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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Curse, Creation & Christ


 

"If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering." Mark 5:28-29


Before I started preparing this sermon, I did a quick survey of news stories on the BBC News website.

I wanted to see what proportion of news stories were about health or death.

 

So, I started counting - headlines only. And I found that 29% - nearly one third - of the 70 headlining stories on the BBC news website that hour were about health or death.

 

For comparison, 17% were about politics, another 17% about economics and 11% about crime - roughly speaking.

 

What that tells me is that health and death are substantial factors affecting our daily lives.

Not that I needed the BBC to confirm that for me – it is self-evident.

 

I feel like that’s important to point out at the beginning of this sermon, because in the passage, Jesus will complete his compendium of 4 powerful miracles by healing a diseased woman and raising a dead girl to life.


Remember what these miracles are about. They are Jesus demonstrating his God-ness in remarkable displays of power over four different, and very powerful, spheres of reality.

In the boat - on the lake - we saw him demonstrate his power over the natural - the wind and the waves.

On the other side of the lake, we saw him demonstrate his power over the super-natural - a legion of evil demons.

And today we’re going to see him demonstrate his power over the curse of sickness and over the curse of death.

 

In all these demonstrations, we are seeing Jesus not only exercise his power; we are seeing him exercise his power to gracious ends.

We’ve seen him save his disciples from the hurricane. We’ve seen him save a man from demon possession. And now we’re going to see him save a woman from bleeding and save a girl from death.

Jesus is always working to rescue his people from the powerful grip of a curse that has taken hold of the whole world.


God’s one requirement of Adam in the garden before his fall into sin, carried this one consequence:

when you eat from it [the tree], you will certainly die’. And so it has been ever since he ate from it. ‘Dust you are and to dust you will return’ – that was God’s verdict on Adam’s disobedience.

 

At that moment the creation was subjected to frustration and held in bondage to decay. Ever since then, the whole creation has been groaning, longing to be liberated from its bondage.

 

The pain and suffering of ill health and the reality of death are groans of that bondage. And who will set us free from that curse?!

 

That’s the cosmic background to this passage - cursed creation. It is not small – it’s massive. It is not light – it’s weighty. It is not trivial – it’s serious. And it affects us all!


So, let’s see what impact Jesus has when he arrives back at Capernaum having crossed back over from the area of the Garasenes, and is now greeted by a large crowd.

But not only by a crowd; greeted by a desperate man also.

 

His name is Jairus, you can see that in verse 22. He’s a synagogue leader. Not a professional cleric like the teachers of the law and Pharisees, but respected, nonetheless.

He’s a man who works, in his capacity as a synagogue leader, under the direction of the scribes and Pharisees. And of course, we know what theythink of Jesus.

They were the ones who opposed Jesus when he forgave and healed the paralysed man lowered on his mat through the roof.

They were the ones who opposed Jesus when he sat down to eat with Levi the tax collector.

They were the ones who opposed Jesus when his disciples didn’t fast like they did.

They were the ones who opposed Jesus when he and his disciples picked grain on the sabbath. And when Jesus healed the man with the shriveled hand on the sabbath.

And, they were the ones who accused Jesus of being possessed by Satan.

That’s not a small amount of opposition from the group that claim the allegiance of this man Jairus.

 

But, Jairus didn’t come to meet Jesus to oppose him. Jairus came because Jesus had power to heal, and he had heard of it. And now his own little daughter was dying.

Mark says in verse 23, Jairus came, and falling at Jesus’ feet, pleaded earnestly with him to come to his house where his daughter lay sick and to put his hands on her so that she would be healed and live.

 

Jairus seemingly cares nothing, right now, for his reputation amongst his leaders who hate Jesus. He cares only for the desperate condition of his daughter. And so, he comes desperately to Jesus. Because, he believes, that Jesus alone is his little girl’s hope. Without Jesus she will die. With one touch from Jesus - ‘put your hands on her’ - she will live!


