Summary: Sometimes the intrusion in our life or means for God’s grace.
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear God, the very giver, preserver, and restorer of life, we pray this day for all who are ill in body or mind, who languish on beds of pain, praying for the dawn to come, seeking relief from their suffering, and an end to their illness. Help us to see all healing as a gift of your grace. Enable us to have patience and perseverance in times of illness, and fill our hearts with compassion for those in need of healing, especially those who feel neglect. And especially make us aware of your ultimate healing, of life eternal in your kingdom. This we ask in the name of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. Amen.
My sermon for this morning is based on William H. Willimon’s commentary, published in Pulpit Resources, Logos Productions, Inc., 2000
Sometimes, the most important things that happen to you in life are the intrusions. You are on your way somewhere, with an agenda – a clear, direct purpose in mind – and you get distracted. Something else comes up that demands your attention, and that “something else” turns out to be more important than the journey on which you originally launched.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning is a story about a woman who was an intrusion. The text that I just read, interrupts the text that is printed on your lesson sheets. Pull it out, and look at the text that is printed. One of the leaders of the Synagogue named Jarius, approaches Jesus and begs him repeatedly to come and heal his daughter, who is near death.
Jesus agrees. But while he is on his way to make this important house
call, he passes through a crowd, in which he experiences the intrusion of
the woman in the text that I read. And then, after this intrusion, the story of Jesus going to heal Jarius’ daughter is resumed and finished.
On the way to do something very good for an important person and his daughter, Jesus gets distracted. A woman appears. She intrudes from the margins, where lots of women have been throughout most of history. We don’t know this woman’s name. We know nothing of her family circumstances. All we know is that she is a woman who is ill. For twelve years she has been hemorrhaging.
And that is not only a lot of blood to loose, but a lot of life to be lost as well. She has endured much under the treatment of many physicians. She has exhausted her resources in search of a cure, only to become worse. In addition, at that point in time, a woman with her disease was also considered unclean, a person to be shunned, pushed even further to the margins of life.
Here is a woman who has been poked at, tested, discussed, humiliated, stripped of her dignity, and still she suffers. She has no hope, no hope, it would appear, except for Jesus. And so, she reaches out from the margins of her society to which she has been pushed, in the hope that maybe this time would be different. She said to herself, “IF I can only touch the hem of his garment, I will be well.”
This is one of the strongest images of faith I know of, in all of the New Testament. Here is a hand reaching out from the margins of the crowd to where her illness, her poverty, her pain, and her gender had pushed her – reaching out to touch the power of Jesus, the Lord, the giver of life.
And Mark tells us that “immediately” she was healed. Mark also tells us that “immediately” Jesus felt the power of healing go out from him.
Jesus then asks, “Who touched my clothes?” Now, we can’t tell from the tone of his voice if Jesus is upset with this intrusive woman, or whether he is compassionate toward this hurting person. His disciples certainly don’t appear to give us a clue, or have any concern to identify the woman. “Look at the crowd,” they say, “It could have been anyone.”
But Jesus insists. Jesus wanted to know who the person was, and he began to search for the woman. The intrusion had been made, and he wanted to bring it to conclusion.
Perhaps this is one of the most healing moments in the whole story. This woman, who was an unknown person, identified only by her bleeding and her pain, relegated to the margins of society by her illness, gender and poverty, was being sought out by Jesus, that he might look upon her face, and know her personally.
Again, this woman takes matters into her own hands. She steps out from the anonymity of the crowd, in fear and trembling, and falls down before Jesus to identify herself. It was a decisive move, a move that all of her upbringing and all of her cultural norms would have deemed to be inappropriate.