When I first arrived here at Calvin Presbyterian Church, over a year ago now, I was getting lunch with some of the kids in our preschool. One of them told me a knock, Knock joke that I wish to tell you all. “ Knock, Knock.” Congregation, “Who’s there?” “Interrupting cow.” Congregation, “Interrupting cow…. “moooooo”. As I interrupted you with a cow moooo, so one of these kids interrupted me with a mooo. And the best thing was I think I told that joke when I was there age. It is good to know that despite all the changes this world has undergone in 34 years , interrupting cow stays the same.
Kids can fill our lives with interruptions, and not all of them are as funny as interrupting cow. But we put up with such interruptions, even find joy in them, because we know they are dependent upon us, and they are also pretty cute. But the older people get the less we put up with them interrupting us. And as we move from being children to adults ourselves we move from constantly needing others to needing our own personal space. And perhaps in this busy, smart phone connected, constantly moving world, we are finding it increasingly hard to find that personal space free of interruptions. Well let me interrupt this regularly scheduled sermon to tell you about a new invention. It is called the Pause Pod. The pause pod is a self contained pop up sanctuary. Sort of like a personal tent that you can carry with you. To quote an article from cnet, “How is this different from a regular pop-up tent? The Pause Pod comes in sober black (perfect for work). It’s very compact. You can choose to unfurl the leg portion or leave it rolled up to save space. You can also get a tablet mount add-on so you can use the pod like a personal movie theater. If that’s too much stimulus, check out the starry night sky add-on so you can relax with visions of space.”
Jesus also valued his personal space. Often, after he taught, cast out demons, or healed, Jesus would then retreat from the world. Jesus went to a desolate place to pray ( Mark 1:35). And after Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to minister they returned excited telling Jesus all they had done and taught. Jesus replied, “ Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31). And yet whenever people in need found Jesus he never said, “leave me alone I am busy.” Instead, he saw interruptions as opportunities for healing. We see this in today’s passage. Jesus is going to heal Jairus’s daughter, who is in danger of dying. Yet, he is interrupted by a woman who touches his garment. He stops to minister to her, perhaps resulting in the death of Jairus’ daughter. Yet, he allows for the interruption, which allows for a greater miracle of raising the girl from the dead. My friends there is good news today.
The Good News. When we allow Jesus to interrupt healing will be kindled in our lives.
We allow Jesus to interrupt our lives in three ways.
- Through Humility
- Through Compassion
- Through Faith.
First, we allow Jesus to interrupt our lives by having humility. The Bible frequently talks about the power of humility. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exult you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” We see this in the case of Jairus. Jairus is the religious leader of the local synagogue. He is most likely a man of learning, a man of some prestige and power in the community. Jesus, as far as we know, followed the trade of his earthly father Joseph, a carpenter. He had no more formal training than what most Jewish men would receive at the time. The only special training he received was with His heavenly Father in the school of prayer.
I used to think that humbling yourself meant admitting when you had made a mistake, admitting when you are wrong, and changing course. But I see now that when we change course when things are not going our way, we are not humbling ourselves, we are being humbled by our circumstances, we are being humbled by the reality of our limitations. Instead, Jairus shows us that to humble ourselves means we should ask for help before we are humbled by our circumstances. We know that his little girl is at the point of death. We don’t know how long this has gone on, we don’t know if has called all the physicians in town, or how long his daughter has been sick. But he has heard about Jesus, and he doesn’t need a lot of convincing to throw his pride out the window and prostrate himself before an itinerant preacher. To humble ourselves is to throw our pride aside and ask for help. The scriptures say that if we do this God will exult us in due time.
Second, we allow Jesus to interrupt our lives when we have compassion. Often the scriptures say that Jesus taught, healed, or cast out demons, when he was moved with compassion. In two weeks the lectionary will have us learning about the feeding of the five thousand. As I mentioned, the disciples have returned from ministry, and Jesus recommends some R.N.R. They take a boat to a desolate place. But he and the disciples were spotted in their boat and people ran ahead of them to meet them on the other side. But instead of saying to the crowd, “leave me alone”, the scriptures say, “he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 5:34). Jesus valued his personal time, but his personal time was to give him strength to minister to others. He saw interruptions as an opportunity to minister in the name of His Father. His time alone made him profoundly sensitive to the needs and suffering of others. Compassion, was not just a habit Jesus did grudgingly, it was part of his character, part of his power, something that healed even when he was unaware.
