Sermon from 27th Jun 2021 (Pentecost 5)

Mark 5:21-43 (EHV) 

21 When Jesus had again crossed over in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him near the sea. 22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and repeatedly pleaded with him, “My little daughter is near death. Please come and place your hands on her so that she may be healed and live.”

24 Jesus went with him, and a large crowd was following him, pressing tightly against him. 25 A certain woman who was there had a discharge of blood for twelve years. 26 She had suffered much under the care of many physicians and had spent all that she had. Yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. 27 When she heard what was being said about Jesus, she went up behind him in the crowd and touched his robe. 28 She said, “If I just touch his robe, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her flow of blood stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

30 At that moment, Jesus knew that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

31 His disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing tightly against you and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’”

32 Nevertheless he kept looking around to see who had done this. 33 The woman was trembling with fear since she knew what had happened to her. She came forward, fell down in front of him, and told him the whole truth.

34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your suffering.”

35 While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue ruler’s house arrived, saying, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher anymore?”

36 But when Jesus heard this report, he told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” 37 He did not allow anyone to follow him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 They went into the house of the synagogue ruler, and Jesus saw a commotion with people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”

40 They laughed at him. But after he put everyone out, he took the father of the child, her mother, and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Grasping the hand of the child, he said to her, “Talitha, koum!” (When translated, that means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”) 42 Immediately the little girl stood up and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old.) They were completely and utterly amazed. 43 Then he gave them strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and he told them to give her something to eat.

Dear heavenly Father, touch us with your Holy Spirit so that we may trust your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

A touch.

Just a touch.

That’s all she wanted.

Although, in another way, she was sick of touches!

You see, the doctors had touched her, prodded her, and poked her. She had suffered a great deal from the touch of their hands. Each touch had come at a cost and now she had run out of money to pay for any more of their touches or to pay for further treatments to stop her bleeding.

She had trusted them for a cure, but she wasn’t cured. They had bled her dry of resources, but her bleeding still continued. As a result their touches, her dignity and self-worth may have been so low, she may have been desperate to try anything.

So, perhaps just a touch…

You see, on the other hand she longed for touch. The bleeding common for women had been constant in her case, but the never-ending presence of this blood made her an outcast because it made her ceremonially and ritually unclean. According to the laws written in Scripture, those who were bleeding were unclean and weren’t allowed the privilege of touch. If she touched another while she bled, they too were excluded from the community, especially from the community of the faithful.

So, she longed for touch because she was forbidden to touch.

Just think; while we’ve been limited over the last year or so in the ways we are allowed to touch each other due to this pandemic, for her it had been twelve years. For twelve years she hasn’t been allowed to take the hand of another, pat someone on the back, or even feel the warmth of an embrace. For twelve years she hasn’t been allowed to be helped or to help another when they fell. As a result, she felt dirty and isolated and excluded. After all, the religious laws told her she was contaminated. Everyone around her reminded her she was polluted and impure, and this was reinforced by their looks, their comments, and by the absence of their touch.

But if she could only touch him…

Of course, she knew she was forbidden to touch him, but what if she just touched his cloak as it dragged on the ground behind him? She almost didn’t dare hope for a cure, but she’s heard he’s a healer…so perhaps just a touch…

“Who touched my clothes?”

The crowd who surrounded Jesus now looked with accusing eyes for the criminal, the one who dared violate the personal space of Jesus. The eyes of all fell upon the woman stooped with a hand outstretched – the woman whom everyone knew was forbidden to touch. The eyes and the looks and the murmuring comments were full of disgust and hate. How dare one of the untouchables touch the holy One!

So, the woman, trembling on her knees, terrified of Jesus and the crowd, confessed her sin of touch.

But Jesus didn’t ask who touched his clothes in order to accuse and condemn. His question was instead for her benefit. You see, now that the eyes of the accusing crowd were looking at her, he could announce her clean and healed because of whom she touched.

You see, the untouchable woman has been cured by trusting in a touch. By faithfully reaching out to touch Jesus, she was now cured and made whole. In front of so many witnesses, she was publicly and mercifully restored to the community. Everyone now new that when Jesus announced her as clean, the untouchable one could now touch and be touched again. Her twelve years of exile were over. She was both cured of her bleeding and cured of her banishment. She was fully restored to the community…by a touch.

But at the same time a man named Jairus stood to the side. While Jesus had been delayed in their journey to his house by this woman’s touch, he just heard his twelve-year-old daughter had died.

Although this woman was now restored to the community, his daughter is now lost to the community. As one woman is now allowed to touch and be touched again, Jairus would no longer be able to touch and be touched by his daughter.

No more hugs. No more kisses goodnight. No more fatherly teasing and banter in the family room. While the woman was restored by a touch, he now felt robbed of touch. It seemed Jesus’ healing touch now comes too late for his daughter.

Despite this, Jesus gives him hope, telling him not to be afraid and to trust.

