June 12, 2016
Held annually since 1958, the FedEx St. Jude Classic is a PGA golf tournament held in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis, of course, because that’s where the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is located. That very tournament is being held this weekend – June 9-12 –its final day being today. Stay with me – I could hardly contain my excitement when I discovered what I’m about to share with you.
You see, St. Jude, as in the author of the book of Jude and the half brother of Jesus, is the patron saint of hopeless or impossible causes. Why is that important? Stay with me. Because, Mark 5, which we finish today, on the very weekend of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, has been called the St. Jude chapter of the Bible. Don’t you see the significance? Well, if you don’t, I’m certainly not going to explain it to you.
Just kidding – there is no significance. It is true the golf tournament is being held this weekend. And it is true Mark 5 has been called the St. Jude chapter of the Bible. Beyond that, I can’t help you. When I saw this chapter has been called the St. Jude chapter of the Bible and looked up St. Jude, and immediately the St. Jude Classic came up on Google and I heard harps playing and angels singing, I knew there must be something – but I got nothing.
So, why is Mark 5 called the St. Jude chapter of the Bible? Because, St. Jude is called the patron saint of helpless or impossible causes. And why is he called that? Because, his name is actually Judas. But, to avoid confusion with Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus, our English translations call him Jude. But again, because his real name was Judas, he was the ignored saint. What do I mean? Because his name was the same as the traitor, few, if any faithful Christians prayed for his intervention, out of the mistaken belief that they would be praying to Judas Iscariot.
As a result, St. Jude was little used, and so Jude became eager to assist any who asked him, to the point of intervening in even the most dire circumstances. And the Church, wanting to encourage veneration of this “forgotten” disciple, maintained that St. Jude would intervene in any lost cause to prove his saintliness and zeal for Christ, and thus St. Jude became the patron of lost causes. You’ll even see that most pictures of St. Jude – not actually pictures – depict him as holding a picture of Jesus – see, I like Jesus.
Are you still with me? Where else could you get such useless information? So why would Mark 5 be called the St. Jude chapter of the Bible? Because, think of the amazing miracles – healings – that have taken place in this chapter. It started with Jesus and His band of disciples landing on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee after a crazy boat ride. There to meet them was this nude dude in a rude mood. A demon-possessed guy who lived tombs. Chains were no longer able to subdue the guy – no one was able to do anything about his condition. He was helpless, hopeless. An impossible situation. Enter Jesus. He healed him – clothed him, and restored him to a right mind.
Next was Jairus’ daughter. We looked at her last week. This synagogue ruler named Jairus, who likely opposed Jesus in the recent past, came to Jesus and bowed at His feet. You see, his daughter was at the point of death. No doubt Jairus had exhausted all of his resources – no one was able to help her. She was helpless and hopeless. Not only was she terribly sick – she died. Don’t bother the Teacher anymore – she’s dead. An impossible situation. Enter Jesus. He went to Jairus’ house, put out the mourners, took the little girl by the hand and said Talitha Kum – little girl, arise. And she did. She started walking around – you see, she was twelve years old. She was helpless, hopeless, until Jesus showed up.
So really, all that about St. Jude and a golf tournament really has nothing to do with the text today, but hey, Jude.
That brings us to our story this morning – another story of a hopeless, helpless situation. Enter Jesus. You remember Mark is using one of his famous sandwich narratives. That’s where he starts a story, interrupts it to tell another story before finishing the first story. We looked at the beginning and ending of the story – the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead – and we skipped the interruption. Now certainly, the interruption allowed time for Jairus’ daughter to die. But, we’ve also noted Mark usually ties two stories together in this fashion intentionally – there are related themes, or there’s a significant contrast. In this case, there are both. So let’s the read our text – the middle of the sandwich – as we get started. Mark 5:25-34. Read.
This is another incredible story of healing in the midst of a chapter full of healings of helpless, hopeless people. Here’s what I want to do.
- Similar Stories
- The Story
- Contrasting Stories
First, let’s begin with the similar themes in these two stories – that is, why would Mark, and the other synoptic gospels, record the stories this way, besides the obvious fact it happened this way? Then, I want us to look at the story itself. Then, we’ll close our time by looking at the rather obvious contrast in these two stories – which I think will be an encouragement to us.
