Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 27 July 2021.
• First Reading: 2 Samuel 1: 1, 17-27 (David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan)
• Psalm 30
• Epistle: 2 Corinthians 8: 7-15 (Exhortation to generosity in giving)
• Gospel: Mark 5: 21-43 (Jesus heals a haemorraging woman and a sick girl)
He was an unknown shepherd boy, the youngest of the family when he was anointed King of Israel. It would be many years before this anointing was to be realized yet David knew where he was bound in life, and was content to wait for it to come at the right time.
But when it came, David was stricken with grief. Yes, he had been chased by King Saul around the mountains and wildernesses of Israel, and into the towns of the Philistines, but David was true to the promise made to him and was never going to seize the crown of Israel just for himself – and he had opportunities to do so.
More than that, he had the messenger of Saul’s death executed for killing him, even he did so at Saul’s own request. But in all this, David was pointing to something in the life of his most famous son, Jesus.
David was taken with grief at the loss of King Saul and of Saul’s son, Jonathan. His reign began with a profound sorrow at the loss of a deep and abiding friendship in Jonathan – even if he might have expected the crown of Israel for himself.
But the pointer to Jesus was also poignant and Isaiah describes Him as being despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53: 3).
For Jesus, obedience to His Father’s will was going to bring Him into personal anguish, long before He came to the cross. Discipleship was going to mean taking up the cross, denying oneself and following Him. It would mean being at the mercy of the people of the land, accepting hospitality where this was offered and sleeping in the open where it was not. It would mean hunger, thirst, heat and cold.
It is with this in mind that the gospel passage holds two healings, and Jesus was intimate to both of them. It was not just that He performed the healings – He was also personally drained by them, as He entered the worlds of suffering and distress of those whose need He was going to meet.
First, there was the haemorrhaging woman, who would normally have been banned from social contact as being ritually unclean, even if it was no fault of hers. But laws are blunt instruments for meeting personal circumstances and they are there for the good of the community before that of the individual.
And so in her embarrassment and anxiety she drew near to Jesus, already surrounded by a crowd, in order just to touch His cloak. This, she believed, would be enough, and it was.
But in touching the cloak, coming from behind and hoping to escape unseen, she also tapped into the well of who and what Jesus was. And so He felt Himself being drained by the unknown sorrow.
Jesus was being involved far beyond what the woman could possibly have imagined. In touching the robe, she touched not only the person of Jesus, but His power to heal and the cost which He would eventually pay for the redemption of the world on the cross.
And so Jesus came to enter the woman’s sense of isolation and of distress, her anguish and her essential insecurity. He became one with her needs in every aspect of her life: not only her physical healing but her social and spiritual depression as well.
In healing her, Jesus was healing the whole of her, and restoring her to her place in the community. Jesus was there for her in all aspects of her life, and the healing was for the whole of her.
But all this was going on while a second drama was playing out. In landing at the village, He was met by the ruler of the synagogue with a desperate plea on behalf of his daughter. This man evidently knew plenty about Jesus and probably knew of some of the controversies that surrounded Him. There were already the questions about the observance of the sabbath, and Jesus had spoken about spiritual warfare and the defeat of Satan.
Now the ruler of the synagogue was going to make a spectacle of himself in front of Jesus and in asking Him to come to his dying daughter was going to have to accept Jesus’ authority in other areas as well.
Unlike Nicodemus’ night-time visit, this would be in the full light of day and in public. There would be no turning back after this.
Yet having secured Jesus’ agreement to see his daughter, Jairus had to endure the delay and distraction of the haemorraging woman, unclean by the laws of the land, and he would have to see how Jesus dealt with it.
Finally it looked as if it were all over: the girl had died. The mourning party was already in full cry. But again, just as in the calming of the storm on the lake, Jesus was also in His element here as well.
He had demonstrated authority over the weather, and over the hidden sickness of the haemorraging woman. He had spoken of His authority over spiritual and demonic evil.
Now Jesus was demonstrating His authority over death itself. In due course He would enter that realm personally as well, and take control.
Right now, He was restoring a family, rewarding the risks taken the ruler of the synagogue, and giving a young girl a new lease of life.
This was also pointing to the cross where matters of life and death would be faced. But right now, Jesus was entering the personal suffering and anguish of those around Him. He was entering that profound place of sickness where we all ask “Why me, or him or her? Surely the Lord and author of creation could have taken control?” But that is exactly what He did.