Jesus continued the interrupted journey and arrived at Jairus’s house. Everyone was wailing and crying because they too felt robbed of her touch and robbed of their dreams for her.

They thought he was mocking them and making fun of them when he said she wasn’t dead but only sleeping. When you feel robbed of life and hope and joy, now is not the time to make jokes at a dead person’s expense. The bright young twelve-year-old girl is now dead. Jesus came too late. Her life and touch is now over.

Undeterred, Jesus asked the crowd to leave and entered the girl’s room with Peter, James, John and her parents.

The same laws which excluded the bleeding woman from the community because of her uncleanness also said the dead were considered unclean. If you touched the dead, you too were considered unclean and would be excluded from the community.

But Jesus dared touch her and took the dead child’s hand into his own.

While earlier the woman could reach out in faith to touch Jesus, the dead can’t reach out and touch in faith. Jesus is the one who did the reaching out to touch the dead girl. Holding her lifeless hand in his own, he spoke to her, telling her to get up.

Jesus’ touch and his effective words (which always do what they say) was all it took. The dead girl got up and walked around. She was raised from death, healed, and restored to her family and community…by a touch and a word.

Just a touch from their Lord.

That’s all they got, yet that’s all they needed.

And it could be today you’re coming to Jesus looking for a touch…just a touch.

You see, some of you may have been violated by the touch or the words of others. Trust may have been broken or your personal space may have been unwelcomely invaded. Because of inappropriate touch or inappropriate words, you may be terrified to open yourself to another. You don’t want to feel vulnerable and you’re afraid of more hurt. But you may still long for a loving touch, a supportive arm, an encouraging word, and a gentle hand. Can Jesus provide you with the loving and gentle touch that you long for – even if it’s just a touch?

It could be you feel excluded from those around you for some reason. Their looks, their comments, and their absence of touch make you feel unworthy, dumb, excluded, and unloved. You long for acceptance and friendship, but they ignore you, criticise you, and manipulate you. Some of this is done in the murmurings and gossips spoken behind your back, which only reinforce your exclusion. Some is done to your face. In response, you may want revenge or justice, but you might also desire mercy, forgiveness, and love. Can provide the touch you’re looking for?

Perhaps you feel dirty or unworthy. Others may keep reminding you of your sin and your shame, and you feel unwelcome and isolated. But it could be you’re your own accuser. Perhaps you don’t need anyone else’s looks or comments, because your own conscience accuses and condemns you. You beat yourself up and exclude yourself from others.

In response, you look down on yourself and you consider yourself unworthy. And so that accusing voice in your head shames you again and again. When you feel so unworthy of anyone’s touch, especially Christ’s holy touch, how might you dare reach out to touch the cloak of Jesus, or do you need Jesus to reach out to you?

Maybe you need healing. You may be suffering from fracture, strain, or sickness. You may feel old, useless, restricted, or imprisoned. You may feel like you’re a burden to those around you. You might look for Jesus to touch you and make you whole again.

It could also be you feel as if you’ve been robbed of the touch of your loved ones. Distance or death now separates you. Your children may have moved out. Your brothers or sisters have gone their own way. Your husband or wife no longer touches you. Your loved ones have died. Those loving touches are now a fading memory. In many cases you know those specific touches won’t be restored to you, but can Jesus provide a touch to fill your loneliness and emptiness?

Just a touch?

And today Jesus comes in his compassion to touch you.

While Jesus touches all people, such as through the education of teachers as they pass on his wisdom and knowledge, or ensures touch is safe through the protection given through police and armed forces, or provides a healing touch through doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, his touch through the Church is a spiritual touch.

Here in his Church a voice touches your ear and speaks to your trembling heart to soothe your troubled conscience. This voice washes your shame and guilt away when he says: “You are forgiven!”. His forgiving word, received through faith, restores you to peace and life and health. Even if you struggle to believe it, everyone else here in this crowd can vouch for this fact – that you’re forgiven by Jesus. Your sins are washed away. You’re now clean and holy. His voice does what it says. Don’t be afraid. Trust him!

Similarly, by a touch you became a child of God through baptism. No matter how others treat you in your life (by their touch or the lack of it), the touch of those baptismal waters bear witness that you’re a precious and dearly loved child of God. You now belong to his eternal community of faith.

In the Lord’s Supper you reach out your hand to receive his touch. Sure, it may not be a warm embrace, but his touch is enough. The touch of his body and blood seems so light in your hand and so sweet in your mouth. His touch reassures you of his love and forgiveness.

As you touch Jesus’ body and blood, you also touch your loved ones. All those kept safe in him through faith are part of his body. Those separated by distance or death are here with Jesus. The saints of all time gather at the feast of our Lord to receive the touch of his holiness and purity. Again, it may not be the embrace you long for, but it’s a touch.

Just a touch.

But sometimes a touch, if that touch is Jesus’ touch, received in faith, well, that touch may be all you need, because by a touch…

…the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.