Interrupting Jesus

Interrupting Jesus

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and 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.” So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.

She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

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?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 5:21-34 (43)

When I was doing my Doctor of Ministry work way back when, my advisor once told me, “Never say that you are busy. Everybody is busy. Busy is pedestrian. Just be scheduled, and get your work done.” I’ve thought about that advice for lots of years. Importantly, today’s text reminds us that Jesus is neither too busy nor too overscheduled to be interrupted by any of us.

Mark’s Gospel immediately begins with action and drama. There are no stories of Jesus’ birth or childhood, just accounts of Jesus’ grown-up and powerful ministry. We’re told that such great crowds followed Jesus that he told his disciples to have a boat ready so the people wouldn’t crush him. Mark writes in a style that makes the reader part of this crowd following Jesus in events that just keep getting more and more amazing.

The next person who arrives on the scene is Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue.

He begs Jesus to come to his home to heal his young daughter who is dying. What you need to know to appreciate this is that the local religious leadership has already taken a public position on Jesus, calling him a fake Messiah. That means it’s now supposed to be Jairus’ job to keep the crowds away from Jesus. If Jairus was ever going to leave the small country synagogue in Galilee and make it to the tall steeples of Jerusalem, the last thing he should be doing is inviting Jesus and the crowd to come to his home for a healing service. But when your daughter is dying, you don’t think much about career moves.

Every time his little girl holds out her arms and says, “Daddy, it hurts,” Jairus just about comes apart. He’ll do anything to make her better, and so will Jesus who heads off to their home.

So it looks like this is the next amazing thing the crowd is waiting to see. Jesus is about to win over the religious establishment by healing the daughter of a leader of the synagogue. But suddenly, the drama is interrupted.

The next passage of the story states, “Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.” This line seems oddly out of place. Jesus is on the move and about to do the next amazing thing. The crowds are with him, and he’s just received an invitation to go home with the biggest cheese in town. But an ordinary woman who is sick with a chronic illness interrupts it all.

Mark tells us, “She endured much under many physicians and had spent all she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.” Those of you in the medical community would prefer to read this story as told in the Gospel of Dr. Luke, who omits the part about suffering under many physicians and growing worse. But Mark makes it clear that this woman is in dire need and has exhausted all of her resources. She’s done everything she can. Maybe she appealed not only to the physicians but also to Jairus and asked him to pray for her. She’s now out of money, out of expert advice, out of hope – and the hemorrhaging continues.

I think Mark puts this story in the middle of the larger account about Jairus because Mark is more interested in the people in the crowd than the next big event. He puts a magnifying glass up to this crowd to focus our attention on just one chronically sick, nameless woman, who could be any of us. He does that because every one of us is, and maybe all of us collectively, are well, in some way or another, hemorrhaging.

Maybe you are struggling with a disease, a problem or something that won’t go away. You’ve exhausted your patience, if not your insurance. You are not exactly dying, but it doesn’t feel like you are fully alive — you are, well, just getting by. Some among us are bleeding from broken hearts, broken relationships or dreams that have broken apart; and maybe our country too. Still others have a chronic problem with guilt, or with gnawing anxiety about the future. We’ve tried everything we know to do. We’ve tried ignoring our problems, bucking up and pretending it doesn’t hurt. We’ve tried the experts.

We’ve tried running away from our hurts, throwing ourselves into hard work or anything else that will distract us. But eventually we start to think that we will always have this problem because “we are no better, but rather grow worse”, like the hemorrhaging woman.

Then, we hear about this Jesus who can do amazing things. So we join the crowd at church on a Sunday morning. As Mark tells the story, most of us in the crowd are pushing to get as close to Jesus as we can because we’ve already set our goals for life, and we are here just to see if Jesus can help. “Maybe he’ll fix my problems. Maybe he’ll give me back my dreams. Yeah, I’ll take a little Jesus. What can it hurt?”

But the woman who was suffering did not grab at Jesus. She was modest; she was polite. In her humility, she was afraid for him even to see her. So she just reached out her hand and touched the hem of his robe as he walked by. And immediately she was healed.

All of a sudden, Jesus stops the parade. He looks at his disciples and asks, “Who touched me?” His disciples think he has to be kidding. “Who touched you? Jesus, half of Galilee is trying to get their hands on you, and you want to know who touched you?” Clearly, their concern was for Jesus to keep on his way to Jairus’ house because this will be a big deal for the movement. Similarly, we keep trying to push Jesus along to fix things: the Middle East, to fix Baltimore, to fix our politics, to fix our grumpy neighbor. I am sure Jairus was thinking that the biggest deal was his own daughter at home. “Jesus, sir,” he may have wanted to say, “This woman is not on your schedule today. Tell her to make an appointment….Now, hurry!”

But, Jesus doesn’t hurry. Have you noticed this? In all four of the Gospels, Jesus does not run once. He doesn’t even jog.

This drives me nuts since I am working through my schedule all the time and can barely keep up and I figure that Jesus can surely keep up with me.
But, (and here requires a real shift in our thinking…) the real question for anyone who wants to follow Jesus is not, “How fast can we go?” but, “Are we as interruptible as he is?”

The ruler of the synagogue and the people in the crowd have to wait. Jesus will eventually get to Jairus’ home, and he will heal Jairus’ daughter. But first he interrupts his own agenda. Jesus knows who has the faith not to try to grab what they want from him but to touch him gently – as one does when laying hands on holiness. That’s how you get Jesus’ attention. Not to seize or grasp, but to honor the one who is the source of healing.

It’s not at all wrong to want something from Jesus. Both the pushy crowd and the sick woman wanted something from him. But only this woman approached Jesus with hope and humility. You can grab a pair of shoes on sale online, grab a bite to eat, or work like a dog until you get a promotion or an academic degree, but you cannot simply take the things you need the most in life. You can’t just grab healing, forgiveness, hope, or love. These gifts come only through humility.

Next, we are told, “But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.” How long has it been since you found someone to whom you could tell the whole truth? The whole truth is not just about our hurt, but that we don’t really know where to turn next to get better. The whole truth is not just that we have been looking in the wrong places, but like this woman, we are spent and tired of trying to grab at what only Jesus can give us.

The good news in all of this is that if you are ready to acknowledge these things, then you are also ready to reach out to Jesus, who wants to be interrupted by you. “Daughter, your faith has made you well,” Jesus said. “Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

So Mark was right. Jesus’ many miracles and crowd-drawing ministry were leading up to a spectacular event. But that amazing event was not what was about to happen at Jairus’ house. Once Jesus got there, he threw out the crowd and healed the little girl in private. No, the big, amazing event was when Jesus stopped everything to care for one person along the way. This one who didn’t seem to matter.

Once you see that Jesus will stop his Messianic mission to save your chronically broken life, it changes how you see everything else. You may even lose interest in grabbing for what you want because after you have encountered the Savior, you are too filled with gratitude to want more. And you’ll have the time to care for another.

Even if you do not receive exactly what you wanted, encountering the holy God who is with us will begin to heal your soul. And this will leave you tender, like Jesus – so tender that you will respond with love and care when someone from our hemorrhaging world tries to reach out and touch you.

On the journey through life, the best things are not those on your schedule. No, the best things may be the holy interruptions that come along the way. Amen.