Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our text for today is from Mark 5:21-43. Today’s Gospel Reading picks up a little bit after last week’s reading. You might remember last week’s Gospel Reading—the famous story of Jesus calming the storm. It’s the story where Jesus and his disciples are going to cross over the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is tired, so he decides to take a nap on the boat. But while they’re in the middle of the lake, a storm breaks out. The wind and the waves are crashing against the boat and the disciples are starting the freak out because they think the boat is going to capsize. Jesus, of course, is still sleeping. So, in a panic, the disciples go wake Jesus up and say, “We’re about to drown! Do something!” So, Jesus gets up, rebukes wind, and says to the sea, “Peace, be still.” And the disciples were utterly amazed at what Jesus had done. That’s where our Gospel Reading for last week ends. But between that reading and our reading for today, there’s another important, fairly well-known story. So, as soon as Jesus and his disciples finish crossing the lake, the come to the region of the Gerasenes—a non-Israelite territory. And they’re met by a man who is demon possessed. This man will later identify himself as “Legion.” And the demons possessing this man recognize Jesus as the Son of God. So, they plead with him to have mercy on them and to not send them to the abyss, but rather to allow them to inhabit the herd of pigs down the way. So, Jesus agrees, and as you might recall, the demons go into the pigs and cause them to charge off the cliff and into the sea where they drown. The pig herders are naturally not very happy about this, so they go back to town and tell everyone there what happened. And a group of people from the town come and ask Jesus to leave. It’s into this context that our reading is set. Jesus and his disciples get back into the boat to cross back into Israelite territory, where our story picks up.
2. So, Jesus gets out of the boat and he is met by a crowd (as is the case in most places he went in Israel). But among the crowd, one man stood out—a man named Jairus. Jairus was an important man in town. He was the ruler of the local synagogue. And he stood out in the crowd because he came running to Jesus, flung himself down at his feet, and began to plead with him: “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.” You can almost hear the desperation in his voice. Any parent who has dealt with a child’s serious illness can understand how he must have felt—desperate, tired, exhausted in every sense of the word. But in Jesus he found an inkling of hope. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus could help his daughter. So, Jesus agreed to Jairus’ pleas and went with him as a large crowd followed. A spark of hope was kindled in Jairus. But it’s at this moment that the story is strangely interrupted by another story—the story of a woman who was dealing the a discharge of blood for the past 12 years. She had spent all of her money and all of her time trying in vein to find a cure for her illness. You have to imagine how she too was desperate, tired, and exhausted in every sense of the word. But in Jesus she found an inkling of hope. So, she said to herself, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” So, she does this. She sneaks up through the crowd, touches the edge of Jesus’ garment, and immediately she is healed. She can just feel it in her body that her illness is gone. So, timidly, she slips away into the crowd. But Jesus realizes something has happened. And it’s interesting the way that Mark describes Jesus in his moment. This is one of Jesus most human moments in all of the Gospels. He knows that something happened. He can feel that power went out from him, but he doesn’t seem to know exactly what happened. So, he gets all paranoid and starts turning around trying to figure out who touched him. His disciples, of course, were kind of confused about why Jesus was so worked up. There was a huge crowd around Jesus. What do you mean, “Who touched me?” Everyone is touching you! But Jesus was insistent. So, finally, the woman, presumably feeling guilty, comes to Jesus and confesses what has happened. And Jesus, probably with a big smile on her face, says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” And so, Jesus has brought healing to this tired, exhausted woman who believed in him. But, back to the story of Jairus and his daughter. Someone from Jairus’ house shows up to give him an update on his daughter. He says, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” The small spark of hope that Jairus had felt a few minutes earlier was now completely crushed. And in what was probably one of his greatest moments of despair, Jesus said to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” So, Jesus leaves the crowd behind and takes with him Peter, James, and John and goes with Jairus to his house. When he gets there, there’s a big crowd, weeping and making a commotion was they mourn the death of Jairus’ daughter. So, Jesus says to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” Then he sends the crowd away, and enters the house with the three disciples and the girl’s parents. And going to her bedside, Jesus took her by the hand and said to her in Aramaic, “Talitha cumi” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise”). And immediately the girl stood up as it nothing had happened. And immediately those watching were overcome with amazement. This is where our text ends. Jesus brought healing to two people who were tired and exhausted by the struggles of life.
3. As we reflect on this reading, there’s a question that I find myself asking: How do these two stories relate to one another? From a story-telling perspective, the placement of these two stories, one inside of another, seems strange. Mark could have told the stories separately. But he didn’t because there’s something about the stories together that is important. And we can see what that message is by looking at the words Jesus speaks to Jairus and to the woman. To the woman, he says, “Your faith has made you well; depart in peace.” He speaks of faith and peace. To Jairus, he says, “Do not fear” (fear, of course being the opposite of peace). In other words Jesus says, “Have peace (do not fear), only believe—have faith.” And so, faith and peace are at the center of these stories. These stories show us that Jesus comes to those who are tired and exhausted by the struggles of this life and he offers them peace and healing through faith in him.
4. My friends, the same is true for you today. Jesus offers you peace and healing through faith in him. The way that he goes this is different for each person. We all have various struggles, but he meets us where we are. Maybe it’s spiritual struggles that you’re going though. If that’s you, the resurrected Jesus offers you new life in His Word where he assures you that he has conquered the powers of sin and the devil and that this victory is yours through faith in him. Maybe it’s emotional struggles that you’re going through. If that’s you, the resurrected Jesus offers you new life in His Sacrament where he offers us himself to strengthen us for this life, as he says “Depart in peace.” Maybe it’s physical struggles that you’re going through. If that’s you, the resurrected Jesus offers you new life in His Resurrection. Maybe we’ll experience healing in this life, maybe not. But we all have the promise that one day he will take us by the hand and say, “I say to you, arise to new life in my eternal kingdom.” Wherever you find yourself in life, whatever struggles you have, let these stories be a reminder to you that Jesus offers healing, peace, and salvation to his children through faith in him. It’s with confidence that his Word, Sacrament, and Resurrection bring us new life that we rest in him.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.