Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – February 04, 2024

Posted on February 5, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

February 04, 2024

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Mark 5:21-43
Psalm 131

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

As we continue moving through Epiphany, the season that celebrates Jesus coming for all people, we learn more and more about the ways that God’s kingdom breaks into our world. And the power that it has to transcend whatever rules or structures we might put into place, and the power that it has transform our lives.

In last week’s reading, Jesus and the disciples crossed the sea of Galilee into Gentile territory. While there, Jesus healed a man that had been possessed by a legion of demons and was ostracized by his community.

After healing him, Jesus commissions him as a disciple in his home territory. And then Jesus and the others head back to the Jewish side of the sea, which is where our reading today picks up.

As has been happening all throughout Mark’s gospel, a crowd of people surrounded Jesus as he and the disciples got off the boat. But the story very quickly goes from a mass of people to focusing on two individuals who, on the surface, don’t seem to have much at all in common.

Jairus was the leader of the local synagogue; he was a lay leader that was in charge of the congregation. He oversaw the functional leadership of the community. So, he was a prominent person, and people knew who he was.

We don’t know who the woman in this story was. We aren’t told her name or her age. What we know about her are her misfortunes. Whoever she was or whatever she’d done prior to her medical condition didn’t matter anymore, because her sickness had taken over her identity and her life.

But there are similarities in the stories of Jairus and this woman. For Jairus, his daughter was gravely ill, to the point of death. And all conventional methods for her healing had been exhausted.

And the unnamed woman had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. All conventional methods for her healing had been exhausted, too.

Both Jairus and this woman were desperate for healing and actively seeking a miracle. They both were at the point that they knew nothing else would save them.

For this miracle, Jairus threw himself at Jesus’ feet and begged. His social standing didn’t matter. He didn’t care what anyone thought of him. He just wanted his daughter to be okay. And Jesus went with him.

As they walked to Jairus’ house and the crowd pressed in on them, the woman claimed healing for herself. She was ceremonially unclean, so she was cut off from the community and on her own. She didn’t have anyone to advocate for her. So, she couldn’t publicly ask for healing the way Jairus had for his daughter.

In all honesty, she probably thought that Jesus would never notice her touch because it really would have been insignificant. They were in motion; she probably had to work her way into the crowd and her hand probably no more than brushed up against Jesus’ clothes when she was pushed back out again.

But Jesus did notice. And when he said something about it, it scared her to the point that it made her tremble. But when she falls at his feet and tells him the whole truth of who she is and what she’d just done, instead of chastising her or berating her, Jesus calls her, “daughter.” He makes her his own and tells her to go in peace.

As all of this is happening, Jairus’ daughter dies. And so the people in the crowd tell him to not trouble Jesus any further. But Jesus keeps his attention on Jairus, goes to his home, and resurrects his daughter.

In both of these situations, Jesus meets people who are extremely vulnerable because of what they’re going through. And he meets them where they are. He doesn’t gloss over what’s going on with them, or their pain or their fear. He remains with them in it.

And from within their vulnerability, he restores them in two ways. First – physically. Physical healing is what was sought and given. The second way Jesus restores them is relationally – he restored their relationship to the community.

Their social standing didn’t matter. He restored the unnamed woman the same as he did the little girl from a prominent family. They both received that grace because, for Jesus, in any situation, the relationship is always the most important thing.

Throughout scripture, we read stories about the relationship between God and people, and people with one another. We hear about the ways that those relationships become broken, and that God’s priority is making them whole again.

In Jesus, our relationship with God is made whole. It’s a gift of grace freely given to us. Nothing we say or do can take it away. It’s a done deal.

Also in Jesus, we learn how to heal our relationships with others. And I’m not talking about relationships that are abusive or harmful. Those are different.

The interpersonal relationships that Jesus healed are the ones in which people were isolated from the community. Often because of rules that were put into place by the religious leaders. And people adhered to them because those were the rules. And the relationships got lost or broken in the shuffle.

In his life and ministry, Jesus embodied God’s love and grace – he showed people what it looks like and how to embody it themselves for the sake of relationships with others.

He brought those relationships back to the forefront, to the place where they belong.

In our world, we know that [1]trauma of any kind tends to isolate people from community. Whether it’s disease or illness, or death, divorce, family drama and disagreements, unemployment, homelessness. When we’re in deep pain, the natural impulse of others is to pull away – often because we don’t know what to say or do.

But when the church is at its best, we go towards people, and we close that gap. We recognize the reality that people are in, and remember that Jesus teaches us how to be with them in it as the body of Christ.  Even when the only thing we can do is show up and be there and say, “I love you” and “I believe God is in this somehow.”

It’s hard to be with people when they’re vulnerable or in pain because we want to fix it and we want them to be okay. But we can’t always fix it. And, as people of faith, we know that healing doesn’t always come right away, and that when it does, it might be different than what we want or hope for.

We also know that in the moments when healing is elusive, we can be honest about what that feels like – the frustration, the anger, the questions. And we know, too, that in all of it Jesus is there. And with Jesus there is grace, and there is hope.

Learning to live this way, to value relationships for their own sake, is a lifelong process. There’s a lot that competes for our attention. A lot of rules that we sometimes think are more important.

But in Jesus, we learn that the only rule that matters is the rule of God’s love. The rule of grace. The gift of grace that God freely gives us. It’s the gift that heals us and our relationships. And it ultimately heals the world. Thanks be to God! Amen.