July 16, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 8:40-56.
When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And a man named Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came forward. He fell at the feet of Jesus and begged him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. As he went, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, who [had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and] was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped. Jesus then asked, “Who touched me?” While all were denying it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you.” But Jesus said, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me.” When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.” While he was still speaking, someone from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” On hearing this, Jesus answered him, “Do not be afraid; just have faith and she will be saved.” When he arrived at the house he allowed no one to enter with him except Peter and John and James, and the child’s father and mother. All were weeping and mourning for her, when he said, “Do not weep any longer, for she is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him, because they knew that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called to her, “Child, arise!” Her breath returned and she immediately arose. He then directed that she should be given something to eat. Her parents were astounded, and he instructed them to tell no one what had happened.
I first thought to dissect these stories and reflect upon them separately, but Luke interlaced them for a reason. It seems that the key component is faith. If so, what is Jesus telling me about faith, about my faith?
Jairus ,the synagogue official, had surely heard about Jesus and his repulsion from other synagogues in Galilee. He probably also had heard about the resurrection of the only son of the widow in Nain; surely those miracle stories swept quickly from town to town. There is an air of desperation in that Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him. The cured demoniac in yesterday’s reading also sat at Jesus’ feet and begged to be allowed to follow him. Kneeling or sitting at another’s feet is a sign of deference to authority or power. Jairus’ hope in Jesus’ power may have been tenuous, though. When he received word of his daughter’s death, Jesus felt that he had to tell Jairus to put aside his fear and believe that she will be saved from death. So, Jesus is telling me that despite my doubts I should persevere in faith, to believe in the irrational, in the miraculous, in his healing and saving compassion. With faith the size of a mustard seed amazing things can happen.
The hemorrhagic woman was also desperate. She had been living as an isolated outcast for twelve years, for as long as Jairus’ daughter had lived. She knew all about the healings that Jesus had performed. Why else would she have been in the crowd that waited for Jesus to return from the Gerasene area across the Sea of Galilee? They had no idea when he might return. So great was their need to hear the good news, to be healed, to be lifted up, to be nourished, that they were prepared to wait for days. This woman was unclean and risked physical harm in reaching out to Jesus. Her conviction that Jesus could cure her overcame her fear of the consequences of violating the social, religious rules. Jesus’ voice when he asked, “Who touched me,” must have been stern, even accusatory, for she was too frightened to speak up at first. She must have been startled by the question, by his imperious voice, by the fact that he even knew he had been touched and through that touch cured her. Jesus seems to be telling me to let my faith overcome all my fears, to let it enable me to contravene the rules of society and church if necessary. The one thing that is important above all else is to remain focused on Jesus and his healing, saving love and to confess that faith to him and to all within hearing.
Sanford in The Kingdom Within writes, “Faith is a fundamentally important element in the journey to the kingdom, but the nature of faith has often been misunderstood. When Jesus speaks of faith, he is not thinking of what we might call doctrinal faith. He never asks anyone to believe in any doctrinal, philosophical, or metaphysical creed of any kind. When Jesus speaks of faith, he is speaking of a certain capacity of a person to affirm life in spite of what life may bring, and even in the face of doubts.” That’s what these stories are about, what Luke wants me to understand. I’ve always said that my faith is very simple and I think that’s what Jesus is advocating here when he said, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” It doesn’t get much more simple than that!