Sermon; 6 Pentecost/Proper 8B; Mark 4:35-41
In Ordinary Time of Year B we are on a journey with Mark to . . . where? . . . we are on a journey with Mark to the cross. Remember, Mark is a Passion Narrative with an extended beginning, and almost everything in Mark's gospel points to the cross.
The confrontations with the Pharisees pointed to the cross as they plotted to destroy him. The encounter with his family pointed to the Passion as they tried to seize and restrain him. Last week's storm had parallels to the Passion as Jesus cried out and all was silent. And today is no exception.
Today Jesus once again crosses the sea to the other side. Just so you've got this: Jesus and the disciples crossed from Jewish territory over to Gentile territory, during which they encountered a ferocious storm. When they reached shore, they met a demoniac. Jesus drove the demons from him into a herd of swine which then rushed off a cliff into the sea and drowned. The demoniac was healed, and everyone begged Jesus to leave. He got into the boat crossing back into Jewish territory, and that brings us to today.
A huge crowd meets him and pressed in on him. And here we get two stories for the price of one. The presenting story is Jairus pleading on behalf of his daughter's very life. Embedded within that story is the story of the woman suffering from a continual flow of blood for twelve years; which, by the way, is exactly how old the young girl happens to be.
Once again these stories point us to the Passion and cross. These stories point us there because these are also stories about suffering, death, and new life.
In the first story, Jairus comes to Jesus because his little girl is at the point of death. It is clear that she is suffering. But as a parent, Jairus is also suffering. When someone we love dearly is in pain or suffering, we also suffer, we know that. As friends, we know that. As parents, we know that.
The woman in the second story approaches Jesus because she also is suffering. She is suffering physically from her continual bleeding. She is suffering financially because she had spent her last penny on doctors. She is suffering mentally, socially, and spiritually because, under the law, she has been unclean for twelve years and has been removed and barred from society. She is an outcast.
These are two stories of hopelessness. The dying daughter's situation is hopeless. The bleeding woman's situation is hopeless. But in those hopeless times, they turn to the only one who offers hope – Jesus.
The Passion is also a time of hopelessness. Jesus is betrayed, arrested, beaten, tried, convicted, and executed. In those hopeless few days, Jesus is dead and buried. But there is also a glimmer of hope.
In the Burial Office one of the opening anthems begins, “In the midst of life we are in death.” This applies to the two stories today. In the midst of life, Jairus' daughter was in death. In the midst of life the bleeding woman was in death. In the midst of life we are in death. Death envelopes us. Death is inevitable. We will all experience death – from friends to family to ourselves – at some point in our lives.
In the midst of life, Jairus and his daughter were in death. In the midst of life, the bleeding woman was in death.
These two stories point us to both the Passion and the Resurrection. What Christ did in those events was to destroy death. In the Passion and cross, the human Jesus died. But for Christ to defeat death he had to experience death. It was then that he had the final victory. It was through his death that he destroyed death.
And while he didn't destroy death for either the little girl or the woman, he gave them, the witnesses, and us, a glimpse of what was to come. The girl wasn't resurrected, but her current life was restored. The woman also experienced the restoration of life.
In the midst of life we are in death, says the anthem. But with these two stories, and the Passion and Resurrection itself, I wonder if there's another way to look at this: In the midst of death there is life.
Jairus' daughter was at the point of death and things looked hopeless. Hoping against hope, he paid a visit to Jesus begging for healing. The girl did die, but Jesus restored her life. In the midst of death there was life.
The bleeding woman was also at the point of death. Having spent her last penny, from where was her next meal to come? Being ostracized as untouchable, with whom could she live or associate? Hoping against hope she made her way to Jesus to be healed and restored. In the midst of death there was life.
Betrayed, beaten, and crucified, Jesus hung on a cross to die. In the tomb for three days, his disciples hoped against hope that his words would be true. In the midst of death there is not only life, there is resurrection.
Death is all around us. Death is not only a part of life, it is the final result of all physical life as we know it. There's a saying, I don't know how true, that says, “The human body begins to die at 25.” Mildly depressing, I know. But it is a recognition that one of the few certainties in life is death.
Mark is a Passion Narrative with an extended beginning, and almost everything in that beginning points us to the cross. These two stories give us a glimpse of what is to come. What is to come is new life. What is to come is restoration. What is to come is resurrection. But we must also realize that difficulties and trials and death will precede that new life.
Don't be discouraged. Don't lose hope. In the midst of death there is life. And let us always remember that life is changed, not ended. That change, that life, that restoration, that resurrection, rests in the hope given us through Christ our Savior.