“Lifted Up” Colchester Federated Church, June 27, 2021, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Mark 5:21-43)

If today’s Gospel story were made into a movie, it could have Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” playing in the background.  Picture the scene Kurt just read for us and listen to the chorus: 

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains. 

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.

I am strong when I am on your shoulders. 

You raise me up to more than I can be.[1]

In our text from Mark’s Gospel, we read two inspirational stories of healing.  A story of a woman and a young girl raised up to stand on mountains and walk on stormy seas.  We see Jesus compassionately respond to human suffering.  As Jesus crosses back over the Sea of Galilee, he encounters Jairus (one of the synagogue leaders).  Jairus sees Jesus and falls at his feet, pleading, “My daughter is about to die.  Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.”[2]  Jesus doesn’t hesitate and goes with him.

As Jesus makes his way to Jairus’ home, people begin to follow and crowd around him.  There’s a woman in that crowd who had been bleeding for twelve years, hemorrhaging in pain.  That medical condition made her unclean in her community.  The woman’s case is truly desperate because she had spent all she had on doctors who most likely promised they had a miracle cure.  Only they didn’t.  She’s suffering physically, emotionally, socially, financially, and spiritually.  This awful situation makes her desperate enough to reach out and touch Jesus when his back is turned.  She figures that there’s no way he will know that she reached out to this famous healer—Jesus of Nazareth.  At this point, what does she have to lose?  She senses deep in her bones that if she but touches his clothes she will be healed. 

Except Jesus recognizes that someone touched him.  In one of the most fascinating lines in our text, Jesus feels that power has gone out of him.  What that must have felt like, how Jesus could sense something like that—you and I will never fully understand.  Jesus turns around and asks, “Who touched my clothes?”[3]

It’s a funny question.  He’s in a crowd.  People are swarming around him.  It would be like asking who bumped your arm when everyone is navigating through the crowds at Disney World or some other amusement park.  Hence the reaction of the disciples, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you?  Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”[4]  Jesus looks around carefully to see who the person in need of healing happened to be. 

That’s when the woman comes forward, full of fear.  She falls down at Jesus’ feet just like Jairus had done in pleading for the life of his daughter.  And the woman (whose name we will never know) tells Jesus the truth.  We can imagine that the immense suffering she endured for years poured out as she shares her story.  Jesus listens and sees her, truly sees her.  Not just as a person who was an outcast.  Not just as someone who suffered.  He sees her in the present moment as a beloved child of God and restores her to the community.  You raise me up to more than I can be.

Here’s part of what’s amazing.  The woman didn’t ask Jesus to heal her.  She acts on her own initiative, trusting Jesus so much that she knows if she but touches his clothing her faith in him will make her well.  Jesus restores this unnamed woman to her community by naming and claiming her for God, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”[5]  This woman embodies trust.  Jesus lifts her up.  Though in some ways, she lifts herself up.  That’s part of what makes this story so beautiful.  Faith.  Trust.  Healing.  Empowerment.  Restoration.  Community.    

Jesus goes on to heal Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter.  Even though messengers come to say that the child has died while he is still speaking with the woman, Jesus tells those with him to not be afraid.  To keep trusting.  And he journeys to the home of Jairus.  Jesus says that the child is only sleeping.  He takes Peter, James, John, and the child’s parents into the room where the child is lying.  Jesus takes her hand and tells her to get up.  Oh, and friends—get her something to eat, will you?

Jesus is (and was) so many things to so many people.  And he was known far and wide as a healer.  Jesus cared about people being made well.  Jesus responded to a frantic father who fell at his feet begging for Jesus to save his daughter’s life by going to their home to lift her up.  Jesus found the woman who touched him in that massive crowd of people, singling her out to call her daughter and declare that her faith made her well. 

If we want to do our best to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, if we want to be his disciples and to be the Church—we have to care about people who are sick.  We have to care about people who are on the margins of our society.  We have to care about parents who would do anything to save the lives of their children.  Why?  Because Jesus did.  That’s what we see this morning in Mark’s Gospel.  Jesus cared, he reached out, and he lifted up.  He saw people as children of God when others may not have seen these folks with eyes of compassion.  He helped to raise them up—not just in body, but in mind and spirit.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas. 

I am strong when I am on your shoulders. 

You raise me up to more than I can be.

The world needs healing.  We sometimes experience suffering.  You don’t need me to remind you of that, but it’s important to name that reality.  How can we not think about this given everything we have been through individually and as a society because of the covid-19 pandemic?  The challenge ever before us as Christians is to not lose hope, and to have the kind of vision Jesus challenges us to have.  We may not be able to physically heal those who are sick.  To have someone touch the fringe of our clothes and stop bleeding, to take the hand of a dying child and lift them up to new life. 

However we can see people as beloved even when they are trying to be anonymous in a crowd.  We can see parents who sacrifice to give their children the best lives possible and respond with compassion as Jesus did.  We can see people who are hurting, and respond with love.  That is within our power to do.  That is the power of Christian community.  To remember the call to lift one another up, relying on God’s grace.  May it be so with us.  And thanks be to God.  Amen.

[1] Josh Groban, “You Raise Me Up”.
[2] Mark 5:23, Common English Bible.
[3] The CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha, Footnote for Mark 5:25-26, 76 NT and Mark 5:30.
[4] Mark 5:31.
[5] Mark 5:34.