So first, what are the similar themes we see in these two stories which caused them to not only be recorded together, but actually happen together? Consider:
- Well obviously, both people needing healing are women – one a woman, another a little girl.
- Next, one had her issue for twelve years, the other was twelve years old.
- Next, both who sought healing knelt at Jesus’ feet – Jairus as he sought healing for his daughter, the woman, who had been healed.
- Both were called daughters in their respective stories. The little girl was Jairus’ daughter, and Jesus called the woman daughter. In fact, this is the only place in the gospel stories where Jesus calls a woman, daughter. I wonder why?
- Both received their healings by faith through Jesus’ touch. It was Jairus’ small faith, but it was Jesus who touched the little girl. And the woman believed that by touching Jesus’ clothing she would be healed – and she was.
- Which leads to the next, rather significant similarity. In fact, not only is it true of these two stories, but the first story as well. And that is, Jesus either touched, or was touched by unclean people. You see, the demon-possessed guy lived in the tombs – among dead people. He was no doubt unclean, and yet Jesus touched him. And the little girl was dead when Jesus touched her. And the woman – this was doubtless a menstrual bleeding issue, so she was unclean. In all three cases, Jesus touches unclean people, and He doesn’t become unclean – they become clean. This is central to understanding the gospel. Jesus took on human flesh, to die in human flesh to sanctify – to make holy – the rest of us who are unclean.
There are, you see, lots of similarities between these two stories. But now, let’s look at the story itself for a moment. Jesus has been approached by a synagogue ruler named Jairus. His daughter is sick to the point of death. If Jesus does not come and heal her, there’s no hope. So Jairus kneels in Jesus’ presence – that small act of pleading faith caused Jesus to respond. They begin to make their way to Jairus’ house.
Mark has been careful to note the crowds pressing in around Jesus – many seeking to be near Him, to touch Him. In verse 21, when they first got back from the eastern shore, they had to stay by the seashore since there was such a large crowd. Then, after Jairus made his request and they started making their way to his house, we read in verse 24 there was a large crowd pressing in on Him.
In the midst of that jostling mass of humanity, we meet the woman. The wording in the Greek is masterful. Verses 25-28 are actually one sentence with seven participles – seven ing words supporting the main verb, which doesn’t appear until verse 27. The effect is to build the emotional drama of the event – this woman – let me tell you about her – you won’t believe it – she came up and – main verb – touched Jesus. Let’s break it down:
The subject of the sentence is a woman, and we hear all about her condition first, meant to evoke pity. She was a woman, you see:
- Having a hemorrhage for twelve years. Literally, she bled for 12 years – most undoubtedly with menstrual bleeding. This is important. Not only was she sick, her sickness made her unclean. The OT Law was very clear about this in Leviticus. Every bed she slept on became unclean. Every chair she sat on became unclean. Her own husband, if he was still around, wasn’t allowed to touch her. She was not allowed to go to the Temple or to the synagogue. Her life had been miserable, ostracized, for 12 very long years. Meaning, not only was she sick, but she was cut off from social and religious relationships within the covenant community. Again ostracized – cut off – not unlike the demon-possessed man. She was desperate – sounds like a candidate for the kingdom.
- Having endured, literally suffering much at the hands of many physicians – don’t miss the extent of her suffering – having endured much at the hands of many physicians, she and gained nothing. By the way, when Luke records this story, he leaves that part out – perhaps because he was a doctor.
- Having spent all she had and was not helped. She was now not only sick, but destitute. She had spent all her resources on a cure, but was not helped at all.
Let’s stop right there and take a little aside. What might medical science have offered her in the way of help at this time? One of my commentaries lists the common cures for maladies of this type. He said the Talmud lists eleven cures for this specific illness. Some were potions, but others were mere superstitious folly.
“Take of the gum of Alexandria the weight of a small silver coin; of alum the same; of crocus the same. Let them be bruised together, and given in wine to the woman that has an issue of blood. If this does not benefit take of Persian onions three pints; boil them in wine, and give her to drink, and say, ‘Arise from thy flux.’ If this does not cure her, set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her right hand, and let someone come behind and frighten her (kind of like you’re getting rid of hiccups), and say, ‘Arise from thy flux.’”
In another place, the Talmud recommended the afflicted woman carry barley corn that had been taken from the droppings of a white she donkey. Another cure said she needed to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in the summer and in a cotton bag in the winter. It didn’t help her – wonder why. As humorous as all that may be, let’s not miss the pain and shame and embarrassment of this woman – and her desperate measures to find a cure.
