S. Pentecost 5.15 “If Only…” Mark 5:21-43
Jesus can raise dead people to life. Let that sink into your head for a minute! Oh, OK, I know, on one level, this is not news to anyone, anymore. Christianity is all about the belief that Jesus Christ is true God and true man and after suffering death on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead and promises a similar resurrection to all who believe in Him. Everyone knows that, just like everyone knows that 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on your car insurance with the company the little, green, British lizard shills for, right? (why does an American company have a British lizard as their spokesperson, though? That’s one thing I don’t understand. Why a lizard at all, right? And, if it had to be a lizard, why not one that speaks American?).
Anyway, while everyone says they know that Jesus can raise dead people to life, I would think that if everyone, or even most people seriously believed this—well, the world would look very different than it now appears. It’s the same reason not everyone has Geico insurance: many believe they can find better deals elsewhere, that the advertising is not really true. In the same way, the good news of Jesus and His power over death and disease doesn’t really seem to be credible news to most, or else there’d be many times more Christians than there seems to be in the world today, right?
Think about it. If there was a sick girl at Duke, with some incurable cancer, who died and after being pronounced dead and zipped up in the body bag, this guy named Jesus got into the room with her grieving parents, hours after her death, touched her hand, and so raised her from the dead (and it was all recorded indisputably by the hospital security cameras and posted on the internet) well the world would go nuts, right?! Everyone would mob Jesus for the secret of immortality. Everyone would want a piece of Him.
Crowds would press Him and sick people would throng Him and some would think, like say, a lady with a decade long, incurable hemorrhage, that if they could just touch the hem of His garment, the Power would flow into them and heal them of all afflictions. Death and suffering would not be dreaded, because, as long as you had that sort of connection with Jesus the sick girl or bleeding woman had, you would be fine. You would have no real problems! Just staying in touch with Jesus would be enough to guarantee you eternal life, peace, joy, forever, right?
The greatest worry people would have would not be finances, college tuition, house payments, job prospects, investment returns, stable family life, good friends, reputation, and honor. No. The only real worry would be losing that connection with Jesus. Being and remaining in touch with Him, as a member of His Body, the Church would be the over-riding concern in life for everyone, at least everyone who’d heard what Jesus did, and knew it to be true.
It’s like the woman with the flow of blood said to herself, in my favorite line from a wonderful Gospel: “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be saved.” (She says “saved” in the original Greek, by the way, not “made well”—not only the hemorrhage but everything wrong with her would be set right, was her conviction). If only… if only I may touch His clothes! Everything would be different, better, she believed…
But how many of us, even those of us who consider ourselves Christians and worship Jesus regularly are like this, really? “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be saved.”? And what is our problem, here? OK, we don’t have a YouTube video, but the news report of the Holy Gospel is credible to us and to most people. Few people would admit that they think the Gospels are just flat lying on this! And yet, it is not earthshaking, tree-mendous news to us on which we stake our lives, for the most part, is it? We have to work ourselves into the right frame of mind to make the effort to come to church many Sundays. We are easily distracted in the service. Bible class seems a luxury we can’t often afford. And it discourages us that when friends, neighbors discover we believe this news of Jesus, really—they just look at us funny. So we are kind of embarrassed by the whole thing, even though deep down, we want to believe.
Why are we like this? Why isn’t the news of Jesus’ power over death and bleeding and suffering and devils not more earthshaking for us? What’s wrong with us?Well, hear how Jesus addresses the woman with the hemorrhage? “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” So she goes. Hear how He addresses Jairus’ daughter? “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” and she rises. Like He’s talking to little kids. Maybe that’s the clue, right there. Little kids will believe things adults think foolish because oftentimes they face the dangers of life with fewer delusions. Ernest Becker wrote a book in the early 70’s called “The Denial of Death” that noted how “grown-ups” walk around like we’re immortal all on our own, in deep denial that we’ll ever die, like we won’t ever need a hand out of the grave, or help getting home. Adults can’t face that, but children do. Which is both why they have nightmares, and why they will let Jesus take them by the hand and lead them through the graveyard on a dark and stormy night because they hear in His Voice the Power to protect and save—even from death and the grave.
“If only…” if only we were more like the woman in the Gospel: “if only I touch His clothes…” If only we were more like Jairus’ and his daughter, “if only He takes me by the hand, Jesus would pull me out of this predicament, even out of death and my grave.” If only we believed like the little children believe Him, we’d live differently and when I say “differently” I mean much more cruciform, theologically-driven, Christ-haunted, and hoping lives. Lives whose sole concern would be quite literally staying in touch with Jesus.
The Apostles and Christ’s Church proclaim that by Word and Sacraments, Jesus is always already reaching out to us, and by faith, grabs us by the hand and raises us up. And yet, and yet… are the Word, Sacraments, and Faith of Jesus the be-all and end-all for us, personally? If not, why not? Because Jesus raises dead people with just a touch of His hand, for Christ’s sake!! and I don’t know about you, but death is the main thing that troubles me. If death had no power over me, well, wow—I could dance through life with joy, like it was one big party; and I would!
It’s not just us. The whole crowd around Jairus’ house ridiculed Jesus when He told them: “She’s not dead, just resting!” Jesus put them out; took the parents in, and came away going: “See! Told you! Just resting!” But they all knew she was dead. Everyone knows what happened. And yet, a few months after this, they crucified Jesus for doing stuff like this!
I suspect we’re just not child-like enough to admit we need a hand: “Help me get home!—I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” The denial of death, sin, and devils is strong in us. But there comes a day, comes a time, when it smacks you in the face! And on that Day, there will be one Hand stretched out, one Voice calling: “Little child, I say to you… arise!” Same Voice sounding in the Liturgy, same hand stretched out in the Supper. If only… if only you two connect, the Peace surpassing understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.