We see this with the woman with the bleeding condition. in Jesus day the Old Testament law said a woman with her period was unclean and could not be touched for seven days (Levitcus 15:19). I don’t think it is a coincidence that Mark tells us this woman has been suffering from this affliction for twelve years. The detail is meant to remind us of Jairus’ daughter, who was twelve years old. This woman had been suffering for as long as Jairus’ daughter had been alive. The scripture calls this woman’s condition an affliction. The word here is also used to describe people who are whipped and flogged. It is a public display of suffering. Her affliction was isolation. Not being touched for seven days? This woman hadn’t been touched for twelve years. And she knew if she tried to touch anyone she might be punished.
And she said, “ If I touch even his garments, I will be made well. And immediately her lash left her. Jesus felt that power had left him. At first the woman tried to hide in the crowd. She didn’t want everyone around her to know about her shame. But Jesus insisted that he must know who had touched him. Finally, the woman came before him, in fear and trembling. Perhaps, she had felt like she had stolen something from Jesus. Even though she had been healed she was afraid she was about to be shamed and punished for the way she was healed. But Jesus called her out not to embarrass her but to vindicate her before the eyes of others. But Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, be healed of your disease.” Jesus is being very intentional here. He calls her daughter before the crowd, reminding us of Jairus’ plea for his daughter. We may think a dying twelve year old girl deserves more attention and compassion than a grown woman, who has an affliction, but will probably not die from it. But this is not so in Jesus’ eyes. He is trying to show the world that both this woman and this young girl are both worthy of love and compassion. They are both his daughters.
Finally, we can let Jesus interrupt our lives by having Faith. As we talked about last week Jesus defines faith in Mark as nothing being impossible with God (Mark 10:27). And I think this story provides us some interesting insights about how miraculous faith works. It shows how our Faith is to touch the power of God. Because in this passage there are actually two types of touching.
Our scripture tells us that the crowd thronged around Jesus. The word here means to crowd around so as to constrict the movement of another. Why was the crowd pressing in around Jesus? Probably for the same reason as the bleeding woman, they had heard about Jesus’ miracles, and they too wanted to be healed. That’s why Jesus question, “who touched me?” seemed so absurd to the disciples. The crowd is pressing in around them, there are many people who might be touching Jesus, or perhaps already are.
The scene evoked for me the image of a crowd of parents at the door of a toy store, waiting for it to open, so they can buy their child the hot toy of the season. Perhaps you have seen images of parents pressing in around the closed doors of a toy store, early in the morning, waiting for a fearful staff to open the door. When the door is opened there is a stamped, sometimes people are stepped on and injured, as parents try to get one of a limited supply of the coveted toys for their child. People are willing to knock each other down because they don’t think there is enough blessing to go around and if they don’t act now they will miss their blessing.
But the Bible uses different language for the way the woman touches Jesus. The verb here is also used in the Bible for kindling a fire. The image one gets is the woman’s hand is like a candle and she is reaching out gently into fire of God for her candle to be lit. I was actually a Camp Counselor for two summers at Camp Massanetta, a Presbyterian Camp outside of Harrisonburg, VA, and one of the hardest things I found was starting a fire. Building a camp fire requires different types of wood. Thin kindling to get the fire started, and thicker logs to provide the fuel. The type of camp fires I built required some space in between the different types of fuel to allow the fire to burn. And it strikes me that in this passage the woman doesn’t crowd herself upon Jesus, she doesn’t force him to pay attention to her, like the rest of the crowd, she simply reaches out and gently touches him, in a sense she respects his space, and because she does she is healed. The Greek poet Aeschylus once wrote, “ In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. “ Somehow, as the lashes fell upon this woman, she had the courage to find faith instead of bitterness. She brought herself to the Altar of faith as a living sacrifice and the Lord lit her faith into flame. And even though Jesus seemed delayed. The delay only made way for a greater miracle. Perhaps our disappointment in prayer is more due to poor timing and a lack of imagination on our part than it has to do with God’s willingness to answer prayer and his compassion for us. Though we may feel harassed and helpless we are not sheep without a shepherd. He has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies. He anoints our head with oil. Our cup overflows. Goodness and mercy follow us so let us follow Jesus.
In our call to worship today Paul speaks the call of God upon spiritual death in our lives. He says, “Arise oh sleepers, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.” If you find yourself walking through the valley of the shadow of death it is only a shadow for those who are in Christ. The time has come to rise. And we rise I believe. We will rise from death to life, from bitterness to beauty, from sickness to health, from hearts of stone to hearts of love alone. Let us interrupt the world’s regularly scheduled programing with healing interruptions. Let us prepare our hearts, with humility, compassion, and faith. Let us make our hearts ready for the gentle touch of Jesus, so that with a spark our faith may be fanned into flame, the biggest display of healing, peace, and freedom that this world has ever seen. For whom the Son sets free, he is free indeed.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.