Pastor Becca Ehrlich
A guy named Smith went to a psychiatrist. “Doc,” he said, “I’ve got trouble. Every time I get into bed, I think there’s somebody under it. Then I get under the bed, and I think there’s somebody on top of it. Top, under, top, under. You gotta help me, I’m going crazy!”
“Just put yourself in my care for two years,” she said. “Come to me three times a week, and I’ll cure your fears.”
“How much do you charge?” “A hundred dollars per visit.” “I’ll sleep on it,” said Smith.
Six months later the doctor met Smith on the street. “Why didn’t you ever come to see me again?” she asked.
“For a hundred bucks a visit? A bartender cured me for ten dollars.” “Is that so!” said the doctor. How?”
“He told me to cut the legs off the bed!”
Usually psychiatric cures aren’t quite that easy!
In our Gospel reading today, we hear about two healings. In fact, as Jesus is on his way to one healing, and he gets interrupted by another.
A Jewish leader, Jairus, approaches Jesus while he is surrounded by people, falls at his feet, and begs him to come to his daughter, who is near death. Jesus agrees.
But on his way to Jairus’ house, a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years—and had spent all her money on numerous doctors and had just gotten worse and worse—finds Jesus and touches the hem of his cloak. She is immediately healed of her bleeding.
Jesus knows something happened and tries to figure out who touched him. The woman throws herself at Jesus’ feet (there’s a lot of that going around, since Jairus just threw himself in front of Jesus, too), and she tells him what happened. He tells her, “"Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
So now the original story continues. As Jesus goes on his way to see the little girl, they get word that the girl is now dead. But rather than turning around, as people expected him to, he turns to Jairus and tells him, “"Do not fear, only believe."
They enter the house, and Jesus tells them that the girl isn’t dead, but sleeping. They actually laugh at him. But the joke’s on them, because after everyone is asked to leave the room, Jesus takes her by the hand, says “Little girl, get up!” and she miraculously gets up and walks around. And then Jesus tells them to feed her, because being dead for a while has got to make one hungry.
When we first read these two stories, they seem unrelated. In fact, the story of the bleeding woman just seems like a sidebar to the real story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead.
But I think these stories are put side-by-side for a reason. Both have to do with Jesus healing others. But there is more to it than that. These two stories show us HOW Jesus helps us.
First of all, both of the people Jesus heals are women. This is a HUGE deal. Women were considered property and had hardly any rights in Jesus’ time. And children were considered property as well. So a woman and then a young woman being healed—the fact that Jesus even CARED enough to want to interact with them, let alone HEAL them, is huge.
And then we have the fact that both of these women would have been unclean according to Jewish law. The bleeding woman would have had to isolate herself from society because anyone she touched or came into contact with would also be considered unclean, and would have to wait a time and then purify themselves according to the law. So her being in a crowd, brushing up against people, means that not only was she unclean, but she was making anyone around her unclean too—including Jesus.
And the little girl? She was dead. Coming into contact with a corpse meant becoming unclean and having to purify oneself too. But being unclean doesn’t scare Jesus away-- in fact, he takes her by the hand.
And an interesting connection between the two women in these stories is that we find out that the little girl was 12 years old—she was born around the time the other woman started having her health problems. That girl had been alive as long as the woman had been bleeding.
SO. These connections between the stories are fun to notice, but they aren’t there just to play a match-up game. They’re there to tell us about Jesus’ help for us in our own lives.
Jesus heals two people, two women, who would have been considered nobodies in society. A little girl and an ailing, poor woman. But he doesn’t care that they aren’t worth anything to others—they are worth everything to him. He loves them and helps them, regardless of what other people think.
Jesus continues to help us like that, today. It doesn’t matter how others think of you, or how you think of yourself. To Jesus, you are everything. You are worthy of his love and care. Jesus helps you because he loves you, regardless of anything else.
Jesus also doesn’t care about rules and regulations that are set up. Even though being touched by the woman, and touching the dead girl, meant that he too would become unclean according to the law at the time, he didn’t care. Those women experiencing his love and his power was way more important than any rules someone would throw at him.
Jesus does the same thing now. We have all sorts of rules and boundaries for how people should be and act. Jesus doesn’t care about those. He breaks down the walls we build, and helps us despite our human-made rules. Jesus transcends our barriers.
And the two women Jesus helps are very different. One has been sick as long as the other one has been alive. One is bleeding, while the other one is dead. One is broke, one comes from a wealthy, religious leader household.
This shows us that no matter how old you are, what your problems are, what your paycheck is—Jesus helps you. You are worth it. Jesus doesn’t base his love and help on anything except the fact that you are a beloved child of God.
So from these two stories of healing, we find that out NO ONE is beyond the love and care of Jesus. NO ONE. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you’ve done. Jesus loves you and wants to help you be more of who he wants you to be.
There is a story of a man called the Fisher King. There are many different versions of his story, and this is one of them.
When the Fisher King was a boy, he was sent out to spend the night alone in the forest as a test of his courage to be king. During the night, he had a vision of the Holy Grail (the cup used by our Lord at the Last Supper). It was surrounded by great flames of fire. Immediately, he became excited by the prospect of wealth and glory that would be his by possessing such a great prize. Greedily, he reached into the flames to grab the Holy Grail, but the flames were too much and he was severely wounded.
As the years went by, the Fisher King became more despondent and alone… and his wound grew deeper. One day the Fisher King, feeling sad and depressed and in pain, went for a walk in the forest. He came upon a court jester. “Are you all right?” the jester asked. “Is there anything I can do for you? Anything at all?” “Well, I am very thirsty,” the Fisher King replied. The jester took an old dilapidated cup from his bag, filled it with water from a nearby stream, and gave it to the Fisher King. As the Fisher King drank, he suddenly felt his wound healing for the first time. And incredibly the old cup he was drinking from had turned into the Holy Grail. “What wonderful magic do you possess?” the Fisher King asked the jester. The jester just shrugged and said, “I know no magic. All I did was get a drink for a thirsty soul.”
This story reminds us that although in our life we experience pain and suffering—sometimes of our own making, sometimes because life kicks us in the butt—love with no boundaries brings healing and life. We saw this in our stories today, and we experience this in Jesus’ love for us in our own lives. No one is beyond Jesus’ love and care and help. YOU are not beyond Jesus’ love and care and help. Jesus loves and helps YOU, no matter what. And THAT is something to celebrate—today and every day! Amen.