Series B                                                     Pentecost V                     July 1, 2012

Mark 5, 21-43

“Two Daughters of Israel”

The name Tom Dooley may not be familiar to you; but his dedication as a doctor brought hope and healing to thousands of Vietnamese and Laotian refugees in the late 1950’s.  Tom Dooley served in Southeast Asia in the U. S. Navy Medical Corps.  He later returned to begin a thriving medical operation known as Medico before his untimely death from cancer in 1961 at the age of 34.  His books, Deliver Us From Evil and The Night They Burned the Mountain, tell some of the story of his work.

Just before he died, Dr. Dooley wrote to a young doctor just finishing medical school, challenging him to consider giving one or two years of service in the Third World, which desperately needs medical care.  Our benevolence dollars support ELCA medical missionaries all over the world.  Here is an excerpt from Dr. Dooley’s letter:

“As a doctor, you have a tremendous potential …Do not aim for just a certain socio-economic position in society …Become supremely aware of and intimately involved in the great issues of your day …you are a doctor …There is a lot more to you than just the knowledge of bugs and drugs.  You have the potential for great deeds, and today demands deeds …This is your challenge.  It is required that one take part in the actions and passions of his time at the peril of being judged not to have lived at all …The state of being a doctor is a happy one, a lofty one, and one filled with tremendous potential for good …A doctor’s job is to cure sometimes, relieve often, and to comfort always.”

Tom Dooley’s commitment to medical care was recognized and became known throughout the world.  His devout faith was an inspiration to many.

It is no accident that Jesus was known as the Great Physician.  He, too, came to those in need, inviting them to trust him, believe in him, and to find new courage in times of illness or misfortune.

In today’s Gospel we see two people coming to Jesus out of desperation and need.  We don’t know how long Jairus’ daughter had been sick; maybe weeks, maybe days, maybe hours.  Without question it was serious and life-threatening.  It was serious enough to send this leader of the synagogue looking for help from Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.  Jairus knew of this man.  His friends in the synagogue had undoubtedly tried to stop him.  But he went not as a ruler of the synagogue but as the father of a very sick girl.

When something is wrong with one of your children, it becomes the overriding concern in your life.  When your child is hurting with pain and there is nothing you can do, you become frantic.  If it were possible to trade places with your child, you would.  With no other option available this desperate father goes to Jesus despite what it might mean for his reputation with the Pharisees.  And just as time is critical, Jesus is delayed!

The woman who delayed him by touching his cloak also came out of desperation.  Her hurt was made up of disappointment after disappointment, seeing one doctor after another, all to no avail.  She had probably spent all she had but was worse off now than she had been before.  Can we imagine how depressing that was?  Can we relate to her sleepless nights, laying awake wondering if she would ever get well again?  Or even have a normal life?

With 12 years of hurting inside, she came reaching out one more time.  It may have been as a last resort that she grabbed that fringe, not enough to pull it but enough to get a handful.  She felt something wonderful inside, but then everything went wrong.  The prophet stopped and turned around.  She tried to hide, but it was no use.  He knew!  “Who touched me!” he spoke.

Just like the prophet Jonah on that ill fated ship, her guilt pointed her out, and she poured out her story.  In bits and pieces, between the tears, she told all that she had been through.  There must have been an embarrassed silence as the crowd listened, realizing how difficult it must have been.  Then the clear voice of Jesus spoke, reassuringly,

“Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering.”

Both Jairus and the woman in the crowd came to Jesus with a desperate need.  Both of them came hurting in their own way.  But they also came with something else — hope.

The woman suffering from the hemorrhages could have stayed at home and said, “What’s the use?”  Jairus could have been intimidated by his friends and chosen other help for his daughter.  But each came to Jesus with hope.  Their hopes may have been the flickering kind, or the last resort kind, but they came with hope.

Just like everyone who buys a lottery ticket does so with hope.  Have you ever watched someone, ticket in hand, clinging longingly to the television screen as the lottery numbers are drawn?  Their eyes light up as they await the numbers.  Then when realization sets in that the number isn’t theirs, the head drops, the body kind of goes limp with the feeling of loss, and disappointment is written all over their faces.  Their dream would not come true today.  They were filled with hope when they bought the ticket.  But they would go away empty handed.

Compare this with Jairus and the unnamed woman.  Jairus said,

“My little daughter is dying.  Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

There is real hope in Jairus’ request.  He did not ask Jesus to come and try; he did not ask for one chance in ten or one chance in a hundred, but that she may live!  He knew the power that Jesus had,  He came with hope.

The woman who touched Jesus’ garment also came with hope.  Her faith in doctors had been dashed before, but this would be different.  She said to herself,

“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

We don’t know how much she knew about Jesus;  we don’t know who told her; but this much we do know — she had a strong reason to hope to find healing.

When you believe in something there are always those who will question your belief.  Someone will say:

 1) You know that’s not going to work; or

2) You’re crazy if you think that will help; or

3) I don’t know why you’re wasting your time with that. 

There will be people who will laugh at you, mock you, ridicule you, or let you know they think you ought to have your head examined.

Skeptics delight in taking Christian faith to task.  To say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior, seems ridiculous, foolish, or unbelievable to some.  But God’s people know something more than skeptics.  Like Jairus and the woman in the crowd, they know where true hope is to be found.

A desperate woman and a panic-stricken father both came to Jesus with their hurts and hopes.  The best part of the story is that they both found the help they sought.  Two daughters of Israel were restored to health that day.

In the face of sad news from Jairus’ house, it looked as though the physician had arrived too late.  Yet Jesus reassured this anxious father, saying,

“Don’t be afraid, just believe.”

What a challenge for a father: He was afraid to hope and afraid not to.

The weepers and wailers were only doing what they always did in the event of a death.  Why should they heed a stranger in a matter like this?  They laughed at him, but not for long; for Jesus the healer called a twelve-year-old back to life.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all stories of affliction and illness could have happy endings?  They don’t, of course.  That’s one of the age-old mysteries.  The questions are still with us:  Why is there suffering and disease?  Why are some healed and some not?  Did we not have enough faith?  Do our prayers help?

I cannot answer those questions, but rely only on what the Word of God says.  1) Jesus healed many out of his great compassion, including Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the hemorrhages.  The healing acts of Jesus make it clear that God is compassionate.  2) Jesus came not only to bring physical healing, to make people live longer, but to bring us a hope beyond this life.  3) Jesus dies, paying the great cost to free humankind from the wages of sin.

In times of suffering, he gives strength.

In times of sorrow, he gives joy.

In times of despair, he gives victory.

In times of death, he gives the promise of eternal life.

There is real help for you and me, for whatever we may have to face.  There is real help for the uncertain times in which we live.

There is real hurt, expressed by Jairus and a desperate woman.

There is real hope, seen as they reach out to Jesus.

There is real help, not only for two daughters who were restored to health, but for each one of us who trusts the Great Physician.

Do not fear, only believe!

AMEN