Fr. Philip Sang: Divine Interruptions

Sermon delivered on Trinity 4B, Sunday, June 28, 2015, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

There is no audio podcast for today’s sermon. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Lectionary texts: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Interruptions are always frustrating. I just get engrossed in studies and my son wants my attention right away. I am swimming out in the pool and I am wet and I’m wanted on the phone. Interruptions are a part of life. Few of us would consider the possibility of God being interrupted, but this is precisely the case in our Gospel today. Jesus was on His way to heal a young girl on the verge of death, when He was interrupted by a woman who was also in desperate need of help. For those of us who have not thought very deeply on the theological implications of divine interruptions, todays readings invite us to engage in such noble enterprise.

As we look at the account of the healing of the daughter of Jairus in the four gospels, we find that in each of them the author interweaves the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage. The focus, I believe, is primarily upon the dying daughter, while the ailing woman is presented as a tragic, unnecessary and fatal interruption. As we work our way through the events of this great miracle, I want us to do so through the eyes of the synagogue official Jairus, sensing what must have been his feelings and fears as he learned to trust in the Lord Jesus, even when all the circumstances of life seemed to be working against him.

Jairus was an official of the synagogue, and as such he was a man of influence and prestige, but when he came to Jesus he did so as a desperate father seeking to spare the life of his critically ill child. Jesus was not present at what seemed to be the ideal time to deal with the illness of this child. He had crossed over the Sea of Galilee and had not yet returned. I would imagine that the ships we read about last week in Mark 4:36 which had followed Jesus into the middle of the lake and were caught in the storm had returned to port and had told of the miraculous stilling of the sea.

If I had been Jairus these reports would have been of little consolation, for they would only have served to underscore the tragedy that, though Jesus could have helped, He was not present. From Luke’s account (8:40), we know that when Jesus returned by boat from the other side of the lake there was a large crowd gathered which had been there waiting for the return of Jesus. It would not take much imagination to suppose that Jairus was one of the crowd, wringing his hands in dismay, knowing that even now his daughter may have passed away. Every minute was critical and the only One who could help was absent.

Just to imagine, I can envision Jairus as being the first one to greet Jesus as He stepped from ship to shore. Mark tells us that Jairus fell at the feet of Jesus, beseeching Him to quickly come to the aid of his daughter who was on the verge of death. Mark graphically describes the pleading of the father and we can almost feel the intensity of the situation. Without delay, the Lord Jesus made His way to the home of this dying girl followed by a crowd.

Even the presence of the crowd must have been an irritation to Jairus, who would have looked upon these people only as a hindrance to more rapid travel to his home. Some may have wanted to ask questions or to be taught. Others might have asked for healing for themselves or others. Regardless, the crowd refused to be left behind. Perhaps they only lingered to see another miracle. If so, they were not accommodated in the house to see Jesus perform the miracle  ( 5:37).

One woman in the crowd is singled out by the gospel writers. She was a woman who had suffered from some kind of hemorrhage for twelve years. Her suffering was much more than physical, though that would have been enough. She suffered as much from her ‘cures’ as she did from her case of bleeding.

To add to the injury of cures this woman was also subjected to tremendous social pressures. The nature of this woman’s illness fell under the stipulations of Leviticus 15, whereby she would have to be pronounced unclean. As such she had been an outcast for twelve years. She could not take part in any religious observances, nor could she have any public contact without defiling those whom she touched. Apparently, she was also forced to be separated from her husband.

Last of all, this pathetic woman has lost all of her financial resources. Mark tells us that she had spent all of her money on doctor bills, with no relief—indeed, with added affliction. And in those days to my opinion, there was no such thing as a malpractice suit.

This unnamed woman, like Jairus, had heard that Jesus was back in their region and set out to find relief through His power. Conditioned, no doubt, by her long-term rejection and isolation she dared not approach Jesus to ask for a miracle as Jairus did. Her physical contact would defile all that she touched. The best she could hope for was a kind of secret healing. “I need not bother the Master,” she may have thought. “ but I need to touch the hem of His garment.” The faith of the woman may well have been mingled with magical ideas as to the power conveyed by one’s clothing. Regardless of this, the moment she touched Jesus, she was healed.

After her healing, the woman probably began to shrink back into the faceless mob who were pushing and shoving for a look at the Master. To the great dismay of Jairus, Jesus stopped. It would seem that for an instant the crowd was perfectly silent. They expectantly waited to hear what Jesus would say, but they could not believe it when He questioned, “Who touched My garments?” (Mark 5:30).

