Calling the Dead to Life

Scriptures: Mark 5:21-43

As I looked at today’s passages, I noticed something. I noticed they look kind of similar to previous ones. Oh, there are different settings and different people; but the same thread runs through them all. Desperate people, all in need of saving – in need of healing and new life.

Several weeks ago we had the paralytic, who was given a new life and opportunity now that he could walk and (as it said) was made whole. Peter’s mother-in-law, made well and whole, and able to serve Christ in her home.

Matthew, given a new lease on life as someone once again close to God, and made whole in heart and mind as he was called to follow and serve Jesus – and he invited a whole lot of others to come with him!

There was the story of the disciples in the boat overnight – not read by us, but mentioned in a sermon – saved from death by Christ, panicked and desperate, and reminded about what faith should be like. That was followed by the man in the tombs, which I did preach on, and the whole new life he was given by Christ.

Freed from bondage and madness, freed from self-destruction and self-hate, and given a purpose and direction after being made whole in order to carry out the task of spreading the good news and serving Christ.

Great “teachings”, touching all kinds of peoples in all walks of life. Today’s story isn’t any different. Once again, we see Jesus bringing life, and light to people who are desperate; people who see nothing but darkness, death and pain in their future, and turn to Jesus as their only hope.

First, there is a man. He was an important man; a wealthy man; a respected man, ruler of the synagogue. He was the kind of guy that Tevye dreamed of becoming in Fiddler on the Roof when he sang that song “If I were a rich man!”

He is the kind of guy who knew what the score was, and no doubt knew how the Jewish leaders felt about Christ. But his daughter is dying. So he lays down his pride, his reputation, and perhaps his future, and goes to not just ask, but to fall on his knees and beg Jesus to come and touch her.

And he did it publicly, in the midst of a large crowd of residents there – the same ones who looked up to him, or perhaps envied him, and maybe even feared him. Because he was desperate. And Jesus said “yes.” He would come.

As we begin that, we then have an interlude. There are a lot of scholars that I have read that have said they really don’t understand the insertion of this story in the middle. It breaks up the story of Jairus and his daughter. Why couldn’t they just have had it one after the other?

But I think there’s a reason for that. The main character here is almost as far apart from Jairus as you could get. First, she was a woman. While I believe totally in the equality of males and females, back in that day, it wasn’t so. One of the prayers that every Jewish male said when he woke up in the morning was “Thank you, Lord, that I am not a woman, a Gentile, or a slave.”

She was also a poor person, having spent all of her money on doctors, and as noted by the liturgist, an unclean person because of her constant issue of blood. You see, culturally they would have expected her to either stay away, or to warn everyone around of her presence so they can avoid her, much as lepers did.

But she is desperate, too. As desperate for life and healing as Jairus is. So she slips through the crowd, covered up so no one will recognize her and force her away – perhaps even crawling at some points to get in and get close.

Close enough not to touch Jesus – that would have been too much, because he was too holy and powerful! Just close enough to touch the hem of his cloak. Although the actual word that is translated “hem” refers to the fringes, or tassels (called tzitziyot in Hebrew), required to be on the four corners of all clothing of Jewish men, in accordance with God’s instruction in Numbers.

As Ray Vanderlaan says in Echoes of His Presence, on page 72

Even the prophet Z’karyah spoke about the significance of these tassels and the power of faithfulness. People would reach out and grab the tassels of a person they knew was faithful, said the prophet, acknowledging that God was with him.

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days, ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem [tassels] of his robe and say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.”‘”

“Messiah will have healing in the tassels of his robe,” said the rabbi at their synagogue. “That was what Malachi the prophet meant when he said the Messiah will have healing in his wings.”

In Jesus’ day, it was the opinion of many scholars and rabbis that the wings were the edges of the Messiah’s cloak, that all you had to do was touch the tassels of his cloak and be healed.

Knowing that history, knowing that story, knowing her Scriptures she reaches out to touch Jesus. She hoped to fulfill or follow the proverbs and prophesies which spoke of the healing that could happen – if only she could reach him. And she did. And she was.

She was healed and made whole – remember, she had been losing blood steadily for twelve years. I am certain she was anemic, weak, and probably in pain. But she touched him, and was cured. And Jesus knew it.

It says “He felt the power go out of Him”, and he asked “who touched me?” (which seemed really weird in the huge crowd that was there, as the disciples themselves mentioned). Now, I think he knew who touched him. I think he knew what had happened.

But you see, while the woman had been made well, her restoration was not complete. She needed to be accepted by the community once again. She needed to be recognized as clean, and well. She needed the standing to be able to get the help she would need to get back on her feet.

