Mark 5:21-43: The Touch of Jesus

I wonder how many times today you have been greeted with the words,
"How are you?", to which you replied with the usual untruth "very well thank you, how are you?" Next time someone asks you, try being honest. You may like to check first by saying, "Do you really want to know?" You might get a surprised look, for if we are honest we would admit that physically and emotionally it is seldom true, that we are "very well", and spiritually almost never true. There is a big difference between knowing we have spiritual life and experiencing spiritual health. Jesus said "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly." And he meant it. He also meant it for the here and now. In the early days of the revival in Rwanda, Christians got into the habit of greeting one another with the words, "How is your heart in the Lord today?" How we answer greatly depends on the vitality of our relationship to Jesus. That's why these Sunday mornings we are taking time to examine Mark's account of Jesus life, to find out more of who he is and how we can know Him. So far Mark has shown us in chapter 3 how Jesus had authority to heal incurable diseases. In chapter 4, how He had sovereignty over the forces of nature, the wind and the waves, then two weeks ago we saw his dominion over the unseen forces of wickedness. Now we come to the ultimate enemy, death. We see that even here, Jesus has total mastery. Turn with me to chapter 5:21ff. We've come to two very tragic stories woven together, about a very sick lady and little girl both terminally ill. Why has Mark included them? One reason. To teach us that Jesus is the Son of God and that He came to rescue us from hell. Why? Because lost people matter to God. Today I want to concentrate on the encounter with the woman. On another occasion we can return and look at the story of Jairus' daughter. The first thing I want you to notice about this woman's life was that hers was,

1. A Life from which Health had Gone 5:25-26

1.1 The Presence of a Crippling Disease

12 years she had been sick, and that is a very long time. 12 long years. We may not be able to identify with this lady's physical condition, but what about our spiritual health? I wonder how long you may have been living in spiritual ill health. Lets have a quick check up.

1. Your Appetite? What about your spiritual appetite? Are you spiritually hungry for God? If you have children, you will know that loss of appetite is a sign of sickness, not just that there's something better to watch on T.V. When they don't want to eat you know something is wrong. Are you hungry to know God better? To hear Him speak to you through the Bible? Are you hungry or are you stuffed full of spiritual junk food. That un-edifying book your reading at the moment, or that risky magazine promoting doubtful morals, or maybe that so called adult film you would have been better not to have watched last night. These things will spoil your appetite.

2. Your Tongue? One of the first things the doctor wants to see if we are unwell is our tongue. Its a sign of our health, physical and spiritual. What has it been used for recently. Tearing down or building up? Illustration of Lynn's mum. Bitterness over things said in haste... Destructive criticism - another name for gossip goes under many disguises, none more lethal than under the pretence of a prayer request. 'Please pray for......' How can you tell the difference between the genuine and the counterfeit? Would you say the same in the presence of that person? If not, don't. Here's another test. What is your motive? To tear down or build up? James says, "The tongue... is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." Lets learn to keep it under control. Is there a testimony, a real, humble, sincere testimony of what Jesus means to you personally just hidden behind your lips, ready to be shared at an opportune moment? Your appetite, your tongue.

3. Your Temperature?
Is it normal? Are people unaware of your temperature? Or is it a bit high, prone to overheating, to outbursts of hot temper, or perhaps do people find us cold and unfriendly? A regular health check is a good idea. This was a life from which health has gone. The presence of a crippling disease.

1.2 The Pressure of a Crushing Despair
At least the woman wanted to do something about it. She was desperate. She was ready to go anywhere, do anything, but she was penniless. She had tried everything the doctors could give her but nothing had worked. She had spent all she had on a miracle cure but was still a sick woman. That's quite a paradigm of the world system. Our papers are full of tragic stories of parents who will sell their homes and fly to America in the hope of a cure for their child. Life is fine as long as you have enough money to pay for its services. When the money has gone, too bad. Not only the presence of a crippling disease but also the pressure of a crushing despair. I wonder if you feel like that. Not only spiritually sick, and living below the level of God's intention and provision, but perhaps you are absolutely at your wits end. You've tried everything. If so, you are not alone. Paul writing to the Corinthians tells us in his second letter, "At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves it was the end." For this lady it was a life from which health was gone, a crippling disease, a crushing despair. But through Jesus it became,

2. A Life in which Hope was Born 5:27-28

2.1 Born from Learning of Christ 5:27

Hope born because she heard of Jesus. What she heard of Jesus brought a ray of hope into her dark world. It is the same today. The Bible says, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God". How will people ever find hope in this world unless we introduce them to Jesus? Faith is not a feeling, its a response to a person. Its based on trust. Christian faith is trusting in Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, revealed through the living Word of God. And as we are exposed to the message of the Bible, faith and hope begin to kindle in your heart and mine, as they kindled in this woman's heart when she heard of Jesus. Let me ask you, how much time each day do you spend consciously getting to know Jesus. His word, His promises, His commands? If there is one thing we need to resolve as a Church in 1999 it is to take the Lord Jesus Christ more seriously. Everything else we do is superfluous. A year ago the PCC with your help produced a five year plan for Christ Church that will take us into the new Millennium. There's a copy in the rack in the corridor if you haven't read it recently. It is based on a mission statement. A one sentence statement that crystalises what we stand for, what our priority is. "To assist people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ." I can't think of anything more vital to invest my life on. To help turn atheists into disciples of Jesus.
That is why Jesus Christ came, why He died and rose again. That is why the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. And that was the command Jesus gave His disciples. If we are going to take Christ seriously, we must listen to Him, learn from Him and obey Him. Hope - born of learning of Christ.

