Embracing a faith that is willing to take risks!  

Embracing a faith that is willing to take risks!

Pentecost 6
Pastor Mitch Coggin June 30, 2024 Pentecost

In the first story we read from the Gospel of Mark passage, Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, is desperate to find Jesus. Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter is at the point of death and he begs Jesus to follow him to his home, “Come and lay your hands on her so that she may be made well and live.”

Jairus’ job as synagogue leader was to keep the crowds away from Jesus, whose new ideas represented a threat to the established Jewish religion. Jarius took great personal risk to seek out Jesus and accompany him to his home. Jairus risked his status as a synagogue leader to go to this healer who continually thwarted the purification rules established within Jewish law. But facing the desperate end of his daughter’s life, Jairus, now, knelt in humility before Jesus and begged him to help his daughter. Without hesitation, Jesus went with him. Obviously, their mission was urgent to get to the daughter before she died.

Now, there was a woman who suffered from hemorrhaging that was in the crowd that followed Jesus and Jairus. For twelve years, the woman had visited many doctors and spent all the money that she had, and her condition was growing worse. This woman seems like an interruption in the story Mark was telling of Jarius.

The unnamed woman had heard about Jesus. She decided she would get close to Jesus and touch his garment without making herself known. She took great risk to approach Jesus since she was considered unclean according to purification rights of the Jewish law. But Jesus was more about making connections with the vulnerable, proving to them that they were beloved and valued. She said, “If I touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her bleeding stopped.

Perhaps, that is pretty much our plan as well, to be as inconspicuous as possible to approach Jesus. Perhaps we don’t recognize our own needs and hesitate in believing that spiritual practices like prayer and scripture reading really work. So we just quietly try to touch grace as it passes by so that no one will know that we have our own personal concerns. When the woman decided just to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, immediately, he knew the power had left him. Jesus said, “Who touched my clothes?” The text seems to say that Jesus healed this woman without intending to do so. He makes it his primary focus to find out who reached out to him with a mere humble touch.

His disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?”

This woman is taking time away from Jesus’ stated earlier mission. We can assume how Jairus felt about the unexpected interruption for what he surely felt were more pressing matters – saving the life of his dying child. This woman had been sick for a long time and Jairus’ daughter was near death. Jesus must heal Jairus’ daughter before it is too late and for Jesus to meet his pressing needs. But Jesus never hurries. Jesus was willing to interrupt his own mission in order to attend to those whose desperation is quiet and whose yearning is chronic, but whose need is pressing.

The woman knew her gig was up and stepped forward to admit that the touch of Jesus’ garment had been her. In doing so, she was telling him and the crowd her the whole truth. Craig Barnes points out an important connection for us to this part of the woman’s story: How long has it been since you found someone with whom you could tell your whole truth? The whole truth is not just that we’ve been hurt but that we’ve also hurt others trying to fix our hurt. The whole truth is not just that we want healing but we want it without confessing that we need it. Now, even anonymous faith is still faith. But don’t expect Jesus to let you keep your faith anonymously. The text says that after she told him the whole truth, then Jesus said to her, “Daughter,” notice a term of relationship. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” When Jesus alluded to her faith, I think he meant the faith by which she was willing to risk exposing her condition publicly in a crowd, willing to risk touching someone who had the reputation of one who took chances on those who were considered unworthy. She believed that she would leave the interaction with Jesus free of what had plagued her for 12 long years. Jarius’ truth suddenly got worse. He was confronted with a sad update, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?”

But Jesus, not one to take hearsay, said to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” This parallels what Jesus said to the disciples in the back of the boat in a seemingly near death situation when a storm arose on the sea. Jesus asked his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Why aren’t you using your faith?” Jesus is saying here, at Jairus’ house, all the commotion around you, all the people who are laughing at me, and all the people who are denouncing what I say, “She is not dead, she is only sleeping,” What seems like reality to those people, was not reality. It came out of their own fear of what was happening and their inattention to Jesus’ presence. The woman with the issue of blood risked her anonymity by telling her truth, coming to Jesus so that she might have a new life. Jairus risked his professional reputation to save the life of his child. As both of them risked touching and being touched by Jesus, they showed their faith in action. Jesus is willing to interrupt his own mission to care about us. Craig Barnes continues, Maybe you know what it feels like to be alone in a crowd. You see so many with pressing needs, pressing upon Jesus and there is the urgent mission for Jesus to attend to those needs. There you stand in this crowd called the church with your own private hemorrhaging. Maybe, it is a disease of your body or maybe, it is a disease of your soul that is quietly being consumed by anxiety or despair. Maybe, it is a dream or a cherished self image or a relationship that has been bleeding out for a very long time. You don’t want to disrupt Jesus’ ministry or his mission but then you remain with this quiet need of your own. We enact our faith when we embrace a faith that is willing to take risks. Jesus acknowledged the faith of the woman who had the courage to touch Jesus in a crowd of people where she was not supposed to go and the leader who was willing to seek Jesus when he thought he was going to lose what mattered most. What are you willing to risk for the sake of new life?