Interruption as Opportunity

Mark 5:21-34

        21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Prayer: Lord God, as we enter Lent, let us both see and feel you healing power as we begin the weeks of Lent. Pass your blessing on our worship today and your church here on Dover Road. Amen

  1. Today we will begin our new Lenten series on Interruption.
    1. This is how God interrupts our most careful plans that we have made — or our hopes for the future are interrupted — by maybe a stranger coming into our lives – or a severe medical condition arises — or there is an accident – or a death of a dear friend— we will know that God is always with us.
    1. Interruptions are a part of our life and in many times of our life, these interruptions can become an unexpected ministry where we are tested about our compassion.
    1. Sometimes the interruptions challenge our views and prejudices—and we begin to see God’s mighty hand at work in us.
    1. Interruptions can be by the Holy Spirit and as we will see seldom are these interruptions accidental. It’s God’s plan at work.
  2. During Lent, which is the time that we consider our relationship with God and make some adjustments so that we can draw nearer to Jesus. Certainly, Lent is about “giving up” stuff – but the deeper understanding about Lent is the examination of ourselves and our relationship with Jesus. Lent is a journey of both discovery and recommitment.
  3. In the ensuing weeks, we will look at the topics of Interruptions
    1. as a cultural opportunity.
    1. As messy
    1. As Jesus, the interrupter
    1. Being an interrupter
    1. And the major interruption of Palm Sunday and Good Friday and of course, Easter.
  4. So, let’s ponder a little as to what interruptions have made major changes on your life?
  5. Pause
  6. Ring the phone (set the phone so that I can test the ringer)
    1. Explain the Jamaican children playing the game of “Jesus calling me on the telephone” – and how much they enjoyed the game — but explain the rhythm behind it.
  7. Ask the congregation about what “Interruptions have had a major change in their lives? And record their answers.
  8. We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.
    1. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks. . . .
    1. It is a strange fact that many Christians and even pastors frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them.
    1. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are spurning God’s “crooked yet straight path.”
  9. Have you ever heard the saying, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans?”
    1. We have the whole thing mapped out, and then life happens, and our course is changed.
    1. If we truly live and experience life, we soon discover we can’t control life, that it never goes quite as planned, there are a lot of surprises along the way.
  10. Well this is kind of what happens to Jesus in this story from Mark that Helen just read.
  11. It is not uncommon for commentators to title this section of Mark’s Gospel “Two Healing Stories” as if the story of Jairus and his daughter is one stand-alone story, and the story of the hemorrhaging woman is another stand-alone story, which just happens to interrupt the first story.
  12. What we have is the text … and the text, while it does, in fact, contain two healings, might be better titled — One Interruption.
  13. Mark is a fabulous writer and very concise! — straight to the point.
    1. Even if he uses simple language, he is an incredibly careful and precise writer, and all indications in the passage suggest that these two healing stories are purposefully intertwined–that what Mark wants us to notice more than the content of the healings themselves, is how the hemorrhaging woman is allowed to interrupt the mission of Jesus to heal a leader of the synagogue’s daughter.
  14. Mark’s use of language common to both stories tips us off to this intention.
  15. Let’s check this out!
  16. Jairus, who is described as a leader of the synagogue, comes to Jesus and falls at his feet. When the hemorrhaging woman approaches Jesus, she too falls at his feet. She has been suffering for 12 years. Jairus’ daughter is 12 years old.
  17. There are also points of vivid contrast in the passage which suggest that an intentional comparison is being made.
    1. As a leader in the Synagogue, Jairus is something of a guardian of purity. He has social power, and material wealth.
    1. The unnamed woman is, according to Torah, not permitted in the synagogue because of her ailment, which renders her ritually impure.
    1. She is socially and materially destitute, having spent all her money on medical care, yet did not get any better, but rather, grew worse.
  18. The leader of the synagogue, Jarius, approaches Jesus directly and boldly; even if he is distraught about his daughter, Jairus is confident in his worthiness to be heard.
    1. The woman doesn’t even speak and tries her best to remain invisible; to not bother the miracle working teacher, even as she endeavors to be healed by his power.
  19. And finally comes the point: the interruption!
  20. Jesus is on the path to Jairus’ house when the hemorrhaging woman touches him. He is not aware of her presence or her needs until he feels power go out from him.
    1. And it is the power of Christ that heals … but it is the faith of the woman that is able to access such power. “Woman, your faith has made you well” says Jesus
  21. Jesus did not need to meet her—and in fact, the wise thing for him to do in that situation would have been to carry on like nothing had happened, for to be touched by a woman such as her was for Jesus to become, technically speaking, unclean, just as she was unclean.
  22. Jesus knows that she has been healed–that she is unclean no more–but the guardians of purity have their rules to keep. Not to mention there is the unfinished matter of one of Jairus’ request to heal his daughter who is presently on her deathbed.
