I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to waiting. I can remember back in 1983 arriving at the Lincoln Mall cinemas to see the Star Wars movie: The Return of the Jedi. My cousin and I arrived at the theatre only to find out that they were full. Instead of coming back another day, we waited in line as the showing we wanted to be at played through and we were able to see the next showing. I hated it. But I would rather wait a few hours to see the movie I wanted than to wait days.
I think that part of why I dislike waiting is the uncertainty of whether you will actually get what you are waiting for. A number of years ago, Amanda and I went to a Starbucks drivethru. We ordered our coffees and then drove to the pickup window. We sat there and sat there and sat there. I could see through the window and could tell that they were not busy, so I couldn’t understand what was taking so long. Every once in a while I could see a barista inside giving us a strange look. After what seemed like a very long time, someone came up to us and asked us what we wanted. They weren’t coming to the window because our order had somehow got lost and they didn’t even know that we wanted something. We were not impressed.
These are both rather frivolous examples of waiting but waiting can be excruciating. I was once tested for Lou Gehrig’s disease. I waited for months after the test and didn’t hear anything. I eventually called the doctor’s office and the receptionist seemed surprised that I wanted to know the results. They had them for a long time but hadn’t thought about sharing them with me.
What are you waiting for? Is there some sort of relief or solution to a problem that you are waiting for? Our stories in this passage may be what you need to hear.
There is something unique in the stories we are looking at. Normally we have one miracle story after another, appearing like steps of a ladder. In this passage we have two stories that are intertwined together like strands of a rope. This is an indication that we are intended to interpret these stories together. The fact that they share the reference to “twelve years” only reinforces this idea. Let us learn from God’s Word.
I’m going to start with the story of the woman with the discharge of blood. I will do this, even though our passage doesn’t start here. The passage starts with a plea from an important man who was desperate because his young daughter was dying. There is an urgency to Jesus’ mission. Keep that in mind as we look at the story of the woman.
This woman had a serious illness. Unlike the little girl, it would not lead to death. However, chronic illness is no light matter. It is a terrible thing to suffer the same problem for years and years. In this case, she had been sick for twelve years.
There are number of theories about what her illness was, but the point is that it included a discharge of blood. This is important because according to Old Testament law, this would make her ritually unclean. Not only was she not allowed to participate in temple activities, she could not touch anyone because of the risk of making them ritually unclean. In addition to her physical discomfort, she was cut off from community. Such suffering often leads to desperation.
This woman was in the crowd surrounding Jesus as he went on his way on his urgent mission. She did not request Jesus’ help. Why? Perhaps because she knew he was on his way to the home of an important person in the community. Perhaps she assumed that Jesus would not risk becoming ritually unclean by touching her.
But desperation does not give up so easily. She believed that Jesus could help her and so reached out and touched the fringe of his garment. There was no reason to believe that touching his clothes would heal her. This was not an automatic thing. There probably had been hundreds of people in various crowds that touched Jesus and had never been healed.
And yet she did touch Jesus and she was healed. Then something really interesting happened. Jesus perceived that power had gone out of him and he asked who had touched him. To the disciples this seemed like a crazy question. With the same courage that prompted her to touch Jesus, she admitted before the crowd that she was the one, not knowing how Jesus would react. Jesus sent her off in peace, a peace that she hadn’t had for twelve years.
Just as the woman was getting sick with her discharge of blood, a little girl was being born to Jairus and his wife. Whereas the woman was being separated from her community, Jairus was central to his community. He was the ruler of the local synagogue and was a respected member of the community. Everything seemed to be going Jairus’ way. His daughter was turning twelve, becoming a full member of the community and soon to be betrothed.
But if one thing is known, it is that suffering does not care about class or position. Jairus’ daughter became sick, and unlike the older woman, this was a sickness that would lead to death.
Knowing how serious his daughter was, he begged Jesus to come and heal his daughter. He had heard the stories about other healings. We don’t know what Jairus thought about Jesus’ theology, but when your daughter is sick, you do what you have to do.
The woman had waited twelve years for her miracle. Jairus’ daughter may have only been sick for a couple of days. But I’m sure that the time between his request and Jesus’ arrival, which may have been less than an hour, seemed like an eternity.
Jairus was there is the crowd with Jesus. He must have been frustrated when Jesus was spending time with this unclean woman, when his daughter needed help now. Then messengers from his house arrived with the sad news that his daughter was dead.
Dead. The situation was hopeless now. There was no point in bothering Jesus, it was too late. But Jesus was determined to go on. “Do not fear, only believe.” Do not fear? That’s easy for Jesus to say.
Things seemed so hopeless that when Jesus arrived and announced his intention to wake her up, the people laughed at him. That was the craziest thing they have ever heard. But I suspect it was the parents who were laughing, laughing with joy when Jesus did raise her from the dead. The miracle was worth the wait.
There is so much that we could do with this story. I would normally try to apply it to all of our individual experiences. But instead I would like to think about our experience as a church.
This is the beginning of our ministry year and it is good time to be thinking about where we are going and what we want to accomplish.
Perhaps we would want greater financial resources to support other ministries in our community. Perhaps we would like to see more people involved in discipleship activities such as Bible studies. Perhaps we would like to see greater growth in our children’s ministries, including more volunteers. There is so much that we can accomplish as a church.
But how do we do it? What about limitations that we might have financially or in terms of volunteers? What about the seeming lack of interest in faith among many people in our community? What about being a relatively small congregation?
We could conclude that the future that we want for this church is hopeless. We may have already prayed that God would bring in the people and the money and it hasn’t happened yet to the degree we want. Do we send Jesus away because there is no point bothering him any more?
The two miracles that we have looked at have the same message. They are both about faith.Not just a generic faith that there is a God but a risky faith that made them vulnerable. The woman knew she could touch Jesus’ garment and nothing would happen. Jairus knew that his daughter could die before Jesus arrived. And yet both of them made very public leaps of faith and it paid off for both of them.
I want you to notice two things. One is that there was waiting. The woman waited twelve years to be healed. Jairus had to wait for Jesus to make his way through a crowd, even getting sidetracked by another sick person. There was a lot of discomfort in their waiting but the waiting did not mean that the miracle was not going to happen.
The other thing is that this was not passive faith. They did not just sit back and wait for their miracle. The woman waded through the crowd to touch Jesus’ garment. Jairus came to Jesus and walked with on the way to his house.
We need to have faith that God will do some amazing things through this church. But that faith needs to include action. We need to do what we can and trust that God can work through our activity.
We live in an instant society. We can usually get what we want when we want it. But God is not interested in our instant society. The kingdom of God is a place where we might wait twelve years for our miracle. It is not that God is too busy, but each one of those years is step closer to God.
Jesus intervened in two difficult circumstances: a woman sick for twelve years and a dead twelve year old girl. Miracles were performed and lives were changed.
I believe that God has miracles in store for this church. There likely will be some waiting but Jesus is in the crowd and is making his way to his destination. Do we have the patience to wait on his timing?