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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Approaches to Jesus

                           
                                    
Mark 5:21-43
This reading could lead to a sermon entitled "A Tale of Two Daughters" but I am rather going to call it "A Tale of Two Approaches to Jesus" ... both titles lead to the same good news, namely: He is within reach.


Crowds swarm around Jesus as Jairus, the "leader of the synagogue" approaches. He cuts through the crowd and falls at Jesus' feet, begging Jesus to come rescue his daughter from death. And Jesus responds immediately and goes with him. But what of the crowd? Did they not have needs, too—daughters who were ill, chronic illnesses that insurance wouldn't cover and modern medicine couldn't cure? What of the crowd?

If you were Jairus with a sick daughter, would you cut in line? Would you exercise your social privilege and pull rank to protect your family? If you were an “important member of the church” (whatever that actually means), would you, do you, expect special treatment. Jairus pushes his way through this concentrated crowd and falls at Jesus feet. Also in this crowd is a woman with a
dreadful infirmity in her body . . . an issue of blood . . . a hemorrhage that would not end. She was thus a victim of a chronic disability; a lingering and increasing loss of vitality; probably nervous exhaustion because whoever she touched became unclean, so her life was spent avoiding and being avoided by people; she was at her “wits end.” She’s the very opposite of Jairus … she’s a nobody, made worse by being made to feel that she’s a nobody, just in case she forgot. We are so good at creating nobodies by the somebodies who always get their way, sometimes barging in and using their influence as Jairus might have. Do you perhaps identify with her more than with Jairus?

Her physical malady had plagued her for twelve long years. Each day of her life, her life was ebbing away. She was slowly dying and to this point in her discomfort, had been unable to be helped. Her not having been helped was not due to a lack of effort on her part. “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” She had spent all that she had . . she was penniless . . . she was broke.  She was spent both physically and mentally . . . as well as materially. Luke (who we know was a doctor) admitted that she could not be helped by doctors: He writes in Luke 8:43 “Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any.” Notice: “Could not” . . . Not “Had not.” This is a doctor speaking and being honest about her condition. She would have lived in appalling loneliness for 12 long years. Think of all the joys you have had . . . all the things you have done . . . and the places you have traveled to during the last twelve years of your life. All of these were denied to her during that same amount of time.

So we have Jairus and this unnamed woman. Who do you identify with more? I wonder who Jesus will have more time for. Well, we’re about to learn another kingdom truth, namely that the kingdom of God is big enough and patient enough for everyone! Even for you … this morning.

The Psalm set for this Sunday (Ps 130) begins with these words:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

Those words are at the heart of both Jairus’ and the woman’s actions that day, but I want to focus on the woman.

Having heard that the Messiah was near, the woman said within herself, "If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole." The text indicates that it was specifically the hem of His garment that she touched, an important detail from a Jewish viewpoint. The English word hem is a translation of a Greek word meaning a tassel of twisted wool. The woman was, in fact, reaching for the tassels on Jesus prayer shawl. In Hebrew, these tassels, which are attached to the corners of the prayer shawl, are called tzitzit. They were, and still are, worn by observant Jews in fulfillment of the biblical commandments found in Numbers 15:37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12 and are intended to remind the people of God s commandments. In Numbers 15:38 the word translated border or corner is a Hebrew word which can also be translated wings as it is some seventy-six times in the biblical text. For this reason, the corners of the prayer shawl are often called wings. Each tzitzit consists of five double knots and eight threads, a total of thirteen elements. This number added to six hundred, the Hebraic numerical value of the word tzitzit, points to the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the Torah.


In Jesus' day, Jewish men wore a simple tunic both at home and at work. When appearing in public, they would cover their tunic with a large rectangular cloth which draped over the shoulder and fell to the ankles. This cloth was called a tallit and served as protection from cold and rain. Hanging from the end of each of its four corners (wings) was a tzitzit in obedience to the biblical command. Through the centuries, during times of persecution, Jews were often forbidden to wear the tzitzit on the outside of their garments. This forced them to wear a small four-cornered tallit under their shirts. Today the prayer shawl is called a tallit.

During the first century there were several traditions associated with the tzitzit concerning Messiah. One was that these knotted fringes possessed healing powers. This tradition has its roots in the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 where the Messiah is said to be coming with healing in His wings. Certainly the woman with the issue of blood knew of these traditions, which would explain why she sought to touch the corner (the wings) of Jesus' prayer garment. The same word used in Numbers 15:38 for corner is used in Malachi 4:2 for wings. With this understanding in mind, an ancient Jew under the prayer shawl could be said to be dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and under His wings (Ps. 91:1-4). When one realizes the significance of this concept to the first-century Jewish mind, it becomes clear why this woman was instantly healed. She was expressing her faith in Jesus as the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings and declaring her faith in God's prophetic Word.

However, for her, bodily presence near Jesus was not enough. Faith, accompanied with action, made her whole . . . Jesus was there, but she had to make the response toward Him. What if she had had faith but no action? What if she had put forth action but without faith?

Two kinds of people touched Jesus that day. Curious onlookers who pressed close to see. But only this woman touched him in faith and was healed. Faith saves only when it accompanies obedience. She had obedient faith.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is still able to heal, in every way, those who will press in to touch the hem of His garment. He is still the Son of Righteousness with Healing in His Wings. As we seek Him with our whole heart, let us expect His healing power to make us whole in every area of our life.

We close with an invitation. This morning you might want to come to Jesus like Jairus and ask him to heal someone else. You might want to come like the woman and ask Him to heal you. You might even want to touch the tassels which represent the healing in His wings … come forward as the Lord leads you.

We close with this beautiful song called One Touch (watch it here)



"One Touch (Press)" Nicole C Mullen

Been ostracized for 12 years, I'm used to being alone
Spent everything I had and now it's gone
I'm used to being put down, my issues tell it all
My only hope is anchored in this fall

If I could just touch the hem of His garment
I know I'd be made whole
If I could just press my way through this madness
His love would heal my soul if only one touch

So many people calling, how could He ever know
That just a brush of Him would stop the flow
If He knew would He rebuke me or shame me to the crowd?
Well, I'm desperate 'cause it's never or it's now

If I could just touch the hem of His garment
I know I'd be made whole
If I could just press my way through this madness
His love would heal my soul

And then suddenly He turned around
He said somebody has unleashed my power
Well, frightened and embarrassed I bowed
You see I told Him of my troubles and how

I had to touch the hem of His garment
And I know I've been made whole
And how I had pressed my way through this madness
And His love has healed my soul

Then with one word He touched the hem of my garment
And you know I've been made whole
And somehow He pressed His way through my madness
And His love has healed my soul

I tell you He touched me
He reached way down and touched me
When no one else would touch me
Yeah, Jesus sure enough touched me
And I know I've been made whole


I am indebted to Dr. Richard Booker at  

for the information regarding the tzitzit and tallit

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