Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 28, 2009
Text: Mark 5:21-43
Jesus comes to us in the midst of our very uncleanness and death. He comes with His cleanness, with His healing, and His life. And He takes our uncleanness into Himself. This is the good news that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the good news proclaimed in our Gospel lesson this morning. Jesus comes to Jairus’ daughter in the midst of death. Jesus comes to the woman with the issue of blood in the midst of her bleeding. And understand that both of these things, death and blood, are considered unclean to a good Jew. According to Levitical law, you don’t touch blood and you don’t touch someone with a feminine issue, and most of all you don’t touch death unless you absolutely have to. But that’s just what is so shocking about Jesus. He becomes unclean for us, that we might be made clean with His cleanness. Not only does He eat with tax collectors and sinners, He brings His healing touch to the woman with the issue of blood, and His life-giving touch to the little girl who has died. “In the very midst of life Snares of death surround us” (LSB 755:1). And yet, in the very midst of blood and death and the sin that causes it all, our holy and mighty God, our holy and all-merciful Savior, our eternal Lord God comes, in the flesh, to become one with us, to take our diseases and our death and our sin into Himself, to take them to the cross, and so to deliver us and grant us abundant and eternal life.
Jairus is a father at his wits end. A powerful man. A synagogue ruler. Demanding the respect and honor of the people, he is a man to be reckoned with. And here is his beloved daughter, Daddy’s little girl, sick unto death, dying. He can’t kiss it and make it better. He would do anything for his daughter, pay any price, jump any hurdle, even give himself in her place, if only it were possible. What about this Jesus we’ve heard so much about. Jesus’ reputation precedes Him. He does miracles. He heals people. Yes, that’s the ticket. If I can only get Jesus to come and lay His hands on my daughter before it is too late.
Jairus doesn’t send a mere servant to fetch Jesus. He goes himself, runs to the Teacher. It isn’t easy. Jesus is pressed on all sides. Jesus is a popular man. Everyone wants a piece of Him. Jairus has to fight his way through the crowd. He falls at Jesus’ feet. “Teacher, come quick! My daughter is dying! She may be breathing her last as we speak! There’s no time to lose!” Getting up, he grabs Jesus by the hand and fights His way again through the crowd again. But the crowd won’t make way. They’re still jostling around Jesus, pressing Him, trying to get near Him, to touch Him. It makes for slow progress.
And then something really strange happens. Jesus stops. He turns and says, “Who touched my garments?” (Mark 5:30; ESV). Now picture this scene for just a moment. The crowd surrounding Jesus is pressing Him on every side. Not only are they touching His garments, they’re touching His body! The disciples can hardly believe the question: “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” (v. 31). But of course, Jesus is omniscient, all-knowing. He knows what no one else does, that there is in the crowd a woman who has had an issue of blood for twelve years. She has suffered much at the hands of physicians. She’s tried every treatment. She has no other hope. But, she thought to herself, if I can just reach through the crowd and brush the hem of Jesus’ garment, then I’ll be healed. That is faith, beloved. This woman trusts Jesus, and Jesus alone for help and healing. She, too, had heard of Jesus of Nazareth and the healing miracles He had performed. She heard and she believed. She placed all her hope in Jesus. She had nothing left otherwise. So she went through with her plan. She reached out and touched His garment. And at the same time that she felt within herself renewed energy and life and vigor, Jesus felt the power go out of Him. It was a power clearly summoned by faith. At that moment the woman’s uncleanness passed to Jesus, and Jesus’ cleanness passed to the woman. It is a blessed exchange. “Who touched my garments?” It’s not as though Jesus doesn’t know. But now He’s calling for a confession of faith. He wants to recognize this woman, He wants the crowd and us to see her as a model of faith, and He wants to bless her publicly. The woman falls down before Him with fear and trembling and confesses the whole truth. Now the disciples know the whole story. Jesus’ question is not crazy. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (v. 34).
