Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (B – Proper 8)

July 1, 2012

Text: Mark 5:21-43

The Lord sends us afflictions. There’s no use attempting to save Him from Himself or His own actions. The Lord sends us afflictions for our good. He bestows the holy cross upon us as a precious gift for our temporal and eternal welfare. Parents discipline their children. Parents challenge their children to teach them important lessons and impart or foster skills. God disciplines us as His dearly loved children, baptized into Christ. God molds us and shapes us into the cruciform image of His Son by placing challenges and difficulties, afflictions in our way, to exercise our faith. The Lord sends us afflictions. And He does this so that we will come to the end of ourselves and our own resources.[1] When all is well, we tend to forget our need for God, our utter reliance upon Him for every breath, for every heartbeat, our absolute dependence upon Him for our every good. We are not in the least self-reliant. But we think we are. So God sends us afflictions so that we die to ourselves and seek help and deliverance only from Him. Now, this may be difficult for your ears to hear, because you’re still trying to save God from Himself, to save Him from the responsibility for your afflictions. “God simply allows afflictions,” you may be objecting in your mind. “He certainly doesn’t send them.” Well, where is that in the Bible? It may be true in some sense that God allows afflictions to come our way from the devil or the world or our own sinful flesh, but He also suggested, for example, that the devil target His servant Job (1:8). When Job demanded that God justify Himself, His answer was essentially, “I’m God and you’re not, so I don’t owe you an explanation. You’re just going to have to trust that I know what I’m doing and that it will all end up for your good, because I’m a gracious God.” That’s it. No further explanation. God doesn’t pass the buck to the devil. The Lord sends us afflictions. And these afflictions He uses for our good, so that we cease trusting in ourselves and our own resources and cast ourselves upon the Lord alone for help in every time of need.

For twelve years in our text, a father delighted in his daughter, a precious gift from God, Daddy’s little girl. Then she became sick and died. For twelve years, the same twelve years I might add, a woman was afflicted with a discharge of blood. A feminine issue. It made her unclean, excluded from the community. She suffered much under many physicians. None of them could help. She lost all her money. She was at her wits end. The father, the woman, both had come to the end of themselves and their own resources. They could do nothing to better their situation. They could not save themselves. And here we come to the first reason God gives us the gift of afflictions in our earthly lives. We cannot save ourselves. It’s a hard lesson for us Pharisees to learn. We’re always trying to justify ourselves, to improve ourselves, to provide for ourselves, to save ourselves. Repent. When the Father lays a holy cross upon us, He doesn’t do it to so that we can save ourselves by suffering. He does it to show us that we absolutely cannot save ourselves. There is no self justification, no improvement that can earn merit before God, no help within ourselves. If we are to be justified God must do it. And He does, in the righteous life, sin-atoning death, and victorious resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. If we are to be saved, God must do it. And He does, in Christ. If the father and the woman in our text are to be helped, God must help them. And He does. He sends His Son, Jesus Christ.

The father runs to Jesus and falls at His feet, imploring Him earnestly, “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” (Mark 5:23; ESV). The Lord has compassion. He goes with the man. You see, our God may send afflictions, but He also suffers for and with us in our afflictions. That’s what the word “compassion” means. It means to suffer with the object of your compassion. Our Old Testament lesson says of our God that, “though he cause grief, he will have compassion… for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men” (Lam. 3:32-33). That’s interesting. He causes the grief and affliction according to the verse, but at the same time, in His compassion, it hurts Him to do so. He takes no delight in it. Like a parent, I suppose, who says when disciplining his child, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” The father was right to go to the Lord Jesus in his affliction, because Jesus is the Lord of compassion. So compassionate is He, that He takes on flesh and becomes one of us, to suffer and die for our sins. His cross is our salvation. Our crosses point us to our crucified Lord and shape us in His image. Our crosses drive us to prayer. The father knew Jesus could help. The father went to Jesus. We go to Jesus when we suffer affliction. For we know He will have compassion, and as we heard in our Old Testament (v. 23) and sang in the hymn, great is His faithfulness.

It must have been extremely frustrating to the father as they made their way through the crowd toward the sick little girl. Let’s get a move on, Jesus. Time is of the essence. All at once, Jesus stops. Someone touched Him. Actually, someone touched the hem of His garment. Now, the crowds are pressing Him all around. Lots of people are touching Him. The disciples point out the absurdity of the question when Jesus asks, “Who touched my garments?” (Mark 5:30). But someone has touched Jesus in faith. He could feel the power go out of Him. It was the woman. She, too, seeks Jesus as her only help. She comes in all humility. She reaches through the crowd, just to touch the edge of Jesus’ robe, because, she said to herself, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well” (v. 28). And it happens. The moment she touches Him, Jesus soaks up her uncleanness to be borne all the way to the cross, and the woman is healed, clean, whole. “And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease” (v. 29). “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Is. 53:4). Jesus stops, not to chastise the woman, but to praise her faith and to publicly bless her. “You came to the right place for healing. May it be for you as you believe.” “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Your faith has received the healing only I can give. “go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34). Praise be to God!

Well, this is all fine and good for the woman, but what about the father? “We’re wasting time here, Jesus.” And what happens? Servants come from the house. Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher? But the same Jesus who healed the woman’s affliction, taking her uncleanness into Himself and bestowing His healing and righteousness upon her, will also take this little girl’s death into Himself, and bestow upon her His life. “Do not fear, only believe,” He says to the distraught father (v. 36). She’s only sleeping. Death is but a slumber for those who die in the faith. Because Jesus will wake them up. Jesus will wake us all up on the Last Day, to live eternally. For now, the Lord of life enters the room of the dead little girl, takes her cold and lifeless hand and says to her, “Talitha cumi… Little girl, I say to you, arise” (v. 41). And the little girl arises. She’s alive. She’s healthy. She’s hungry. Get her something to eat. Jesus restores the little girl to her parents. Peter, James, and John are eyewitnesses of the whole thing. She who was dead, now lives. It’s only a temporal resurrection. The girl will die again, later, when she’s old. But her resurrection here points forward to our Lord’s victorious and eternal bodily resurrection from the dead on Easter, and our own eternal, bodily resurrection from the dead when our Lord awakens us on the Last Day.

Why did God send these afflictions upon the father and his precious little daughter… upon the woman in our text who suffered for twelve years with a disease that made her an outcast? Why does God send us afflictions? Law and Gospel, beloved. The Law: We have no power to save ourselves or help ourselves in any way. On our own, we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). The Gospel: God has compassion. He sends the afflictions for our good. And He will deliver us. Perhaps now, in this earthly life, as He healed the woman and raised the little girl.  Then again, maybe not.  He has not promised us temporal healing from every affliction. But certainly on the Last Day, in the resurrection of all flesh, when we will receive our eternal healing, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. In the meantime, afflictions are a discipline for us. Despairing of ourselves, we run to Christ alone for help and salvation. Great is His faithfulness. He will always help us. He will always grant us the true healing of the forgiveness of our sins by means of the medicine that is the Gospel. He will always deliver to us eternal life and salvation. The Lord sends us afflictions. Don’t excuse Him for this, or try to justify Him. Certainly don’t despise Him for it. Rejoice in it. He gives them in love. For our good. Even as He afflicted His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary for our ultimate good, our very salvation. He did not leave His Son in death. Christ is risen. He will not leave you in death, either. Do not fear; only believe. There is an end to your afflictions. Great is God’s faithfulness to you. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This concept comes from the Rev. Mark Love.

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