Pentecost 6.18 “What He Really Cares About” Mark 5:21-43
Last week, we heard the disciples’ anguished question (in their rapidly sinking boat on the Sea of Galilee) whether Jesus cares that we are perishing? We heard a hint of an answer that both consoled and concerned us: Jesus doesn’t care that we are perishing the way we care. He cares both more, less, and utterly differently than we do. And today in our Gospel (it’s almost like the lectionary was planned out so that one Gospel reading follows neatly after another!) we get, fleshed-out, the precise nature of Jesus’ concern over our dying…
He’s still trying to evade the crowds, we see, at the beginning of our reading. “Now when Jesus crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea.” It’s sort of a game of hide and seek Jesus likes to play with the crowds (and us). He hides, as Luther well said, in order that we would find Him. He Himself is that Treasure Hidden In A Field that we seem to stumble upon by sheer luck; and in our joy, sell off all our other assets to posses the whole Field and the Treasure as our own. Jesus dodges the crowds so that He’s in the right place, at the right time, for those who really need Him. He takes this to an extreme, at the End, with His dying on the cross—seeming to be gone for good, buried in a stranger’s tomb, only so that under the cross, by the empty tomb, in our own dying, He will find us, even though we mistake Him for the gardener…
The more He hides and shuns the crowds, the more they throng Him. Nice little paradox that the modern church is too often oblivious to. We might want to reflect on that a little more, another time. But today we see Jesus showing the unique way He cares about our dying and we will be laser-focused on that.
“Behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly saying, ‘My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” So Jesus went with; and the multitude (always hoping for a show) followed Him and thronged Him.” How fortunate Jesus just happened to be riding through the area at that time! So lucky for everyone! But underneath the apparent insouciance and crowd aversion, do you really think He Whom wind and sea obey, Who knows all things, Who works all things for the good of His own was there sheerly by chance? This is the first thing I want you to notice in this reading: Jesus’ outward surfer-dude cool and lack of concern hides a deep and divine Love that has Him always at hand when He’s really needed. As Hermann Sasse beautifully put it, when he was lamenting the sad and dying state of the Lutheran Church in the world: “It is evening in the Lutheran Church. But at evening, the Lord of the Church is most near.” Maybe “luck” is just Jesus’ way of avoiding a lot of sentimental scenes, a way of hiding His deep and divine Love under cover of apparent unconcern? Maybe He lets us come to the end of our rope, the brink of the abyss, only so that, when we flail about, His hand will be the only one left to grab? And we go, “Wow! that was lucky!…”?
But then: bad luck, for Jairus and his daughter! A certain unlucky(?) woman, who had a flow of blood for 12 years, and had spent all her money on physicians without getting better, but rather getting worse (sure glad that doesn’t happen today with modern medicine!) sneaks up on Jesus and touches his garment, because she’s at the end of her rope. Her stack of chips has dwindled to One; her last chance is to go all-in on Jesus, widow’s mite style. Lucky for her He happened to be riding through the area, right?! So lucky she managed to make it through the throng! The NIV, I think, has her pushing through, going: “Say, do you know if ebola is contagious?” and miraculously, a path opens to the Master! Unlike the crowds, she doesn’t want to bother Jesus. He’s clearly busy, on His way to some emergency with some little, dying girl. She doesn’t want to slow Him down. She just touches the hem of His robe, immediately feels the power, the healing, the transfiguration. She feels… lucky and melts away into the crowd, unseen.
Except, that Jesus halts and goes: “OK! Who touched Me?” This halts the procession to Jairus’ house. Everyone scoffs. Even the disciples go (NIV again): “It’s like the Who concert, Cincinnati ’79! We’re getting crushed and You ask who touched You? Seriously?” But Jesus felt the Power go out from Him, and looks around to see who’s hooking up (here’s your second takeaway: this is the Thing He really cares about!). The woman, with proper Kierkegaardian Fear and Trembling, came and fell down before Him (the posture of worship!) and confessed the whole Truth. It was pretty cheeky, stealing Divine Power without asking. What will Jesus do?
Jesus goes: “Daughter, your Faith has saved you (the Greek is σεσωκεν “saved you”, not the lame-o “made you well!”). Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” Third takeaway: this is what Jesus really cares about, like I told you last week: Faith! We are all worried and freaked out by sickness, finances, job security, death. Jesus happily uses these things to make us so weak that the only hope for Power is by mooching off Him through faith alone. Only when we’ve given up on ourselves, put our last chip on Jesus, does real Power happen to us. Then all is well and all manner of thing shall be well. Because Faith is how you steal Divine Power, hook up to the Source yourself. Faith’s the empty, open hand that lays hold of the main line, touches the bare wire; and the Shock of it, the Power of it, the Beauty of it is beyond description. It’s all Jesus cares about: getting you hooked up with Him by Faith so that He can give you all of His as all yours. He is the Pirate’s Map of Buried Treasure; and faith is the only way He’s found, possessed, enjoyed…
But the direct approach never works. If Jesus comes like some Mormon or door-to-door salesman hocking His wares, we savvy consumers will run and hide. But if He runs, hides (in a tomb!) we’re drawn in, like the woman, Jairus…who’s got some bad luck! Because, while they delayed with the ebola woman, Jairus’ daughter died. The news comes as Jesus is speaking to the woman, so why bother Jesus anymore? Nothing He can do about death! And Jesus goes to the stricken Jairus, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
In those days, instead of flowers, they sent a crowd of mourners to weep, and wail. I think I like flowers better. Jesus goes, “She’s not dead; just sleeping.” They ridicule Him. He boots them out, goes where the little girl lies, says: “Little girl, arise.” And she arises. ‘Cause Jesus says so! And He commands them to tell no one about it (evangelism, Jesus-style, right there! The more deeply the Treasure is hidden, the more joy for the faithful who will always find IT).
So here’s your last takeaway: Jesus cares that you find the Treasure He is and bestows on you by faith alone through Word and Sacrament. And if you have to becomes weak and small, harassed and helpless with the sickness unto death—in order to finally touch His clothes, well: so be it! Because then Peace, surpassing understanding, guards heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.