5th Sunday after Pentecost – Vicar Stoppenhagen
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Mark 5:21-43
Our Savior Lutheran, Raleigh
27 June 2021
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world. Amen.
Chaos follows Jesus wherever he goes. And that chaos always seems to take the form of the crowd. Today, as soon as he steps off the boat, the crowd converges—and it is complete pandemonium. It’s to the point where they are beginning to crush Jesus because of their fanaticism. (You Sunday School kids will remember how we acted that out last week for VBS.) But what does the crowd see in Jesus that makes them act this way? Did they simply see a provocative teacher, a fine scholar, a worker of miracles? Or could they actually see that he was God? Did he really have that “daily beauty in His life that made us ugly”? In short—did they believe he was who he said he was?
As I reflected on this question this week, I concluded, No. The crowd doesn’t really believe. They might see Jesus’ “daily beauty” and experience something divine in him, but they don’t actually believe that he is the Christ, the Messiah of God who has come to bring life and salvation. However, there are believers hidden in the crowd. They’re always in the crowd but never of the crowd. And we have to be careful here, because it’s easy to group everyone into the mass of people swarming around Jesus. But we can tell the believers apart from the crowd but the subtle differences in the way they act. Jairus and the unnamed woman, show us how it’s done. The crowd crushes Jesus; the believers fall at his feet. The crowd wails and screams; the believers weep in fear and trembling. The crowd is chaotic and impatient; the believers are calm and self-controlled.
These differences in behavior show us that the believers and the crowd are expecting different things from Jesus. The crowd, of course, wants a miracle to wow and impress. And at first, that’s what it seems like Jairus wants for his daughter, and what the bleeding woman wants for herself. But the language Mark uses to record this encounter reveals that they have more than health and safety on their mind; they’re concerned with eternal things, too. Three times in this passage, Mark uses the Greek word sozo, which is translated each time as “made well.” But sozo more basically means simply, “to save.” This is the word for salvation! Mark could have simply used the Greek word for physical healing, but he doesn’t. He uses the word that means the saving of both body and soul.
So Jairus and the woman, when they fall at the feet of the Lord of Life, aren’t just asking him to save them from illness and death. They’re asking for eternal salvation, everlasting life in him. Yes, Jairus might be worried about his daughter’s bodily suffering and praying for that suffering to be relieved. But at the same time, he’s asking, “Come and lay your hands on her, that she may be saved and live eternally.” In the same way, the woman, once she discovers she’s been healed, comes in fear and trembling and is told, “Daughter, your faith has saved you;” And notice that her physical healing is secondary to her being saved by faith: “go in peace,” Jesus says, “and be healed of your disease.” Faith looks to eternal things, and trusts that the necessary earthly things will follow after on their own.
This is something the crowd can’t grasp. To them, Jesus is just another powerful preacher with a unique connection to the divine, and his miracles and exorcisms are just there to prove that connection. And they’re definitely going to take advantage of those miracles to extend their self-centered enjoyment of earthly life. But Jesus doesn’t come to them to impress them, or to make their life easier, or to somehow use his miracles to create faith in them. Jesus comes first to those who believe in him, not to those who seek signs. He comes to those who believe that he truly is the Son of God, and who fall at his feet in humble repentance.
But too often we make ourselves part of the crowd. We want Jesus to make our lives better and to take all our troubles away. So we grow impatient with his lack of action. We wonder why he still hasn’t relieved us of our burdens, why he still lets us suffer the fear and loneliness and despair. But faith, we see in our two believers today, creates patience. The woman suffered her illness for twelve years! She had seen all the doctors, spent all her money, and yet she grew worse. But she heard the things of Jesus, his promises of life and salvation, and knew that even if he couldn’t heal her, he could at least save her. If she could receive the gift of eternal life, she could patiently bear whatever earthly life threw at her.
Jairus, too, embodies this patience. His daughter is lying on her death bed (and has probably been sick for some time!), yet Jesus is taking his time to figure out who in the throng touched his robe. But Jairus doesn’t say anything. He simply “waits quietly for the salvation of Lord,” and then gets the devastating news that his daughter has died. But as a good ruler of the synagogue, he surely knows the book of Lamentations: The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him…though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” As believers, we run on God’s time and trust he will show mercy when we need it most. The crowd pushes and pulls and screams and wails, but we who believe let Jesus work his own way through the chaos. We know that he will seek us out and bestow his gifts on us.
And Jesus comes especially those believers who are in the midst of chaos, to those who suffer and mourn. He’s not a God dwelling in some far away realm; he’s the God who comes down to seek the least, the last, and the lost. He searches through the crowd to find those who need healing. He enters the homes of those who grieve. In the midst of the chaotic crowd, Jesus hears the cries and laments of those enduring doubt and despair. And to all these suffering saints he brings the promise of healing and the hope of resurrection.
Because even Jesus himself would experience the sense of abandonment, grief, and despair, as the chaos of the crowd gave way to the chaos of the crucifixion. They declared Barabbas the beautiful one, and made Jesus ugly. They wailed and screamed for his crucifixion. They unwittingly sought the ultimate and necessary sign—the death of the Son of God for the life of the world. But Jesus died for the crowd as well; his steadfast love was poured out on them, too. And as they yelled, “He saved others, let him saved himself,” he was saving them. And he was saving you, as you stood with that jeering crowd. Even in your impatience, when you thought he should come down from that cross and do another miracle for you, he was doing another miracle. He was paying the price of your sin and reconciling you to God.
If chaos follows Jesus wherever he goes, we can be sure that chaos will follow us wherever we go. But Jesus is our constant companion. He seeks us out and leads us through. He heals us and grants us peace and forgiveness. And soon he will lead us out of the chaos and into his heavenly home, where in our resurrected bodies he will overcome us with amazement and give us something to eat at that feast which knows no end.
In the holy name of Jesus. Amen.