After Grief God Gives Relief

Text: Lam 3:32 / Mark 5:21-43
Date: Pentecost V + Proper 8B + 6/28/15

Lamentations today says the comforting words, “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men” (Lam 3:32-33).

It takes faith, faith in Christ and faith in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come to believe those words. It takes faith in Christ and in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come to sing as we will shortly,

What God ordains is always good:
Though I the cup am drinking
Which savors now of bitterness,
I take it without shrinking.
For after grief
              God gives relief,
      My heart with comfort filling
And all my sorrow stilling. (LSB 760:5)

In today’s Gospel it is not a little surprising to discover that a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, and an anonymous woman in a pressing crowd would be revealed as the true disciples of Jesus. For these both had faith that Jesus could heal. But they discovered more than that, namely, that the true and final healing will be in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
This is one of those interesting stories in Mark where he sandwiches one story in the middle of another story. We are to see the parallels between them emphasizing their significance for our life of faith.

Jairus obviously had heard about Jesus and how He was apparently a holy man from God who could and would heal people and he decided to believe that. So he falls at Jesus’ feet and asks for His help. At this point his daughter is “at the point of death,” so time is of the essence. He asks Jesus to “come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” The first key here for our understanding is that the word translated “made well” is the word also translated “saved” implying more than just physical healing but eternal salvation! “…that she may be saved and live.” A feeling of hope and relief must have filled him as Jesus immediately went with him.

Along the way, however, an anonymous woman with a long time medical problem “heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.” Just by hearing about Jesus she decided to put her faith in Him (just like you and me, by the way). She didn’t expect Jesus to stop or even to notice. Because she believed that, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well,” and once again the word for salvation! “…I will be saved.” And so it happened. Jesus made an issue out of it, however, so that He could speak words of healing and absolution directly to her. “Daughter,” He called her. Because of her faith she is now a member of the family of faith. “Daughter, your faith has made you well,” literally, “has saved you,” go in peace, and be healed of your disease,” there the usual word for physical healing. Though she felt she had already, instantly been healed, it was Jesus’ word and blessing that made it so.

Finally we come back to Jairus’ daughter. There was enough of a delay that his daughter now had died. Too late? “Do not fear, only believe,” Jesus said. Believe what? They followed Jesus to the house. To the mourners Jesus said, “The child is not dead but sleeping.” They didn’t believe it. They knew better. Sleep is sleep and dead is dead. No breathing, no heartbeat, loss of temperature. She’s dead.

Then the important, miraculous words, “Taking her by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha cum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise,’” another resurrection word! St. Mark wants us to hear the actual sound of those Aramaic words, not as if their magic consists in their sound, but to verify by eyewitnesses the truth of this event. “Little girl, arise.” A resurrection word. And she did.

Throughout this pericope are words related not only to physical healing of illness, but the same words used of the resurrection of Jesus and the promised resurrection of the dead, that is, the ultimate, perfect healing that even death cannot destroy.

As our hymn will help us contemplate, our faith in Jesus first is caused by, sustained and strengthened by His word, by our simply hearing Him and of His mighty deeds. In that faith we entrust all our ways and all our days to His protection and safe keeping. We do that even at times in the face of what seems to us to be extreme and impossible odds. We do that because we know, as the Apostle Paul said it, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether,” we might say “regardless of whether,” “we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Rom 14:8-9). As Lord of the dead He gave this little girl life.

We all have endured illness or injury, some life-threatening and some not so much. In such times faith learns to hear the word and to say and confess, “though he cause grief, he will have compassion,” and to sing, “for after grief God gives relief.” We all also have endured mourning over the death of loved ones and wonder about our own death. (This past Thursday would have been the 43rd anniversary of marriage to my dear Alice). The thought of death may cause us to fear, that thought will cause us to fear. Faith, however, is there and will be there at the hour of our death; faith that knows that after grief God gives relief, faith that believes in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

It is in that confidence that we can sing over and over again, “What God ordains is always good.”

I fear no harm,

For with His arm
He shall embrace and shield me;
So to my God I yield me. (LSB 760)