01 July 2018

The Ministry of Healing, Cleansing, and Raising

In this Holy Gospel, it is revealed that Jesus takes infirmity and death upon Himself — and makes Himself unclean with all man’s sickness and sin — that He might grant life and salvation instead.  Thus do you also hear and receive His temporal and eternal blessings of body and soul, which are freely given to you by His grace alone with His forgiveness of all your sins.  And by faith in that Gospel of Christ Jesus, you lay hold of Him where He is found as the Answer to your every need.

Need.  That is what Jairus understood about himself and his daughter; and that is what the woman with a flow of blood understood about herself.  They had this deep and desperate, dire need, which they could neither meet nor resolve by any power of their own.  What they needed, bottom line, was Jesus.  And they needed Him to care for them according to the charity of His compassion.

It is the nature of faith that you see nothing in yourself but sin, death, and need, but that you look to the Lord Jesus in the hope and expectation that He can and will help you and meet your needs.  Faith does not barter or negotiate with Jesus.  It worships Him by seeking His grace and mercy.

Jairus, for his part, was a ruler of the synagogue, a prominent religious leader of his community.  But he did not find what he needed in himself or his position, neither at home nor at the synagogue.  Instead, he sought out the Lord Jesus, that He should come and lay His hand upon his daughter.

So it is that both wealthy Jairus and the poor bleeding woman focus their attention and their hopes entirely on Jesus Christ.  What they find in themselves is only misery and great need.  In Him they find their only hope and help.  For true faith is not at all self-centered, but fully Jesus-centered.

That is how and why it is, that faith is said to justify and save you, as Jesus says to the woman that her faith has made her well.  It is not because of any worthiness or merit in faith itself.  It is due to the fact that faith lays hold of Christ Jesus and hangs on to Him by clinging to His Gospel.

Your faith is therefore measured by the extent to which you lay hold of Christ Jesus.  So, then, how eagerly and often do you come to hear His Word and the preaching of it?  How often do you come to receive His Body and Blood, trusting that even one touch of His flesh will heal and save you?  How seriously do you remember and take to heart the significance of your Holy Baptism, dying to yourself by the confession of your sins, and rising up to live in the Lord’s forgiveness of sins?

Faith lives to hear and receive these things, because faith lives to hear and receive the Lord Jesus.  If you suppose that you can live and do just fine without His Word and His means of grace, then you have no faith, and you are dead in your trespasses and sin.  Either because you falsely believe that Jesus cannot help you, or else because you have utterly deceived yourself and do not believe that you need the Lord Jesus (though you do!) for the forgiveness of sins, for life and salvation.

Not so with the ruler and the woman.  By the grace of God, by His Word and Holy Spirit, they knew their mortality and need, and they rightly believed that only the Lord Jesus could help them.  And their stories are recorded in this Holy Gospel for your instruction in repentance and faith.

Jairus approached the Lord Jesus and prostrated himself fully before Him in worship.  That is the posture of faith, as it is expressed outwardly in and with the body.  It indicates reverence, humility, and repentance, as well as the boldness and confidence to come before the Lord and ask for help.

And to be sure, it is a most amazing faith in Christ Jesus that Jairus confesses.  Even knowing that his daughter is dying, he trusts and believes that she will yet receive Life by the flesh of the Lord Jesus.  “Come and lay Your hands on her,” he prays, “that she may be made well, and live!”

Do you have such faith in Jesus, like that of Jairus, when you are confronted by sickness and death, by guilt and sorrow and fear, by poverty and hardship?  Do not grow weary in seeking Him out by calling on His Name according to His promises, and by availing yourself of His Gospel.

Do not insult your dear Lord Jesus by assuming or concluding that He does not care, that He has forgotten or neglected you, or that He is unwilling or unable to help.  Do not measure your life in the world with your human senses only, for they will deceive you and distract you from the real truth of the matter.  Then death will have the last word, and you will have no hope or help.

It is only by the Word of the Lord that you have faith and confidence in Him.  And only by such faith are you able to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus; lay Your hands on this or that, and all will be made well for me and mine.”  Then you are able to see and believe that, when death comes, it is only sleeping, from which the flesh of Christ will awaken you to everlasting Life in the Resurrection.

Otherwise, the maladies of sinful life in a sinful world, like the situations in this Holy Gospel, would simply be too much for you to deal with, and they would overwhelm you.  There is no way or place for you to hide or escape from the stark fact of your mortality and your eventual death.

Indeed, there is something painfully familiar and close to home in the circumstances of this Gospel.  If you have not experienced quite the same things, you can still relate to the frantic desperation of a father’s concern for his sick child.  In the back of any parent’s mind, each and every childhood illness is a reminder that life is so very fragile, and there are so many things that Mom and Dad cannot protect their babies or their big kids from.  It is sadly a fact that even young children die.

On the one hand, then, you sympathize with Jairus when his daughter has died.  Some of you have lost children of your own, and all of you know friends who have mourned the death of children.  So there is sympathy for Jairus.  On the other hand, I expect there is also a sense in which it seems unfair that Jesus should raise the daughter of Jairus, but not other boys and girls, and not your son or daughter who has died.  Yet, the real point to this miracle is, that Jesus does raise you and your children to eternal life, body and soul, never to die again, in His own Resurrection from the dead.

Meanwhile, it remains the case that you must struggle with the frailties of a mortal life on earth.