The Greek word behind the word ‘live’ in verse 23 carries complete certainty. It’s the same word used in Luke 10:28 when the expert in the law came to Jesus and asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?

And when Jesus had extracted from him the essence of the law - to lovethe lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself - said to him ‘Do this and you will live’.

Jesus intended him to have no doubt that he would inherit eternal life if he loved God like that and his neighbour like that.

And the word Jairus uses to Jesus is that same word. He believes, with certainty, that if Jesus comes and touches his daughter she will live - and not die.


And then Mark says, ‘So, Jesus went with him’. Jairus makes his heart-felt and faithful appeal, and Jesus is ready to instantly go with him and do as Jairus asks.

 

Is there anybody who has gone to Jesus with a heart-felt need and with faithful trust that Jesus will rescue them from their sins? Not that he canrescue - but that he will! Take courage! ‘Jesus went with him’.

 

If you know your need and you believe he will, but you haven’t gone to him yet. This text says, you can go to him, and he will go with you, and he will rescue!


This looks good for Jairus and his daughter. Time was clearly running out for her. Why else would Jairus have come to Jesus so desperate, saying ‘my little daughter is dying’.

It looks good because now Jesus will arrive just in time to rescue her!


Except, that is, for an untimely interruption. Unbeknown to Jairus, he wasn’t the only desperate person in the crowd that day. There was another person.

A woman, not a man.

A poor person, not a wealthy one like the synagogue leader.

A woman who had spent all her money on doctors (v.26).

An outcast, not a respectable person like Jairus.

A woman who was barred from the synagogue because of a health condition that meant she was subject to constant menstrual bleeding (v.25).

The kind of condition that rendered her unclean in Jewish law and therefore unable to attend synagogue.

She was a woman who had experienced this condition for as long as Jairus’ daughter had been alive - 12 years (v.25).

And like Jairus, she had gone out of her way that day to find Jesus. And like Jairus, she believed that even just the simplest contact with Jesus would heal her - ‘because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed”’ (v.28).


So, Jesus was en-route to deal with Jairus’ desperate problem, but now he’s entwined with this desperate problem also.

The woman, believing that she would be healed - there’s that certainty again - ‘came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak’ (v.27).

And according to verse 29, ‘immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering’.

 

Such was the healing power of Jesus that no words were exchanged; no intentional acts performed; no engagement whatsoever. Only the connection between the woman’s hand and the garment Jesus was wearing over his shoulders to keep him warm.

And she immediately knew that she had been healed.


Now, nothing about any of that serves to get in the way of Jesus’ mission to get the Jairus’ daughter in time. The woman is healed; Jesus simply carries on his way; Jairus’ daughter is found alive; Jesus heals her by performing the second powerful deliverance from illness that day. And all is well. That’s what could have happened.

 

But it’s not what happened. Because, Jesus, realising that power had gone out from him - when the woman got healed - turned around and started asking the crowd who it was who touched his clothes (v.30).

 

This means that the ‘Jairus’ case has just been put on hold.

Jesus has power over another sphere to demonstrate. And this delay serves that purpose.

The disciples don’t know it, and so their question is slightly incredulous.

Verse 31 says that the disciples said to Jesus, ‘You see the people crowding against you…and yet you ask, who touched me’.

They are saying, ‘What answer do you expect? Everyone who’s close enough to touch you is touching you – look at the crowd master!’

Stopping to ask, ‘who touched me’ is not only wasting valuable time on this ‘life and death’ journey to Jairus’ daughter, but it’s completely pointless – ‘you’ll never get an answer Jesus!’.

 

Like so often with the disciples, they’re digesting everything that Jesus says as if he’s like one of them. The storm; the demoniac – they are ‘out of sight, and out of mind’ for them.

Have you ever been like this? You read a scripture promise in the morning and totally forget it just when you needed it in the afternoon.

You read a command that catches you in your sin in the morning, and completely forget it when you’re caught in the temptation that afternoon. I have.

