The Family of God

Scripture: Mark 5:21-43
Title: “The Family of God”
Preached: Pioneer/FPC – 7/1/18

It’s always a challenge getting back into the swing of things once I have been away. It is nice to travel and it is nice to get back as well.  As a part of my time away, we spent a week on the East Coast visiting colleges.  It was a good experience and still I am glad that I only have to pay for one child to go through college.  Sending a child away to college can be overwhelming both financially and more importantly emotionally.  These transitions are not easy.

Therefore, I came to our text today with all of this on my mind.  We have two stories that Mark purposely puts together, the resurrection of Jarius’ daughter and the healing of a woman who has been suffering with consistent menstrual bleeding for twelve years.  Our hearts ache at the situation of Jarius and his wife.  You don’t have to be a parent to understand how difficult this must have been.  As parents, though, it does truly hit home as we think about how we would feel in the same situation with our own child, but we should not assume that only parents would feel empathy towards what is happening.  There has been much in the news about the situation of family separation and no matter our stance on immigration, it shakes us to see families separated from one another.  This feeling of concern isn’t only among parents but across all demographics and ages. The point that I am trying to make is that compassion is a God given gift that is given to all and our ability to feel compassion and empathy connects us to God, no matter whether we are parents or not.

In these stories, who do you relate with?  Do you feel for Jarius, a father and important man in the Capernaum community? As one of the synagogue presidents, he would have held an important role in his small town.  It is easy to imagine that as a leader, in a normal situation, he probably would have been anxious about bringing such a controversial figure as Jesus to his small town.  If Herod-Antipas, the ruler and tyrant found out, there possibly would have been repercussions for his family and the people he watched over.  Also, what would the hard-liners or Pharisees say about bringing Jesus to town?  Normally, it would be reasonable to assume that Jarius like many influential people would have had a wait and see stance when it came to Jesus.  But this wasn’t a normal situation.  His daughter was dying and doctors could not cure her.  Jarius put those concerns aside and went to Jesus himself.  He didn’t send servants but went to plead with Jesus to come and save his daughter. The Scripture says that when Jarius came to Jesus, he fell at the feet of Jesus and said, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”  We can imagine the urgency of Jarius’ request.

Jesus got up and went with Jarius, but on the way as people were crowding around him, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years reaches out and touched Jesus’ clothes.  Do you find yourself relating to this woman and her suffering?  Blood was seen as an impurity and the stigma that went along with her condition probably meant that most people considered her cursed by God for something she had done in the past.  We know better now, but back then this woman would have been ostracized for even appearing in public where she could contaminate others.  Have you ever felt ostracized or different because of something that was beyond your control?  Have you ever worried about what others might think of you if they really knew the truth about you?  Imagine how terrified she must have felt when Jesus turned around and asked “who just touched me?”  The disciples naturally thought this was a ridiculous question as many people were crowded around Jesus.  She must have been quite fearful to admit the crime she had just committed by touching Jesus.

But Jesus was able to cross that boundary of the Law, and reach out to the humanity of the person and situation.  We can only imagine what was going through the mind of Jarius through all of this, “My daughter is dying and this man is asking about this unclean woman.”  This woman would not have been allowed in the synagogue with her condition.  Jarius must have been quite anxious to get Jesus back to his home as soon as possible. But Jesus does take the time to heal this woman and inquire of her situation.  This woman who has suffered both physically and emotionally for so long, who was seen as being cursed and dirty, Jesus takes the time to notice her. And what is Jesus’ response to her once she comes forward?  He says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”  Jesus recognized her as an equally suffering daughter just as Jarius’ daughter was suffering.  She is equally important and loved by God.  Jesus elevated her in front of the whole community from condemned and sinful to loved and faithful.

As I see what is going on in the border, I ask myself, “Do I think of illegal aliens are equally loved by God?” or do I see simply them as law breakers.  How did Jarius look at this woman?  We can only speculate.  Jarius was not a bad man.  We see him as a loving father who was probably conflicted about his support for Jesus. Jesus brought together both of these two seemingly opposing sides.  In the same way, we might also find ourselves caught like Jarius when we see what is going on along the border.  Perhaps we value family, but we also value law and order.  We understand that these individuals want a better life for themselves and their loved ones, but we might also want them to enter the country legally.  Remember Jesus own words, “I didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.”  When we allow the compassion of Christ to enter into our hearts we are able to fulfill both our love for our neighbor and also our commitment to God’s righteousness for Jesus was completely righteous before God and completely compassionate towards people on both sides of the political spectrum.

As I watch the news I worry that we are separating ourselves and unable to listen to one another.  Many people I know refuse to talk about politics or religion except with people who agree with them.  We are unwilling to listen to different points of view and look at the humanity of those we are in opposition with.  Whether we watch Fox News or MSNBC, we create echo chambers of people like us that agree with us.  This is not what Jesus did and it wasn’t how Jesus acted.  Jesus surrounded himself with disciples from all walks of life. There were zealots like Simon. There were blue collar workers like Peter, James, and John.  There were Pharisees like Nicodemus.  Tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus.  Women from all walks of life like Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, and his own mother who was worried that her son was getting into trouble.  Jesus surrounded himself with people who believed different things and he wasn’t scared to dialogue with them.  Jesus showed kindness and healing to various people with differing beliefs and thoughts.

We too need to be able to look upon our neighbors with the same compassion as Jesus and with the same desire to be righteous just as Jesus was righteous.  We do not have the right to ignore the law, but in Jesus and his grace we find the fulfillment of the law.   As Paul points out, we are then obligated to share the grace and generosity we have received in Christ Jesus.  Just as we have received an abundance of grace and love in Christ, so too are we share with those in need.  This is the way of Christ.

One final note, as Jarius put his trust in Jesus, and had the courage to bring Jesus to his house, I can only imagine how overjoyed he was to have his child returned to him.  I wonder if through this experience he looked at all of God’s daughters differently? I would hope that Jarius too could now invite this woman and others like her into his synagogue.  That he too could have echoed the words of Jesus to her as well, “Little girl, get up” come and receive the grace and nourishment of God.  Amen.