Those are tough words for someone to hear who is in need of healing and hasn't received it. They are words that trouble, because we can interpret them "if we only had enough faith" we too could be healed of the many illnesses that pervade our society. If only we prayed harder, or studied the Bible more, or worshipped more regularly, God would see our faith and make us well. If only we believed in what seemed the impossible and gave it over to God completely, God would heal it in totality. But then, the person with cancer has a recurrence, and the spouse that we were praying for dies, and the child we were worried about overdoses. Was it our lack of faith that could not heal them?
I don't pretend to believe that I understand how God works, but I am certain of one thing. God's love is not one of checks and balances. It is unconditional. God's healing of us is not based on what we do or don't do. God's grace is given without merit or favor or action. It is a gift.
So what do the troublesome statements we hear in our passage this week mean for us today: "Your faith has made you well" and "do not fear, only believe." They are a response to two encounters Jesus has in Mark 5:21-43. Jesus encounters two people with healing needs. The first is Jairus who begs Jesus to heal his 12 year old daughter, who is deathly ill. On the journey to Jairus' house, Jesus's robe is touched by a woman in need of healing from a hemmorage lasting 12 years. He responds to the hemmoraging woman's healing experience that her faith has made her well. "Go in peace and be healed," he said. Jesus then continues on to Jairus' house and when Jesus arrives at the daughter's house, the mourners believe Jesus is too late, that she has already died. "Do not fear, only believe."
Notice in both of Jesus' sayings that there is a tense which infers the future. Go...be healed. Don't fear, only believe. This healing is not something that happens in a moment, with one touch of the hand or wave of a magic holy healing wand. This is the kind of faith that is ongoing, that perseveres, which endures and believes in the presence of God in and through all things, past, present and future. It is not a faith that gives up because of a wait that is too long or a situation that seems impossible. These statements of Christ are not of implications against us, but one that is rather a description of who God is and our response to that presence. After all, Jesus healed these people when they had given up hope or when they thought the time was too late.
To the woman, Jesus shares that her faith is an expression of the full healing. You see, there are two words in Greek for healing - one is iomai, which is a bodily healing and other is "soza," a wholistic healing of mind, body and spirit. Her healing of soza does not occur at the moment where her bleeding stops, it only occurs after she has spoken with Jesus. It was her realization that Jesus has not given up on her, which allowed her complete healing. The power of Jesus' presence is including her who was once completely outcast from society.
To Jairus and leaders of the synagogue, Jesus explains that with his presence fear can be overcome. It doesn't mean we don't have fear, but it encourages us to place our trust in something beyond ourselves. In our seasons of life where fear is prevalent, that is where we have a tendency to run back to the familiar. But God allows us despite our fears to be made well in ways we may not even realize.
Our discipleship is not one that should be treated as a checks and balances system, because that isn't what faith is about. Discipleship is recognizing the presence of God and growing in that understanding so your life and the lives around you are transformed.
It is our hope and prayer through this summer sermon series, you might be considering the ways you are wanting to grow in your discipleship. Where are the places you want to develop your relationship with God? Are you wrestling with questions of God's presence? Perhaps it is time to dig deep into the Bible to discover God's surprising blessings. Does your discipleship feel lonely in the midst of personal challenges? Then perhaps investing time into a small group of people willing to journey with you in faith is what will help you grow. Do you experience the transforming presence of Christ when you are engaged in relationships that make a difference to transform our society for the good? Then perhaps areas of mission and service are what will be a guiding force for you.
There is no "set" path of discipleship, so we should not feel guilty or badly that we don't have "enough" faith. Rather, we are called to reach out to God and to one another in the continual trust that God's presence remains with us. So, what will help you grow in your discipleship path? What will allow you to understand the nature of God as one of love rather than punishment? What would help you to feel supported and undergirded your e
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