LUKE 8:40-56

17 Nov 2013


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            I love fun facts about my adopted state - Nebraska.  For example, I like the fact that Nebraska has more miles of river than any other state.  I like the fact that Larry the Cable Guy grew up in Pawnee City, Nebraska and Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings, Nebraska.  I like the fact that Spam, a staple in my birth state of Hawaii ... you can get an Egg McMuffin with spam instead of sausage in Hawaii ... is produced in Fremont, Nebraska.  But that's not all.  I like the fact that Marlon Brando's mother gave Henry Fonda acting lessons at the Omaha Community Playhouse and I like the fact that the world's largest porch swing ... it seats 25 adults ... is located in Hebron, Nebraska.  I love fun facts.

            I think that's why I like Luke's Gospel so much.  It's filled with fun facts.  He mentions two in our story that the other gospel writers leave out.  Other gospel writers tell the story of Jairus' daughter, but Luke's the only one to mention that she was his only daughter.  I suppose if you have one child or many they are equally loved, but when there is just one, that child is very special.  He's also the only one to mention her age ... twelve years old ... in that culture she was on the cusp of womanhood.  It's around that age you could be promised for marriage.

            I like the two fun facts in the story that only Luke includes.  I also like that our passage for today is a "story within a story."  Which is a great literary device adding intrigue, tension to the story.  We see this in numerous television dramas.  Trudy and I like to watch Grey's Anatomy and they begin telling the story of one doctor, and then they cut away to another doctor, leaving you wondering what happened to that first doctor, and then they leave that second doctor, and continue the story of the first doctor.  It's a great story telling device, and that's what we have here.  We have "a story within a story."  We have the framing story of Jairus and his daughter, and inserted into the middle of story, and adding tension to the story ... after all, "hurry up, Jesus.  Jairus' daughter is critically ill" ... we have the story of the hemorrhaging woman.   So let's take closer look at our tale for today.  In fact, we might call it three tales.

            First, it's the tale of two people.  It's the tale of a person of substance and a broke person. 

            Jairus is the person of substance.  He was rich and socially powerful.  He was religiously prominent.  In the synagogue he decided who would preach, what Scripture would be read, and what hymns would be sung.  Being a leader of the synagogue he was highly respected in the community. 

            Then we have the woman who had an issue of blood.  She busted after spending all her money on doctors, and she had to overcome four obstacles to get to Jesus.

            First, there was the obstacle of her ceremonial uncleanliness, as defined by the Old Testament law.  According to the Levitical law, when a woman has her monthly period she is unclean, and anyone who touches her will be unclean.  If a woman has a discharge of blood beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge.  Any bed she lies on will be unclean and anything she sits on will be unclean.  Whoever touches her will be unclean, and must wash his clothes and bathe with water (Leviticus 15:19, 25-27).

            The second obstacle she had to overcome was the large crowd, pressing upon Jesus.  Getting to Jesus that day would have been no easy task.  The crowd would have parted, made room for the highly respected Jairus, but they would not have done so for anyone of a lessor status.  I imagine it being somewhat like getting to the Beatles in their heyday.  That would have been some accomplishment.  Earlier in Luke's gospel, his family couldn't get to him because of the crowd.  Look back at verse 19 in this chapter.  If you don't remember this incident, don't worry you are not losing your mind.  I skipped this story in our series, but look at verse 19.  "Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd."  So, it's incredible that she made it to Jesus.

            The third obstacle she had to come was her weakened condition.  It might have been one thing for a woman in top physical condition to get through the crowd to Jesus, a woman who had been working out every day.   But this woman suffered from a prolonged illness, one which had gotten progressively worse (Mark 5:26), and thus her condition was very poor.  It may have been a major undertaking for her to get up out of bed, let alone fight her way through a crowd.

            Then, finally, the woman had to reach Jesus in a way that did not draw attention to herself.  It is clear in Lukes account that the woman desired anonymity.  Note verse 47 ... "When the woman saw that she could not be hidden, she came trembling ..."

            Before we go onto the second tale in this story, we need to ask "Why did Jesus not allow the woman to remain anonymous?"  That's what she desired.  Why did Jesus call her out, obviously embarrassing her?  I can think of a couple of reasons.  Number one, I think Jesus did not want the woman to feel guilty about stealing a healing.  The woman may have gone home healed but feeling guilty thinking she had stolen this healing from Jesus.  She had taken it without permission, and, she may have thought, without his is knowledge.  Jesus words, Go in peace, suggest that she could go home without any misgivings, without any guilt. 

            The other reason I can think of for insisting she come forward was to convince her friends and neighbors that she had been healed.  It may have taken her a long time to convince the community that she was no longer "unclean," so Jesus publicly pronounced her so.  After Jesus' pronouncement she could return to community life.

            There is a third possible reason for calling her out, but I'll save that for the end of the message.

            OK, on to the second tale.  This is also the tale of two crowds.   We have a faith-filled crowd and we have a faith-less crowd.  

            The crowd pressing upon him, the crowd through which the woman navigated, was obviously faith-filled.  In this crowd of people, clamoring to be touched by Jesus, a weakened woman is healed.  A miracle takes place.  But after this healing, Jesus goes to a home where there is a no-faith ambiance. 

