Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: Touch Mark 5: 21-43

Our text tells of tactile experiences, touching stories of grace.  Touch is the only one of our five senses that doesn’t lose potency with age.  Each year, our sense of smell is less acute; our sense of taste is less discriminating; our hearing diminishes; our eyesight needs enhanced, but our need for touch doesn’t diminish.  Our need for touch grows the older we grow. 

Jesus crosses back over the Sea of Galilee after casting demons from a man in Gentile territory.  The demons leap into a herd of swine; plunging into the sea.  Jesus sorts out the clean and unclean; destroying the unclean and restoring those touched by it.  He comes back to Jewish territory to do the same; no place or person is off-limits to Jesus’ presence or power.

Jesus’ ministry is always public; employing ordinary measures to do extraordinary work.  He isn’t like other teachers; passing out secrets to a few.  He offers the ordinary in extraordinary ways.  Simply said, he enables ordinary life with an ordinary touch and words to those who assumed the ordinary life was impossible.  These are extraordinary tales.

Jesus comes ashore on the western bank with his disciples and a crowd that includes Jarius meets him at the dock.  Jairus desperately runs up to him, falls on his face and begs Jesus to heal his daughter, who is at the point of death.  This frantic father asks Jesus, “Come and touch her.”  He is convinced if Jesus will touch his daughter, she will be made well and live.

Jesus is touched and goes with Jairus, a leader in the synagogue; who keeps the law perfectly and trusts God entirely.  Jarius oversees the worship life of the people and insures adherence to the Law of Moses.  Jairus is to keep the temple in his heart, so that synagogue will reflect the true worship of the temple in Jerusalem, though they were far from the holy site.  Jarius is a leader in the community who garners great respect.

Jarius is also a father of a dying little girl.  So, he falls a Jesus feet and begs him for his daughter’s life.  Jarius is humbled by his dying daughter, not humiliated (there is a difference).  He begs Jesus to apply his healing touch for the sake of his little girl.  This story shows again that a person’s reputation cannot buy divine favor.  All are equally in need; a world full of people like Jarius, who can do nothing, but fall on their face and hope.

Jesus is interrupted on his way to Jairus’ house.  An equally desperate, yet unnamed woman reaches out and touches him.  This is not a person asking to be touched, but a person who touches; hoping to be made well.  This woman is an outcast from the normal course of life, the polar opposite to Jairus.  Jarius freely went to the synagogue; she dares not because the required ritual cleansing baths could not sufficiently deal with her malady.  No physician has been able to resolve her disorder, for the ancient remedies may have aggravated it, as they can do in modern medicine too.

The woman stealthily touches Jesus, and feels she is well.  After twelve years of humiliation and hopelessness, instantly she is physically healed.  She is also healed spiritually and socially.  She can reconnect with people in the worship of God and can relate anew to family and friend.

Part of the work of the Body of Christ is to not only offer physical healing to those who reach to us.  We are to also offer spiritual healing; reconnecting them to God who has not strayed.  Spiritual healing comes through social healing by literally touching those who reach out to touch us.  Touching breaks down barriers, which may have prevented people from experiencing the fullness of Christ’s healing ways.  The power of the touch can break down anything they may keep people from drawing to Christ’s Body.

We have a new practice when people come to church requesting help.  It is based on the principle of offering relationship first.  The principle simply stated is we both gain when we know each other.  I met this last week with a person who had been reluctant to tell anyone her story.  When she learned I really wanted to know her and what was going on something happened that could not have happened if we had not taken the time to visit.  She received monetary assistance, counsel and contacts how she might be better able to sustain herself in the days ahead.  We both received the blessing of continuing a relationship that began at the train station on Ash Wednesday and continued when we passed out water.  This is the work of the ordinary touch; enabling extraordinary things to happen.

Jesus stops to ask who touched him as he feels power slip from him as the woman is healed.  The disciples are confused why Jesus stops on his way to an important man’s house, but he knows something equally important happened.  The woman confesses to her touching, falls on her face, like Jairus.  Jesus elevates her; saying her faith has made her well.  He also calls her daughter as he is on his way to heal a daughter of a respected man.  This woman is a daughter of God, beloved by God as much as Jairus’ little girl.  A Jesus’ touch is no respecter of persons when it comes to offering a spiritual healing through a social touch of grace.

Jesus is a hands-on messiah, and he wants a hands-on church that should worry less about separating the unclean from the clean; allowing God to make those distinctions.  We are all sinners equally in need of healing in a various places of our lives.  The concern of the church should be to find ways to touch those some might call unclean, so we may be in relationship.  “Being a hands-on church means acknowledging all are equally in need of a healing touch, we stand on level ground. Thus, we are to offer healing touch to all, despite other’s opinions of anyone’s condition. Distinctions are the mark of a club; hospitality marks the house of prayer.

Jesus learns after tending to the needs to the woman who touched him, the girl Jesus was asked to touch has died.  He’s not dissuaded and heads to Jarius’ house.  Upon arriving he sends the mourners away, who play a role when we grieve, but can be too good at their job; crying to loud at any sign of death.  Anyone can be tempted to declare something prematurely dead, because vital signs seem flat.  Jesus says, “She is sleeping”; meaning she can be awakened, like so many people and problems.  Only God gets to declare the status of a person’s condition.  We are to be careful in interjecting our assumed outcomes over a person’s condition.

Once inside, Jesus touches the little dead girl’s hand and speaks, “Talitha cum.”  These are not magic words, but ordinary ones; meaning, “Little girl, it’s time to get up”, the same words she has heard many mornings when the sun rose.  Jesus touches her hand, uses ordinary words, and she wakes to new life.  For the ordinary can pack extraordinary power.

We are not to be distracted by wondering what brings about healing-the woman’s faith, the power of touch or both.  Faith does place us in a better position to grasp the full dimensions of healing; subjecting us to the current of God’s love, which heals in sundry ways.  Yet, healing remains a mystery, not every person who has faith is healed every time.  Our faith doesn’t obligate God to do what we want.  In fact, there are cases, like in Luke 7 when Jesus healed people who did not ask or necessarily trust.

What we learn from the stories that isn’t mysterious is an ordinary gesture, like touch, can bring about and extraordinary act.  Whether we are reaching out to those who suffer or they are reaching out to us, we cannot discount the possibilities of what might happen if we linger long enough in the touch.  Your pastor will ask you to take a hand of another when we come to you in times of crisis because we know the power of the touch can activate the power of a healing.  Yet, we often isolate ourselves; wallowing in real pain.  So, we hug you, pat your back, hold your hand, and ask others to do the same when your heart aches; applying the salve of touch.

Members of the Body of Christ allow themselves to be touched by the gracious hands of others so they may offer healing touches to those in need.  When we leave today, do not let friend or stranger leave without a hug, handshake, or a high-five.  If you are inadvertently overlooked come see me at the door for your hug, handshake or high-five.  Allow the touch of others make you mindful of those who need your touch beyond these walls where you serve Christ this week.  Reach out and touch someone this week, in the name of Father, whose hand created heaven and earth, following the example of Christ, whose hands were open to others, even unto death, and with the help of the Holy Spirit that transforms your touch into the healing hands of God.

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