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Posts Tagged ‘miracles’

Today we pick up again in the Gospel of Mark, with the story of the long suffering woman – Mark 5:24-34. This story is sandwiched between the beginning and the end of another story – about how Jesus raises Jairus’s daughter from the dead. But I thought we would begin with it, and then come back to the other.

The story

24bAnd a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.

Remember with me, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee to the Eastern shore.

  • On the way over he calmed the stormy sea.
  • And when he arrived he cast out the legion of demons from the man in the cemetery.
  • And now Jesus has come back across the Sea of Galilee to the Western shore.

A large crowd greeted him as he arrived. And after Jairus asked Jesus to come heal his daughter – our story begins – with the crowds still in tow.

25And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.

Five statements here tell the sad situation of this woman.

1. She has a chronic bleeding disorder of some kind, probably related to her menstrual cycle. And she has had this condition for 12 years. She has suffered a long time.

Apart from the physical aspect of this, according to the Law of Moses:

  • she could not touch anyone, without making them unclean (Leviticus 15:25ff),
  • she could not enter the temple (Leviticus 15:31)
  • and she was forbidden to be sexually active (Leviticus 18:19). So if she was ever married she almost certainly would now be divorced

2. She has suffered much seeking help. She has gone to many physicians, not just a few. And their treatments are described as causing her misery.

Many ancient physicians used crude and ineffective procedures. For her situation you might be required to drink a goblet of wine with a powder of rubber, alum and garden crocuses; or you might be shocked; or you might have to carry the ash of an ostrich’s egg in a certain cloth. (Talbert, pl 174, referencing William Lane’s research)

3. She’s now poor having spent all her resources on seeking these treatments.

4. Her health is not even better and no wonder, given the treatments we just heard about!

5. And in fact, she’s worse than before despite all her money and all these physicians. She seems to be beyond human help.

27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

So Jesus’ reputation as a healer has spread far and wide.

Her hope is for a secret healing. She comes up behind him and just touches his clothing (the fringes that all devout Jews wore Matthew 9:20, Luke 8:44) and want to slip away unnoticed.

If we ask why? Perhaps she’s very shy. Perhaps because she’s not supposed to touch anyone? Perhaps she was ashamed of her condition? We don’t know.

But we do know that she has great faith in Jesus. She believed that she only needed to touch his clothing to be healed.

29And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

The healing is instantaneous and complete. Notice the contrast between the effectiveness of Jesus and the futility of the doctors of that day.

30And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”

Just as she feels in herself that she’s healed, Jesus perceives in himself that power has gone out.

There are a few interesting things about this:

  • Jesus heals someone without even being asked.
  • And he heals someone without him knowing about it, until after it happened.
  • And although afterwards he knows it happened by supernatural knowledge, he doesn’t know who it is.

And so he asks, who touched my garments?

Well, the disciples don’t even know what to do with this question.

31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” 32And he looked around to see who had done it.

They’re saying, “Jesus, everyone is touching you!” But Jesus persists.

And the woman’s hope for a secret healing is foiled –

33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.

Why was she afraid? Did she think she would be rebuked for touching Jesus in her uncleanness? Or for not asking Jesus for healing? And if Jesus is angry perhaps she thinks her healing might be rescinded.

Luke 8:45 tells us that everyone denied that they touched Jesus, at least in the way that Jesus is talking about. So it sounds like at first she tried to keep it a secret, but then comes forward before Jesus and tells the whole truth of what happened.

Why does Jesus draw her out in public? Healings that are not publicly verified cannot bring glory to God or bear witness to who Jesus is as the Son of God. This reminds us that we need to give praise to God and bear witness for Jesus when he works in our lives in answer to prayer.

Jesus also wanted to speak to her, which he does in v. 34.

34And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Jesus isn’t angry! He uses a term of endearment, “daughter.” And he commends her for her faith and reassures her that the gift of her healing is indeed hers to keep. He wished for her peace, that is, shalom; her wholeness and well-being.

Let me end with –

Two things that stand out from this story

The first is Jesus’ amazing power to save. He doesn’t just do miracles, he does extraordinary miracles. Recently he calmed the storm with the mere words of his mouth and he easily cast out over 5,000 demons. And now he has cured someone, whom no one else could. And the healing was instantaneous. We are reminded yet again that Jesus is amazing!

All these miracles point to his true identity. He is not just a miracle worker or a prophet – he is the Son of God, come to fulfill God’s promises and bring salvation to God’s people.

And these miracles also should draw us to come to him with our needs for salvation, healing and help.

And second, this woman is an excellent example of faith for us. So that when we come to Jesus, we receive.

She didn’t need Jesus to do something elaborate or to even show her any attention. She knew that he was so powerful that all she needed to do was touch his clothing. And because of her faith, she was made whole.

Listen carefully. Many people touched Jesus that day in the crowd going to Jairus’ house, but only she was healed. And she received from Jesus because she touched Jesus with faith.

As we close today and sing our final song, I invite you to pray and to touch Jesus in faith – so that you can find grace and mercy for your needs and your burdens. 