We are like the disciples. We shouldn’t be - it’s not a good way to be. We need to be plugged in to the reality of Jesus in our lives, all the time. And they should have been, here.

 

But Jesus isn’t deterred by their incredulity. Verse 32 says ‘he kept looking around to see who had done it’.

It’s not clear what compelled the woman, but she came forward. Verse 33 says she ‘came and fell at his feet’ just like Jairus did at the beginning. Mark says, she was trembling with fear. Like the disciples had been after Jesus stilled the storm.

 

Evidently, experiencing the power of Jesus is awe inspiring; istrembling inducing. She knew, like the disciples had known in the boat, that she had had an encounter with God in that moment. She didn’t chalk it up to magic. She felt in her body the power of Jesus healing her. And she felt in her heart the power of God witnessing with her spirit that she had encountered God in the flesh!


Now, will Jesus make the search for the person who had touched him - to whom power had gone out of him (v.30) - will he make the pause in their journey to Jairus’ daughter, worthwhile?

Does he have some profound reason in mind to go out of his way like this?

Does he want to rebuke her - like he did the disciples in the boat?

Does he want to tell her to go and tell her community all about what he had done for her - like he told the demoniac to do?

It’s none of those things.

 

He wants to tell her to be freed from her suffering (v.34) - which it’s not like she didn’t already know. Verse 33, whilst Jesus was still looking for her, it says ‘she knew what had happened to her’.

So, I want to suggest why Jesus was so keen to encounter this woman who he had healed, even at the expense of getting to Jairus’ daughter in time.

 

I missed this point in the last message, and I don’t intend to commit the same blunder twice. Jesus could have let this whole thing pass by. He could have let the woman disappear into the crowd - healed and happy. But it seems to me that he wants to know her; not just to heal her.

 

It’s like the time he met the woman at the well. He wanted more for her than water to satisfy her thirst. He wanted her to encounter living water that would satisfy her heart. He is that living water.

He wants this woman not only to encounter his healing power; he wants her to encounter him.

 

That is to say, it is not saving faith to come to Jesus only to be rescued from hell, or only to get a heaven full of pleasures that you can get here on earth.

 

Saving faith demands a relationship with Jesus. A relationship where you want him. Where the best thing about being rescued from hell is: not having to be separated from Jesus forever. And where the best thing about heaven is: being able to walk closer and closer with Jesus for ever and ever.

 

Ask yourself, would you be happy to go to a heaven where Jesus wasn’t? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you probably don’t have saving faith. Saving faith, according to John is a ‘receiving of Jesus’ (John 1:12).

 

So, I think Jesus wants to look this woman in the eyes and say to her ‘I’m your Jesus and you’re my daughter. I love you and you must love me, for me - not just for healing. Your faith has healed you. You are freed from your suffering. You have peace. All on account of me. But I love you like a daughter too.

 

Jesus’ gospel is not a prosperity gospel, it’s a personal gospel. God wants you all to know Jesus personally. Walking with him day by day. Talking with him. Relying on him. Rejoicing in him. Overflowing with thankfulness to him. Resting in him. Crying out to him. Hoping in him.


Ok, what about Jairus and his daughter!

Well, just as Jesus was speaking these things to the woman, Mark says people from the household of Jairus came and said, ‘your daughter is dead’. And then they added, ‘Why bother the teacher any more?

They called him ‘teacher’ because in their minds he is not what he is in Jairus’ mind. And Jesus, interceding on Jairus’ behalf, in that moment, works quickly to bolster and underpin his faith.

He says to Jairus, ‘don’t be afraid just believe’. Luke adds, ‘…and she will be healed’. Death has a masterly grip on our souls. It’s a masterly grip that Hebrews says, Satan wields and by which he holds everyone in slavery.

 

I said a few weeks ago, Jesus doesn’t want his people to be gripped by anxiety. And he demonstrated that by his words to the disciples in the boat. And here he’s saying he doesn’t want his people to be gripped by the fear of death either.

