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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

If I But Touch His Clothes

                               If I but touch His clothes


Mark 5:21-43


The woman pressed into the crowd, all sense of caution thrown to the wind.  She knew she shouldn't be there, but she had exhausted all her resources.  Doctors, healers, prayers and sacrifices had not helped her.  She was at the end of her rope.  Her depleted body couldn't take any more and as she pressed through the crowd, she felt what little energy she had ebbing away.  But this was her last hope.  She had heard about this man Jesus this miracle worker.  She had seen a blind man restored to sight and a lame man able to walk.  But perhaps when she reached him he would refuse to help her.  She was unclean, not worthy to be paid attention to.  But she had no other hope.  So she pressed onward, the crowds keeping her pushed back.  Then there he was just in front of her, just a few steps away.  She called but he didn't answer, her voice being drowned out in the swelling crowd, all vying for his attention.  She simply had to do it, she had to reach him.  So with one final burst of will power she lunged forward, just within reach.  Before she could get separated from him she touched his clothes.  She felt a surge of energy course through her body.  Something strange was happening.  She was different, lighter.  She withdrew her hand and the crowds quickly separated her from Jesus.  Then she noticed him looking around and heard his question, "Who touched me?". Fear paralyzed her.  What would he do if he found out who did that?  Would he report her?  After all she had no business being there, in her state of uncleanness.  Unable to withhold the truth she blurted out the truth.  She could scarcely believe her ears.  "Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."


The man Jairus was at the end of his rope.  His beloved daughter was near death.  Little hope remained, so the desperate man swallowed his pride and found the man Jesus.  He wasn't supposed to be there.  As one of the leaders of the synagogue he was supposed to oppose this heretical man stirring up all kinds of trouble.  But his daughter's life was at stake.  And this was his last resort.  So he dropped to his knees in front of the man and begged him to help.  To his surprise Jesus said yes and they started toward Jairus' home.  What's this, a pause, he says someone touched him.  Well of course, the crowd was all around him.  What was he talking to that woman for?  There wasn't much time left.  His daughter might die at any moment.  Oh no!  Here come someone from my household.  What are they saying?  My daughter?  Oh no!  It's too late.  She is dead.  He looked into Jesus eyes, his own filled with pain and sorrow.  He knew here was a man he could trust.  A question arose from nowhere: do you believe?  And in the depths of his soul he knew he did.  So he followed this man through the crowds, through the mourners and into the dead girl's room.  Jesus simply told her to get up and she did. Not only did she get up, but she walked around and ate something.


A healing within a healing, a miracle within a miracle, a story within a story, one short section of Mark's gospel gives us a prime example of the power of Jesus to meet and care for people who are at the end of their rope.  Both the woman and the man came to Jesus out of extreme need.  They stood at the opposite ends of the social spectrum, but the needs they faced were born out of the very life and death issues we all face at some time in our lives.  They both had approached Jesus with the belief that he could do something.  They knew what they wanted and they dared go after it.  Just look at what they got.  Both got what they wanted.


It was not any magical power that had brought healing.  Jesus' clothes did not have magic in them.  Jesus had perfect confidence and trust in God and was able to reflect that confidence as he calmly walked through the noisy crowds of mourners.  .  Because of his confidence and trust in God, Jesus was able to communicate God to the woman and Jairus in a way that helped them trust God as well.  These two are primary examples of what it means to have faith. 


This story within a story offers us hope and encouragement.  We don't have to look too far to find those who are at the end of their rope, whose world seems to have fallen apart, whose life has changed dramatically, and who are on the verge of "dying" in some way through very heavy burdens.  The veteran who returns with both legs missing initially feels depressed and despairing.  Just imagine how much this person needs to hear and believe Christ telling them, "You are only momentarily asleep, not dead.  Get up and find new life."


Which brings me to the third story.  A motivational speaker once told her story.  She had been a passenger on an airplane that had been hijacked.  The plane had landed and sat on the tarmac while negotiations took place.  The hijackers reached a point where they were tired of negotiations and told authorities that they would begin killing passengers, one at a time, until their demands were met.  The woman watched as the passengers in front of her were systematically marched forward and shot.  She knew when it was her time to be marched forward and killed.  With no other option, at the end of her rope, she said a prayer.  It amazed her that she instantly felt a calmness come over her as a hijacker approached her, grabbed her, stood her up, and pushed her to the front of the plane.  Kneeling on the floor she heard the gunshot, felt a strange sensation as she seemed to drift slowly to the ground. To her amazement she was still alive.  Her body was then rolled out of the plane and dropped onto the tarmac below where she lay motionless, afraid to even breathe for fear that the hijackers would discover she wasn't dead.  She lay there for what seemed an eternity of pain and fear.  She heard the sound of a truck approaching, felt herself lifted into the truck.  She still was not sure she should open her eyes just in case she was in the hands of the enemy, but gradually curiosity overcame her and the first sight she saw was the red cross and she knew she was in good hands.  It took many months for her to relearn to walk and talk.  She had to start life all over again.  Her damaged brain mixed things up constantly.  Through long months of frustration, depression, and hopelessness she struggled.  But her prayers began to pay off.  She learned to live life over but with a fierce and firm dedication to be God's ambassador for hope. 


When life is at its lowest, when we find ourselves at the end of our rope there is the possibility of new life.  God offers us an answer and a way through when we approach in faith.  Why is it that we wait until the end of the rope to trust and believe in what God offers?  Most of the time I think it is because we simply forget what God can do.  In the early stages of our problem solving we think we can handle things our own way.  Our prayers at that point might be half -hearted attempts to coerce God into bending things a little our way.  We see God as insurance and our prayers are said with the thought that maybe God will respond.  But living in faith requires that we believe fully in the power of God to make things happen in ways that bring wholeness and well-being.  God doesn't want wishy washy prayers, although if that is all we can give, God receives them and responds.  God wants full bodied prayers emerging from our belief that God will respond, not in the way we think best, but in the ways that God sees things. 


Why is it that our faith is so anemic?  Isn't our God the same God and the same Christ that moved the early church forward through trials and persecution?  Isn't this the same Christ who told the little girl to get up?  I wonder what the difference would be for us if we approached God with assurance that God is listening and give our prayers on the wings of the eagle of trust and belief, knowing confidently that God will respond.  I wonder what would happen if we knew and trusted God the way Jesus did.

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