+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Mark 5:21-43
Theme: Powerful, but not Showy
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Jesus was never showy. He was not gaudy. It’s a reality we shouldn’t lose sight of. He never summoned a crowd or emotionally manipulated one. He had many opportunities to do it. More than once He arranged for privacy before performing a miracle. Part of the reason may be practical. Without crowd control things can quickly get out of hand. Primarily though, He was motivated by humility which is the truest expression of His nature. You cannot be both authentically humble and ostentatious at the same time. “The son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”1
In today’s gospel Jesus had two opportunities to make a spectacle. Instead He showed grace and propriety. Two desperate people sought Him. One was a distressed member of society’s elite whose daughter was dying, the other a woman whom the physicians had no power to cure. Jesus was a magnet for the misplaced, displaced, the downtrodden and the desperate. Many sought Him in curiosity. But those who hungered for healing and thirsted for relief sought Him in faith. Jesus was gentle with the frail, corrective of the wayward, firm with the arrogant, patient with hapless; but He was dismissive of no one. He desired no one to remain in the darkness of unbelief.
Both Jairus and the woman with bleeding disregarded cultural expectations and made themselves vulnerable to Christ’s mercy. Neither was disappointed. At twelve years of age the daughter of Jairus was on the cusp of marriageable age for her culture. Christ’s resuscitation of her restored her not only to her family, but to society. The unnamed woman who was subject continual bleeding for 12 years was only made poor and worse by the doctors. Christ restored to the worshipping community and to society. She was no longer unclean. She was no longer a burden to society.
Dear friends, as we meditate on the on the compassion Christ displayed today the last thing we should do is think, “Thank goodness I’m not in need like those people were!” If you fancy yourself to be a pretty naturally pious person you’d better pause for a reality check. Every sickness, every anxiety, every doubt is a complication of sin. And none of us are immune. God’s holy law doesn’t permit a single transgression. One wayward thought, one false motive, one misstep and we are liable under the whole law. The corrupted nature we have from the moment of conception makes it impossible. The salty well doesn’t produce fresh water. The salt must be removed. We’re gathered here as sinners. If that were not the case the main purpose of being here would already be obsolete.
Desperation often drives decisive action. When caution is thrown foolishly to the wind the results can be disastrous. It’s wise to check for your parachute before jumping out of an airplane at 30,000 feet! Satan tried to convince Christ to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple relying on the angels to break His fall. Jesus responded, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”2 But the reckless testing of God is not the same as a leap of faith. The leap of faith, properly understood, involves relinquishing the tight control we like to have over our own affairs and leaving ourselves to the providence of God. God will not abandon us. He will not ignore us. He is not too impotent to help us.
We’re gathered here as sinners, but we are forgiven sinners; redeemed. The Bible has another word for it and the word is saints. A saint is a ‘holy one’. We are made holy through the Lamb’s blood. So we are also gathered here as saints. Paul addresses the Christians in Philippi as saints.”3He is not speaking to the deceased, nor is he talking to some class of superior-Christians. He is addressing the baptized (and through them, those who would be baptized). Yes, saints are full of fears, faults, and foibles. They often feel helpless, hapless, and hopeless. Saints are not morally blameless or superior; they rely solely on grace. They cherish the cross and rejoice in the empty tomb. Do we pity the woman who desperately sought Jesus, or do we identify with her? Does the anxious Jairus resonate with us?
In the body of Christ it’s not a matter of us and them. We all need and participate in the same blessings of God. Every time we walk by that font we should remember that God has redeemed us through that font (or one similar) and brought us into His family. In baptism God drowns our natural piety (which is nothing more than selfishness in disguise) along with the flagrant sins which open us to guilt and God’s condemnation, and He breathes new life into us through the Spirit. He seizes us from the darkness of Satan’s grasp. Every time we kneel at the communion rail we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes4. We confess by our reception of His body and blood that forgiveness and life are found in His sacrifice.
Through these gifts God makes us-spiritually poor souls- rich in His grace. It’s a generosity we have the privilege to mirror, as St. Paul speaks of today. It would be difficult to make a convincing argument that in the West the standard of living in regards to material things was higher 25 years ago, 50 years ago, or 100 years ago than it is today. People have more stuff than ever before and always seem to be looking for more. It doesn’t mean life is safer, more stable, or more meaningful; often less so. But it’s a measure of the things we value. Support for the proclamation of the gospel locally or for missionary activity overseas continues to decline in parallel with the decline of faith. Yet, in other parts of the world Christianity is flourishing and people are crying out for resources to teach them the faith. The generosity of God’s people cannot be driven by guilt or brow-beating. Such measures are not only short-lived, but counter-productive in the long run. “We love because He first loved us.”5
The raising of Jairus’ daughter points to Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead. Lazarus too, is yet to be raised. Christ is not a limited worker of signs and wonders pointing to someone or something greater. He is the Lord of life and death. In the person of Christ someone greater than Solomon had arrived. In the person of Christ something greater than the temple was present. The same Jesus lives and intercedes for you and me. The same Redeemer will come again in glory. Meanwhile, His presence is mostly made known through very ordinary-seeming acts of love. Of course, there’s nothing ordinary about the cross.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
28 June, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Mark 10:45
2 Matthew 4:7
3 See Philippians 1:1
4 See 1 Corinthians 11:26
5 1 John 4:19