Give Them Something to Eat

October 22, 2013

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Jesus returns from the land of the Gerasenes, and Jairus, a leader of the synagogue comes and falls down at Jesus’ feet saying, “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 Jesus goes with him. While on the way a large crowd gathered to see what was going to happen and while Jesus and Jairus are traveling, Jesus is interrupted. A woman from the crowd, who had been ill for twelve years, who tried everything, and paid all kinds of healers to the point of poverty, reached up and touched his cloak and she was healed. Jesus stopped and said, “Who touched me?” One of the disciples said, “What do you mean, ‘Who touched you?’ Don’t you see this crowd? How can you ask such a stupid question?” But the woman came forward and told Jesus everything, and Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

But Jesus tarried too long. People came from his house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus replied, “Do not fear, only believe.” They came to the house and there was a loud commotion. Jesus said, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping?” And they laughed at him. He sent the crowd out of the room, almost as if to say, “You have lost your privilege in seeing the beauty of God.” He goes to the girl, takes her by the hand and says, “Talitha cum, little girl, get up.” And immediately the little girl got up and Jesus said to those around him, “Give her something to eat.”

There are three things I would like to say about this text. The first is recognizing the beauty of how Mark communicates the same truth in two different ways. A few weeks ago we discussed the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, how many Psalms say the same thing in two different ways—“Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings” (Psalm 33:2). Jesus is on the road heading to Jairus’ home to heal a twelve-year-old girl, but on the way he heals a woman who was suffering for twelve years. Here you have a girl just beginning her life as a woman and a woman who is, according to society, at the end of hers. There are also two crowds in the story. There is the crowd pressing in on Jesus, making it difficult for this woman, someone in desperate need, to get to Jesus. There is also the crowd at Jarius’ house who is weeping and wailing. Jesus tells them that the girl is merely sleeping and they laugh. They laugh at Jesus. He shuts them all outside as if to say, “You have lost your privilege in seeing the glory of God. In neither story does the crowd seem to understand Christ. Then there is also faith. Jairus believes that Jesus can heal his daughter. The woman, who Jesus calls ‘Daughter,’ pushes through the crowd because “If she could only touch the hem of his garment, she would be healed.” Much like the parallelism of Hebrew poetry helps us better understand what the poet is saying, this story within a story helps us understand what Mark is trying to say about Jesus.

I hate going to the dentist, and because of that I have to go a lot. It’s painfully ironic . . . literally painful and ironic. I went in the other day because I was eating some almonds and something funky happened on the top right teeth. He started tapping my teeth with a blunt instrument to find which tooth it was (who am I to think that there should be a more scientific way of doing this). He goes in to shape a suspicious crown without giving me any Novocain. I said to him, “Just for my own soul, you are aware that I’m not numb.” He said, “Yes,” and started going in. So I tense up ready for all hell to explode in my mouth, and the nurse who was there gently started to hold my arm. It was calming and soothing, and most importantly, assuring.

The second thing we need to know about this text is the power of touch. Mark tells a story within a story to point to a provocative truth—Jesus touched the unclean. The woman pushes through the crowd, and unclean woman pushes through the crowd to get to Jesus. Had the crowd known that they were being touched by an unclean woman, this story would probably have a difficult ending. She touches Jesus and he asks, “Who touched me?” After revealing herself Jesus did not say, “How dare you touch me. I am about to perform a miracle. I need to be a clean and holy as I can be, and you just ruined that.” No. He looks at her and says, “Daughter.” When was the last time she heard that? “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Yes, she believed that Jesus could heal her, but I also think her faith rested in the hope that Jesus would not shun her, or mock her, but look her in the eyes and call her daughter.

Just last night someone emailed me and asked me, “Would I be welcome at The Well?” I said, “Of course.” “Matt, you and I are friends, and nothing will change that, but I need you to answer me honestly. I’ve been burned before. Would I be welcome at The Well?” I said, “Of course!” Mark’s story within a story is showing us that Jesus doesn’t seem to care if someone is old or young or wealthy or a beggar or lived a life a great decisions or a life fraught with terrible ones. Even after the crowd laughs at him, he takes the young girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, get up.”

Here is the third thing Mark is revealing in this story. It doesn’t really fit in the sermon, but I have to mention it. I mean, if Jesus really knew what he was doing, he would have run to Jariru’s house. Jarius was a wealthy and influential leader in the community, but Jesus allowed himself to be interrupted. I don’t like to be interrupted, but I was this week. I was on my way to the dentist and I get a phone call—“Rev. Rawle, I have about three palates of cornmeal that I don’t know what with.” I wanted to say, “Look, I’m about to get my face drilled off at the dentist, I don’t have time to figure out what to do with three palates of cornmeal.” I sat in the parking lot of the dentist’s office shooting some emails and texts. The person who called me gave away two of the three palates, but for the third palate I said, “bring it to the church.” I get home later that day and I told Christie, “You will never believe the phone call I got today.” She replied, “That’s ironic.” “What’s ironic about that?” “Well, just last Sunday you were preaching about how this woman in Zerephath didn’t have enough flour until she let God’s word into her home, and when she did she found out that the flour did not run out. Last week there wasn’t enough flour and this week you have a palate of cornmeal. Be careful what you preach, dear.”

Jesus was interrupted and because of that interruption, someone life was forever changed. Let this cornmeal be an interruption. I admit that it sounds a little weird to say out loud, but I invite you to take a bag of cornmeal home with you. Maybe you invite your neighbors over for a fish fry. Maybe you make some cornbread for next week’s chili cook-off. Maybe you make “Cornbread Kits” for area elementary school teachers. You see, the miracle is not the cornmeal; rather it is God’s invitation to nearly infinite possibilities of ministry. This story within a story is about Jesus reaching across boundaries and bringing life to those who are dead or living as if the world thinks they are, but Jesus is interrupted and maybe we should be to . . .