- Which leads to the next two participial descriptions – despite visiting many doctors and spending all that she had, she, having not been helped, but having only gotten worse. Despite all her efforts, she’d only grown worse.
- And so – verse 5 – hearing about Jesus. She was probably from the area of Capernaum. She had heard the stories – all the healings He had been performing throughout the area. He was healing everyone who came to Him. And so hearing He was back – she made her way to her only hope.
- And coming up to Jesus – the tension is building. Mark, the story teller, brings us to the final participle before we finally get to the verb – the action of the sentence.
She touched His cloak. You see, verse 28, she thought if she could touch His garments, she would get well. She made her way through the crowd, thinking, believing, if I can only touch the fringe of his cloak – probably one of the tassels that Jesus, like every Jewish man, wore on the corners of his coat – if only I can touch one of those, I can be healed. Then I’ll just slip away into obscurity, and no one will know. But here’s the question – would that help if no one knew?
Now, throughout the New Testament, there is almost this magical, mystical, superstitious thinking about healing and miracles. Later, we’ll read they tried to position themselves to get in Peter’s shadow, or touch Paul’s handkerchief. The authors of the NT don’t deal with these superstitious beliefs, but rather make clear the healing is by faith in the power of God – not in some magical potion or touch.
But, this is how they thought then – and many have capitalized on that superstition today – and if you watch certain religious broadcasting, you’ll find someone promising if you just send a certain amount of money, they’ll send you a blessed tissue Kleenex, and you can be healed. Let me help on that idea – skip the money and the tissue, and trust God for His sovereign power and ability to heal in your life. Notice, however, it is sovereign power – He will choose to accomplish His great purposes.
But back to the woman. Why did she act like that? Why did she come secretly rather than crying out like so many others. Was it fear? Was it because she was ceremonially unclean? Was it because she, like the leper, like the paralytic, like the demon-possessed guy – had become an outcast of society. Was it because she was unimportant; she knew she didn’t deserve His attention? So she came up behind Him, not wanting to be seen, to interrupt. I don’t want to bother Him, I know He’s really busy – He’s on His way to Jairus’ house, for Pete’s sake. But maybe, just maybe, if could I could just touch His cloak, I believe I’ll be healed. And her plan worked, up to a point. She desperately makes her way through the crowd, touches His clothes – she didn’t even touch Him – and immediately she was healed. She could feel in her body she’d been made whole. So now, overjoyed, she turns to melt away into the crowd.
So again, we read the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed. In response to her faith, Jesus healed her. Now, verses 30 and 31 are quite interesting and produce a lot of discussion. Jesus immediately perceives that this healing power had gone from Him, so He turns around and asks, “Who touched My garments?”
Here’s the discussion. Some suggest this is great picture of the God-man. Jesus was 100% God, and 100% man. That’s true. But, they say, when Jesus became a man, He emptied Himself of the divine use of His attributes – or at least the freedom to use them. So, while as God He was able to heal everyone, as a man, He was limited in knowing whom He healed. I suppose that’s possible, I don’t buy it. Yes, there are times He limited His knowledge of certain things – like the time of His second coming. He told the disciples, no one knows the time – not the Me, not the angels, only My Father in heaven. So, some say, since He emptied Himself of the free use of His divine attributes, in His humanity He didn’t know who touched Him.
Again, I’m not going with that explanation. Rather, I think Jesus knew exactly who touched Him. And, He had the woman in mind. Just like He was enlarging Jairus’ faith in allowing his daughter to die, so also He was enlarging the woman’s faith. You see, she just want to slink away. Who touched Me? You had the faith to believe I could heal, and I have. Now have the courage to declare your faith. Not only that – I think He wanted everyone there to know – this woman who had been unclean for twelve years – and likely shunned by all of you – she’s now clean.
Well, the disciples are quite perplexed. They look at Him and say, “Are you kidding us? You see the crowd – they’re pressing in on You. Dozens, maybe hundreds have touched You. How can you ask, ‘Who touched Me?’” Who hasn’t touched You is the question.
