- 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 and Psalm 130 or
- Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24 or Lamentations 3:22-33 and Psalm 30
- 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
- Mark 5:21-43
Thoughts on the Word:
Mark 5:21-43 (NRSV)
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, ‘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.’ 24So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
This week's Gospel reading can be a challenging one to talk on - many a preacher glosses over passages such as this one because it references miraculous healing and even raising someone from the dead. It isn't popular today to talk about miracles, in fact I have even read articles and books by professing Christians who scoff at the idea of miraculous healings and ridicule the idea that someone could be raised from the dead - including Jesus!
So why is it that people are so willing to give up on the idea of miracles? Why when around 2 billion people on this planet profess to have faith in the redeeming work of Jesus do we not see miracles all the time? I believe that the issue we face is one of a diluted faith. We 'believe' in Jesus, but then is belief enough? Is faith as described in scripture just a mental assent to the existance of and role of Jesus? This is a major question because this is basically what is taught in a lot of churches - especially those espousing the view of once saved always saved where you become a Christian by asking Jesus into your life at a particular moment in time, and from that moment on you are assured of your salvation - nothing else required.
This view of course runs contrary to the bulk of scripture. Faith in the bible is not simply a mental assent - in fact we are warned against this kind of bellief in James 2:
"But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder." Jas 2:18-19 (NRSV)
You see the faith of the Bible is not a mental assent to anything - it is a vibrant active faith. It is not a faith of simply believing - as noted in the passage even the demons believe! No, it is a a faith that compels us to follow Jesus, in both belief and action. Now people will attempt to say that I am teaching works save us - and that is not true! Works in and of themselves do nothing, and cannot save us - for we are saved by the grace of God through faith. However a faith that is without works is dead - and a dead faith will not save you either - a dead faith is what the demons have - and they shudder.
So how does all of this relate back to our Gospel reading? Well lets look at what the woman does. She has faith that Jesus has the ability to heal her of her haemorrhaging, and because of this faith she acts - she seeks him and reaches out to touch his garment. Hers is not a faith of assent only, she didn't just sit back and say well Jesus can heal me, I'll wait here until he does... No! She pushed through the crowd, determined to seek Him, she reached out to him - confident in his ability to heal her. Her faith was active, and alive! When she received her healing and Jesus asked who had touched him, she humbly came to him and opened up to him she was honest and truthful before God. This my brothers and sisters is real faith. It is living faith that seeks God, and it is living faith that receives from God.
Jesus also gives us an example of complete and active faith. When he overhears the people from the leader of the synagogues house tell him that his daughter is dead, Jesus doesn't give his condolences, he says do not fear, only believe! He then proceeds to go to the man's home and simply tells a dead girl to get up! His faith didn't waiver - even when all hope seemed lost Jesus' actions spoke of his complete faith. Through this faith in action a great miracle occurs and a little girl who was dead, was raised!
So why don't we see misracles like this in the church now? Some will say that miracles and gifts of the spirit were only around for a short period after Jesus' resurrection - that they died with the apostles. I disagree - I contend that miracles can and do still happen and that the reason they are so very rare is because of the lukewarm, mental assent kind of faith that is the mainstay of the vast majority of professing Christians. If we want to see the Kingdom of God expressed on earth then we need to have a living, active faith; then and only then will we begin to see God manifest His power regularly through miracles throughout the church of Christ.
So where does your faith sit? Is it a living active faith? or do you simply believe as the demons do?