Sunday, July 1, 2012
Jesus Heals and Jesus Saves
The gospel for this morning is one of my favorites. The story speaks so well for itself that I almost feel like I cannot do it justice by preaching on it. Yet Mark gives us insight into what Jesus came to earth to do through these two healing stories, and I hope I can shed some light on what Jesus does for us this morning.
First, it’s important to realize that the word “salvation” and the word “healing” are the same word in the Greek. Anytime this word, “sozo” shows up in our scriptures, we could translate it either way: healing or salvation. In English, these words mean two different things, but salvation and healing in the Greek are closely tied. So while Jesus heals these two women, Jairus’s twelve-year-old daughter and the woman with a hemorrhage, Jesus also saves them.
In this gospel passage, sozo,” shows up three times. Let’s read together how that changes the meaning of the story for us in English. Turn in your bulletin to the gospel. First, in verse 23, Jairus begs Jesus, “”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.” Now, if I replace “made well” with “saved,” it reads: “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come lay your hands on her, so that she may be saved, and live.” Healing – being made well and restored to health and wholeness—is closely tied to salvation for Jairus, which is why he seeks Jesus out.
Now, when we look a little further in verse 28, when we meet the woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years, she says to herself, “”If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” In other words, she also could be thinking, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be saved.” For someone who has been suffering from a chronic health condition for so long, we can understand how being healed and made well by Jesus also means salvation for her. Jesus can save her from a life of suffering and pain. The last time this word is used in this passage is when Jesus himself says to the woman in verse 34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed from your disease.” Jesus could be saying, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace, and be healed from your disease.”
To our contemporary ears, when we change the words “be made well” to “saved,” that changes the meaning, doesn’t it? Immediately, we start thinking about salvation as a state in which we know we will go to heaven when we die. We are “saved” by Jesus from hell. But in the gospel for today, and throughout the scriptures, God often is talking about salvation in a bigger way. Jesus, as we hear today, is talking about saving people from things that are afflicting them right then and there. He saves this woman from a chronic condition after twelve years of suffering. This woman has poured all her money into cures that don’t work, and she has been outcast by society for being unclean because of her condition. Jesus saves Jairus’ daughter from death, saving the family from the grief of losing their twelve-year-old child, and the girl from a short-lived life here on earth.
In this passage in Mark, we see that Jesus brings healing AND salvation. But beyond salvation in the big picture sense of knowing where we go when we die, Jesus also shows us that he makes a difference in our lives NOW for the better by bringing healing and wholeness to our lives, by saving us from all kinds of things that bring us pain and hurt while we are living on this earth.
Jesus saves us. Jesus heals us. Jesus is trying to open our minds to imagine that the healing and salvation that he brings encompasses more than what we might have grown up believing. Jesus is not just concerned about where we go when we die, but Jesus comes to give us abundant life that matters here on earth. Jesus could have said to the woman with hemorrhages, “Well, there’s nothing the doctors can do for you, so just know you are going to a better place when your life of suffering is over.” But Jesus doesn’t. Rather, he heals her and says, “Go in peace and be healed from your disease.” Jesus has freed her and saved her from an illness that kept her from living life to the fullest. Similarly, when Jairus’ daughter dies, Jesus could have simply reassured the family that the girl was in a better place with God, but instead, Jesus brings the girl back to life. Jesus saves the girl so that she can live. Jesus saves us so we can live, too.
Jesus saves us to live in the here and now, because God intends us to live the life we’ve been given to the fullest. That is why Jesus himself goes to the cross for us and dies, to show us that death does not have the final word. Jesus rises from the dead right here on earth and gets up, walks around and eats with his disciples, just like Jairus’ daughter does when Jesus raises her. Jesus is raised to live and to give us life, both here and in the here after. We often talk in church about Jesus giving us eternal life, but we think of that eternal life as something that we start living when we die in heaven. Salvation and eternal life, however, are things that happen the moment we are baptized. At your baptism, you died and were raised to new life in Christ Jesus. Your eternal life started then. It’s not going to happen in the future, eternal life is now. As Christians, we are living out what it means to be saved by Jesus Christ and to be given eternal life with him right now.
So, what does living life as a saved child of God look like? It is so easy to be skeptical that Jesus really does make a difference, sometimes. Perhaps we wonder that if we would have been there with Jesus as he told the people, “The child is not dead but sleeping,” that we might be the ones who laughed at him, too. It is easier to believe that salvation and eternal life wait for us in the future, because sometimes the life we’ve been given by God in the here and now doesn’t look much like heaven on earth at all. People in our communities are struggling with divorce, alcoholism, abuse, and addiction. Many of us here today have battled diseases like cancer. We all know someone who like Jairus has suffered the loss of a child. We all know someone who is trying to cope with a chronic illness, whether it be arthritis or COPD. So are these people all suffering because they do not believe strongly enough, like Jairus and the woman with a hemorrhage? How are we underestimating the power of our faith to heal hurting people?
Today’s gospel is not just a history lesson about what happened back when Jesus lived on Earth. This gospel proclaims that Jesus STILL brings healing and salvation to us so that all of God’s children are able to live life to the fullest. When we bring meals and visit those who are suffering from chronic illness, we are Jesus’ hands, touching those who need healing and relief. When we support our local hospital and healthcare workers, we help bring healing to those who need it. As people of God and followers of Christ, we can strive to know our neighbors and be a caring presence in our communities to share Jesus’ vision of God’s kingdom being lived out here on earth as in heaven. And when our own pain and feelings of loss start to overwhelm us, we can give them over to Jesus in prayer and ask others to pray for us, knowing that Jesus promises us life abundant today and life with him when we die. The big picture message that Jesus has come to share with the world is that sin, suffering, and death are temporary, but the life Jesus gives is eternal. And that eternal life starts now. May God give us the courage to reach out in faith to touch someone with Jesus’ healing care. May God give us the boldness to live our lives as saved and healed children of God. May God give us awe to marvel at how we could be so blessed to start living as if God’s kingdom has already come to earth as it is in heaven. Amen.