Rev. Katherine Todd
Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands—
O prosper the work of our hands!
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 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.” So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
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?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
I love these stories. They are bound together, similar yet different.
In both someone is unwell, physically unwell.
Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, a Jewish leader, approaches Jesus on behalf of his 12 year old daughter who is so ill she’s at the point of death. He falls to Jesus’ feet begging Jesus repeatedly to simply go with him to his daughter, that Jesus might lay his hands on her that she may be made well and live. Jesus agrees to go with him.
But on the journey, in which the crowd is everywhere pressing in on him, a woman suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years, thinks to herself, “if I can just touch Jesus’ clothes, I will be made well.” This thought is powerful, considering that she’d been under the care of many doctors, and suffered much under their care, ever worsening and never improving. She too couldn’t have continued long in this way.
Not only was she surely weak, without adequate life-blood in her veins, but she was likely considered unclean. As it is today, blood was understood to carry disease. Thus, menstruating women were considered unclean. A man coming into contact with the place a menstruating woman had lied down or sat was considered unclean till evening, and had to undergo ritual cleansing.
We do not know from where this woman was hemorrhaging, but it is likely this flow of blood had made her unclean for the past 12 years of her life. As one unclean, she was to keep her distance from society.
And so this woman dares press into the crowd around Jesus, dares touching them all, that she may find her deliverance, her healing.
And immediately when she merely touches his cloak, she is made well!
Had I been in her situation, a quick pressing into the crowd and an equally quick exit would have been my strategy. Try not to get noticed!
But Jesus feels the power leaving his body and calls out, “Who touched my clothes.” If one had been hovering above, watching the sway of the crowd, thick around Jesus, one would have thought Jesus’ question absurd indeed! “What does he mean, ‘who touched me?’ Everyone was touching him!” And that’s exactly what his disciples say to him. But he continues to scan the crowd for who had touched him.
And the woman returns, shaking with fear. She falls to his feet and spills the whole story. She was guilty. She had touched him.
But Jesus’ response to her is precious and tender: “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Even there in the presence of a leader of the synagogue, this woman confesses her whole ordeal and strategy. And Jesus dispels her fears, not chastising her for being present, not recoiling from her as one unclean, but praising the faith that she had in him to heal her. Her faith is precious, and through her faith, she has been healed!
But while Jesus is still speaking to her, some people from the Rabbi’s home come to report to Jairus that his daughter is already dead – that he need not trouble the teacher any longer. But Jesus overhearing says, “Do not fear, only believe.”
“Do not fear, only believe.”
His daughter has just died. And Jesus says, do not fear, only believe.
How dare Jesus say this? How dare Jesus ask them to believe? Believe in WHAT?
“Do not fear, only believe.”
Jesus goes with them to the house, where there is a great commotion outside, with folks weeping and wailing loudly. He enters the house and says, “why are you weeping? The child is not dead, but only asleep.”
Those around him laughed at him.
But he took the child’s mother and father in with he and 3 disciples, and taking the child’s hand he says, “Little girl, get up.”
And at that, she got up and began walking around.
Just like that, she is healed.
These stories raise a lot of emotion.
We are amazed and perhaps in disbelief of what Jesus can do.
And we are perhaps a bit angry about those who have not been healed. Those who we have lost. Those who may have had a great deal of faith, and yet lost a battle with cancer or left this world far sooner than we thought they should.
I do not have answers.
I will not tell you that it all happened as it should.
I do not think everything that happens is as it should be.
I do not think everything we experience in this world is God’s will.
We experience sickness and disease, evil and harm, sin and corruption, greed and want. I do not believe these are God’s perfect will. We have all at times walked in our own paths, outside of God’s will. We despoil people and planet. We ravage one another, taking dignity, power, and respect from one another. We call profane what God has made and called good.
We do evil under the sun. And I will not call that good.
So I will not say that everything happens for a reason.
I will not say that everything happens as it must or as it should.
I will not tell you things are better as they are.
I will only hold you in my heart, weeping with you in your loss. And I will claim this promise – that God uses ALL things for good, for those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes. I will claim this promise that God knows the plans God has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a future of hope.
This God who came as one of us…
This God who poured himself out, taking the form of a man, and living as one of us…
This Christ who touched the untouchables, healed the sick, ate with sinners and outcasts…
This Christ who suffered himself to be crucified and killed on our behalf, that we might know the depth and breadth of God’s everlasting love for us…
This God, I will serve.
This God, I will love.
This God, I will follow.
I do not know why God does what God does. I do not know what God allows what God allows.
I only trust, with all my heart, that God is love. I trust that God loves each and every one of us. I trust that what we see is not the end of the story. I trust that there is more to this life than you or I can see in this lifetime.
And I trust that our God is making all things new.
Where there is death, God is making life.
Where there is sorrow, God is making joy.
Where there is evil, God is bringing justice.
Where there is brokenness, God is bringing wholeness.
This is the God we serve. This is the God in whom we hope and believe.
Do not fear, only believe, Jesus says.
What is Jesus asking us to believe?
That what we want to happen will happen?
Surely not. Surely we do not know or even see the best in most circumstances. We do not know. Thank God our Savior is not like a genie, granting every wish and whim.
And yet, God does hear. God does know. Our God does move and act.
Do not fear, only believe.
Jesus speaks to each of us.
Jesus calls to each of us in the depths and commotion of our fears.
And we are invited to believe in him.
We are not believing in any one outcome. We are not placing our faith in our own desire to control or manipulate the strings of life.
We are choosing to trust and believe that God loves us infinitely and achingly.
We are choosing to trust and believe that God made us and loves us, just as we are.
We are choosing to trust, that whatever the circumstances and whatever the evils we will face, that God is with us and is enough for us.
Friends, do not fear.