Sermon Script: Mark 5:21-43
Sermon Purpose: New life in Christ is the best defense against suffering and death
Sermon Title: “Are We Dead Yet?”

Wednesday before last I had to be sitting in the front row of Stewart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska at 10 am. I actually had to be there earlier than that because I had to check into my cabin in the woods and check in for Annual Conference. I somehow managed to get up early enough to sneak out of the house before my kids (4 and 2) woke up. I picked up a Dr. Pepper to stay awake and drove the 2.5 hours to Lake Junaluska. After all the necessary checking in I made my way to the front row of Steward Auditorium. I found the seat with my name printed on a sheet of construction paper taped to the back of it and sat down. I was talking to an usher when I decided to open my Dr. Pepper and have a sip. The Dr. Pepper exploded right in my lap. There was no time to change or even clean up. So I decided I’d just have to use the program and reports booklet to cover up my mistake. Moments later the Provisional Candidates were asked to stand together as all 7 or 800 pastors in Western North Carolina voted for us to be accepted as Provisional Pastors. As we were standing there someone in the row behind me touched my shoulder and pointed. Remember that name tag taped to the seat – yeah. It was on my butt. I should have been embarrassed to the point of wanting to hide under a rock. But in this instance, at that time I think God gave me just a little more grace than usual, and I was able to laugh. Sisters and brothers in our embarrassing, painful, and darkest moments God does that. God grants us grace. The reason I know that is because God is not the giver of pain and death. God is the giver of life. And all those who put God first find new life in the face of worldly death.

In this morning’s passage we have two stories where Christ brought life and health in situations of death and long suffering. Jesus and the disciples have just traveled back across the Sea of Galilee. At once Jesus and the disciples are swamped by the crowd. A man pushed through the crowd to be able to speak to Jesus. The man’s name was Jarius and he was the leader of the synagogue. Jarius begged Jesus, “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well” (Mark 5:23). Jarius’ daughter was dying. It appears Jarius was panicked. Jarius was so afraid for his daughter he was willing to try anything – even reaching out to this wandering rabbi with a reputation for being able to heal people. There were many wandering rabbis at the time, but Jarius was desperate. This is his daughter’s life we’re talking about. It wasn’t just some member of his synagogue so Jarius could sit back and judge. This was Jarius’ daughter, and clearly he loved her. Coming to Jesus in this way could have split his synagogue, but desperate situations can lead people to desperate actions. Jarius’ daughter was dying, and like any good father in this situation Jarius was desperate for his daughter to live.

Speaking of desperate people – in the midst of the crowd there was a woman. Her name we do not know. What we do know is she had lived with a discharge of blood for twelve years. For twelve years she had been cut off from her family, her synagogue and her community. According to Leviticus 15:25-30; a person with a discharge of blood is unclean. Anything they sat upon was unclean. Anything they laid down on was unclean. They could not enter the temple or worship in a synagogue because of their uncleanness. This woman was cut off, and alone. She had spent all she had on painful procedures to stop the bleeding, but there was nothing she could do, and there was nothing the doctors could do. The woman thought if I can just touch the hem of his of Jesus’ clothes I will be made well. This woman believed in Jesus Christ. She believed she could be made well. It was her belief along with her desperation which led her to Jesus. There in the crowd there were so many people reaching out to Jesus. The woman had to push and squeeze her way through. I can just see her reaching out through the legs of the people in the crowd to touch Jesus’ clothes. Immediately she could feel within herself that she had been made well.

Jesus knew something had happened. Jesus had felt the power go out of Him, and Jesus wanted to know to whom the power had gone. Jesus asks the disciples, but with so many people in the crowd how could they possibly know. So Jesus asked the question again, “Who touched me” (Mark 5:31)? The woman came and fell down at Jesus’ feet, and confessed all that she had done and thought. Jesus tells her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34).

Just then some of the servants of Jarius’ house come to him to tell him not to bother Jesus any more. Jarius’ daughter is dead. Jesus heard what the servants said, and tells Jarius, “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36). Jesus then leaves the crowds behind and takes only Peter, James and John with him to Jarius’ home. When Jesus encounters mourners at the door weeping, Jesus asks, “Why are y’all making such a fuss? She aint dead. She’s only sleeping.” The mourners laughed at Jesus, but Jesus put everyone out of the house except Jarius and his wife and the disciples with Jesus. Jesus takes the little girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41). And the little girl did just that. The little girl got up and began walking around because she was twelve years old.

When I read these stories I rediscover this startling truth. In the face of suffering and death Jesus Christ brings healing and life. The woman with the flow of blood, who was unclean in the eyes of her community and beyond the help of money and doctors, was made clean. The child who was believed to be dead was given life. These things happened because of belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. In the midst of their fears and in some cases out of their desperation they reached out to Jesus and believed in Him. Just at look what happened when these people chose to believe – when these people chose to put God first.

My brothers and sisters there are people in this world who hold to some very polarizing opinions, and my fear is their opinions are taking them and maybe even us further and further away from Jesus Christ. Last week Dylann Roof sought to start a race war by shooting nine people in an historically black church. That same week the Western North Carolina Conference voted to send a petition to the General Conference regarding the Church’s stance on homosexuality. The vote failed by 200 votes, and Western North Carolina voted not to send that petition. There is currently a debate about a flag from a war fought 150 years ago. The Confederate flag has long since become a symbol of hatred, racism and all manner of prejudice. In the midst of these three issues from the news over the last two weeks there has been suffering, hatred and death.

I am deeply concerned with the ways polarizing opinions seem to take us further and further away from the gospel. I don’t know what it is about human beings, but we like to run from one extreme to the other. But the truth is we are all like children sitting next to an old window unit air conditioner. The further we get away from the source of the cool air the hotter life gets. The further to our opinions the further we run from the cross of Christ Jesus. Take note of the people in this morning’s passage.

The woman had done all she could do to stop the flow of blood. She had suffered and given everything she had, but it wasn’t enough. It does not matter what opinion we hold it will never be enough to save us from suffering, sin and death. It is only the love of God, the blood of Christ and grace carried by the Holy Spirit which brings freedom and salvation. The further we stretch the limits the farther we move from the giver of life. However, it was belief in Jesus Christ which gave life to Jarius’ little girl. It was belief in Jesus Christ which healed that woman of her flow of blood. As I consider the events of the last two weeks I am again reminded of the darkness in this world. I am reminded in salvation God puts God’s light and life inside of us. Out of God’s gift of life comes the power to forgive, the power to love, and the power to share God’s grace with others like a light in our present darkness. Did you see the people standing in solidarity outside of that AME church in Charleston? Did you hear their song? Let us stand together and sing that song today. Let us be united in spreading God’s light into the world’s present darkness.

In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.