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Keep interrupting me

July 1, 2018

Mark 5.21-43


Jesus was having another busy and amazing day.  Can you imagine what it must have been like to be around him?  The gospel of Mark gives us a sense of how exciting it was. He uses the word ‘immediately’ in the original Greek. It appears 4 times in our reading:


And immediately the flow of blood dried up [for the woman].

Jesus immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 

And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 


There is a good tradition that the apostle Peter shared his memories with Mark who wrote them down.  So we can imagine Peter still being full of excitement even as an old man.  He could not forget the times that he spent with Jesus: everything was so immediate for him, so amazing and surprising.


Jesus is amazing and surprising on this occasion.  The woman with the flow of blood was probably considered unclean.  A man who had contact with her would be made unclean.  That notion is foreign and even repulsive to us today; but it was the belief among the society in which Jesus lived.  


Jesus crossed this boundary.  He did not draw back from the woman in disgust.  Instead he healed her.  He was not going to be stopped by man-made boundaries.  He would not confine or reduce the grace of God.  


Jesus chose not to leave people in the condition that he found them.  People in difficulty do not bring Jesus down to their level, making him unclean.  He brings them up to his level.  He called the woman ‘daughter.’  He made her part of his family.  


What are the boundaries in Australian society that must not be crossed?  What about the boundary of foreigner versus true Australian?  This is surely behind the refugee and asylum debates.  We can pray for a welcome for refugees, and release for those in detention centres.


Jesus was quite amazing in his attitude towards women for the times in which he lived.  In Mark’s gospel the first person he healed on day one of his work was Peter’s mother-in-law.  He raised her from her bed of sickness.  He raised the woman with the flow of blood.  She was raised from her 12 years of misery, from the condition that had ruined her financially.  She was restored to her place in her community.  And the little girl was raised from her death bed to new life.  It is something to think about, this attitude of Jesus towards women, when you consider that we live in a society where there is still private and unseen violence towards women.  We should not be allowing this to happen. 


There is another thing to notice about Jesus on this very busy and immediate day he was having.  It began with Jesus arriving by boat from the other side of the lake.  A great crowd gathered about him.  It was just then that a distressed father named Jairus came up to Jesus.  He pleaded with Jesus to do a house call, to come and heal his daughter who was near to death.  


Jesus straight away set off to Jairus’ house.  A great crowd followed and thronged about Jesus.  What an opportunity we would think for Jesus to stand up and preach the word, and bring many new followers into his kingdom.  There are many people in our celebrity culture today who would like to have a great crowd thronging around them.  There is probably many a church this morning which wishes it was full to bursting. 


But what did Jesus do?  He headed off to Jairus’ house.  And on the way he bumped into the woman with the flow of blood; and he stopped to spend time with her.  What is it with Jesus that he doesn’t stay focussed and make his mission the priority?  Why doesn’t he want to be successful as we might want to be?


The beauty in this passage is that Jesus intentionally stopped everything for just one person.  He responded to this interruption.


There was an American theologian named Henri Nouwen.  He was what we call an academic in an ivory tower.  He said that his real life began when he discovered that his interruptions were his real work.  Someone else has said, "Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans!”  I had a day like that on Friday.  I was asked to visit my son’s mother-in-law, who this week was told she has lung cancer.  And while I was there I was phoned about food parcels for a person just released from gaol.


Imagine what it would be like if we organised our lives around that principle, of being open to divine interruptions, instead of always looking for that star we never seem to catch.


And then the two miracles of healing by Jesus.  For the woman it was a case of ‘last desperate hope,’ after having tried all the doctors.  We might be tempted to think that sort of faith is less than sufficient.  But it was good enough for Jesus.  He said it had made her well.  


In the case of the girl, it wasn’t her faith that brought Jesus to her.  It was the faith of someone who cared for her, her father.  So St Paul can rightly say, ‘bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.’


When we feel we have run out of faith, it is ok to ask someone else to pray for us, as Jairus did for his daughter.  In the letter of James in the New Testament he says:


'Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.'  James 5.14, 15


This is why many churches have prayer ministry and anointing with holy oil. We keep our holy oil locked in that little box in the wall.  Should we be bringing it out and using it?


What if the prayer is not answered?  Has our faith been too small?  No.  God desires to be a Father to us.  And Mother also.  Parents don't give their children everything they want.  God says through the prophet Jeremiah:


'I know what plans I have in mind for you, plans for well-being, not for bad things; so that you can have hope and a future.'  Jerimiah 29.11


God gives us hope and a future.  His big plan is that we know and love him now, and look for his kingdom before everything else; and finally that we should be with him in that greater place he has prepared for us.


So this was Jesus’ amazing and immediate day.

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