Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; June 28, 2009; Mark.5.21-44

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, 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.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-44, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well it’s quite a pick of texts today to talk about. Our three year cycle of readings just doesn’t get around to Lamentations very often. How could you not say something great about: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-33, ESV) And then there’s the Epistle from St. Paul. Give generously because giving is a gift of God! (2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-14, ESV) I know, lots of you are thinking there are folks in our congregation who could sure use a stewardship sermon. But, unless we are willing to look at ourselves first, well… that’s another sermon. Then there’s that Gospel. Mark gives us the account and you can almost smell the sea air of the lake they just crossed. It’s not an easy choice. But the topic of the Gospel lesson is just too rich. And besides it’s really the topic of all time isn’t. And yet this topic might be easier if we’d actually had a funeral here at Trinity. But I guess we can wait for that, can’t we.

Maybe it just the topic we love to hate. If you Google the word you’ll get more than you want to see. I did find a very interesting site though. At you put in some vital information at get your date of death based on your normal life expectancy. It adjusts the date if you smoke, are over weight and such. My “Personal day of death” is Tuesday, October 9, 2035 then it gives you the number of seconds that is. I’ve got some 9 hundred 22 million seconds left. You can sit there and watch the time ticking away, second by second. It’s morbid, but fascinating. As I watched the seconds of my life tick away I got the urgent feeling that I should be doing something else… much more constructive. Death does that to us when we think about it. Bishop Hall said "Death borders upon our birth, and our cradle stands in the grave." One pastor I know said we live our whole lives graveside. You’ve all lost someone you loved. A father, a child, or a spouse, a brother or sister… the pain is just as much about our own coming death as it is a hole in our heart because we miss the one who died. So when the bible talks about death we perk up our ears. When we hear about Jesus healing a woman who was considered dead, and raising a little girl who was dead we perk up our ears. It’s the topic we want to hear about but we don’t want to hear about. Today we are going to talk about death by looking at an example of what Jesus does about it. Here’s how it goes…

Jesus was crowded in, as usual, when Jairus, the synagogue leader, pushed his way in to see him. He had to yell over the crowd. “Jesus! Jesus! My little girl is dying!” he dropped his to his knees in front of the teacher. “Please come and touch her so she can live.” Jesus just smiled, raised him to his feet, took him by the elbow and began to go with him. But they didn’t go very far when Jesus suddenly stopped. “Who touched me?” he looked around at the pressing crowd. The noise died down for a moment. “Someone touched my clothes. Who was it?” A timid woman moved toward Jesus. She dropped to Jesus feet. “It was me, Lord. I only wanted to be healed. I’ve been bleeding for twelve years.” The crowd backed away in horror. She was unclean. She didn’t belong among them. No one could touch her. They shouldn’t even be near her. “I had no life at all,” She said. “The doctors were stumped. They tried everything but over the years the condition just got worse and worse.” The crowds backed off even further. She was a dead woman walking around. “But all that has changed. I knew that if I could just touch you I’d be better. You’ve given so many people their lives back. I just brushed the hem of your robe, the bleeding stopped.” Jesus gently laid his hand on her shoulder. “Ah, daughter, you were right, it is your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed.” The crowd reacted. But while Jesus was speaking to the woman a man took hold of Jairus and spoke into his ear. “It’s no use to bother the teacher any more. Your daughter is dead.” Jesus heard what he said. And everyone could see the fear and grief rising up in Jairus’ eyes. But Jesus looked straight at him. “Stop. You don’t have to be afraid. Just believe in me.” Jesus spoke to his disciples; they held the crowd while Jairus, Peter, James, John and Jesus went on the Jairus’ house. It was near by and soon they could hear the shouting and weeping of the wailers. They were trying to match the tragedy of the death of one so young with volume. “Why are you doing this!” Jesus shouted over the voices. “That little girl isn’t dead, she’s just sleeping.” The wails turned in an instant laughter. “What! Who are you to say such a thing?” But Jesus sent them away with a single word. When everything was quiet he placed his arm around the girl’s mother and they all walked into the room where her daughter lay. In the dead silence of the room, Jesus knelt by the bed and took a hold of her cold hand. Placing his lips near her ear he spoke. “Talitha Cumi, Little girl, get up.” And that’s exactly what she did. She breathed a breath, opened her eyes, smiled at Jesus, put her feet on the floor and headed straight for her favorite toy. Picked it up and began walking around the room with it, because that’s what twelve year old girls do. No one in the room could believe what they saw. She was alive and walking around. Her parents were too shocked to do anything but stare. Jesus turned to them and quickly said. “Don’t tell anyone about this. No one! She’ll be hungry. She needs something to eat.”

