Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

THAT HEALING TOUCH
Mark 5:21-43
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sabbatarians,
1. The Gospel in the Revised Common Lectionary for June 29, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, is Mark 5:21-43, the narrative of two women healed by Jesus’ touch. Three years ago while teaching in Australia I was asked to provide a Crossings style study of this text–albeit in Luke’s parallel rendering. The study was published in the 1995 volume of PRISM, a publication of the Lutheran Church of Australia for Sunday school teachers. Mark’s and Luke’s versions are close enough to each other that I reprint here for Sabb. 70, with no changes, the study from down under at that time.
2. Six weeks ago (Sab.theol. 64) I told readers about our call for the coming fall semester to teach at the Evangelical Seminary in Klaipeda, Lithuania. I also held out the tin cup for financial support. Many of you have responded generously, and for that Marie and I are thankful. The cup is now half full. In 6 weeks we’re scheduled to depart. Should you wish to help fill the remaining half, you may send tax-deductible donations to Crossings, Inc. Box 7011, Chesterfield MO 63006-7011 with the notation “Crossings in Lithuania.” 
Peace & Joy! Ed

Two women, one younger, one older, are healed by the touch of Jesus in Luke 8. But how it happens is quite strange. The younger woman, daughter of Jairus, is said to be already dead when Jesus finally touches her. For the older woman Jesus didn’t even see her when the healing touch happened. Touching Jesus or being touched by Jesus made all the difference. Let’s take a closer look.

Stage one: Afflicted
Both of these women are severely afflicted. The 12-year old is dying; the older woman has been losing blood for the same twelve years. Now both of them are at a crisis point: the girl is at death’s door, and the woman has spent all she had on medical care and has found no healing.

Stage two: Fearful
But it’s even worse than that. In the society where these two live, they suffer social “death” as well. In the religious law of that time, both are untouchable. Bleeding and dying people are “unclean” according to that law. Anyone who touches them becomes unclean too. We can imagine their loneliness as well as their fear. That very word “fear” is used of Jairus as he comes imploring Jesus. He falls at Jesus’ feet. He begs. She’s his only daughter. She’s only twelve. She’s dying. No wonder he’s full of fear. Fear also marks the older woman’s move to touch Jesus without anyone seeing her (v.50).

Stage three: Fatal
But it’s even worse than that. Jairus, the girl’s father, is a synagogue official. He’s trained in Old Testament religion. He knows that when God takes away a child at age twelve, that is not a sign of God’s good pleasure toward him. In fact, it is the opposite. He knows the words from Sinai about God’s “visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children.” Is the girl dying because of her father’s iniquities? Is something “sick” in Jairus’s link with God? Or the God-relationship of both women? God is already “visiting” them, touching their lives, and the touch is deadly. Is there anything that can bring a healing touch before all is lost? Anyone?

Stage four: The Healer’s Touch
Answer: yes indeed–and he (Jesus) is the one to whom these fearful ones go for help. What makes such healing happen? How does he stop that deadly touch and replace it with a healing touch? The full story of his doing it takes us to the end of Luke where he goes to the cross. It is there that he switches places with us. He receives God’s deadly touch, meant for us, and in exchange he offers us his healing touch. On Easter Sunday God comes to the tomb and “touches” Jesus back to life. With that God signals his approval of Jesus as healer, and verifies that when touched by Jesus we are healed with God as well. And when we are healed with God, healing spreads through every part of us.

Stage five: Touching the Healer
Faith is the word for how this healing comes to us. Faith is reaching out our own hand to receive the touch that comes from Jesus. Jesus’ touch does the healing. Faith is nothing more than trusting Jesus to do just that: to touch us and heal us. Jesus tells Jairus to switch from fear to faith. And why does faith heal? It puts us in touch with the Healer. It’s like plugging an electric cord into a power point. The power is all there inside the socket. Faith is plugging into, touching, the powerline so that life flows again where once it was dark and lifeless.

Stage six: Going in Peace
Jesus commends the woman for her faith, and to that commendation he adds, “Go in peace.” That is all the good news she needs (and Jairus and his daughter and household too) to go back into her daily life as a new person. She is not just healed of the frightful affliction and healed from the social discrimination, but healed in the heart (faith now instead of fear, confidence in Jesus with no worries about any afflictions). At the root of it all is Jesus, who heals our sickness with God. No more worries about “bad” visits from anywhere–even from God. Christ is God’s final Visitor. In Christ God has visited his people (see 7:16b) with peace. It’s God’s Final Touch.

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