Readings for the day:
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
The last week or so has been full of a variety of media news – from the horrific massacre at Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, to three separate terrorist attacks throughout the world on Friday, to the various Supreme Court rulings including the decision regarding gay marriage in our country. And I’m certain that there will be many sermons today about these recent events, except none of these stories will give us hope or save us. So instead of talking about these issues I’m going to talk about Jesus. The one who actually can give us hope and indeed does save us.
Now many people today think that if they come to church they should receive some sort of instant gratification – they’re looking for that physical healing. They are looking for miracles and when they don’t see it, they find excuses to not come any more, like, “The church is irrelevant” “I don’t like the music” “I can worship God on my own wherever I’m at”, and the list goes on and on. And now, they feel like they are outcasts or rejected, like the woman who was bleeding for 12 years. They feel this way because the longer people are away from the church, they think the harder it is for them to make their way back.
So now as the church, we are looking for a way to fix this problem of more and more people not coming to church. Except we like to look for the quick fix, the easy way out, the fix to the physical problem. But all this is, is a band aid. We have this issue of Millennials (that’s those who were born between 1982 and 2004), not coming to church. We blame this issue on the single parents or the two income households, or too many sporting activities on the weekend; especially Sundays. We say that these people need to just come to church so that our pews will be filled again and then the budget will look better. But, we too, are only focusing on the physicalness of our faith; the instant gratification.
In the Gospel story this morning, Jesus has crossed back over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (last week’s story was Jesus calming the storm on the sea). When he arrives on land, he is immediately greeted by Jarius, a leader of the synagogue. His daughter is very ill and he believes that Jesus can save her. While Jesus is on his way to Jarius’ house, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years comes up and touches Jesus’ clothes. And after finding out who touched him, Jesus says to the woman, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Your faith has made you well. That translation implies that she was physically healed of her disease; which is true, we are told that her bleeding stopped after she touched Jesus’ clothes. But the word here is sodzo which means to save. Yes Jesus saved her from her disease, but that was just a bonus. Jesus saved her from her sin, her eternal death, and the power of the devil. The text should really read, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Sure, Jesus gives us bonuses from time to time, those little surprises that we weren’t expecting, but that’s just what they are bonuses. This women, when she was trying to get to Jesus, says, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be saved.” (again the word here is sodzo) She didn’t care about here physical healing, she wasn’t looking for that instant gratification, she wanted to be saved from her sin. She wanted forgiveness. She wanted her relationship with God to be restored. (In that culture, those who were considered unclean – the lepers, people with discharges of bodily fluids, and the dead – where forbidden from the rest of society and also the temple and therefore forbidden from God.) This woman did not want her physical appearance to hinder her relationship with God any longer. She didn’t want healing, she wanted to be saved!
I wonder if we, the church (that’s us), are using the wrong translation. Do we focus more on coming to church because we are looking to be made well? Or do we come to be saved? If we look at these two stories and say that our take away from them is that Jesus healed this woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, and he also raised this 12 year old girl from the dead, then what does that say to us today? We don’t have Jesus walking around Ceylon/Welcome healing people’s illnesses and raising them from the dead. We still have miracles, but they look different than they did then. If we are only focused on the physical healing that Jesus was doing, that instant gratification, then we miss the point and we end up losing hope in the world, in each other, and in the church. For where can we possibly have hope if Jesus isn’t doing today what we read about in scripture?
And it’s true. We say that there is no hope for the future because just look at the world – racism is still present in our society, terrorist attacks keep happening all around the world, and strong voices in our culture are now saying that your opinion only matters if you are of the majority. It does seem to be a terrible place to grow up in doesn’t it. But look at what Jesus does with the woman who was bleeding or the girl who died. He not only heals them, but with both of them being considered outcasts and unclean by society’s standard, Jesus takes them and restores them to their rightful state in the community. That’s what Jesus is still doing today. That’s what Jesus did for these two outcasts. And that’s what Jesus does for you and for those who aren’t even here. Jesus uses us and those around us to bring restoration; not necessarily restoration in this world, but certainly restoration with God. Through our sin, God deems us unrighteous and unworthy of having a relationship with him. But because of Jesus, our righteousness with God is restored, our relationship with God is restored to its rightful state.
So Jesus took you, a poor, helpless sinner, an outcast with no hope for the future, and says, “Daughter, son, your faith has saved you; go into peace!” Through Christ’s death and resurrection, you, who were an outcast because of your sin, have been welcomed into God’s family, forever. Amen.
© 2015 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.