Summary: A sermon for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, proper 8, Series B
4th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr.8] June 28, 2009 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you sent your Son into our world to reveal your Word for our lives, and to redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your living Word, that we might be strengthened in faith and thus be restored to a right relationship with you, our Creator and Lord. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
From Chapter 4 through Chapter 8 of Mark’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee several times. This is significant, for the Western side of the lake were predominantly Jewish communities, while the Eastern side of the lake were predominantly Gentile communities. This has led many Biblical scholars to affirm that although Jesus was of the Jewish faith, his ministry and mission in the world reached out beyond the confines of Judaism to embrace all people.
In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus is on the Western side of the lake, among the Jewish communities. And I don’t think that it is insignificant, that in these two stories that comprise our lesson, Mark makes a point of telling us that the woman suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years, and that the daughter of Jarius was twelve years of age. Just as there were twelve disciples and twelve tribes of Israel, the mention of this detailed number would have alerted Mark’s readers that these stories address the faith community – including those of us who have been grafted into the history of Israel through out baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.
First, lets consider the story of the woman with the chronic hemorrhage. For twelve years this woman has been in misery. She has sought the help of many doctors, only to see her problem persist, even grow worse. And on top of her medical problem, she had spent all of her money in the pursuit of a cure. We could say that she was in desperate need of help.
Then she hears that Jesus is in town. She has heard many stories about how this holy man of God had the ability to heal people. But how could she approach Jesus? You see, being of the Jewish faith meant that she had to live by the Torah. And in Leviticus it clearly states that “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness.
This meant that this woman not only had a chronic hemorrhage, but she would have not been allowed to be in contact with other people, for it was believed that those who were declared to be unclean could taint those who were pure and righteous. For her to approach Jesus, especially in a crowd of people would have been forbidden. For her to touch Jesus, even his clothing, would have made him impure.
But this woman was desperate. She not only suffered for twelve years from her illness, and spent all of her resources in seeking a cure, but she also suffered from the humiliation of being labeled “unclean.” For reasons beyond her control, she felt diminished as a person, and helpless to do anything about it. Yet she thought to herself, if I can just sneak into the crowd and touch Jesus’ cloak, I can be healed.
And she did it. She ignored the prohibitions of the Torah, entered the crowd, sneaked up behind Jesus and touched his clothes. Then comes two of Mark’s favorite words – “Immediately” this woman’s hemorrhage stopped, and “immediately” Jesus was aware that the power of his ability to heal had gone out from him. So Jesus asks his disciples, “Who touched my clothes?” And those twelve faithful disciples didn’t have a clue as to what had just happened.
But Jesus wouldn’t let it go. He kept looking to find the person who had been healed. Finally, the woman herself, realized that Jesus knew what she had done, and Mark tells us that “in fear and trembling,” she came and fell down before Jesus, confessing her sin. And then we hear those intimate words of forgiveness from Jesus, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
William Countryman, an Episcopal priest and Professor of New Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, in Berkley California, states in his commentary on our text, and I quote. “The assumption of purity codes is always that uncleanness is more powerful than purity, that purity is a state difficult to maintain while impurity is easy to contact. In this woman’s case, the direction of the current has been reversed. For Jesus to reverse the religious alienation of impurity is as remarkable as the overcoming of death in the raising of Jarius’s daughter”. End quote.