Our gospel teaches us that it is our job to pray into the world, God teaches us that it is our job to carry out God’s will in the world pray and do
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen, please sit.
What a powerful gospel we have today, and it’s once again a gospel that contains almost unbelievable miracles, miracles of healing that to our modern minds are difficult to comprehend. And in fact, the temptation is to read the scripture and to dismiss the miracles as having not happened, because we are, of course, rational human beings. And we know that these things don’t happen, don’t we?
Well, do we? Do we know these things happen? I’ve told you before that one of the first miracles that happens in any of these healing stories that we see in scripture is not there is not the healing. In many ways, the temptation is to go straight into the gospel and say, Jesus healed the woman by a miracle who is suffering with haemorrhages. And the temptation is to say that is the first miracle, but that is to miss the fact that these people have come to see Jesus in the first place.
And there is our evidence that these things were real. If you want to be literal about it and you want to look for evidence in the gospel, there it is. Jesus wasn’t some itinerant teacher who just bounced around saying nice things. Jesus was the son of God who brought health, healing and life into the world. He brought light into darkness. That is not us projecting that back onto Jesus, that is the people of the time of Jesus saying that that is true.
Jesus was followed everywhere he went because he performed these miracles and he spoke with the authority of God. And so if we wish to be rational about it, if we wish to embrace the age of enlightenment and say, well, where’s your evidence that Jesus did these things? Well, there is your evidence. It’s there in the scripture because people followed him everywhere. Everywhere he went, he was crowded with people. So much so that they were they were pushing in around him so that when he asked who touched my cloak, that the disciples almost laughed at him.
You can see the exchange, can’t you? Jesus is walking through this crowd. These people who have come because he heals, because he speaks of the light of God. Who’s touched me? The disciples say, what do you mean, who touched you? Look how many people there are around you. What do you mean who touched you? But Jesus knew that someone had come to him, somebody who was full of shame, who is reluctant, who didn’t want to make herself known.
She shouldn’t have been filled with shame by the standards of the day, she was unclean, which meant that she couldn’t go to the synagogue, which meant that she couldn’t take part in the daily life and routine of where she lived. And so she was covered in shame. She didn’t want to approach Jesus. But she thought, you know what, if I can just come up behind him, if I can just touch him, I will be healed.
And that’s how she was healed – because of her faith, because of her faith in Jesus Christ. She was able to set aside her shame and approach Jesus. Now, we mustn’t get caught up in what that what that word shame means. Know there’s a whole sermon in saying this woman shouldn’t be ashamed of what was going on. Of course, she shouldn’t have been ashamed of what was going on. But she she felt that heaviness that stopped her going to Jesus.
And that’s a dangerous thing, because we will put on ourselves, we will gather on ourselves the shame of society around us that will push us further and further and further away from Jesus Christ to the point where we don’t feel that we can approach him. When I preached about that last week, didn’t deny that it doesn’t matter who you are and what you’ve done, where you’ve been, you can always approach Jesus for healing. And here it is spelled out for us in the gospel.
Jesus didn’t lay hands on her. Jesus didn’t speak to her. But she approached Jesus and in her face, casting away that shame that had been put on her by society, she touched his cloak and she was healed and Jesus knew her immediately. Because that’s what happens in healing. And then the second is the third miracle in this gospel, the first being there are so many people that have come to see Jesus, the second being that she was healed.
The third miracle is that Jesus knew that she had been healed. Instantly. She had approached him in shame and in darkness, she had crept up to him, she had touched his cloak and in that instant Jesus knew her. In that instance. She became his daughter. And that light of God that I talk about there exists in all of us grew into an inferno. For a moment, that must have been. What a moment. And so this part of the gospel is an encouragement to us to say go and be healed.
Now, we probably, if we’re here today, wouldn’t have a problem with walking up to Jesus and falling on knees and saying Jesus heal us, but we all know people who don’t come to church, who are on the edge of a faith, who are ashamed, who wouldn’t want to be seen to be walking through those doors, who need to touch the cloak of Jesus. And so it’s our job in the world to pray with them. It is our job in the world to let them know if they touch his cloak, he will know them, that they ask him for healing, they will receive it.
That’s our job each and every one of us, day to day, week to week. Now, the second part of the gospel. The official from the synagogue, his daughter. It’s a different request. There’s no shame in this, this is this isn’t this isn’t personal, I’m struggling to come to Jesus. This is desperation. My daughter is sick. Please help me. And we see so many people coming through these doors in desperation. So many people coming through these doors who don’t know what else to do day in, day out.
