Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43
Catholic lectionary:
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24

To get a touch from the Lord is the real deal.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3.25-26

As a young Christian, one of my favourite choruses began with the words: “To get a touch from the Lord is so real.” The full text is:

To get a touch from the Lord is so real.
To get a touch from the Lord is so real.
If you draw nigh to him, he will draw nigh to you.
To get a touch from the Lord is so real.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, Jesus is coming, is coming again.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, Jesus is coming, is coming again.

The congregation my family belonged to and the Church we attended would sing this chorus in English and in Maori. As was the custom with choruses or praise songs, unlike our normal Anglican hymns, we would sing it repeatedly, singing the refrain several times. The ‘hallelujah’ would ring through our voices, hearts, and minds until we felt we had said enough hallelujahs to last us for the week.

Mark 5:21-43

Today’s gospel draws our attention to the power of Jesus’ touch in the lives of at least two individuals. The impact of his touch left them all singing their own form of hallelujah. His healing touch brings joy and gladness after a period of desperation, frustration, and disappointment.

Of course, these two accounts of Jesus’ healing touch impact upon, blessing more people than the persons who receive healing. The family members witness Jesus’ willingness and openness in responding to a deep desire and longing for him to hear their cry for help.

In fact, in the case of the woman with the long-term illness, we see her making an extreme effort to seek Jesus out to help her in her absolute despair. She simply believed in herself. I suppose she had no other option. There was no one else with her to support her. There was no one she could turn to for help. She had no one to advocate on her behalf. Despite this huge obstacle in her way, she was able to muster up the strength to push her way through the crowd, and to draw near to Jesus. She found the energy to stand up for herself. She had the utter belief that she only had to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment to be restored to the fullness of life.

What great faith she had in herself. Not only faith but also immense trust. Hers was a life of one failure after another. Many would have simply given up. Some may not have even attempted to look for help. I marvel that she had the good sense to keep looking ahead. I celebrate that she never gave up. I sing my own hallelujah that she persevered with the little hope it appears she had.

What type of person must we be to move from one challenge to the next while keeping our eyes fixed on our one chance for salvation? How big should our faith be to overcome years and years of despair? How long should we hold on, to receive healing after experiencing one disappointment after another? The answer, which the woman shows us in her sterling example, is that we must never lose faith however little we might have in our reserves. We must never allow discouragement and failure to determine or shape our future. We must never allow doubt or fear to discourage us from the blessing that awaits us in our trials and tribulations. We must remember that any amount of faith in God’s power to heal, any measure of trust in God’s promise to hear the cry of the humble, and any portion of hope in God’s ability to know our hearts and minds before we even say a single word, will always lead to a life of blessing, of true salvation, and of real joy.

The amazing part of this story of faith is that the woman does not ask or request healing from Jesus. She simply believes that she would receive healing with or without Jesus’ permission or prior knowledge.

In a way, she takes from Jesus what she is entitled to. By no means is she a thief. She is confident that what she will gain is freely given and freely received. She is adamant that what she seeks, what she expects, what she desires, and what she hopes for, is available to her, and is all she will ever require.

Jesus, we learn, becomes aware of the woman who touched his clothes. He knows what happens to her and the effect on himself, only after the fact. He knows that someone, in touching his cloak, has acquired some of his healing power. This is the real miracle in this healing story. She drops to her knees in fear. She falls down perhaps in embarrassment and guilt. She tells Jesus the whole truth of her life. There is nothing left out. Jesus rewards her further by sending her on her way. She is free to go in peace. She does go in peace because not only must she do so, but because she can. She has both the strength and the gladness of being restored and healed. She would have felt the happiness again of being valued, by being reintegrated into her community. She departs from Jesus having been called, ‘daughter.’

Jesus’ healing power is available for all with or without his permission. His words of affirmation of the woman’s incredible courage and her tremendous faith are an added dimension of the healing. It allows her to continue on her way with the real joy of faith. It enables her to keep going with the reassurance that her perseverance has paid off. It authorises the woman to speak confidently of her journey from darkness to light, from anguish to relief, from weakness to courage, and from despair to hope.

The other healing story is of a girl, another daughter. The suffering and hopelessness are similar, except it is her father Jairus who seeks help.

Jesus has arrived by boat and the crowds surround him watching, waiting, praying, and hoping, wanting desperately to be in his presence.

Like the woman, Jairus summons up the courage to approach Jesus. Unlike her, he is a leader in the synagogue. He has status. Like her, he knows all about power and authority, especially from a faith perspective. He knows that he simply has to ask. After falling at Jesus’ feet, he begs him for help. The woman, after being healed, fell down at Jesus’ feet in fear and trembling, feeling unworthy. Jairus requests permission. He too knows the power of Jesus to heal and restore life to his daughter. Like the woman, he is at his wit’s end. He too has no other option. At the feet of Jesus, both have their prayer answered. One is a silent prayer, and the other is an audible one. Both receive the same outcome. Jesus responds immediately, he acts accordingly, and healing occurs instantaneously.

Jesus heals among the throngs of the crowd in one instance. In the second story, he follows Jairus home where his daughter is. He goes from one daughter to another. This daughter was twelve years old. She had lived as many years as the woman had experienced her long illness and the same amount of time the woman had sought healing.

Jesus is already on his way to Jairus’ house when certain voices began to say that it was all over. They were saying that Jesus was too late to do anything. They said there was no point in troubling Jesus.

Of course, Jesus was not deterred from his mission to heal, to restore and to affirm life. The only disciples who accompanied Jesus were, Peter, James, and John. The four of them, with the girls’ parents, entered the house where the young girl was lying on her bed. When the people scoffed at Jesus’ insistence that she was not dead, he ordered them out. He sent the negativity away from the centre. He cast out the doubters. He threw out the unbelievers. Doubt and unbelief did not belong in that house. Doubt and unbelief had no place in the girl’s world. Doubt and unbelief will never lead to healing and can never contribute to life.

Jesus simply reaches out his hand to hers. His touch and his voice, his words, lift the girl from her bed enabling her to stand and walk.

Her parents, especially Jairus, were amazed. They all left speaking only among themselves of this great wonder which they had seen and experienced. They leave singing their own hallelujahs.

In an encounter with Jesus, there is no place for fear or disbelief. Fear and doubt have no place in Jesus’ presence. Fear and unbelief have no right to be in the same place where Jesus is to be found. Fear and disbelief do not belong where Jesus reigns and where the followers and believers reside.

This healing story starts with despair and ends with real hope. It begins with emptiness and ends with wholeness. It begins with gloom and ends with lasting joy. It begins with hopelessness and ends with faith. It begins with frustration and ends with real peace.

It shows us that our hope in God is a much stronger force than doubt. It proves that the light of Christ, in the face of darkness, always shines brightly. It demonstrates that the love of Jesus Christ, a much more powerful reality in the world, brings freedom, healing and life.

This causes us to sing our own hallelujah not just in our hearts, but also in the public square, among the crowds we gather with, in the privacy of our homes and from the rooftops. Hallelujah, Jesus is coming again.

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The Rt Rev’d Te Kitohi Pikaahu

The Rt Rev’d Te Kitohi Pikaahu

The Rt Rev’d Te Kitohi Pikaahu, Anglican Indigenous Network (Chair), Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zeeland and Polynesia.

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