6/28/2015 Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Text is Mark 5:21-43.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Medicine – even today, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. If it works, you know it in a short period of time. If it doesn’t work, well, then you try something else, hoping for a cure for whatever ails you. If one doctor doesn’t have the magic formula to make you better or doesn’t have the right knowledge to diagnose and treat, you may be sent to see another doctor, or you may have to try elsewhere on your own.
The process of search and elimination hasn’t changed much through the centuries even though medical knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds. This growth has come to us as a gift from God for the well-being of his people, even though there are still many diseases that continue to baffle the medical community and cause untimely deaths. We may not be fighting the plagues of the medieval years, but things like Ebola, cancer, heart disease, and even the common cold and seasonal allergies, still affect the quality and quantity of life.
It’s hard for us to think what it would be like to live in a world without modern medicine – to live during the time of Jesus. Sophisticated diagnostic tests weren’t even a pipe dream at that time. Cures involved such earth-shattering techniques as the use of leeches. And although we have begun to appreciate herbal and homeopathic ways and alternative medicine such as acupuncture and massage, these can’t remove diseased gallbladders and appendixes. And surgery, as we know it, was unheard of when Jesus walked the earth, as was medical insurance to help pay for years and years of searching for a cure. So, if you happened to become sick in Jesus’ day, you often remained sick.
The woman in today’s gospel had been sick for a very long time. For twelve years, she had been declared “unclean” because of hemorrhaging. Everybody suggested a different remedy for her problem, but none of them worked. She visited many physicians, but none of them could help her. She was sick and she stayed sick, and as time passed, she even grew worse – until frustration gave away to despair as she had little hope of ever living a normal life again.
It was at the point of just giving up that she heard that Jesus, a new miracle worker, was coming to town. She had heard that he had cured many, even those with diseases much harder to cure than hers. So, why not her? Why not now? Why not take the risk? She had nothing to lose by reaching out and put a little faith and trust in this one.
So, she pushed through the multitude, saying to herself, “I don’t need to slow him down with a lot of bedside chatter. All I need to do is touch the edge of his garment. Then I will be made well.” And touch him, she did. Gently, quietly, anonymously, she touched the edge of his garment and moved away. But, her touch didn’t go unnoticed. No sooner had she touched his clothes did Jesus feel the healing energy drain from his body. So, he spun around and asked, “Who touched me?”
Jesus was not about to let someone be healed anonymously. So, he stood there, scanning the crowd, searching for the one who did not feel worthy to ask for his help. He looked at every face; some of them eager, some curious, some confused. Jesus kept looking until he saw her, and when he did, her anonymous touch became a face-to-face encounter with one whose healing touch she sought.
In guilt and humility, the woman told him what she had done. And in compassion, Jesus responded, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Be healed of your disease.” In this brief conversation, Jesus not only healed this sick, desperate woman and blessed her with his peace, but he also stripped her of anonymity as she was named daughter.
In baptism, we are made sons and daughters of a merciful and gracious God who knows us by name. As sons and daughters, Jesus invites us to come to him with our pain and sorrow, to come to him in our time of despair and need. There is no need for us to be embarrassed or ashamed to go to him. There is no reason to feel unworthy to take his time. People may let us down, ignore and disappoint us. Frustration may run high. But, Christ is always there for us.
Although miracles may seem few and far between in this age, our Lord will not let us down. In times of suffering, he gives strength. In times of sorrow, he gives joy. In times of despair, he gives victory. In times of death, he gives the promise of eternal life. In Christ there is real help for you and for me, for whatever we have to face. There is real help for the uncertain times in which we live as Jesus reaches back to us whenever we reach out to him in faith.
Faith is the key word. Faith heals. The faith that heals is not a disconnected, anonymous faith. The faith that heals is not a trumped-up power or will, or some kind of self-hypnosis. It’s not some childish Pollyanna optimism. No, faith that heals is faith in Christ. In all cases involving Jesus, people who were sick were not made well because they believed that they could be cured by some special medication or new medical technique. They were not healed by something. They were healed by someone – the one in whom they put their trust and their hope.
The people who came to Jesus were desperate. They came when they had nothing more to lose. They came when they had nowhere else to go. They came when everything else in which they had placed their trust had failed miserably. They came when all they had was hope and faith in Jesus.
I don’t know why people are so willing to suffer so long before heading in the direction of our Lord, why they are so apt to wait to come to Jesus until there is nowhere else to go. I don’t know why people are so apt to put their trust in the works of man before the power of God. But, what I do know is this – that many people have come to realize that when they are driven to their knees because of the trauma in their lives, Jesus is there and is willing to give them support. All they need do is to reach out to him. For whenever we reach out to him, Jesus provides us with whatever we need most. That may not always be the cure we are looking for, but Jesus will provide us with whatever we need the most.
The key to unlocking these gifts of God’s grace is faith. “Don’t be afraid,” said Jesus, “Only believe.” Believe that Jesus is willing to help. Believe that you are not anonymous, but are known to him. Believe that he can give you peace. Believe in his life-giving touch. Believe in his power to save. Believe that he truly cares about you. Believe that you are special to him. Believe and reach out to him in faith. Reach out to him in your pain and sorrow, your uncertainty and frustration. Reach out to him and receive the gifts of God which are given to the people of God. Reach out to him and believe that he is there for you and for me.
We don’t need to wait to go to him as a last straw, a last ditch effort to find comfort, peace and wholeness in our lives. We don’t need to face the struggles of life on our own. Jesus is always more ready to give than we are to ask. So, reach out to him in confidence, trusting that he will reach back. And may your faith make you well.
May your faith keep you close to the source of life and salvation, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.