Not an Either/Or God, but a Both/AND God.
21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw Jesus, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24So Jesus went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32Jesus looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41Jesus took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43Jesus strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Today’s gospel reading is all about boundaries. The boundary between one side of the sea of Galillee to the other, the boundary between sick and well, the boundary between rich and poor, clean and unclean, and even the boundary between life and death. Now I know that boundaries and borders have been getting a lot of news lately, so maybe that’s why they stood out to me this week. But Jesus sees these boundaries and crosses to the other side – to be with those in need of healing, to raise the dead and offer new life, because we have a God who isn’t afraid of being in the boundary places.
Our gospel lesson this morning is really two competing story lines and as the boundaries between the two blurr, we realize that these two stories of healing are really one in teaching us about the kingdom of God.
At the onset, there is the story of Jairus pleading with Jesus for healing for his daughter. Now Jairus was a temple official, a religious leader of his day and the person in our story today with more clout, more prestige and more importance. On the other side of that privilege is the this women in the crowd, unclean, poor, shunned from society for the past 12 long years because of a condition that she was in need of healing from. It’s the classic difference between the “have’s” vs. “the have nots.” Jesus is presented with a pressing need for healing across these boundaries of class – in the conundrum of who deserves the healing more – the rich, or the poor?
Then there is the curious scene, right in the middle of the story. When Jesus turns around, sensing that the “power” had gone out of him. He turns to look for whoever had just received this miraculous healing, while the crowd wonders what this could mean. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright points out that in those days, the understanding of miraculous healing was that it was in limited supply – that Jesus would only be able to heal one person per day. So when Jesus gains the awareness that the “power” had gone out of him – it set her at odds with Jairus need of healing for his daughter. I imagine the whole crowd with bated breath, gasping that this poor woman had taken the privileged healing way from the religious elite. But what the crowds and Jairus were about to witness – was something that defied all logic and reason.
Jairus’ friends encouraged him to not trouble the teacher, his daughter was dead, so what more could be done, besides the power already left Jesus and probably wasn’t able to do anything else. But Jarius was persistent in his request and Jesus went with him to the house, where he found a family in the middle of profound grief. Here was a family standing on the boundary between life and death and Jesus steps into the scene to say that girl was not dead but merely sleeping. List of top 10 things not to say to people who are grieving – I mean it’s right up there with “well I guess it was God’s plan…” But I guess when you are God, you can say whatever you want in the face of death, because the boundary between life and death is not something that daunts you. So Jesus says, Talitha Cum. And the girl rises to new life transcending the boundary between life and death.
What both of these healing stories teach us today, is the power of our God to be a both/and God and not and either/or God. In a boundary loving world, we are constantly faced with the choice between either/or – either you’re for it, or against it, pro-this or anti-that. But what we learn about the boundaries in God’s kingdom today, is that there is no either/or when it comes to God. It wasn’t an either/or choice for Jesus! It wasn’t the choice between healing the women who had been hem ridging for 12 long years, or Jairus’ daughter – it was a both/and boundary crossing situation. Jesus crossed the boundaries of class and privileged to be with both, risking his own ritual defilement by the mere touch of the women in need of healing and risking the ridicule of the religious elite – he healed both of them.
And I often find it amazing how Jesus heals – it’s by the mere touch and faith of the women and it’s by words and belief for Jairus’ daughter. Which is to say that when Jesus touches our lives, we are healed. When Jesus speaks words into our lives, we are raised to new life. Because Jesus is still at work in our world healing – with the mere touch of bread and wine and with words in scripture that continue to inspire and raise us to new life.
That when it comes to the boundaries of God’s power – it’s not an either/or situation, it’s a both/and. God doesn’t choose between healing this one over that one – remember he said give it for ALL to drink, so that ALL might know the salvation of God in the new covenant in my blood. Which means that if we want to follow in the ways of Jesus, in healing like Jesus did, we also, need to be a both/and kind of people. We need to see that it’s both the capital campaign and the affordable housing initiative, it’s both food for Dinner Church/fellowship hour and the food pantry, it’s faith formation for our kids, and helping to develop quality early childhood education for those living in poverty. Because when it comes to loving and healing like Jesus – we cross the boundaries between our own needs and the needs of others all the time.
Because Jesus is enough, enough for all – and we give back generously from the abundance that God has given to us so that others might come to healing and wholeness too. We follow a God who isn’t afraid of the boundary or border, we learn today that our God says that healings are for the privileged elite and the poverty shamed poor. The kingdom got a little bit bigger that day, when the crowds came to learn that healing went beyond those who were clean and un-clean. And the kingdom can get a little bit bigger in our day too – when we realize that those in need who sit on the borders of our lives are deserving of healing as well. Because God is enough for both the healing of you and the healing of others.
In the middle of our story is the women touching the cloak of Jesus, this mere passing encounter in a crowd of people. As the disciples saw – a barely noticeable event. A liminal encounter, that for that women, changed her life forever. It’s just like all the times that we encounter people out in the world with words of hope and promise, a note, or words of encouragement. We become the garments of Jesus that heal the world – so often in liminal fleeting, unrecognizable moments. But all boundary crossing moments when the grace of God enters someone’s life.
So let Jesus’ power flow through you – as others needs press in on you, let the power of Jesus extend and transform the lives of others as you witness, care, tend, speak, and stand up for others in our world. At work, at school, at the pool, at protests, in the grocery store, on the playground, on the bus --- all places where the power of Jesus can flow through you, to those around you and to those in need. Because you never know, how the power of Jesus, flowing through you, might change a person’s life forever. I might just bring you healing AND them. Amen.