Waiting. Who really likes to wait? Do any of you? When you hear the word “waiting room” what comes to your mind? Out of date magazines, a boringvideo loop about health, cranky children, a morning wasted, an afternoon in shambles, hurry up and do nothing. Think about waiting for a test result, waiting for someone who is late, waiting for word from someone you love. Think about being caught in traffic, stuck on the freeway as you are desperately trying to get somewhere. Wouldn’t it be great to have one of those Mars lamps with the suction cup that you could reach out and stick to the roof of your car when the traffic gets tight so that everyone will pull aside for you?
Today’s Gospel is about some people who had to wait on the Lord. Jairus, a panic-stricken father whose twelve-year old daughter lay dying. Jairus was a “man of God” a ruler in the synagogue. He believed that Jesus could help his little girl. Jesus was his last hope. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged Him, “Please, my little girl is sick and dying. Please, come to my house and lay your hands on her so that she would be well again and live. Please, Jesus.” It has to break the heart of every father to hear that anguished prayer. Mothers too. I picture Jairus taking Jesus hand and leading Him through the crowd, probably wishing he had the 1st century equivalent of a mars lamp to help him get through.
But as many ambulance drivers will tell you, the crowd doesn’t pull aside easily. Everyone’s agenda is important. People are pressing in on Jesus from every side. They all want something from Jesus. And here is Jairus trying to pull Jesus through the mob and get to his house before it’s too late. At this point, I’m wondering why Jesus doesn’t make life easy for Himself and just heal Jairus’ little girl with a word of promise. He’s done it that way before. Why not now? For that matter, why doesn’t Jesus just do away with disease in one swoop? Why go through all this trouble? Why not just do away with illness rather than healing the individual sick, which is a terribly inefficient way of doing things. Had Jesus done that, we wouldn’t have all the problems we now have with the health care system. For that matter, we wouldn’t need a health care system!
In the crowd was a woman who had been suffering from a bleeding for 12 long years, for as long as Jairus’ daughter had lived. Notice how the two are connected. She probably had something we might politely call “a female problem.” Twelve long years, leaving her weak and anemic and in despair. Twelve long years of dealing with doctors who took all her money but left her worse instead of better. Twelve long years of waiting, and now comes her chance. Jesus is going down the road, packed in by people. It’s a perfect opportunity to sneak up behind him, and to reach out among the mob of feet and ankles and touch his robe. It was considered “unclean” to touch a woman with such a condition. That’s why she wants to sneak up on Jesus. She knows He wouldn’t want to touch her.
It works. Her little scheme works! She reaches out and touches Jesus’ robe and immediately she senses she is healed. (I wonder what that felt like.) Jesus immediately spins around and says, “Who touched me?” He sensed that “power had gone out from Him. These healings, these miracles, cost Jesus something. Restoring order from chaos always costs energy. He sensed that divine, healing, creative energy had left Him the moment she touched His robe, and He has to know who did it.
But doesn’t Jesus already know? Isn’t He the all-knowing Lord? Yes, but He isn’t about anonymous miracles. This isn’t about tapping a bit of energy from some anonymous “higher power.” And she isn’t just or a medical statistic who’s suffered at the hands of her physicians for twelve years. Jesus takes this all very personally, as He takes you and your condition personally. Trembling with fear, she tells Him who she is and what she did. He calls her “Daughter.” “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Your trust in me is vindicated. You were right to come to me and touch my robe. Go in peace and be healed of your disease.”
She’s already healed, but He has to say it. Just as you’re already forgiven, but He has to say it. “Faith comes by hearing.” Faith delights to hear it. Faith always wants to hear more. In that very moment on that crowded street, Jesus is entirely there for her and for no one else. It’s as though she were the only person in the world and He must speak to her to tell her what she already knows but needs to hear.
But there’s Jairus and his daughter, and time is ticking away. Even as Jesus is speaking to the woman, word comes from Jairus’ house, the dreaded news no father wants to hear. “Your daughter is dead. That precious jewel of your life is gone. Don’t bother Jesus any more. There’s nothing He can do now.” Imagine the heartache. If only he had gotten to Jesus sooner. If only there wouldn’t have been this crowd. If only this woman hadn’t delayed him. If only….
“Do not fear, only believe.” Jairus trusted Jesus when daughter was sick and dying. Does he trust Jesus with her death? Do you trust Jesus when He doesn’t come through for you? When He delays? When He seems preoccupied with other things and other people? When He doesn’t seem to have time for you? When He makes you wait? When He permits someone you love to die? Do you trust Him then?
Death is the ultimate test of faith, the final frontier of our doctrine, our hymns, our liturgy, our beliefs. We can sit around here in church and sing hymns and pray and hope for the best, but everything we believe about Jesus comes to bear in death, especially the death of someone near. Jairus trusted Jesus, but how far? Jairus believe Jesus had power to heal. But raise the dead?
They go to the house, already filled with mourners weeping and wailing and making a commotion. He takes only Peter, James, and John with Him. Three eyewitnesses are sufficient to establish this truth. “Why the weeping? She’s not dead but asleep.” Jesus treats death as though it were nothing more than a sleep for Him, for that is what it is. But they laughed at Him. The world still laughs at Him. Perhaps we do as well in our doubting.
He takes her limp, dead hand in His. “Talitha cumi.” Aramaic, their mother tongue. As with the woman, so with this girl. Jesus is there for her completely, as though there were no one else in the world. “Little girl, arise.” And she does! She sits up, gets out of her bed, and walks. He tells them to give her something to eat. I like that little detail. It’s delightfully irrelevant but understandable. After all, how do you care for people who have just risen from the dead? Her anxious father’s wait was not in vain. His faith in Jesus was vindicated; his daughter was healed.
Are you willing to wait? Are you willing to wait like that woman who waited twelve long years for the day Jesus came to town? Are you willing to wait like Jairus on the road to his house? “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Faith waits patiently, quietly, confidently trusting that in the end, Jesus will come through. Even if death intervenes first, that still hasn’t settled it. Jesus will come through.
We may wonder to ourselves: Jesus healed the blind man, why didn’t He just cure blindness? He healed the woman of her bleeding, why didn’t He just do away with disease altogether? He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, but I’m sure there were plenty of fathers in Israel, and in the rest of the world, who were grieving the death of a child and didn’t get them back.
The answer is found in this text and in these miracles. This is personal. Faith in Jesus is personal. Not private, as in “me and my Jesus off doing our own spiritual thing.” Person to person. A woman who had suffered for twelve years. A twelve year-old girl. You. Me. Jesus deals with each of us as though there were no one else in the world. And what He does with each of us is what is perfectly right and good for each of us. He baptizes us into His death. Each of us, by name. He forgives us our sins, saying into our ears what is always and already true. He puts the gifts of His sacrifice for the world, the bread of His body, the wine of His blood, into each of our mouths. “For you.” Take it personally.
These two healing, as all the healings recorded in the Scriptures, are little glimpses of the new creation that comes in Jesus’ death and resurrection. He died and rose to restore order, peace, health, wholeness, “shalom” as they say it in Hebrew. He died and rose to say to each one of us, “Your faith has healed you, go in peace.” He died and rose to extend His hand to each one of us and to say, “Child of God, arise. Walk about in freedom and life. Be fed.” He died and rose to bring us together where death has torn us apart. What Jesus did for that woman on the road and for that little girl and her father, He wants to do for all of us. And He has, by His dying and rising, by His baptizing and feeding, by His Word spoken to us.
For now there is waiting. Waiting in faith, in hope, in trust that the Lord is true to His Word. “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”
In the name of Jesus,