September 27, 2021
Scenic South District
Rising Fawn UMC
Mark 5:21-43 (NRSV)21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and 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.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And 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. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Are You Just Standing There?For most of my Christian life, I could summarize my Christian faith in three sentences: Jesus walked on the water. I believe it to be true. Let’s move on. Most would say that my belief system was very shallow and they would have been right.
I was like one of the people in the crowd mentioned in verse 24. Some people were there thoughtlessly, just moving with the crowd. Many, I think, were there out of curiosity, waiting for the next miracle. Or some, maybe, were waiting for another free meal. I am sure that there were people who truly admired and loved Jesus, as best as they knew how. And I am sure I would have been there, as another one in the crowd, waiting to see what happened next.
How did my faith change? How did I go from just another one in the crowd to being more like the woman who reached out for the hem of Jesus’ garment? Well, I was not physically ill as she was; but, like her, I was also in crisis. I have a theory about personal faith. I think it’s rare that someone experiences a deep reexamination of their faith without some prompting. I do believe that words being spoken and Christian actions have an influence on a person’s faith. Yet, I believe that is not the greatest reason that a person has deep reflection and desire for a personal one-to-one relationship with Jesus. I believe the biggest catalyst for this type of self-evaluation of faith is a crisis. That was what changed me.
The woman was facing a crisis. It was the reason she took a chance and reached out. She was considered to be unclean and was to have no contact with anyone due to the risk of making them also unclean. And this had been going on for 12 years. She was an outcast, a person on the margin. Her being there, in the crowd, was a violation of the law of Moses. The woman was in crisis. She was desperate. She took the chance.
Crisis can occur in many forms. An unfavorable medical diagnosis, death of a loved one, or loss of a job and livelihood can cause a person to experience crisis. However, there is another reason a crisis can occur. Thomas Khun published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962. His research on the acceptance of new (scientific) ideas, such as Copernican Revolutions, showed that they were not accepted until it became obvious the leading theories failed to be proven factual as science evolved. One example is the debate about whether the earth or the sun functioned as the center of our solar system, the latter being the newer idea. The new idea caused a crisis in the community. Eventually, the scientific community was forced to accept the new idea. The rejection of the new idea until the old fails is the rule of change, rather than an isolated example. According to Khun, a crisis is one of the best catalysts for change. The point of this example is that crisis does not occur only from personal health, wealth, or relationship loss. Sometimes, there can be a failure in the model. This is true also regarding our faith model. Is it so surprising that a person such as myself, with a belief system based on three sentences, can have a crisis in faith? I found that the three-sentence model of faith fails.
I came to the realization that my faith system was shallow. It was then I faced a crisis. My crisis in faith caused me to reach out, to desire connection with my Savior. Since that day, I can’t get enough of his word. Deeper study and a more personal relationship with Jesus have brought new understanding. I have experienced many WOW moments. Over the last four years, I have said to myself, “I had never thought of it that way,” so many times.
Of all the people in the crowd that day, it was the one who was in crisis and took the chance, who dared to touch him, that was blessed. I believe that my crisis forced me to take chances. I was forced to reexamine my belief model. I realized that the model was weak and could not hold up under the tests that life had sent my way. Like the woman with the sickness, I reached out for the hem of Christ’s garment. He, in return, has blessed me many times over.
The point of this devotion is this: Are you just standing there in the crowd, enjoying the food and the fellowship of the crowd? Are you just being entertained by your faith? Or, are you reaching out, trying to touch the hem of Christ’s garment?