Sunday, 1 July 2012

Healing is God's Business

This morning we meet Jairus, a senior figure in the Synagogue.  He comes and kneels before Jesus and begs him to heal his daughter.  This is a man, by the sheer nature of his position in Jewish society will have had everything he ever wanted and the rest was at his fingertips.  We can only make assumptions about his thinking, but chances are - his daughter fell ill, so he will have tried the local quacks, they also will have prayed and nothing seems to have worked.  He will have heard about Jesus - who would not have heard about this man?  For Jairus, this is the family's last resort.  A man of position of humbles himself and begs Jesus desperately for healing because he know he can.

Sheila, the mother of a school friend of mine, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.  Following her diagnosis she tried conventional medicine; she tried complementary medicine - both to no avail.  She refused to accept her situation; she believed that she could not die.  In complete desperation she turned to a form of spiritualism - and spent thousands of pounds on a healer who told her that she would be healed.  Sadly , Sheila was not and she later died bitter and deluded.  Jesus saw the same ‘I have tried everything’ sort of desperation in Jairus’ eyes.

This story is interrupted, rather rudely by another.  You begin to get a sense of what being Jesus in the crowd must have been like - as requests for teaching and healing come one after another - people vie for his attention.  Jesus stops the crowd, someone has been healed, he feels power go out of him.  The woman in question was, like Jairus,  desperate.  Having been hemorrhaging for 12 years - she was ritually, religiously unclean, a social outcast.  She couldn’t ask Jesus for healing, she could not speak to him, she could not even look at him, but she knew that Jesus could heal her.  She is so desperate that she risks making Jesus unclean by touching him.  We can only make assumptions about her thinking, but chances are - she fell ill, so he will have tried the local quacks, they will have prayed and nothing seems to have worked.  She will have heard about Jesus - who would not have heard about this man?  For this woman, Jesus is the her last resort.  A woman, a social outcast risks touching Jesus, longing for healing because she know he can.

Mother Teresa was once asked by a reporter, “What’s the worst illness you’ve ever seen.” Mother Teresa didn’t have to think for even a moment. The reporter thought she would say AIDS or leprosy. But she said, “The worst disease is that of being unwanted.”  Jesus crosses the same social and religious boundaries and shows that this woman is not only wanted, but she is loved, forgiven and healed.

Then, as Jesus prepares to go to Jairus’s house just as he is told that his daughter is dead and to let Jesus get on.  Jesus is not to deterred.  You can only imagine what would have been going through Jairus’s mind - why did he take so long with this woman when he could have been at his daughter’s bedside?  Nevertheless Jesus goes to the house, and goes to where Jairus’s daughter was.  He touches her gently, taking her by the hand and tells her to get up, raising her from the dead to the bewilderment and astonishment of those in the room.

Paul Brand, a doctor in India, touched a young leper and said, “My son, you are going to get better.” The young man sobbed and sobbed.  Paul said, “You don’t understand. You’re going to get better. We’ve discovered some new medications for leprosy and I’ve found the right one for you.” The young man sobbed all the more. His sister finally said to Dr. Brand, “He isn’t sobbing because of what you told him. He’s sobbing because ever since he got leprosy nobody has touched him.”

Jesus knows how oppressive illness is.  He has seen families who believe they are beyond hope.  He has sat and talked with those who society or religion say are unclean, to be avoided, ostracized - the outsider.  He has seen desperation in countless eyes.  These healings are not dependent on the faith of the individuals involved.  They depend only on the touch of the love of God, in his Son, Jesus.
The issue of healing is an emotive one especially when it does not seem to happen.  We assume at our peril that if after prayer we do not get better, that prayer has failed.  Look at that women, she had waited for twelve years to finally be free of her condition.  I say that, not to duck the difficult issue, but because our instant world expects instant results.  It expects God to act just like that ‘click!’  God does not answer to our beck and call, but according to his loving and gracious will.  Like Jairus and this woman, God only gets called in as a last resort, but all too often gets all the blame and none of the praise!

Healing is God’s business.  Jairus and the woman hoped that Jesus would and could act in love and compassion.  This is often how we react - we ask Jesus - politely because we are Anglicans whether he would mind awfully healing so and so...  we come to Jesus as our last resort or as a fail-safe to the work of doctors.  Yet as 21 century Christians, we know how Jesus responds to requests for healing in the gospels.  No one is turned away.

In desperation, many people are looking for meaning, for peace in our world, and for healing.   Christ offers that touch of healing still - as Christians, do we seek it as our last resort? Because we make it as our first port of call.  Other people heard of Jesus’ ministry as stories like this morning were told as gospel, as good news.  We can only do the same, if we have experienced it for ourselves.  Amen.

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