2.2 Hope - Born of Longing for Christ 5:27

What this woman heard of Christ was not much, but it was a start. Enough to convince her He was worth meeting. "If I may but touch his clothes I shall be healed, she thought." The word "healed" also means saved. Its used of saving either from a physically ill condition or a spiritually evil state. In that sense we are all in need of some form of healing. What she had learnt she believed, and what she believed she wanted to experience personally in her own life. Despite the crowds that swamped Jesus, she was determined to reach Him, and touch Him. Mark tells us, "A large crowd followed and pressed around Him." The crowd was so large and tightly packed it was suffocating. The same word is used to describe the way grapes are pressed or crushed to make wine. While the multitudes pushed and shoved, faith in this individual touched. If fear kept her from facing Jesus, her faith led her to believe just touching his garment would cure her. I heard a story recently about a little boy who was stuck in a bathroom and crying hysterically. Unable to open the door from the outside, his mom slid her fingers through the one-inch space underneath the door and told him to bend down and find them. Groping in the darkness, he touched her fingers and held on for dear life. She wanted to call the fire brigade or something, but also knew that her touch was critical to her son's well being. "Open the door now,' she repeated softly. He stopped crying, and in between her verbal nudges, he mustered up the courage every so often to reach up and jiggle the knob. Then suddenly, after what seemed like forever, the door swung open. Since I first heard it I keep thinking of how often I feel like I'm the two-year-old in the dark and God is the mother wanting to embrace me. God could break down the door, if that was the best way to meet all my needs directly, at once, but instead, through my friends, church, and shabby faith, God lets me hold His fingers underneath the door." A Life in which health had gone. A life in which hope was born.

3. A Life for which Help was Found 5:29-33
There are two things that we learn here.

3.1 What Christ Gives Must be Received Personally 5:30

Jesus turned round, his eyes searching the swirling crowd. We know that the Levitical law forbade such a sick woman from touching another person at all, so perhaps Jesus discerned the difference in the way the crowds jostled and the way she touched him so gently. What Christ can do, what Christ will do, must be received personally. There must be a personal encounter. You may prefer coming to Church in the morning because there are a lot of people around and you can slip in and out without being noticed. That's OK, its allowed, but if we want more than a nice warm glow inside from seeing all the cuddly babies, or singing a few nice hymns we must each seek a personal encounter with Jesus. A second-hand faith will not do. Being married to a Christian, or of Christian parents, won't do either. What Christ gives must be received personally.

3.2 What Christ Gives Must be Revealed Publicly 5:33-34

The moment this woman was healed, Jesus felt it. His strength was drained. Jesus could have left it at that, but he didn't. He wanted to speak with the one healed, for He was more concerned with the person than with her ailment. It took a lot for this woman, trembling, to come and fall at Jesus feet. This was her testimony to the truth of what had happened. Jesus had not only healed her of her disease, but freed her from the fear and embarrassment associated with it. Jesus spoke to her tenderly. She was probably older than he was yet He calls her "daughter". He regarded her not as just another woman, but spoke as her Father. That's what he had become. She had trusted in Jesus, believed in Jesus. She had become a child of God. It was the grasp of her trust rather than her hand that had secured the healing she sought. Having heard her testimony, the people went away not thinking, "what a wonderful experience she had", but "what a wonderful person Jesus is." There's a world of difference. One focuses on the person, the other focuses on Jesus. Do the people you work with or live near know you are a Christian, and why? Its your testimony. But its also the Lord's testimony. Failing to tell others not only deprives them of hope, for without Jesus there is no hope, but it also deprives the Lord of His glory. How? By His wounds we are healed. Jesus died in our place. It was very costly and very public. Then as now. What Christ does in us and for us is not something to keep to ourselves. Its never easy going public, least of all when it has to do with our personal faith, but its right and necessary, as it was for this woman. What Christ gives must be received personally, but it must also be revealed publicly, so He gets the glory and not us. Without knowing you are a Christian entirely because of the grace, mercy and power of God, people may think "what a nice person, I could never be as good as her" Ironically a silent Christian is a stumbling block. People won't see Jesus in us unless we tell them where to look. This lady was like us and those we know in many ways. A life from which health had gone, a life in which hope was born, a life in which help was found. Jesus said to her, "Go in Peace, Shalom, healthy in body and soul, your faith has saved you." May Jesus do the same miracle in your life today, and through you to all the lives you touch this week. Amen.