The Healing Touch of Jesus

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July 1, 2018. Pastor Stephanie preaches on the raising of Jairus’ daughter from Mark 5 and the healing power of Jesus’ touch.


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Thinking about the scripture reading that I had for today, I was saying that if we read carefully this chapter 5 of Mark and see the power of these stories, a story within a story, we can’t miss the feeling of desperation that comes, can we? The desperate need that people have for the healing touch of Jesus. And not only by one person in this story, but two people. Two people from distinctively different stations in life and circumstances, but bound together in this story of people who are desperate for help from Jesus. The first one described for us is a man who is a leader of the local synagogue. That alone tells us a few things. This is a person with respect and authority within the local community. He has visibility. He is named. His name is Jairus. That much we know, and of course that he has a daughter who is at the point of death, because he tells Jesus repeatedly.


What we aren’t told explicitly, but can surmise, is that as a leader of the synagogue he has undoubtedly heard things about this rabbi Jesus that made him uneasy. But here’s the thing: none of that seems to matter right now. He has also heard that Jesus has a healing touch and his little girl is dying. This isn’t the time for theological debates. If there is a chance, any chance at all, that having Jesus come to his house could save his daughter’s life — well, that is what he wants most earnestly. So he dispenses with any sense of how a leader of the synagogue should comport himself and he literally falls at the feet of Jesus.


This act alone shows his desperation, to appeal to Jesus, to have mercy on him, and to come with him immediately. His daughter’s life is at stake and he cares of nothing else at the moment. He doesn’t even have an eloquent, persuasive speech prepared. All he can do as he is laying at the feet of Jesus is to say repeatedly, in the emotion of the moment, that his daughter is dying. Not just sickly, but dying. “Please Jesus, lay your hands on her, that she may be made well and live.” We are told that Jesus and a large crowd followed Jairus toward his home.


Next we meet a second person who is desperate also for the help of Jesus. She, however, is an unnamed woman who does not dare to ask Jesus for anything. She is unclean, and is very used to this designation in her community, since she has been bleeding for twelve very long years. It is so much a part of her identity that she dares not even suggest that Jesus might lay his healing hands on her. Instead, she tells herself that if she could only touch the hem of his garment, she might, just might, receive that for which she so desperately longs. Relief. Wholeness. Wellness. Reprieve from the pain and misery of her condition. Perhaps a chance to be seen again as a real person, rather than someone to be shunned. So she reaches out to touch the clothes of Jesus and immediately senses his healing power coursing through her body.


Two people from very different circumstances, bound together in Mark’s account by their desperate desire for the healing touch of Jesus to affect their lives.


There is something about the desperate need to be touched in loving and kind ways that is universal. The right kinds of human touch, it is well known, can provide physical relief from pain, as well as healing. In fact, touch is so essential to wellbeing that, without it, something within human beings withers up.


I was reading this week about the power of touch and came upon an account of the Romanian dictator Ceausescu’s inhumane orphanages of the 1980s. Children were given food and other basics needed for survival, but they were deprived of something all human beings need in order to be fully human: comforting hugs from another human being, contact like hand-holding, embracing, goodnight kisses. When the children of that orphanage were finally released, their conditions were dismal. The lack of touch had impacted their emotional wellbeing in significant ways. Psychiatrists tell us it’s as if a person is affirmed and acknowledged as being real and important, to be touched in honorable ways by another human being


I know what you are thinking right now, because you can’t help it. The parallels are too stark. News coverage is full of accounts of immigrant children who have been separated from their parents at our Southern border, are in detention centers where they receive little to no human touch and comfort. As people who know that all people are made in the image of God and deserve the dignity of being treated as such, this is distressing beyond words. Perhaps we need to figuratively throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus and ask for his healing power to reverse the trend that is breaking our hearts and breaking the hearts and spirits of children and their parents, and all people of good will. Lord, have mercy.


I believe we’re called to advocate for these families as well. But for now, let’s hold onto the sense of desperation that comes to us when we discover something that is too big and too painful for easy solutions. There are a couple of things that are revealed to us in Mark chapter 5. First of all, do you see how Jesus is sympathetic to us in our desperation? We all need to hold on to something or someone in times of need.


Jesus has time for us in those situations. If you have ever thought, “I shouldn’t bother God about this. There are so many pressing things for God to be concerned about,” then look with me at how Jesus showed his mercy with both Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman. One was not more important than the other. Conversely, one was not less important than the other. Both could receive what they needed from Jesus. He is capable like that.


The woman reaches out and touches Jesus’ clothes and immediately feels her body to be made well. When Jesus turns around and asks, “Who touched me?” like Jairus, then this woman falls at the feet of Jesus, desperately hoping in this case that he will not condemn her for touching him in her unclean state. She finds a response that heals her to an even greater degree. She is called “daughter,” a precious, precious designation. Something that is music to her ears, and a balm to her soul.


Then we see Jesus proceeding on toward Jairus’ home, persisting even when told that the little girl has already died. He walks in with no hesitation and takes her by the hand — something no one expected. After all, the laws of the time forbid him to touch a dead body. But Jesus takes her by the hand and he speaks to her, “Talitha Koum, little girl rise up!”


Some scholars have written that this phrase in Jesus’ native tongue is kept in the text for us because the Aramaic comes closer to the intention of what Jesus was saying. It’s difficult to translate, but a closer translation might be something like, “My dear precious little lamb, rise up.” And we can imagine Jesus saying that, can’t we? She wakes from her sleeping death and stands up. The sympathetic, tender care of Jesus infuses each of these situations with tear-inspiring beauty.


Well, what else can we hold onto when we think about the healing abilities of Jesus? Time and experience show us that various kinds of healing will come to us because of Jesus’ presence with us. We so wish that we can all recount stories of how each and every time we desperately sought help from God for physical healing, that we could say we received that. Sometimes we and our loved ones do receive extraordinary healing. But then there are those times when that for which we desperately hoped, does not happen as we had envisioned.


For example, I prayed for many years that my mother would be healed from the emotional pain from trauma in her teenage years that manifested itself in erratic and sometimes scary behavior later in her life. She was never in this life released from the hold that these painful memories had on her, and yet there were many moments, and years in fact, of time in which the evidences of God’s grace to her were noticeable. There were periods of time when the clouds would part, if you will, and the congenial, caring mother I had known early on would reappear. We were grateful for those times of grace from God’s hand.


Also, a dear seminary professor of mine was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was only 45. Many people have prayed for Stan over the years, but he is still living with the effects of this disease. When I visited him a few years ago, he did make this remarkable statement to me: “I have actually been healed. Not of Parkinson’s disease, but by God’s grace I have been healed of the fear and dread of Parkinson’s. I can actually receive each day as a gift to be treasured.”


It is certainly true that the healing touch of God can bring hope and relief in various sorts of ways. I know that each of you have your own stories of the touch of Jesus in your difficult situations. Sometimes his healing comes to us in tangible, physical ways. Other times it is less tangible, but no less real. But healing comes in some form to us from our God.


With the writer of Lamentations, may we all be able to say that as we throw ourselves onto the mercy of God and earnestly pray for healing, that we too may see “the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases.” God’s mercies never come to an end. And may we proclaim that God’s mercies are new every morning, for great is God’s faithfulness.


Thanks be to God for this word. Amen.


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2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Stephanie Doeschot, Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, Mark 5:21-43