Compassion for Grief

Text: Mark 5:21-43
Date: Pentecost VI + Proper 8B  7/1/18

This account of a little girl who died and a woman with a hemorrhage forms a key element in Mark’s Gospel for faith, emphasizing Jesus’ power over death and how that power is also at work in your life right now. Various levels of faith are described in this text. First there is a ruler of the synagogue named Jairus who fell at Jesus’ feet saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” Jairus came to Jesus with faith.

Then there was an unnamed woman who had a seeming incurable hemorrhage rendering her as unclean according to God’s Law. Having merely heard about Jesus she came to Him with the weakest faith seeking only to touch Jesus’ clothing. Was that faith or superstition? Well, when the woman came to Jesus she was filled with fear and trembling. Yet Jesus addressed her as part of the family calling her “daughter” saying, “your faith has made you well: go in peace.”

Then we witness the struggle of faith when they said to Jairus, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” It was too late, for what can all the faith in the world do in the face of the finality of death? Nevertheless, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, do not fear, only believe.” Believe what? Not “all the faith in the world” but “faith in the Word of Jesus.” Is it that simple? He seeks to restore Jairus’ faith. Probably the strangest expression of grief and lack of faith is the crowd that had gathered to the dead child’s house. For, when Jesus said, “The child is not dead but sleeping,” our text says, “they laughed at him.” Who can laugh at such a sad time? This wasn’t a joyful or humorous laugh but one of derision, laughing Jesus to scorn.

So we have the faith of Jairus and the faith of the unnamed woman, the challenge to Jairus’ faith and the rank unbelief of the crowd.

In many healing accounts Jesus says, “your faith has healed you,” “made you well.” In using this word however something more is afoot. In Greek there is another word meaning mere physical healing [ίάομαι]. But here and more often Jesus uses the word σώζω which, while it can be translated heal or made well is the word for salvation, to be saved. To be saved is the ultimate healing. As the very Creator through whom all things were made He has the power also to restore all things the way they were originally meant to be. That’s what’s behind the Hebrew word and concept of “righteousness.”

Secondly, in the raising of Jairus little daughter, Jesus shows His ultimate power of healing, restoring life even out of the jaws of death. Through the many we read about whom Jesus raised from the dead, but especially by His own resurrection we are to believe that Jesus is no mere miracle worker but is in the beginning with God as Creator and is already the God who reigns and rules to eternity, the Savior.

So we hear Him say to us today, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” We may doubt that faith can be that easy. But where does faith come from? Not from studying intensely all the doctrines and teachings of scripture, but simply from hearing about Jesus, like Jairus and the woman healed by just a touch. And how about Jairus’ little daughter? Did she have faith? Yes, we can say. For faith is a gift given even as we all are by nature blind, dead and enemies of God. God raises you, heals you, saves you by speaking you alive.

There are so many things that cause us to be afraid: afraid of out-of-control shooters in school or in the workplace, afraid of illnesses, afraid of traffic accidents or of injuries sustained at home. Then there is the fear of poverty, terrorism or war. Finally, there is the fear of death. To us in all of these things and more Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” And how can we do that? The only way is by touching the garment of His word, hearing His voice. For His Word and His voice is the very Word and Voice of God, the God who created us, sustains us, saves us and will raise us to eternal life on the Last Day. Nothing can get in the way of God’s Word of promise. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”