Let me just make a little point here before we move on. In the midst of the clamoring of a crowd, Jesus could discern the heart cry of one who needed Him. Does anyone here need to know that? You show up on Sunday morning. You’re in the middle of a pretty big crowd – hundreds of people. You’re pretty inconspicuous – hardly anyone notices you. And you have a need – but the crowds are so big – the needs are so great. Will Jesus even notice? Listen, Jesus always hears the heart of one who cries out desperately to Him. While the crowds may not –Jesus will. He knows right where you are, and He knows just what you need. Reach out and touch Him – He will respond to your call, because He sees you.
Jesus ignored the disciples’ question and kept looking around, giving opportunity for the woman to respond. So the woman, fearing and trembling, aware of what happened to her – aware she had been healed – came and fell down before Him and told Him the truth. Stop right there. I believe Jesus was calling her to declare her faith. Think about that – He’d typically called for the Messianic Secret – so there would be no premature, forcing Him to be the political, military ruler/messiah they wanted. He wouldn’t be that. You see, He’d come to deal with sin and its destruction – like a 12-year hemorrhage. Like a 12 year old dying.
But then, as now, Jesus would have no secret followers. He would have us declare our faith in Him. So He calls to this woman to declare her faith, and she does – she told Him the truth. So Jesus looks at this fearing, trembling woman and gently calls her daughter. Again – the only place He calls a woman daughter in the gospel accounts. Why here? She’s on her face. And to give her loving, calm assurance, Daughter, your faith has made you well. Not that surreptitious touch – not magic, not mysticism. Your faith. Go in peace – find the shalom, the peace for which you’ve spent all you have. And so all could hear, He said, be healed of your affliction. Everyone knew she was no longer sick, she was no longer unclean.
Which brings us to our conclusion. I’ve suggested this sandwich is not only recorded by all three authors of the synoptic gospels because of some significant similarities, but because it also happened this way. Why? We are also supposed to see a significant contrast. Yes, there were all those similarities between the two stories – two daughters in need of healing in whom the number twelve played a significant role. Two bowing at the feet of Jesus. But there is also an important difference we should notice.
First, there was Jairus. He was important. A synagogue ruler. A wealthy man. A religious leader. Likely a Pharisee. Well-respected. In a position of authority. Or course Jesus would respond to him.
But then there’s the woman – we don’t even know her name. A destitute woman. An outcast because of her particular issue. Likely divorced because of her issue. Hopeless and hopeless. Easy to overlook. Why would Jesus single her out in all that crowd? Certainly others needed healing. Certainly He was in control of the healing power going out. Why her?
Because she is exactly the kind of person Jesus is looking for to populate His kingdom. Poor, destitute, hopeless, helpless, my only hope is You kind of people. That’s not to kind of people we choose. Most of us would never have chosen her to be in our group. We would have chosen the more respectable, religious, well-to-do ruler. Oh, Jesus chose him to – as soon as he was at the end of his rope. When he was helpless and hopeless. When his daughter was dead.
Here’s my point. You don’t have to have it all together to come to Jesus. Quite the opposite. While the Marines might be looking for a few good men – Jesus is looking for broken, pathetic, pitiful, helpless, hopeless people who turn to Him in broken, trembling, grateful faith.
Think about it – why is this here? Why, in the middle of a really big miracle, do we have this lady being healed of bleeding? I mean, really, couldn’t this be seen as a bit of an irritating interruption? Come on, get out of the way, lady, we’re on our way to a real miracle – we’re going to a resurrection – we don’t have time for little problems like bleeding. But Jesus did. Is there anyone here who needs to hear that?
Jesus is a big God. He’s got big things to take care of – He’s running a whole universe. And you may think, I won’t bother Him with my little problem – He’s got bigger things to worry about. I’ve got good news for you – while Jesus keeps planets from running into each other – while He keeps the star suspended in space – while He’s taking care of resurrections – He cares about you. He cares that you’re hurting, in need of a touch. And He’ll stop, and meet your need right where you are. That’s the kind of God we have. Jesus cares for you. He’s just waiting for you to reach out and touch Him. He’ll meet your need and give you the grace you need for everything you’re facing.
Will you hear Jesus say to you this morning – yes, I raise people from the dead. I am a busy God. But I’m not too busy for you. I’ll stop the whole crowd, and stop the hurting. I even still heal. I’ll take care of you – while the whole crowd is clamoring about me – I’ve got time to look you in the eye and say, son, daughter, take courage. Your faith has made you well.