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Series on Faith in God

We are still looking at the topic of faith in God. With the youth sharing today I want to just remind us briefly of some of the themes we have been looking at by telling two stories of faith. I hope that these will be an encouragement to you to believe in and act on God’s promises to you.

Story #1 – A miracle in a village

[I am intentionally not saying where this happened or where I got this story].

In the region where this story takes place people began to become Christians and form churches. But most people were Buddhists. Now when the lives of these Christians began to improve with schooling and the donation of a boat to the local church to get across the river – there was jealousy and opposition in some of the Buddhists. And they tried to close church buildings and expel pastors from their homes.

Eventually such an order was given – to demolish the church building in a small village where our story takes place. It was given by  the chief Buddhist monk, a village leader and a township administrator.

The Christians gathered in prayer – and must have heard from God. Because when the officials came on the appointed day the Christians refused to tear down their building. The church leaders spoke out boldly and said they could not tear down a building that was dedicated to the true God. The officials insisted that they do it – but the church leaders told them they would have to do it themselves and be accountable for what might happen.

Two carpenters were sent to demolish the building. But as soon as they got on the roof a terrible storm came with thunder, lightening and strong wind. This scared the carpenters and they ran to their homes.

The officials came back another day and again ordered the carpenters to tear down the church. As they began, again, a fierce storm broke out with lightening. The lightening struck a nearby Buddhist image which was famous and revered. The result was 15 cracks.

Seeing what happened the chief Buddhist monk fled the village. The village leader who ordered the church be torn down was killed by someone. And  the administrator was found to be corrupt and thrown out of the village. And so the order to destroy the building was not carried out.

I share this story to highlight the faith of the church leaders. They has the three essential parts of true faith working in them. 1) They had something from God that allowed them to be bold. They must have heard something as they prayed knowing that persecution was coming. 2) They had an unfailing trust in God and his word to them. And 3) this was evidenced in that they spoke boldly to the officials who sought to tear down the building and warning them.

And we see that God honored their faith and did a miracle that glorified his name in their village.

Story #2 – A miracle in North Carolina

Now a story that has a miracle of a different kind. This comes from Clarence Jordan – a radical Christian in the South who set up an interracial farming community in Georgia in the early 1940’s – Koinonia Farms.

In one place he talks about a church where he was asked to preach in North Carolina. “The church would seat about 300 and I think they had about 600 in it. The thing that amazed me was that these people were white and [black] just sitting anywhere they wanted to sit. . ..”

“When I got through (preaching) the pastor got up and said, ‘Now, we’re going to have dinner on the grounds.’ I really trembled then, because it’s one thing for black and white folks to worship together; it’s another thing for them to eat together. Here the man was advocating social equality right there in the South.”

“I went over to the pastor and I said, ‘You know, this is a rather amazing thing to me. Were you integrated before the Supreme Court decision?’ [1954] He said, ‘What decision?’”

“He explained: ‘Well back during the depression, I was a worker here in this little mill. I didn’t have any education. I couldn’t even read and write. I got somebody to read the Bible to me, and I was moved and I gave my heart to the Lord, and later, I felt the call of the Lord to preach.’”

“’This little church here was too poor to have a preacher and I just volunteered. They accepted me and I started preaching.’”

“’Someone read to me in there where God is no respecter of persons and I preached that.’ I said, ‘Yeah how did you get along?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘the deacons came around to me after that sermon and said, ‘Now brother pastor, we not only don’t let a [black person] spend the night in this town, we don’t even let him pass through. Now we don’t want that kind of preaching you’re giving us.’”

“I said ‘What did you do?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I fired them deacons.’ ‘How come they didn’t fire you?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘they never had hired me, I just volunteered.’ ‘Did you have anymore trouble with them?’ ‘Yeah, they came back at me again.’ ‘What did you do with them that time?’ ’I turned them out. I told them anybody that didn’t know anymore about the Gospel of Jesus than that not only shouldn’t be an officer in the church, he shouldn’t be a member of it. I had to put them out.’”

“I said, ‘Did you have to put anybody else out?’ ‘Well, I preached awfully hard, and I finally preached them down to two. But,’ he said, ‘those two were committed. I made sure that any time after that, anybody who came into my church understood that they were giving their life to Jesus Christ and they were going to have to be serious about it. What you see here is a result of that.’”

“I thank God there was still one un-ruined preacher in the South who had no better sense than to preach the gospel. Maybe it was fortunate that some of our educators didn’t get hold of him. Now, I don’t mean to be putting emphasis upon the man’s ignorance. I don’t think that made any difference. I think it was the man’s faith that brought the power to his church. He was willing to couple a conviction with a way of action and take the consequences.” [Cotton Patch Sermons, The Substance of Faith, pp. 43-45].

This pastor also has the three essentials of true faith. 1) He has a word from God from Scripture – God is no respecter of persons. 2) He trusted God to take care of him as he made this word known. 3) He acted and acted boldly even when things were difficult.

And God blessed him with a new community that reflects the kingdom of God – people that cannot get along in the world – do get along in the kingdom, for we are all one in Christ.

 

I hope that you will be encouraged by these stories so that in your life circumstances you can be bold and have faith as well when God speaks to you.

William Higgins

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