The disciples considered such a question absolutely incredible, worse yet stupid. The rudeness of their thoughts was expressed by none other than the spokesman, Peter: “You see the multitude pressing in on You and You say, ‘Who touched me?’” (Mark 5:31). Everybody was touching, pushing, shoving, and grabbing at the Master. How could He ask such a question, they thought.

Surely we are to understand that Jesus was not ignorant of what had happened, nor that He needed to be told who had touched Him. Jesus, in His omniscience, knew the need of the woman before she ever put forth her hand to His garment. Knowing her faith, His power was granted for her healing.

Why, then, did Jesus ask this question? More than this, why did Jesus stop at such a critical time to ask the question? Surely Jesus knew the importance of time.

(1) Our Lord Jesus did not need to learn the woman’s identity. Mark does not tell us that Jesus looked to see who had touched Him, but, “He looked around to see the woman who had done this” (Mark 5:32).

(2) Our Lord delayed in order to give the woman the opportunity to give testimony to her healing. Had Jesus not stopped and asked who touched His garments, no one would have known of the miracle. When she saw the eyes of Jesus fixed upon her, she knew that He knew everything. She had taken nothing from Him, but He had given healing to her. She now poured out her sad and miserable life story, telling how Jesus had done what all of medical science could not.

(3) Our Lord stopped in order to correct any misconceptions on the part of the woman. If there were any elements of magic in the thinking of this woman, Jesus swept them away by making it completely clear that it was her faith that had saved her, not her grasp on His clothing. Jesus touched many as He went about, but few of these found in physical contact with Him a wonder such as this. It was her relationship with Jesus by faith that made her whole.

(4) It has also been suggested that this was a gracious act of our Lord to make it publicly known that this woman had been made whole, so that she was no longer to be considered ceremonially unclean.

(5) Most significantly in the context, this delay of Jesus resulted in a greater miracle, and greater faith on the part of Jairus, for now the young girl was not sick, but dead.

Upon this woman’s confession of faith, the Lord Jesus sent her off with the words, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

If the disciples were irritated by our Lord’s seemingly unnecessary delay, you can well imagine that Jairus was fit to be tired. He knows that at any moment his daughter would be dead, and here was Jesus making mountains out of mole hills. Why could He not have simply ignored the woman in view of the present crisis? Jairus must have been frustrated, but how do you hurry God?

Jairus’ world came crashing down with the report of his servants that his daughter had died (verse 35). The common belief in his day, as ours, is that ‘where there’s life, there’s hope.’ And now all hope was gone. Knowing that every ray of hope had been swept away by this announcement, Jesus ignored these words, and spoke encouragingly to Jairus, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe” (Mark 5:36). His faith was faltering, and it was through faith that the child would be raised. Where there is life, there is hope. But with God, we must also believe that where there is death, there is hope as well.

Leaving the crowd with all of His disciples but the inner three, Jesus continued on to the home of the deceased daughter. Outside the home the commotion of a typical near-eastern funeral had already begun (verse 38). All of this crying-on was unnecessary our Lord informed the mourners, for this girl was asleep.

Thinking our Lord to be either naive or completely self-deceived the mourners mocked and ridiculed Him by their laughter. They knew death when they saw it. Such unbelief will never witness the power of God and so these people were put outside, with only Jesus, Peter, James and John, and the parents going to where the girl’s body had been laid.

The actual event was both simple and sweet. Jesus raised the girl and instructed the parents to feed her and not to tell anyone what had happened.

As I started by saying interruptions are part of life, today’s message is calling us to accept and create room for interruptions in this life with understanding that the destiny will remain uninterrupted.

Paul writing to the Corinthians talks about financial interruptions that the church need to give to support the needy, in this case the church in Jerusalem. Our budgets have and will be interrupted for the noble course of our calling as Christians.

In our first reading we see King David interruption, instead of being joyful that he is now the King he stops to lament over the death of King Saul who had become an enemy to him and his friend the prince Jonathan “how the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle”. Our joys are also interrupted daily

The ruling this week by the SCOTUS on gay marriage is an interruption, the house of bishops of ACNA issued a statement on this and just to quote a portion of it our leaders say:

The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is often summarized as, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Because of his love, we love and care for all those who experience same-sex attraction. The Anglican Church in North America continues to welcome everyone to experience the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

The interruptions will never alter the gospel.

As a church we believe that we are changed by God to make a difference for God. Let us expect and allow God to interrupt us as we seek to accomplish His goal for us.

Just a reminder from last week’s sermon: Jesus is risen and Jesus is Lord. Therefore we possess unconventional power. Let us Pray for our nation and its leaders

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen