Mark 5:21-35 Faith, its a risky business
Faith. What is it? How do we get it?
It’s a great question.
When I speak to people in the Valley, I get the impression sometimes that they see faith as a suspension of logic, a belief that something impossible has happened, like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland,
“Alice says; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
But faith in Jesus Christ isn’t like that. It isn’t mainly, it isn’t first and foremost a belief in a correct version of history or an orthodox view of theology; a belief that Jesus was raised from the dead and that he died for our sins; what the Red Queen might call belief in an impossible thing or idea….
Certainly faith is partly that, a belief that what Christianity says about Jesus Christ is true.
But in my view that is not the most important thing about Christian faith; is not the starting point of faith.
The most important thing about Christianity is trust. Trust in Jesus, trust in a person.
Faith is, as I said last week at our Parish Communion:
trust that He is present and active
trust that he has the power to change our situation
trust that he cares about us.
But where do we get that trust from? We need to look at this passage from Mark.
The first striking thing about the passage is that it is a story within a story.
There is the story about Jairus, the very important person, the leader of the synagogue.
And then, within that story, there is the story about the social outcast, the woman with the issue of blood.
BOTH are desperate! And their desperation drives them to take the most colossal risk.
In the case of Jairus, he kneels at Jesus’ feet in front of everyone. In the culture in which they lived, which prized honour, it was shameful for someone in his position, someone of his social standing to throw themselves at the feet of this itinerant preacher, but he is desperate, desperate that his daughter gets better and he is willing to try anything.
In the case of the woman, she has been a social outcast for 12 years. Even today in Subsaharan Africa girls cannot go to school if they have their period because it is thought to be so shameful and this woman has had this condition not for a couple of days a month but continuously for 12 years and in Jewish society she was unclean, a social outcast, even though she had tried so hard to solve the problem and entrusted herself to doctors, who let her down.
So for her to be in the company of the crowd was taking a huge risk; a risk of being humiliated, being openly declared to be an outcast, being mocked and rejected, as she had probably been so many times in the past but she was desperate to solve this problem. But because there are so many people crushing round Jesus she thinks she will get away without being noticed, so she approaches Jesus from behind hoping just to catch the edge of his cloak.
And then she is healed.
And Jesus notices that the power has gone out of him.
Then when she wants to slink away into the crowd she feels compelled to do something even more risky which is to come forward and declare before Jesus, declare before everyone that she has been healed.
The crowd opens and in fear and trembling she falls down before him and tells him what happened.
Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, commends her on her faith and tells her to go in peace.
Have you seen what has happened? She had no idea who she was dealing with! She had tried every type of doctor, lost all her money. She is desperate and decides to try Jesus. But she gets much much more than she bargains for.
She is not only healed, but given peace. She is healed of her fear.
He gives her the honour of speaking to her personally, the outcast; in front of everyone. And he cures her not only of her disease but of her fear and the ostracism which has kept her out of society.
Its the same with Jairus. The commotion with the woman has delayed Jesus and the daughter has died. Jairus has taken a huge risk in falling down before him. But who did Jairus think Jesus was?
A miracle working great religious leader? A good doctor?
Whatever he thought, he takes the risk but he is starting to get rattled. He has probably been rattled by the delay caused by the healing of the woman and then the people from his home come to him and say that his daughter has died ‘why trouble the teacher any further?’
Do you notice the tone of those words? Perhaps a criticism; perhaps some slight mockery: ‘Sir, you have made a fool of yourself. Shame on you. Now come home and get out of the sight of all these people. She’s dead….you are being embarrassing…
But Jesus says ‘Don’t fear, only believe’. And ignoring the sidelong glances of his servants who are thinking ‘The master has gone cuckoo’, Jairus travels home with Jesus trusting, hoping against hope, taking an even bigger risk of humiliation and loss of face if Jesus cannot do this impossible thing of raising her from the dead….
And then Jesus brings his daughter back to life!
Suddenly, in Jairus’s eyes, Jesus is not just a teacher but someone who has power over death at whose command even the laws of nature are turned upside down.
Jairus has by taking the risk of trusting him, discovered who Jesus is discovered that He is God the creator because no-one else has power over death.
We don’t really discover who Jesus is, until we have trusted him.
When people speak to me about their fragile faith, I want to say ‘do you trust him?’ ‘have you trusted him?’
Because when we do trust him when we are desperate, we soon discover how much bigger, how much greater he is than we could possibly have thought, and our lives are transformed.
A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “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.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,”which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.