So Jesus forces her to own up to what she did – something we might think is embarrassing her in public, and really rude if done today. We might ask, why did he put her through that? But God’s ways are not our ways, and she needed this. So did the people around her, as they got to see what real faith looked like. And thus, new life was brought into being for this nameless woman. Her suffering was finished.

The passage goes on. Jairus is still there, I am sure. Probably impatient. Probably trying not to yell or scream in anger that this unimportant, unclean, poor, lonely, single woman was taking up Jesus’ valuable time and power. I mean, what if it made them too late?

Sure enough, the word comes. They are too late. Others come and tell him to not bother Jesus anymore, because his daughter is dead. At that moment, Jairus’ world comes crashing down around him. Some of you have lost a child.

Whether to illness or accident, it is one of the worst pains you can feel. Some of the worst grief you can experience. There was a woman in my care once who lost a child, and she told me, “We aren’t supposed to bury them. They are supposed to bury us. We are not ready for this, and it isn’t fair!”

No. It isn’t fair. And yet Jesus had a message for Jairus. “Don’t worry, Jairus. Only believe.” When he gets to the house, where the professional mourners are, he says, “She is only asleep,” to comfort him. And the mourners, who came to help enunciate the pain and grief of the family, immediately began trying to mock Jesus, to try to shut him up.

The world often does that. You must do as they say; believe what they think; follow their ways. But Christ calls us to be different. He calls us to believe in life, even when the world thinks there is nothing but death, and pain.

He put out those mourners. I love that phraseology. He “put out the mourners.” Kind of reminds me of how you put out the dog. It shows the kind of force and authority that he had, as he put these people out on the street. Kicked them out of the house.

He took those disciples and the parents upstairs. Then he told the girl to get up and come. It is one of the few Aramaic phrases that Mark includes, and much has been made of it. But to me, it is almost anti-climactic. He tells her to come, and she does.

Isn’t that what Jesus does, throughout all his ministry, telling people to come? And they do, and their lives are changed.

From beyond illness, from beyond death itself, she comes to a new life and purpose. You see, this is what happens when Jesus touches you. And think about what it did for her dad. Desperate to believe, desperate to know, desperate to not lose the love that he has.

From the pit of despair and the darkness of death, he sees his life renewed as his daughter is; sees his faith restored as Jesus drives out the mourners, and then has it rewarded as she gets up from the bed.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it said in the first verse of Mark. Yeshua – his real name (Jesus is a Greek version of it) means “the one who saves”. Saving a girl from death, a woman from debilitating disease, and a man from despair.

Saving you, and me, from much the same. Because the root of it all is sin. The death that comes from our sin natures, and the wages we earn with every failure, every rebellion, and every time we bow to the world. Every time we accept the bondage of sin, and sink a little lower into the darkness.

But Jesus can – and will! – lift us up, if we only believe. He will give us wings like eagles, so that we can soar in our new life of love and life; serving the one who has set us free. The one who has given us abundant life through Him, and the chance to share that joyous tiding with others. All because He loves us. He loves you. He loves me.

From beyond time, from beyond the grave, he came to make us His own. Think about that! Savor the thought! How can you not have joy? How can you not be excited? Unlike those parents, we don’t have to be silent; in fact we are told to share!

You know, that’s one of those things that strikes me as odd. I understand why he did it, intellectually. In the Gospel of Mark, he told people not to share what he had done, as it kept people guessing who he was.

But think about that. If you have this miracle happen to you, like the paralytic man, like the demoniac, or this girl who is raised. Think if you have someone who was sick and is healed instantly, supernaturally, miraculously, and then the doctor came and said, “But don’t tell anybody.”

I don’t think so! I’m going to tell everybody. I’m going to tell everybody why I have this great joy. Isn’t it great, that we’ve actually been told to share? We don’t have to be secret in our faith, in our belief, in our understanding.

In fact, we shouldn’t be secret in our faith, in our belief, and in our understanding. There is nothing to hide, and nothing to lose that Christ hasn’t already redeemed. So be bold, dedicated in following Jesus, His Word, and His way.

Share the good news of the Gospel with those around you. And the life, the resurrection life that we get to share in. It is so simple, yet so profound. Kind of like the touch of Jesus itself. There for you to grab hold of, and be cleansed and freed. To be given life and eternity.

Grave, where is thy victory? Death where is thy sting? Live! Live for Christ! Live the light and life you have been given! And give praise to the Father in heaven for all He has done with the Son and the Spirit, and bring honor to His name, forever and ever. Amen.

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