By Paul Koch –
The fact that we gather together here this morning, in a place of worship, a building designed to hear the word and receive the sacraments of our Lord, is not all that uncommon. I’m not saying that it is necessarily a popular thing, at least the way in which our world values its use of time. But most people in our lives here in this great country have some understanding of church: why people go to church, the point of church, that sort of thing. Even if they perhaps don’t want to go, they will usually respect your commitment to go to church on Sunday morning.
And for the vast majority of churches, no matter the flavor; whether you are a Lutheran (as God himself intends you to be) or a Baptist, or a Methodist or a Catholic or even a Presbyterian, everyone gathers together around one central thing. They gather around our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ and His blessings stand at the heart of every place where the church exists. There may be various emphasis upon this Lord, but He remains the Lord of His church.
Quite often the focus of a given place of worship is not so much upon who Jesus is, but who you are. Or, perhaps a little more to the point, who you need to be or who you need to become if you are to come into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. See, the truth of the matter is that your worth is in question. Are you worthy enough to come to Christ? You may think you have a clear answer to that question, but it often gets really muddied in our lives. Whenever I ask a believer what they would do if they knew that Christ was going to return tomorrow morning, I’m usually greeted with some short list of things they would get in order to be ready. Something that you feel you need to attend to in order to be worthy of our Lord’s arrival, worthy of his embrace, worthy of entry into through the pearly gates of eternal paradise. For deep within every Christian is a realization that we are not worthy. You are not worthy of Christ.
Here the various churches are ready to help. They are ready to offer guidance and resources and encouragement in order to aid those trying to be worthy of his gifts. There are those who will direct the longing hearts of the believer toward their own morality. Do you speak and act like one worthy of Christ? Do you not only talk the talk but walk the walk? Are you the one that Jesus would welcome into His embrace with open arms because you have actually tried? Have you dug deep and worked through the tough times, you’ve repented and tried again? Then again, there are those who might direct you toward having a mind that makes you worthy. Do you confess the right things? Do you have a firm understanding of the workings and teaching of God? For by faithful study of the Word and diligent participation in Bible study, perhaps you too can be found ready and even worthy when our Lord returns. Then again, being worthy might simply be a certain disposition to the workings of God in your life. Do you experience the work of the Spirit? Do you pray for his guidance and feel his direction in your life? If so, then you might well be on your way to being worthy. And if not, perhaps the church can help you get there.
However, today we are faced with a text that seems to challenge this notion of our worthiness. Mark, Chapter 5, doesn’t set before us a parable or some long discourse of our Lord, instead it is the story of a miracle He does. Actually, it is two miracles squished together like a sandwich. One story begins, and before it is concluded another story is told on the way, and then the first one is finished out. This tells us that Mark wants to convey something specific in putting these together. There is something connecting the woman with the flow of blood and the raising of Jairus’ daughter.
Our text finds our Lord having just come out of a boat when He is approached by a man named Jairus. Jairus was one of the rulers of the synagogues. He is a man of influence and means. No doubt he is respected by the people and a man of honor. But, none of that has mattered, for none of it helped him. His daughter is sick. He must have heard about the miracles of our Lord. He must have known that there are blessings and hope that come with Jesus, so he falls at the feet of our Lord and says, “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.” It is a heartfelt confession, full of desire and desperation. His daughter is dying and the only one left who might be able to help is our Lord. So He goes.
But His journey there is interrupted. Along the way, as the people close in around him, enthused by this man they have heard so much about, someone touches our Lord. This someone who dares to come to him, to approach him, is a woman who is unknown to us. We don’t know her name, we have no idea where exactly she is from, but we know one thing for sure. She was unworthy. She was defiled, ritually unclean. See, according the law a woman who was menstruating, who had a flow of blood, was considered unclean. In fact, if she touched someone else they could be rendered unclean by that contact. To be unclean is no small thing. It cut you off from the gifts of God, from the place of sacrifice and atonement. So, the pain of this woman who touches our Lord stems from being caught in the law, unable to free herself. Not only has she suffered at the hands of the physicians who only made matters worse, but she was separated out from her people, separated from her Lord. But she has one hope, one last ditch effort for restoration. Hearing about our Lord she says, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And she does, and she is. She is made well.
Before you can really get your mind wrapped around the significance of this moment, some of Jairus’ servants came to them on the road and said to him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Now if touching or being touched by a woman who is menstruating would make you unclean, that goes double for coming in contact with a dead body. But, our Lord doesn’t seem troubled by it. He doesn’t hesitate. In fact, he even endures the ridicule of the people mourning her death when he says to them, “The child is not dead but sleeping.” And then, just as the woman who was cut off from the gifts was restored by touching our Lord, so he restores a girl cut off from life itself by touching her. He takes her by the hand and says, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl arise”. The unclean and the dead, the unworthy and the unexpected, these all receive the gifts of hope and life that flow from our Lord.
Both this ruler of the synagogue and the woman on the fringe of society came with empty hands, with nothing to offer, no worthiness in themselves, no gifts to bestow. They came as beggars to receive everything from the hands of Christ alone. Who is worthy to come to our Lord. Who is worthy to enter into His blessings? Those who are most worthy are those who have nothing to offer him. No works of their own to point toward, no great wisdom to offer him, no superior knowledge, nothing. They may be people of prestige at the end of their ropes, or the overlooked and forgotten caught in the trap of the law without hope. But still they come to our Lord. He alone is their hope, their confidence, their treasure.
Which means that you, my friends, are worthy to come to Christ. You are worthy to receive the blessings of God. Your failure to live as he has called you to live, your lack of understanding, your shaky living as the disciples of Christ are not a barrier to His love. He has given it all for you. He has come, lived, suffered, died and rose for your salvation. We come here to gather in the presence of Christ, to receive His gifts so that we might go out with the confidence that He loves you, welcomes you, blesses you and forgives each and every one of you. You are not worthy of touching His garment by yourself, but in Christ you are worthy to walk triumphantly into the Kingdom of Heaven itself.