Now you and I have been there, right with the dead. We’ve watched cancer take the lives of people we love. We’ve stood by the death bed of those who’ve gone too soon. We have the same reaction every time; sorrow, pain, fear, and horror. And we ask the question that is always asked. Why? Why did they have to die? Why do I have to die? It is a good question and there is a clear answer. The answer is because we deserve to die. That little twelve year old girl deserved death. The woman who bled for twelve years deserved death. You and I deserve it too. That death clock ticking is only bringing about our just reward. I know, I know, we have a real problem with this. We really don’t believe it’s true. All our lives in fact we work under the assumption that there’s got to be something that makes our lives worth while, worth saving. When the young die, we say, “He didn’t deserve this. He was such a good person.” That’s why we need to be reminded of truth. God told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit, they’d die a double death (Genesis 3:17, ESV). What He meant was that sin would forever separate them from His presence. And that separation would also mean that their bodies would face death, too. Saint Paul said it clearly. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23, ESV) When we sin we are dead people just walking around waiting for our bodies to catch up. And what makes you and me and the twelve year old fit in that category? Well, it’s sin. You can’t deny it. I can’t deny it. We brush it aside as if it isn’t really anything. But it is. It’s real. It invades our thoughts. It changes our good motives to selfishness. We think we can stop it, we think we have the power to make it go away. But we can’t be successful enough to rid ourselves of it. It keeps crawling back into our lives. We mistakenly believe that we have “free will” to choose good over sin. But Adam and Eve changed all that. Now we only have “self will.[1]” Lying dead on our beds is all that we can look forward to. The clock is ticking the seconds away.

That’s when Jesus says, “Stop! You don’t have to be afraid. Just believe in me.” Well, just look what he did. A suffering dying woman touched his cloths and stopped bleeding. St. Mark says that when she did that power flowed out from Him. In Mark’s language the word he used was dynamite. It was an explosion of life giving power. She was restored to complete health. Life returned to a lifeless little girl when Jesus told her to get up. He only spoke two little words into her ear, and life came back to her and she began walking around, because, Mark says, that’s what living little girls do. This man that crisscrossed the Sea of Galilee, and walked the roads around Capernaum, was more than a man. He holds the power to raise the dead. He holds the power to raise you and me from the dead. How do you know that? After all, Jesus was there doing what He was doing over two thousand years ago. How do we know that when time comes to an end and we’ve been lying in the grave for years and years, Jesus can and will speak words of resurrection in our ears? It is because he didn’t just break other people out of the hold of death, He came walking around out of His own grave. It is one thing to raise the dead, but it’s something entirely different to raise yourself from the dead. Jesus did. He offered up his own life. He faced a sorrowful, painful, fearful, and horrible death on a cross. He was beat to a bloody pulp by Roman soldiers. His hands and feet were fastened to wood with six inch spikes. A guard used a spear to split his heart in two just to make sure. He was dead; as cold as the little girl lying on her bed; as lifeless as anyone lying in our cemetery. But in an instant He breathed a breath, opened His eyes, smiled a smile, stood on his feet and walked out of the tomb. Jesus is alive. We don’t have to be afraid of death because Jesus promises that He will do for us what He did for those two women way back then. Jesus promises you, that He will speak to you “Talitha cumi, little girl, little boy, get up.” And you will.

Well, pastor, that’s all fine and good. I believe it. But those folks back then had it easy. Jesus touched them. He took them by the hand and led them from death to life. He walked around there in the dust of the ancient world. He breathed on them. He laughed with them. He ate with them. If only he’d take my hand like that. If only Jesus would touch me. I’m sick. I’m tired. I’m worried. I’m lonely. My sin is always in front of me. I’m afraid of death. I’m a dead person walking around. If only Jesus would touch me and raise me from the dead.

Dear Christians, that’s exactly what he promises to do, and in fact that’s exactly what he does. Jesus Christ in his very body crosses all that time and comes right here to you. He places his very body into your hand. It’s the very same body that had its hand nailed to the cross. It’s the very same body that took hold of that little girl’s hand and brought her life. And He comes to you through bread and wine to bring you to life. Because the sin that makes death come to you is washed away by the blood that came from His cut side. The sin that you can’t stop doing, the sin that means you should be separated from God forever, is taken away by Jesus by the blood that He pours into you in, with and under the wine. When you come to this altar and Jesus touches you, He takes you by the hand and says “Take and eat, you are forgiven. Take and drink you are forgiven. Get up and walk around in new life.” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1]For this reason I would wish that the words, “free will,” had never been invented. They are not found in Scripture and would better be called “self will” which is of no use. Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 32: Luther's works, vol. 32 : Career of the Reformer II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (32:94). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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