But while Jesus heals this daughter of God, Jairus’ daughter enters the valley of the shadow of death. While Jesus is still speaking, some come from Jairus’ house: “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” (v. 35). There was still hope while the daughter was alive. There was evidence that Jesus could heal the sick. But Jairus and his companions are convinced that death is the end of hope. Imagine how angry Jairus must have been that Jesus wasted so much time helping this woman who had been sick for twelve years and surely could have waited a few more minutes, while Jairus’ daughter lay in bed slipping away! Didn’t I tell you time was of the essence, Jesus?! But now it’s too late! There’s nothing You can do!
Jesus doesn’t do anything by accident. Remember the story of Lazarus (John 11)? Jesus hears that His friend Lazarus is sick, near death, and what does He do? He stays where He is and continues teaching for two more days. In the meantime, Lazarus dies! Mary and Martha, the man’s two sisters, both chide Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32). It’s true. But Jesus doesn’t do anything by accident. “I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe… I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (vv. 15, 25-26). Jesus, of course, raises Lazarus from the dead, showing that He has the power over death, the authority to call the dead back to life. Jesus shows that death cannot hold Him. It is a foreshadowing of His own resurrection from the dead, as well as the Day when He will call all of us forth from the grave, raise us from the dead, never to die again. So, too, with the little girl, Jairus’ daughter. It didn’t happen by accident that the little girl died before Jesus came to her. This happened that God may be glorified, and that the bystanders, the disciples, Jairus, you, might believe. “Do not fear,” Jesus says, “only believe” (Mark 5:36).
You know the rest of the story. Jesus comes to the house, sends everyone away except Peter, James, and John and the little girl’s parents, takes the little girl by the hand (and remember, this makes Him unclean), and says to her, “Talitha cumi… Little girl, I say to you, arise” (v. 41). And she rises. She’s alive. She’s as alive as she was before she got sick. She’s even hungry. She eats. Only living people eat. She’s walks. She talks. She’s twelve years old, which incidentally is the same amount of time the woman had her flow of blood. Jesus restores her as He restored the woman. He takes the uncleanness of blood and death into Himself and gives in exchange His cleanness and life.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Is. 53:4). Beloved in the Lord, the Lord has taken your uncleanness, your sin, your death into Himself, and given you His cleanness, His righteousness, His life in exchange. He took your uncleanness, your sin, your death and nailed it in His body on the cross. He rose again to eternally give you His cleanness, His righteousness, His life. Do not fear. Only believe. For faith receives the gifts of the Savior. God has become one with you in the flesh of Christ Jesus. He has come into the midst of your mess, your despair, your worries and fears, your hurts, your trials and temptations, your sin, your very death, and He speaks His healing Word. He cleans you up in Baptism. He touches you, really and truly, with His very body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Do not fear. Only believe. Jesus will one day say to you, “Arise.” On that Day, all your prayers will be answered with God’s yes, all your diseases healed. Your death is but a sleep. And if Jesus has defeated our last and fiercest enemy, death (and He has!), then what is every other trial and cross? Luther writes:
We should, then, learn from this gospel that all misfortune, no matter how
great it appears before thine eyes, is before our Lord Jesus less than nothing. For
since death in a Christian is nothing, then blindness, leprosy, pestilence, and other
sickness must be still smaller and of less import. Therefore, if Thou seest sin,
sickness, poverty, or anything else in thee, do not let this terrify thee; close thy
carnal eyes and open the spiritual ones, and say: I am a Christian, and I have a
Lord who with one word can stop all this foolishness; why should I be so seriously
worried about it? For certain it is, as easily as Christ helps this maiden out of bodily death, in which she was lying, so easily will He help us also, if only we believe and trust Him to help us.
Your Lord Jesus will help you in every time of need. He is faithful, even when you are faithless. He is always there with His forgiveness, life, and salvation. You can always locate Him in His Word and Sacrament. You can always touch Him there and be healed. And you can know, without a doubt, that He is always eager and ready to hear your prayers for help in time of need. He will always deliver. He may not deliver you in the way you want or according to your timetable. But remember, Jesus does nothing by accident. He will always do what is best for you, that God may be glorified, and that you may believe. And believing, you have life in His Name. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Quoted in Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: New Testament Vol. I (St. Louis: Concordia, n.d.) p. 191.