Sermon for Ordinary 13 by Rev Dr Sam Cappleman
New Life Mark Chapter 5
It’s a bit of an eclectic group of readings today. Unusually we have a reading from the Apocrypha which seems to be talking about life and death, one from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians where he is clearly trying to elicit financial support from them and be generous in their giving, and then the one from Mark which talks about the healing of two women.
But there is a theme which runs through them all. It’s a theme of full life for all in the image of God’s creation. A creation where all are restored in God’s image and the worlds resources are shared equitably between the rich and the poor. In Paul’s words, shared out of the riches we have, not what we think we need and then perhaps look to give away some of the rest…
Mark sets out in his gospel to show Jesus as the Son of God. His opening sentence says his gospel is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He uses signs and wonders not as an end in themselves but to point the way to who Jesus is. Today’s story is no different.
Mark wants to show that by the things Jesus did, not necessarily by recounting the details of Jesus’ teaching. In today’s story we have Jesus in action, healing of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and the healing and bringing to life Jairus’ daughter.
This comes after the story of the stilling of the storm and the healing of a man possessed by demons.
Taken together they echo back and mirror the time of creation where the waters are stilled, spirits are brought under authority, order is brought out of chaos and finally human life is created. In so doing Mark is telling us about the new world order, the new creation that Jesus as the Son of God brings into our world as the Old comes to an end.
The story is deeply symbolic for Mark, but it also shows a deeply compassionate Jesus who cares for everyone, no matter what their circumstances.
We don’t know many facts about the woman who was bleeding, or about Jairus’ daughter but one thing we do know about them is that the woman had been bleeding for 12 year and the little girl was 12 years old.
In the bible, the number 12 often signifies wholeness of the completion of God’s purpose.
The woman, who had been bleeding for 12 year had spent all she had. Mere mortals were not able to make her well, to restore her to full health and to the way in which God had intended her to be. It’s as if she symbolises the old world order, the way of the Israelites who had lost their love of God and had got themselves entangled in the ways and rules of men (as it mainly was in those days).
The language that is used in this part of the story symbolises the old and the past.
She reaches out in all her shame and embarrassment to Jesus.
He knows, He understands and He responds, in love and compassion, as He always does.
It was an old world order that needed to reach out and touch God in Jesus so it could be made whole and complete. The words and works of humans had failed in the Old Covenant and it needed intervention by God so that His purpose could be made complete.
But Jesus came into the world not just to restore and redeem the old, to refresh the old ways of the Jewish system of belief, there was more to why He came. He came to bring something new, the old was restored but the new was coming and it was going to be very different.
Jairus didn’t know what Jesus might do, but he turned to Him as a last resort, someone who might have an answer.
And he was right.
His daughter, who was 12 years old, was dead but was brought to life, new life by the touch of Jesus. The completion of God’s purpose came in bringing completely new life to everyone.
Jesus reaches out to Jairus’ daughter and she is brought to life from the sleep of the dead.
As He was in the house of the ruler of the Synagogue, a Jew, we might have expected Jesus to speak in Hebrew (or Greek perhaps) but He speaks in Aramaic, the common language. But this new relationship with God which Jesus brought about was open to all, not just the Hebrew speaking Jews, and inclusive of men and women.
And the language that’s used in this part of the story is different, it symbolises the present, the new and the ongoing.
In the story, Jesus thus not only heals and restores the old, but brings about life and vitality to the new. Looking to the past and looking to the future. What has been and what is yet to come. The old has gone, not destroyed or thrown away as worthless, but renewed and restored. But it is only a part of the new that is here now.
In the story we see that Jesus is there when people reach out, as did the woman who had been bleeding. For others He is there, and comes to meet them where they are, reaching out to them whatever their circumstances. Perhaps after just the faintest understanding or glimpse of who He is.
There are bits of both women in all of us.
There are times when perhaps we need to reach out to God for things that may have happened in the past, perhaps which we are embarrassed or ashamed about and ask that He would restore and renew so that we can move on.
Perhaps all we do is whisper a silent and seemingly confused prayer asking that the old may be transformed and renewed. We don’t necessarily know everything about Him, who does, or exactly what to ask, but He is there whenever we reach out.
There are times too, perhaps in time of need, where we just need to allow the risen Jesus to reach out to us and to touch us. To make something new out of what looks a hopeless situation. He is there then too. Times when perhaps we are too fearful even to whisper to him or to speak.
The new creation which Jesus brings in open to all. It’s not exclusive, He reaches out to everyone to invite us to come so He can breathe new life into each one of us, over and over again. Life, which in Him, is eternal.