Healing Touch

A sermon preached at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise on June 27, 2015.

Mark 5: 21-43

In the first few chapters of Mark’s gospel, Jesus has been traveling a lot. Last week, if you recall, he had to calm a storm as they were traveling from the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee to the “other” side, the foreign side. He’d been teaching and healing on one side and after the storm was calmed, he healed on the “other” side too. He drove demons out of a man living among the tombs and sent the demons into a herd of pigs.

His healing was gratefully received by the former demoniac. But his townspeople were less sure about it. They begged Jesus to leave the neighborhood.

While they may not have liked a man who was demon possessed, at least they knew what they were getting, right? Jesus’ acts of healing up-end the way the world is supposed to be, and that is threatening to some. When we hear these healing stories about Jesus, remember that not everyone was excited about another person’s healing.

After Jesus is asked to leave the neighborhood, he does. He heads back across the Sea, apparently storm free this time. And he walks ashore to find throngs of people waiting for him.

Because there are lots of people who desperately need healing and they press in on Jesus to be healed.

In this story, we have two healings. One is Jairus’ 12 year old daughter, at the point of death.  Jairus asks Jesus to lay his hands on her so she may be made well and live.

Jesus leaves the needs of the crowd to attend to the needs of one little girl. And it is as he does that, another woman, one of many in the crowd, seeks healing for herself. She has been sick as long as Jairus’ daughter has been alive. She had endured much, under many physicians.

And she had heard about Jesus.

Someone had told her about Jesus. Think about who told you about Jesus. And consider who needs you to tell them about Jesus. Not because you’re worried about the state of their soul. That’s God job, not ours. Tell them about Jesus because they may need healing now.

This woman had been ill for a long time. And maybe the person who told her about Jesus knew all about it. Or maybe not. Sometimes our need for healing is visible and obvious, like Jairus’ daughter at the point of death. Sometimes it is hidden and private, like the hemorrhaging woman.

Because someone had told her about Jesus, she knew that if she could just touch the hem of his garment, she’d be made well.

And so she touched him, with intent to heal.

And it worked.

Jesus, immediately aware that power had left him, asked who touched his clothes.

The disciples said, “Jesus, buddy. Who didn’t touch your clothes? You’re kind of a big deal and in the middle of a rather large crowd.” I support their cluelessness in this moment.

Jesus, however, keeps looking around in the crowd. And the woman knows that he knows. And she pushes the crowd out of the way, falls at his feet, and tells him the whole truth.

Mark doesn’t tell us what she said.

Maybe she spoke of the isolation that came with her illness.

Or the desperation of continuing to get worse.

Perhaps she recounted what she had heard about Jesus from someone else, acknowledging that he was the Whole Truth.

Maybe she told him she feels guilty for being in need of healing—as if her disease was somehow her fault, because of something she had done.

Maybe she acknowledged she couldn’t save herself, and that others couldn’t heal her either. And she needed the healing only God could give.

Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed.

And in the time he was talking to the woman, Jairus’ receives a report that his daughter is dead. So he leaves the daughter who had touched his garment and heads off to the other daughter. He takes her by hand and tells her to get up.

In both of these stories, and throughout the gospels, touch is important.

The woman touches his robe. He touches the girl. Jesus touches lepers and heals them.

And when Jesus reaches out and touches a leper, he should be contaminated by the man’s uncleanness. He should be made unclean.

But that’s not what happened. When the Son of God touches someone, he makes them whole, healthy. The health of Jesus is stronger than any of our unhealth.

When Jesus reached out, touched, and healed an unclean man, when he touched Jairus’ daughter, when the woman touched him, we get a glimpse of the huge re-ordering of the world.

And we can be agents of that re-ordering as well.

When we reach out in love, in faith, in the whole truth, to seek our own healing, we can proclaim that subversive power of Jesus’ touch to heal in ways the world does not expect.  We can be the Body of Christ that heals.

But like the neighbors on the other side of the lake, not everyone appreciates God’s healing when they expect to see demons, or leprosy, or whatever kind of brokenness.  It doesn’t make sense, of course. Why wouldn’t we want our neighbors to be healed?

Because maybe if we stopped focusing on their brokenness, we’d have to attend to our own.

Because maybe if we acknowledged that even they were capable of being healed, then perhaps we are capable of it too. And how scary is that?!

I heard a quote today from Connie Schultz¹:
“My mother said being a Christian is about fixing yourself and helping others, not the other way around’’.

I confess. It is much easier to want to focus on other people’s healing needs than it is to attend to my own. And none of us knows what kind of healing someone else is seeking. Hopefully we can attend to our own whole truth seeking our healing and trust that others will know the whole truth for themselves.

(When people came forward for communion,  they were invited to also go to one of the prayer stations in the sanctuary. There were stations where people went after communion and members of the prayer team prayed with people.

There was also a table in the back with strips of cloth on them. People were invited to take pieces of the hem of Jesus’ garment. They could write something on the fabric about their need for healing and take it with them.

The other table, with the candles on it, has a letter to the Emanuel AME Zion church in Charleston.)

When we come forward for communion, remember it is also a kind of touch. It is at the Table where we seek Jesus, where we take bread and cup and touch a divine mystery through ordinary elements.

We are both people in need of healing, as the woman and Jairus’ daughter were AND we are the Body of Christ, able to offer Christ’s healing touch to the world. Let us go seek healing and offer it to a world so desperately in need of it. Amen

¹ Thanks Karla Miller!

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6 thoughts on “Healing Touch

  1. Pingback: » Healing Touch

  2. I want to emphasize that I think this is a really effective sermon and I love the general point about “fix yourself” and “tell someone who needs healing,” so if my quibbles annoy you, just pat me on the head and tell me to be quiet :). While I agree that Jesus broke the rules on maintaining his ritual cleanness. I have to quibble that ritual uncleanness is not necessarily the same as disease. Sometimes disease (leprosy) counts as unclean, but many things that count as unclean (menstrual blood) are not indicative of disease.

    • That is a totally fair point. While not all uncleanness revolved around disease, it is my impression that many diseases in Biblical times were dealt with in terms of uncleanness.
      (That sentence might not make any sense at all. )

      • Yes, visible diseases certainly (esp skin diseases) because of the rules on who could enter the Temple / offer sacrifices; and healing of these diseases made the individual clean again after a certain time (and ritual immersion). I also think the NT makes the fair point that there were some times of ritual uncleanliness that were essentially a permanent state of affairs (leprosy being the best example), thus excluding an individual permanently from the cult, and by modern (post-Enlightenment) standards this is repugnant. And it’s fair to say that this is something that its authors and the religion they were involved in developing sought to change (although this is in fact something that Latin Christianity did not change much — the treatment of lepers in the Christian Middle Ages was scandalous and it seems to me that it’s more that we don’t see much leprosy these days than that our society has changed its attitudes about it), just as they were concerned about prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. I just wanted to say that the people of the text saw ritual uncleanness differently than most of us do (because we don’t engage in purity rituals of that sort anymore).

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