Sermon St P’s & St M 27 June 2021 Year B Fourth Sunday after Trinity
Jairus daughter and woman with issue of blood
Wisdom 1v13-15; 2v23-24 (Ps 30) Mark 5vs21-43 (2Cor 8v7-24)
Let us pray:
Last week we travelled with Jesus and the disciples, probably in February AD 29, in a boat across the sea of Galilee. You will remember that Jesus had to calm a storm with his commanding words ‘Peace. Be still’. This was a demonstration to the disciples, and in response to their question, ‘Who then is this’, confirmed the authority and power of Jesus as the expected Messiah, and Son of God.
When they reached the other side, to the pagan and Hellenistic, Decapolis, they were met by a demoniac. Jesus healed him, casting out the many evil spirits into a heard of swine who rushed headlong into the lake and were drowned. Despite wanting to return with Jesus to the Galilee, he was left as a missionary voice to those pagans, and so effective was his testimony that when Jesus returned some time later, all the people brough to Jesus their sick to be healed.
On their return back across the lake to the bay of parables, just south of Capernaum, where Jesus had taught before their journey started, he was given no rest or respite from his healing ministry. He was met by an excited crowd and by Jairus, one of the rules of their synagogue whose little daughter was dying. But as Jesus went with Jairus to heal the little girl, he was met and touched by a woman who had had an issue of blood for some twelve years.
The third century Church historian Eusebius (265-340) tells of a tradition that she was a woman of means who came from another pagan area around Caesarea Philippi, but she was clearly familiar with this Jewish miracle worker and of his power to heal.
In his book ‘A guide to the real Jesus’, Ron Mosley explains why this woman was so intent on touching the hem of Jesus garment.
She was in fact reaching for the tassels of twisted wool, called the tzitzit, which were on the corners or ‘wings’ of Jesus’ prayer shawl.
These shawls are still worn today to fulfil the biblical commandment given by God to Moses (Num15v38-39) “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels-tzitzit on the corners of their garments to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and to do them”. (show prayer shawl and tassels)
The tzitzit consists of five double knots and eight threads, making thirteen elements in all.
Now if we remember that in Hebrew each letter of its alphabet has a numerical value, for tzitzit it is six hundred. Add these together with the thirteen elements and what do you get? 613, the number of commandments in the Jewish law, the Torah, given by God to Moses. Again we have to remember that nothing is of no significance in the Hebrew faith described in the Old Testament.
There is also a Jewish understanding that the pomegranate fruit contains 613 seeds, one seed for each of these commandments. However during one of our stays in Cyprus I decided to check that and counted 771 seeds. So much for that myth, unless of course we still have to discover another 150 or so new commandments!
But there is even yet more significance to our story.
At the time of Jesus there was a Jewish tradition that the tzitzit, those tassels or knotted fringes on the Messiahs garment possessed healing powers. Perhaps you remember a prophecy from Malachi (4v2) where we read that Messiah is said to be coming with what? “With healing in His wings”, in other words, on the tzitzit, as the corners of the garment are referred to as its ‘wings’.
That desperate woman, after twelve years of no success from the medics and having spent all that she had, may have known that tradition and the prophecy, so no wonder she was intent on pushing through the pressing crowds around Jesus to touch His tzitzit. We read that Jesus was aware that someone had touched him as ‘power went out of him’, and said ‘who touched me’. His disciples seeing so many people pressing in on him thought that was an impossible question, but when the woman realized she had been healed, she came forward and Jesus comfortingly commended her for her faith with the words ‘Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering.
And that is what Jesus still wants for the suffering people of our world, for them to be freed from their suffering. And the solution brothers and sisters is in our hands, we are called to be as Jesus to our needy and hurting world today.
A late Byzantine tradition speaks of a stone cross that had earlier been placed about a mile south of Capernaum to commemorates the site of that healing.
Jesus was then able to continue with Jairus but on the way some came who said that the little girl had died. That was no hindrance to Jesus who was about to show his power as the Son of God over humanities worst enemy, over death.
Jesus said to the weeping and wailing crowd that had gathered words which must have seemed to them not to make any sense, ‘The child is not dead but sleeping’.
I wonder if when things seem so overwhelming and not to make any sense to us, we are able to hold fast and firm to our faith, to our belief in the one true and creator God to whom ‘all things are possible’. Can we be patient and see that He will have a way forward for us?
So taking only the girl’s parents and his inner circle of the three disciples Peter, James and John, Jesus goes into the rulers house. He takes the child by the hand and commands, ‘little girl, get up’. No wonder when she began to walk about they were ‘overcome with amazement’.
Well, wouldn’t we be if in that situation? Yet such is the God that you and I worship and serve; and believe it or not, some of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world still see God doing similar things today, and that raises deep and searching questions for us to ponder.
In our reading from the book of Wisdom, attributed to king Solomon but probably compiled around the first century BC, the writer clearly describes God’s original creative intent for the human race, ‘God did not make death, and does not delight in the death of the living’.
Although death is part of the expected way of life that we have inherited, as Christians we have the promise of a hope that goes beyond mortal life.
E Mote in a well known hymn writes, ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; no merit of my own I claim, but wholly trust in Jesus name’.
The writer of Hebrews tells us (Heb11v1), that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’; and Paul tells the Roman Christians (Rom5v2), ‘our hope is of sharing the glory of God’, and further tells us to (Rom12v12) ‘Rejoice in that hope’.
With that promise before us we are able to look beyond the gate of death with the hope of sharing with our Lord and Saviour the coming glories of his kingdom in the new creation. Amen