Proper 8B 2012: The hem of His garment

Mark is artfully weaving us through a series of healings.  Jesus calms the sea, thereby putting boundaries around chaos.  Then Jesus confronts the Gerasene demoniac – a man possessed with many demons – in a graveyard.  Even in a place filled with death, insanity and demons, Jesus is Lord.  Then Jesus heals a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years; blood is unclean in the society, so this woman’s situation is not only ritually unclean, but is also rather scary.  Jesus’ presence brings healing and order, even when Jesus does not know who it is who is calling upon him.  Finally, in this healing quartet, Jesus breaks the boundary of death in healing Jairus’ daughter.

Jesus shows that he is powerful in places in which we have no power, places at the edge of order and chaos.  Human beings have no power over a raging sea.  Jesus calms the sea, eliminates the chaos, for his disciples.  The crazy man in the cemetery is an outcast of society.  He lives in a graveyard and is filled with demons.  The demoniac falls before Jesus, showing Jesus’ power over demons, over evil.

Jesus is on his way to lay hands upon Jairus’ daughter, and on his way there, a unclean woman breaks all the bounds of proper behavior.  A person who is both a woman and unclean is a societal pariah, one with whom you would not associate.  She is worse, lesser, than the crazy man in the cemetery.  It is this woman who reaches out to Jesus; his presence and his clothing heal her.  She is bold and desperate, way out of line.  Jesus, however, declares: “Your faith has made you well,” and it is so.  She is healed.  Jesus calls this woman, this outcast, his daughter.  “Daughter,” he says.  “Go in peace.”

Then we come back to Jairus’ daughter, who is so sick that her father begs Jesus to heal her.  “Some people” tell Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, that his daughter is dead, and not to trouble Jesus, “the teacher,” rabbi, any further.  “Some people” are telling Jairus to forget about it – Jesus is not supposed to care about healing a societal nobody, the bottom of the pile of prestige, power – of everything.  This child who is female has no voice, no place, no importance.  But her father begs for her life.  “Some people,” the ones who know the rules and certainly know when someone is dead, laugh at Jesus.  The child is dead.  Jesus heals her, brings her to life.  The verb that Jesus uses is the word of resurrection, of life – new life!  We find Jesus once again putting his time and his healing power into the most vulnerable being in the world – a voiceless, powerless, scary sort of female child.  “Little girl, get up!”

Jesus heals men, a crazy man, and then two women … the healings are in order.  We understand that Jesus heals those who know him, the disciples in the boat.  We are surprised when Jesus heals someone who matters not at all to the rest of us.  We are amazed when Jesus has an impact on someone who may not know His name.  We laugh at Jesus.  We laugh when we are caught in unbelief; we laugh when we forget how huge, how far-reaching, how HEALING the power of God is when Jesus is in our midst.  We forget that with Jesus we all have a voice.  We forget that the world is not run, in the end, in accordance with the rules of humankind.  It is God who first, foremost, and finally wins.  This man is God’s Son.

A woman named Corrie Ten Boom shares incredible stories of faith and of healing in her books “The Hiding Place” and “Tramp for the Lord.”  Then a forty-eight year old watchmaker in Hollan, Ms. Ten Boom gave sanctuary to Jewish people in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation in WWII.  She was betrayed, imprisoned, and sent to a concentration camp, she and her sister, where her sister eventually died.  Corrie was released – a paperwork error and a miracle – and spent the rest of her life, “tramping” around the world, proclaiming the gospel.  Our story of the woman reaching out for Jesus’ garment makes me think about the faith of Corrie ten Boom.

When Corrie was a little girl, she was often afraid.  She slept next to her older sister and very much wanted to hold her sister’s hand.  Her sister Nollie refused the hand-holding, but did allow Corrie to hold the hem of her nightgown.  That gave Corrie peace; she had a place:  a place to be, and a place to be safe.  As the sisters got older, Nollie no longer wanted her little sister to hold onto her hem at all.  Her sister told her to hold onto the hem of her doll’s nightgown.  During the many times of fear in Corrie ten Boom’s life, she knows that her safety and peace are as close as the hem of her sister and her doll’s nightgown.  “In those moments,” she writes, “I have always reached up and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.  He has never failed to wrap me close to him.”

Jesus’ healing power is that close to us.  We need to reach out in faith and obedience to the One who loves us completely.  We can be wealthy or poor, known or unknown, well-respected or a social pariah.  We are loved.  We have a place:  a place to be and a place that is safe.  Welcome home.

Our faith will heal us.


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