People come to this place in desperation. And what does Jesus do when you come to him in that moment of desperation when there is nothing else to do, when you fall on your knees before him and you cry out to him, Jesus help me. He doesn’t offer comforting words. He doesn’t say something nice and hold your hand and send you on your way. He doesn’t give you a tin of beans and say it’s going to be OK. He comes to your home, he brings his friends.
He goes to the source of what it is you are desperate about. And he fixes it. He heals it, he casts aside the assumptions of everyone around, everybody thought that girl was dead, he cast aside those assumptions, he throws them away. He goes into the home and he commands the girl, commands the girl in the same way that he commanded the sea, in the same way that he commanded all creation. He commands the girl to get up.
She does. And healness and wholeness and light is in the world again. That family was saved not just the girl, but his whole family was saved in that moment of healing. That fourth miracle. Of such wonder, of such awesomeness that we are tempted to try and explain it away. And when we try to explain it away, we miss so much of what the gospel is telling us. So what does that call us to do? What does that part of the gospel teach us in our day to day lives?
What does it put on our hearts? Well, it says that when people come through these doors in desperation, when people come to you in desperation and they don’t know what else to do, your response is not kind words. Your response is not a smile. Your response is not a tin of beans. Your response is what is the most that I can do in Jesus name? What is the most that I can do? Not the least. And when you hear that phrase, there are two phrases in this world that drive me nuts, absolutely nuts.
The first is “I’ll just be devil’s advocate”. No, shut up. The devil has enough advocates in the world we don’t need anymore. “Let me just be devil’s advocate”. No. That’s a whole other sermon! The second thing is, it’s the least I can do. Jesus does not call us to do the least that we can do. He calls us to do what he did, which is such overflowing generosity of love that it fixes the world.
Jesus brought this girl back from the dead. We get to fix the world. We get to make things better in the world and bring his kingdom through overwhelming acts of generosity. And those acts of generosity, that action in the world starts with prayer. We don’t say the situation is so desperate, I don’t know what to do, but at least I can pray, at least I can pray like prayer is just you just dismissing it as what?
I can’t do anything else, but at least I can pray. I’ll pray for you because that’s a No. Prayer is the start. Prayer is the start of Jesus healing in the world through, you. Prayer, sustains the healing of the world through you, and prayer brings to conclusion and glory the healing of the world through you. So next time you find yourself thinking, I don’t know what to do in this situation, so all I’m going to do is pray, all I’m going to do is pray.
That is the most powerful thing you can do. And don’t ask in that pray for God to be in that situation to fix it. Yes, ask for that, but also ask to understand what part it is that you play in fixing that situation. What’s your role in that situation? It’s like the man who was caught in a dreadful flood and the waters were rising. How many of you have heard this story? It’s fresh in my mind. I’ve got a feeling well. I’m telling you again, the waters were rising and the man ran to the roof of his house.
And he was a devout Christian. He was a good Christian and he understood that prayer. Prayer is the beginning, the middle and end of everything. And so he called out to God. God help me. I am going to drown. My life is in your hands. Help me. So a man in a canoe comes up and he says, I’m here to help you. The man on the roof says, no, it’s OK, I’ve asked almighty God, I’ve prayed to God, God is going to help me.
So the man in the canoe paddles off and goes, well, fine, alright then.
The man goes God the waters are rising. Help me. So a man in a fishing boat arrives and he says, I’m here to help get in or you’re going to die! Get in! He goes, No, no, no, it’s OK. I’ve prayed to God, my father, God is going to save me. And the guy goes on to the fishing boat. That’s why he’s going backwards.
The man says, Lord, the water is at my feet on this group, on this roof. Save me. And the RNLI lifeboats turns up. And they say to him, get on. And he goes, no, I don’t need to trust in you because I have asked God to save me. The RNLI lifeboat, they’re a bit more tenacious, but he won’t get on. So off they go they’re in a speedboat. Well the inevitable happens and the man dies and he finds himself at the pearly gates.
And he says to Peter – Saint Peter, I prayed. I asked to be saved and God did not save me. And Saint Peter says. We sent three boats. What do you mean we didn’t try to save you?
Our gospel teaches us that it is our job to pray into the world, God teaches us that it is our job to carry out God’s will in the world pray and do. Amen.