Text: Mark 5:21-43
The early chapters of the Gospel of Mark present a number of aspects of Jesus as healer. They teach of his healing power, his healing touch, and his healing word. In this passage, it is healing faith that comes to the foreground. I would like to assume that you have been impressed by his great power, attracted by his compassionate touch, convinced by his authoritative word. I would like to encourage you to have faith in Jesus the healer. Come to him, whoever you are. Come to him, however you feel. Come to him, and you will not be disappointed.
1. Come to Jesus, whoever who you are
We have here a double miracle, a miracle within a miracle. Two very different people come to Jesus. One is a named man (Jairus), a big-wig in the synagogue, approaching Jesus publicly from the front, asking for help on behalf of his child. The other is an unnamed woman, a social nobody, approaching Jesus secretly from behind, seeking help for herself. Jairus had been blessed with twelve happy years with his daughter, who was now at the point of death. The woman had been afflicted with twelve years of misery, and she was now at her wits’ end. The need of Jairus was open and obvious; that of the woman was hidden. Both came to Jesus, and both received the help they needed. If such different people can come to Jesus, then surely you can come too. Maybe you’re thinking, I’m not the religious type. Don’t worry – Jesus isn’t offering you religion, he offers you himself. Maybe you’re thinking, I’m not fit to come. Don’t worry – Jesus’ parties are always come-as-you-are. I heard the other day of someone who said, ‘I’ve been sitting on the fence so long that I not sure I have the cheek to come to Jesus now.’ But our Lord patiently endured far worse than that in his lifetime, and even while dying prayed for his murderers. Come to Jesus, whoever you are.
2. Come to Jesus, however you feel
Note the apparent hopelessness in each of these two situations. The woman was hopelessly sick: no doctor could heal her. The father was hopelessly bereaved: no power in the universe can raise the dead! Jesus specialises in helping the helpless. We say, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ Quite the opposite: God helps those who cannot help themselves. You may feel in such a muddle that you don’t know what to pray for. But the Bible says that God’s Spirit helps us in our weakness, interceding for us with groans that words cannot express.
In fact, your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and he becomes actively engaged at one in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness. He hears today as he heard the voiceless plea of the woman who touched the Saviour’s cloak.
Jesus is full of mercy: he is to those who come to him a husband, a brother, and a shepherd. He borrows names from the gentlest of creatures, such as the lamb. His office is to ‘heal the broken-hearted’. He invites to himself those who are ‘weary and heavy-laden’, Mt 11:28. He never turns any away. Come to Jesus, however you feel.
3. Come to Jesus, and you will not be disappointed
These two came to Jesus, and they found healing. The word for ‘healing’ in this passage is very interesting. It’s the word ‘sozo’, and it’s used by Jairus in v23, the woman in v28 and by Jesus himself in v34. It is the same word that is frequently used in the NT for ‘salvation’. We have a habit of separating out healing and salvation, of drawing a sharp distinction between the physical and spiritual, but the Bible teaches us not to do so. More than many of us realise, salvation is concerned with the whole person, body, mind and spirit.
I think we do have to agree, from this passage, that miracles such as these are exceptional. No doubt there were in the crowd that jostled Jesus that day other sick people, but only one was healed (so far as we know). No doubt, during Jesus’ lifetime, many people died, but only three were brought back to life (so far as we know). To expect all the sick to be healed and all the dead to be raised is to ask for heaven now. No: we have a foretaste of heaven, but not heaven itself. We reap the firstfruits now, but the full harvest later. We receive the deposit here, but the complete inheritance hereafter. We get to view the trailers, but the movie isn’t on general release yet. The rest of Scripture will have much to say about all of this this, and will teach the priority of spiritual blessings in the heavenly places and will offer a positive theology of suffering itself, so that we can learn to praise God in sickness and in health, in trouble and in joy.
Nevertheless, there are indications in this passage that we would do well to raise our expectations of what is possible when we come to Jesus and ask for his help. Faith is a factor in both these healings. Jesus said to the woman, v34, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” And he says to the man, when all seems lost, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house, he found there a crowd of mourners. He announced that he was going to revive the child, but they mocked him. What did he do? Did he say, ‘Come on in, I’ll show you what I can do?’ No – he threw them out, v40. He would not perform the miracle in the presence of those who refused to believe. Miracles do not thrive in an atmosphere of unbelief. This is confirmed by what immediately follows in ch 6:2ff. Jesus went to his home town of Nazareth, where again he was mocked, and ‘he could not do any miracles there.’ (Mt 13:58 adds, ‘because of their unbelief’).
I don’t know if you will receive miraculous healing for yourself or someone you love. But I do believe that you can come to Jesus, confident that his touch has still its ancient power, and his heart still beats with compassion for all who are in need.
“Lord, if it will be to your glory, heal suddenly. If it will glorify you more, heal gradually; if it will glorify you even more, let your servant remain sick awhile; and if it will glorify your name still more, take him to yourself in heaven.”
What we can do. We can read Scripture, and try to ensure that our beliefs, claims and expectations are shaped by God’s word and not by what we have become used to. We can pray with and for one another, remembering that ‘Thou art coming to a king; large petitions with thee bring.’ Above all, we can come to Jesus, who has power over life and death. Come, whoever you are. Come, however helpless you feel. Come, and you will not be disappointed.
Heal us, Immanuel; hear our prayer;
We wait to feel thy touch:
Deep-wounded souls to thee repair,
And, Saviour, we are such.
Our faith is feeble, we confess;
We faintly trust thy word:
But wilt thou pity us the less?
Be that far from thee, Lord!
Remember him who once applied
With trembling for relief;
‘Lord, I believe!’ with tears he cried,
‘O help my unbelief!’
She, too, who touched thee in the press,
And healing virtue stole,
Was answered: ‘Daughter, go in peace’
Thy faith hath made thee whole.’
Like her, with hopes and fears we come,
To touch thee, if we may:
O send us not despairing home,
Send none unhealed away.