Which is why it is not so hard for you to identify with Jairus and the woman who lay hold of Jesus in this Gospel.  You have known and felt the same or similar kinds of urgency and desperation.  You have nurtured the same fervent hopes and prayed the same prayers.  But you may not realize how similar your spiritual condition is to those temporal predicaments of this body and life.

Even when it seems as though everything were coasting along just fine and coming up roses, you still ought to be seeking out the Lord Jesus where He may be found, laying hold of His Word and Flesh in the Gospel, and clinging to Him for the cleansing of your body and your soul.

According to the Law of the Lord (whether it seems “fair” or not), the woman with a flow of blood was reckoned as perpetually “unclean.”  She was excluded from the Temple and the synagogue by her condition, and anyone else who came into contact with her would be reckoned “unclean” as well.  That was all according to the Law.  And so, according to the Law, she had no business being out among people, and certainly no right to be touching Jesus in any way.  But the Holy Spirit called her by the Gospel to lay hold of Christ Jesus with faith (even a timid and embarrassed faith).

And the Lord Jesus, who was born of a Woman under the Law, in order to redeem those who were under the Law, allows Himself to become “unclean” before God according to the Law, that He might bear all the sins of the world, all the sickness, suffering, sorrows, and death of the world, in His own flesh, and carry it all in His own Body to the Cross.  There He opens up the floodgates to pour out His cleansing and life-giving Blood in a perpetual flow of healing mercy.

By His healing of this woman with a flow of blood, Jesus signifies the shedding of His own Blood on the Cross — and the pouring out of His own Blood in the Holy Communion — for the healing and life of the world.  And by His raising of this little girl, Jesus signifies His own Resurrection from the dead; that He suffers and dies for your sins, and that He rises again for your justification.  And all the blessings He has gained for you by His Cross and Resurrection, He shares with you in the waters of your Holy Baptism, whereby you die with Christ and rise to live with Him by faith.

That is why the disciples follow after Jesus in this Holy Gospel.  As Ministers of Christ Jesus, they will heal, cleanse, and raise from the dead by the authority of His Word.  And that same Ministry of Healing, Cleansing, and Raising continues to this day, as Jesus comes to you in the preaching of His Gospel, in His Word of forgiveness, in Holy Baptism, and with His Body and His Blood.

Bearing that in mind, St. Mark’s reference to Jesus’ “garment,” which is where the woman touches Him and lays hold of Him, is more significant than you might realize.  St. Matthew writes that it was specifically the hem of His garment, that is, the tassels on the corners of His robe, which were prescribed by the Law of Moses to recall the saving Word and works of Yahweh.  In this way, the garment itself served as a tangible proclamation and sign of the Word.  And it is by the Word that faith is called into existence, because it is by the Word that healing and salvation are bestowed.

So, now you should be asking yourself — if you desire to have faith, and if you desire to be saved — where and what is the “garment” of Jesus now?  Where is He found in the Flesh?  With what does He clothe Himself?  And where is the tangible proclamation and sign of His Word to you?

Well, the “garment” of Christ Jesus is the public preaching of His Holy Word.  And the “hem” of His garment is the attachment of this Word to the waters of Holy Baptism in His Name.  You touch that tasseled corner of His robe by recalling the daily significance of your Baptism, by giving careful attention to the preaching of His Word, and especially by way of repentance and faith, by confessing your sins according to His Word, and by seeking out His Word of Holy Absolution.

Regrettably, precisely because of your sins, you often do not even realize your deep and desperate need for the mercy and forgiveness of Christ Jesus.  So you may not even want to hear about His means of grace and forgiveness, because you do not recognize their great importance.  You may talk about your faith, how often you pray, your personal religion, and your spiritual life, while yet, all the while, here is the Lord Jesus Himself, walking by in the “garment” of His Holy Word and Sacraments.  How often do you let Him go, neglecting to lay hold of Him and cling to Him?

That is why you need the Law to expose your need and call you to repentance.  And then you need to keep on hearing the Gospel, the preaching of forgiveness, in order to receive the Lord Jesus.

Where you fail to lay hold of Him, your Christian neighbors (by the grace of God) intercede on your behalf, as father Jairus did for his little daughter when she could no longer do anything for herself.  And the Lord Jesus comes to find you where you are — dead in your trespasses and sin — and He takes hold of you, in order to raise you up with His Word and His Flesh.

“Arise,” He says.  And you get up, alive, at His Word.  And He gives you to eat and to drink at His Table in His House, that you might be strengthened and sustained in His Word and faith, and live as a member of His Body.  Here, for you and for the many, His holy and precious Blood flows freely with forgiveness and life, with cleansing and healing for your body and your soul forever.

He lays His hand upon your head with His Word of forgiveness.  He lays hold of you in love and with His tender mercy and compassion.  He gives you His own Life in place of your sin and death.  And then, remarkably, He says to you, “Take courage, and be of good cheer!  Your sins are all forgiven!  Your faith in Me has saved you.”  He credits you with His own righteousness, even as He commends you for the faith that He has worked in you by His Word and Holy Spirit.

It is by the grace of His Gospel that His Word and His touch give you everything you need, not least of all the very faith by which you lay hold of Him and all His gifts in peace, hope, and love.  Thus, by His Word, you rejoice in His presence, you pray and praise and give thanks to God in Christ Jesus, as He raises you from death to life, and as He feeds you with His Body and Blood.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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