            After a messenger from home tells Jairus, "Don't trouble the Master.  It's too late.  Your daughter has died," Jesus finally makes it to the house.  It must have taken him awhile to get through the crowd himself because by the time he arrives at Jairus' house, the professional mourners had already arrived and were going about their business.  People who could afford it hired professional mourners, so Jairus' wife apparently got right on it, or more likely after getting that word, Jairus left and went home and Jesus extricated himself from the crowd hours later and arrived at the house. 

            When Jesus arrives people are weeping and wailing and he announces, "Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping," and the professional mourners laughed at him.  These professional mourners knew a dead person when they saw one, and Jairus daughter was dead, and Jesus proceeds to perform a "negative-ectomy."  We all have heard of a "lumpectomy" and an "appendectomy.  Well, Jesus performs a "negative-ectomy."   In this negative-ectomy, Jesus cut out all the unbelievers around the little girl's bedside.  Their lack of faith was blocking the mighty acts of God.  So he takes a faith-filled community into the little girl's room.  He takes Peter, James and John, and the little girl's father and mother into her room and he takes the little girl's hand, Jesus says the same words her mother must have used countless times to waken her in the morning, "Child get up," and she did. 

            All of us are subjected to negative influences.  We are surrounded by cynics who don't believe in God, or in the possibility of positive change in our jobs, home or families.  That's why gathering together on Sunday mornings is so important.  For at least an hour a week we can sit with a congregation of faith-filled people.  Once a week we are in a faith ambience just like the one Jesus created around this little girl. 

            Finally, we have a tale of two endings.  I don't know about you, but I find it odd that Jesus would insist that the raising of Jairus daughter be kept silent, while he forced the woman to make her healing public.  Why was that? 

            In part it had to do with Jesus' popularity.  If word got out about the raising of Jairus' daughter he would have trouble traveling anywhere.  If people were mobbing him now, imagine what it would be like in the future. 

            But the hemorrhaging woman may have been something else.  Could it be it was not the miracle which Jesus wanted to make public, but rather the womans faith?  Jairus faith was very public.  He fell before Jesus and pled for Him to come to his house.  And think about what an act of faith that was.  He was a leader in the synagogue.  By this time the synagogue doors were rapidly closing on Jesus, it they had not already closed.  He may have previously sided with his colleagues, regarding Jesus as a breaker of the Law, but in his hour of need he pocketed his pride and asked for help. 

            There is a famous story of Roland, one of the twelve paladins or famous warriors of Charlemagne's court.   He was in charge of the rear guard of the army and he and his men were surrounded by the Saracens.  The battle raged fiercely against terrible odds.  Roland, however, had a horn called "Olivant" which he had taken from a giant of a man Jatmund and its blast could be heard for miles.  So mighty was the horn, it was said that birds fell out of the sky when its blast tore through the air.  Oliver, Roland's friend, pleaded with him to blow the horn so Charlemagne would hear and come back to help.  But Roland was too proud to ask for help.  One by one his men fell until only he was left.  At last, with his dying breath, he blew the horn and when Charlemagne heard it, he came hasting back.  But it was too late for Roland.  He was too proud to ask for help. 

            Jairus, no matter his previous understanding of Jesus, swallowed his pride, kneeled at Jesus' feet and begged for help.  Then when Jesus performed the "negative-ectomy" he took Jairus into the room with him, obviously recognizing Jairus' faith.

            The woman's faith was not so obvious.  While the woman had reached out to Jesus in faith, she had done so anonymously.  Could the lesson be, that Jesus called the woman out because one's faith in Christ must be publicly professed, made known?  Could it be that faith is not intended to be a private matter, as so many seem to think? 

            How often have we heard people decline to discuss their own spiritual journey, justifying themselves with the statement, Well, my faith is a very personal thing  In truth, faith in Christ is both personal and public.  Jesus acknowledged that it was the womans faith which healed her, but she must also confess her faith before others.  This was so important that our Lord refused to go on without her confession of faith. 

            Let's close with this.  These healings are only two of the many miracles recorded in the Gospels.  As we reflect on these two miracles, do we ever wonder about the lack of miracles in our present day lives?  I am reminded of the man who bought a parrot hoping to teach it to talk.  For months he would say to the parrot, "Good morning.  How are you?  Have a nice day," and the parrot never said a word.  One morning the man overslept and rushed into the bathroom without speaking to the bird.  After the man came out of the bathroom the parrot asked, "Well, what's the matter with you this morning?" 

            The surprise was not that the parrot spoke.  The surprise was why it was silent all these months.

            We may think we no longer live in an age of miracles, that God is silent, but where I sit miracles are still taking place, and sometimes they even happen on a Sunday morning.  A friend, another Presbyterian pastor, told me how on Sunday in his church a man went home after a Sunday service and removed a neck brace he had worn for months, and he hasn't needed it since.  I think of the girl who sat next to Trudy in worship one day and had her hearing restored.  Then one Sunday a husband and wife came to a church, and the wife sat downstairs in front and the husband sat up in the balcony.  They hadn't spoken for weeks, but they left together.  They reached out and touched Jesus, and he healed their relationship.  These incidents don't surprise me.  I'm just surprised they don't happen even more often in a faith-filled crowd.