  23. Jairus, being a leader of the synagogue, is not one that a Jew would want to disappoint.
    1. But Jesus stops.
    1. Jesus allows his service to Jairus to be interrupted and asks that absurd, and self-condemning question–who touched me? The disciples shoot back. You’re in the middle of a mob … EVERYONE touched you!
  24. But the woman hears Jesus’ words, maybe as a demand; maybe as an invitation—either way she comes, not in confidence, but in fear and trembling … and she falls down at Jesus’ feet, and tells him the whole truth—
    1. she tells him—I imagine through tears—her story; how after 12 years of suffering under a broken healthcare system, and an alienating cultural purity code, she became desperate enough—but also faithful enough—to willingly break the law by crossing a boundary unclean people are not to cross–touching Jesus with her uncleanness, in the faint hope that this man is who people say that he is.
  25. And moved by her story, Jesus calls this woman ‘daughter’—the same title which belongs to that 12-year-old from a culturally powerful family.
    1. He praises the woman’s faith, and he sends her on her way to rest and enjoy the newfound peace that comes by a faith which transcends law.
  26. Well, as if the scandal of that interruption of impurity and lawlessness wasn’t enough, as his interaction with the woman concludes, Jairus’ servants’ approach with terrible news. The man’s daughter has died, and so, they say, there is no need bothering Jesus any longer.
  27. I have to wonder—what was Jairus doing while Jesus seemingly unnecessarily conversed with this socially, religiously off-limits woman?
    1. What was he thinking?
    1. And what did he do, and what did he think when his servants arrived to say that they had delayed too long, and his daughter had died?
    1. Was he offended that Jesus called that unclean woman “daughter” while seeming to ignore the needs of his own?
    1. Was he angry? Yelling? “Hey! What are you doing? My actual daughter is dying, and you stop to tell someone they’ve got nice faith! … Jesus! Get your priorities straight!”
  28. It’s not entirely clear—if Jairus speaks at all, his words are not recorded—but he doesn’t run Jesus off. Even if he has concerns about the healer’s purity after having been touched by the hemorrhaging woman, Jairus sticks with Jesus and heeds his familiar words: Do not fear, but only believe—because when it’s your child whose life is in danger, suddenly the rules don’t seem all that important anymore, and faith starts to look like the only thing that makes sense.
  29. Just maybe Jairus gained a little perspective that day…
  30. And now the rest of the story:
    1. Even so, the crowd at Jairus’ house still doesn’t believe—they laugh or jeer at Jesus when he insists that the girl is not dead … and so Jesus throws them all out of the house, and in front of the believers–a few disciples and Jairus and his wife—takes the young girl by the hand, and invites her to live.
  31. And here is one more similarity between these healings—by touching a dead body, Jesus again contaminates himself.
    1. But in both cases, it is by his touch that one who was unclean is made clean—the hemorrhaging immediately stops; death becomes life.
  32. We have to ask: What does Mark want his readers to learn from this story?
  33. First, that every son and daughter is a son or daughter of God, deserving of healing, and attention, and empathy in exactly the same manner as everyone else.
  34. Second, that the compassion and healing power of Christ is not a limited commodity—it is not a pie, which only has so much to go around so that if that person gets more, then I get less … but it is a deep well, which never runs dry.
    1. We who are in Christ do not have to choose–must not choose between compassion for the poor outcast and preserving the life of the privileged.
    1. We may at times be called upon to share some of our excess, but in this story, even that demand is not made of Jairus’ family.
  35. In Christ rich and poor, clean and unclean, young and old, outsider and insider are all one.
    1. It helps everyone to create a society in which no one is allowed to fall through the cracks. For when we create that society, even the guardians of purity are transformed; Jairus’ attention is turned away from purity control and toward the universal restoration of life.
  36. And third, in order make this transformation, we must ignore much of the dominate messaging of our culture.
    1. Our translation of Jesus words says that Jesus overheard the servants, but a more accurate translation is that Jesus ignored the servants’ message that the girl had died.
    1. In order to promote the truth, we must refuse to lend legitimacy to the lies. That woman is not unclean. The little girl is not dead. Both are alive—both belong to God, and to one another.
  37. No appeal to the rule of law can undo this fact of faith in the Christ who refuses to let his concern for the in-group prevent him from showing equal concern for the outsider.
    1. Whether our insiders and outsiders are citizens and immigrants, or English speakers and non-English speakers, or Christians and Muslims, or Democrats and Republicans, Christ has come to heal every last one of us, and so we must be concerned to facilitate that healing within society, above and beyond any and every group loyalty, and confident that the compassionate healing ministry of Jesus is a well,
  38. Tell the story about the man and Thanksgiving when I was at Reisterstown UMC — a special interruption.
  39. So here we are – there will be times in our lives that interruptions come from Jesus and we have to pay attention to the movement of the Spirit. For if we do, our life will forever be changed!
  40. Thanks be to God!
  41. Closing Prayer: Prayer: Dear God, draw us to you in confidence that we might tell you the whole truth of our lives and hear, in return, you call us your beloved children that we might be renewed and restored in faith and life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.