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June 30, 2018, 12:00 AM

Detours & Interruptions


by Sandy Bach

21-24 After Jesus crossed over by boat, a large crowd met him at the seaside. One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” Jesus went with him, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling him.

25-29 A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

30 At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

31 His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”

32-33 But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.

34 Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”

35 While he was still talking, some people came from the leader’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?”

36 Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”

37-40 He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader’s house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: “Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn’t dead; she’s sleeping.” Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn’t know what he was talking about.

40-43 But when he had sent them all out, he took the child’s father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child’s room. He clasped the girl’s hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room. Then he said, “Give her something to eat.”  (Mark 5:21-43. The Message  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)

It had been an impossible week.  The pastor sat at her desk. pressed to get that sermon written.  It was Friday, the day she usually set aside for her sabbath day of rest.  But, this particular Friday found her in her office madly typing away on her computer.  She was behind due to no fault of her own; she'd officiated two funerals that week.  One funeral always takes its toll; more than one and you're emotional toast.

Which is why she was sitting in her office behind a closed door working madly to get ready for Sunday.  A tap on the door startled her and the office administrator stepped inside.

"Pastor, someone is here to see you.  They need to talk to you."

She lifted her eyes from the computer screen and snapped, "Can't you see I'm busy!  Tell them to come back on Monday."  And she returned her gaze to the monitor in front of her.  The administrator quietly closed the door and proceeded down the hall to deliver the message.

The minister sat back in her chair, removed her glasses and rubbed her tired eyes.  What's wrong with this picture? she asked herself.  I'm writing a sermon on sympathy and compassion, for heaven's sake.  She stood up, took a deep breath and headed down the hall to see her visitor.

Jesus is busy: preaching and teaching; healing; exorcising demons; calming storms at sea.  Sleep comes easily to him.  Yet, he must be worn out from the crowds desperate for healing; desperate to be made well so they can enter back into society.  As they return from Gentile territory across the Sea of Galilee, he sees the crowds arriving.  Barely out of the boat, he's surrounded and begins teaching.

Jairus is a synagogue leader, probably well-to-do, respected by his peers.  Despite his stature in the local community, he can't save his daughter from dying.  Having run out of ideas, he hears that Jesus has arrived.  Maybe he can help.  It's their last chance; she'll be dead by sundown.

He makes his way to the sea, pushing his way through the crowd.  An elbow stops him here while others give him dirty looks.  Finally, he faces Jesus and falls to his knees.  "My little daughter is dying.  Please come and lay your hands on her.  Please heal her!"  Tears fall down his face as he looks up into Jesus' face.

Possibly mid-sentence in his talk, Jesus stops and allows the interruption to detour him.  He takes Jairus by the arm and together they head into town.  There's no time to lose.

They pass by a woman.  Dirty, smelly.  She wasn't always that way.  At one time she had wealth and respect.  But when the bleeding began she went to one doctor after another.  They took her money and did nothing to relieve her agony.  She's ritually unclean; how she craves to enter the synagogue and worship like she used to!

Just then, Jesus strides by following Jairus closely so as not to lose him.  The crowds are following him and she is pushed aside, falling to the ground.  Looking at Jesus passing by she thinks, "If only..."

"All I need do is touch his clothing.  That wouldn't make him unclean, would it?  Just a touch and I know I'll be healed."

She scrambles to her feet and rushes after him, slipping through the crowd.  She'll never understand how she managed to get close enough to him, but she does.  She has to run to keep up with his long strides.  And then her opportunity comes and she carefully reaches out to touch his prayer shawl.

Miraculously it works!  She stops where she is and the crowds pass her by as she feels something happening in her body.  It's happened!  It's really happened!  She knows she's healed.  It worked!

Jesus, on the way to heal a dying child stops.  A detour on the way to an interruption.

"Who touched me?"  He's not angry.  He's curious.  He felt power leave him.  He wants to know who received that power.

"Really?" his disciples ask him.  "The crowds are pushing and jostling us around.  How can you ask who touched you?"

With great faith and not a little fear and trembling, the now healed woman approaches and falls to her knees, much like Jairus had done earlier.  In short sentences filled with awe, she shares her story.  She gazes up into those eyes of his and sees, not derision or anger, but compassion and love.  Oh, how she has craved these for twelve years!

"Daughter," Jesus says as he bends to touch her.  Daughter.  A child of God, belonging once again.  As the tears course down her face, Jesus says to her, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

Jesus has had two interruptions and has taken two detours.  His love and compassion continue unaltered.  As he turns to walk with Jairus, once again he sees what he assumes are friends and colleagues of Jairus.  "She's gone, Jairus.  She died just a few minutes ago.  Come on home.  Let's not trouble the teacher any further."

Jesus gazes on Jairus' weary face.  "Don't fear. Only believe."

Isn't that what he said yesterday when the boats were being tossed around on the sea? Don't fear.  Not because there's nothing to be afraid of; there's plenty and to spare.  Don't fear, because God is never too busy to hear and respond to our fears.

Okay, I hear your question: what about all those who pray for healing and die, anyway.  Is that God's will?  Does God help some people and not others?  Or perhaps they didn't have enough faith.

I don't know what God's plan is.  I don't know why some people die and others don't.  Perhaps some of it is due to our modern miracle of medicine.  Yet, other times, people come through and survive the in-survivable.

With prayer, comes healing.  Not always in the form we desire and crave.  But, what I've seen are acts of faith that reach beyond physical healing.  I've seen intense anger replaced with peace and acceptance.  I've seen disappointment turned into a continuing awareness of God's presence.  I've experienced grace in the midst of difficult times; grace that carried me until I could land on my feet again.

Prayer and mustard seed faith makes a difference, to all involved.  Healing occurs in so many ways.  Sometimes it comes through us.

And maybe you've been a part of the healing.  When you allowed a detour or an interruption to take hold of you and you found yourself in the grocery aisle visiting with a stranger.  Did you even realize that you had said just the right thing?  Or that time you were waiting for those new tires to be installed.  You and a stranger began sharing notes on that cancer surgery you survived.  You can't remember how you got on that particular subject!  And you didn't notice the man sitting quietly, apparently reading a magazine, but his complete focus and attention on your conversation.  His healing began in terms of peace as he faced that same surgery tomorrow.

When have you been interrupted?  When have you taken detours?

I don't know why I headed to my favorite book store that day.  I was at loose ends and needed something to do.  An hour later I walked out the door with nothing and literally bumped into a friend I hadn't seen in years.  We stood outside the store catching up on the years and I found myself sharing my worry and concern over my son's poor decisions.  I don't remember what she said, but for weeks and months after that her words stayed with me.  Every time the worry and angst made an appearance, her words put a stop to them and I could give it to God.  And when I shared that with her a few months later she said, "I think God directed me to that store that day, because I didn't even bother going in.  After we finished talking I got in my car and drove away!"

Detours on the way to interruptions.  Jesus had them.  We all have them.  What's important is what we do with them.

Or, as the song goes, "They'll know we are Christians by our love."  People are watching and waiting.  And those you watch have a hurt or pain somewhere.  Maybe it's in the past, but often it's right this minute.  You can make a difference by noticing that they're there.  It's easy to see the Jairus', but even easier to pass by the invisible woman with the hemorrhage.  Even Jesus didn't notice her at first.

Who is God putting in your path?  Open your eyes.  Take the detour.  Allow the interruption.  Give God the credit.  Let God work through you.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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