The reason he’s saying that to us via the disciples, and now by Jairus is because, with Jesus in the boat there is nothing to be anxious about. And with Jesus on the scene there is nothing to fear - not even death. Why? Because Jesus can conquer even death. Jesus said about himself, ‘I amthe resurrection and the life’.

 

If that is true, then we don’t need to fear death. Do you ever try to think about your own death? Do you try to think how confident you want to be in your saviour Jesus, when that moment arrives?

I want to imagine what it will be like to groan for the last time and then to be with Jesus forever. I think it’s healthy to think like that. I think it’s healthy to think of death the way Jesus does here.

Watch how Jesus thinks of death.

 

Taking Peter, James and John, only, with him - that’s the first time he’s singled out these three - they came to the home of Jairus, verse 38, where there was a commotion. People – probably family - were weeping and wailing loudly and Jesus went in and said to them, ‘why all this commotion and wailing?’, verse 39, ‘the child is not dead but asleep’.

There it is!

Jesus regards death with the kind of finality that we regard sleep - namely not very final!

When you go to sleep, you expect to rise again. So far as Jesus is concerned anybody who depends on him need not fear death because they are more likely to rise from the dead than you are to wake up tomorrow morning. When you belong to Jesus that’s the kind of certainty we’re talking about!

With Jesus on the scene, the little girl is as good as asleep. Because, what Jesus commands he is powerful to create.

Having taken the girl’s parents into the room with the disciples, and having taken her by the hand, he spoke the words ‘Talitha koum - which means little girl, I say to you, get up! And immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around’.

To say to a dead person ‘get up’ is to command life. That’s what Jesus did, he commanded life and he created what he commanded. He overcame the power of the grave and imparted new life to that little girl.

 

If you belong to Jesus, when you die you are not dead. Your body is dead, you are not dead. And he will - no doubt about it - raise you up at the last day (John 6:54) with a new and perfected body capable of enjoying him forever.

This hope is the reason why Jesus can be so seemingly compassionlesswith the weepers and wailers. Only Jesus can say, ‘why all this commotion?’ to people who have just lost a beloved family member.

When Jesus is present and ‘for you’, there is no place for weeping and wailing! He delights to rescue people from death and translate them to eternal life.

 

And he wants his people to be more than just stoical in the face of death - even the world can manage that! He wants his people to rejoice in the face of death - saying ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory! Where O death is your victory; where O death is your sting’ (Hosea 13:14) - full of resurrection hope in Jesus.


So where does that leave us this week? It leaves some of us with crippling, debilitating illness that Jesus may not heal though we beg him repeatedly to be freed from it, and though we believe that he will heal us of it if it is his will.

And that’s not an unfaithful prayer to pray - it’s the prayer Jesus prayed in the garden! ‘Take this cup from me Father, yet not as I will but as you will’.

‘Take this illness from me Jesus, yet not as I will but as you will’. That’s a faithful prayer. If it wasn’t, Jesus couldn’t have prayed it.

It leaves some of us with friends or family members who are on the brink of death with no expectation that Jesus will raise them back to life, in this life.

 

So, what good can we take away from this that will feed our souls in the week ahead; that will shape our faith in the week ahead?

 

It is that the curse of sin and death has been lifted by Jesus - at the cross, once and for all, for all his people. It is that whilst we groan nowbecause of the effects of the curse on our bodies, and whilst our lives are like mist that vanishes in a moment, yet we do not grieve like those who have no hope. But we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecterof our faith who rose for our resurrection, and who will raise us up to be with him forever - free from sin and sickness forever.

 

And it tells us that Jesus cares very deeply for us in our current state. And though he may not free us from the suffering of illness, yet his grace is sufficient for us, and he will stick close as we walk through the darkest valleys of sickness and suffering this side of glory.

 

We are his sons and daughters, in short, and he knows how to bolster our faith when it is assailed, until at last we meet him face to face!

Free from sickness. Triumphant over death!

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