel—and that one thing is Jesus’ compassion. You have a crowd of people, clamoring in desperation for Jesus’ attention. But Jesus gives himself to them. The unclean woman who seemingly steals her way into his presence, he calls “daughter.” He takes the Jairus’s daughter by the hand.
What they receive is so much more than just a simple cure. In Christ, they see God’s compassion and mercy. They see that they matter to God.
When Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well;” he’s not pronouncing a reward for their faith. He is declaring that they are saved because Jesus is with them. Salvation is not a reward for faith. Salvation is a gift we receive through faith, by reaching into the open arms of Jesus. Salvation is trusting that Jesus will be your redeemer and your deliverer, no matter what happens to you. It’s trusting that Jesus will move you forward, out of the misery and hopelessness of the moment, into new life. It is holding onto Jesus, trusting that he’s holding onto you.
We must cling to this promise—which is not easy to do—because so often, we set our hearts on God answering our prayers a certain way; giving us a certain outcome; moving us forward in a certain way. Sadly, prayers are not answered the way we want. Sometimes, the road to salvation is not the road we want to travel. Sometimes, we even embrace our suffering to the point that it defines our lives.
And yet, Christ can make the moments of brokenness into moments of blessedness. The way forward begins with Christ’s promise of salvation, and our trust in it. We live out this trust with prayer and immersing ourselves in God’s Word. These acts of faith give us eyes of faith to see the ways Jesus is caring for us and leading us out of the darkness. It’s okay to be angry with God and to question. That’s normal. Cast it all at the feet of Jesus.
On the road of salvation, Jesus will use you to bring others healing—for just as the wounds of Christ give us salvation; we heal others out of our own wounds. One of the greatest truths of the Christian life is that those who are healed by Christ become healers for Christ.
Ultimately, nothing in this life is permanent—neither pain nor prosperity. That is a very good thing. The world offers limitless options by which we can take salvation into our own hands. But thanks be to God that Jesus is giving us something far greater. Salvation isn’t merely a cure-all for life’s problems. It’s a relationship of trust in the living Christ. It’s the peace of believing that even when everything in your world crumbles and falls, the arms of Jesus are open to you. In Christ is your deliverance.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.