A sermon for Hope Lutheran Church in Riverside, CA on July 1, 2018
The woman was on the brink of death. Her cancer was winning. She said goodbye to her students and within weeks was bed-ridden. Conversations turned to her last wishes. Life was miserable and clouded with pain and narcotics to ease it. She had nothing left to lose but the pain so her doctor gave her an experimental drug. Within weeks she was pain free and her tumors began melting away. Before she knew it, she was declared a medical miracle because in a matter of a few months time she was completely cancer free. Yet the trauma, the memories of being at death’s door and the lost time, the fear of death, all remained. While her body was healed, her heart and mind were not. The cancer was gone but now she had to live again and she sat unable to ignore the pain and anger over the process of it all and the emotional pain of living when she had been as good as dead.
It’s not an easy thing to be told you will not recover, only to do so. It is not easier to be on the brink of death only to find new life.
The life and ministry of Jesus is about overcoming these deaths. On the surface, it may appear there is not a common thread in the acts of Jesus ministry, but if we pay close attention, story after story are about Christ casting out or denying death of a permanent grasp on us. Today, it appears that he casts out death only from the 12 year old girl, but the honest truth is that he also cast out death from the bleeding woman, too.
The woman had suffered for as long as the girl had been alive. For 12 years, every penny had gone into attempts to heal. Every doctor had been called and here she was, still bleeding. While she lived in a mixed community and many did not hold to the same religious standards and laws as she did, she knew that her religion deemed her unclean. To the men of her circles, touching her or even the cushion she sat upon meant they were unclean. After 12 years, the news gets around though, and people surely knew her story, even if it was whispered behind backs in the manner of all juicy gossip. Yet here she is. She is close enough to Jesus to touch his clothes and in all honesty, she has nothing left to lose. Her life is an empty shell. She cannot marry or have sex, thus she cannot bear children. She cannot participate in cooking and cleaning because anything she touches is ritually unclean. She has no value anymore. She is worthless. A ghost walking among the living. She may as well be dead. So she does the only thing left that she can do. She reaches out in faith.
Jesus knew that someone had been healed. He felt it in his own body to every cell so of course he turns around and seeks who he has healed. He seeks not to punish but, I believe, to finish the healing and to declare it true and complete! Seeking the person who needed such healing, he turned and asked to no avail until
“the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.” V 33
She told him her entire story. She told him of her burden, her ghostly life, and admitted her status as invaluable right there in front of everyone because in the end they all knew anyway. Jesus heard her story and more importantly, he calls her “daughter.”
Jesus gave her permission to speak her truth and “something beautiful happens when we give each other permission to tell the truth. Something dies when that essential permission is stripped away.” She has already had enough death for a lifetime, and Christ is all about giving life, so he gives her life in hearing her story.
When her faith heals her of her bleeding she is given corporeal life again. Christ continues the healing and hears her, she is given fullness of being again. Not only has she regained her life, she has regained her status by his simple words of declaration.
“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Daughter! She is claimed as worthy!
“Your faith as made you well!” Her body was already made well by her faith.
And finally, “go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Christ encourages her to speak her truth and the dis- ease of her mind and all that goes with this horrific life she has led for 12 years is healed. “Daughter, you have been healed, now go and live this life!” Christ understood there is more to healing than a body. There is more to death than loss of breathe. There is more to life than having breathe too.
And Jairus daughter has neither breathe, nor life. Twelve years old. A daughter on the cusp of womanhood and motherhood herself. She had the fruition of life in her grasp at that age and yet she died. We should notice the sandwiching of the story of the value of a woman of no consequence in the middle of the story of a powerful man’s daughter.
Christ acknowledged both daughters. He comes to heal this daughter too when he speaks to her. He reaches out and at his words he brings her back into life.
“ Talitha Cum. Little girl, get up!”
He speaks these words calling her into life, calling her not just into bodily life, but life eternal. “Little Girl, get up!!!Rise UP daughter!”
Christ cast out death for both of these women by giving them a chance at full life. Both had value not because of who the men around them were, but because they were both daughters of the most high. They deserved to rise up in Christ. Christ did not give preference. He healed them both from death or life like death.
For those who go to Christ in prayer for a loved one’s life and the loved one died, this is a hard story to hear. It feels like a promise for everyone but those who didn’t get that physical healing. We wonder why God didn’t say yes to us. Why our loved one died. This story reminds us that there is more to healing than a body. Not everyone will be healed in a physical way, but Christ heals in a fuller way, a way that casts out death, eternally. A way that speaks to every one of us and says, Talitha Cum, child, stand up, get up, LIVE.
Beth Moore has a study on Daniel and in it she speaks of the story of the fiery furnace as she teaches about the ways we are delivered from death by Christ.
From the flames- we never actually feel the flames we are literally delivered unscathed.
Through the flames- they may lick at us, burning us and leaving marks and pain, but we are delivered alive to the other side.
By the flames- The flames consume our body, but in them, we are delivered by God to the other side of eternal life.
In each way, death is cast out.
Christ, who sees our value, whether we are the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man or a woman of no accord, has conquered death. Christ delivers us all from the hand of death in a new way, a way that shuns eternal death and delivers true life, encouraging us to Talitha cum, child, GET UP!
Your deliverance may begin here. It may begin with a medical miracle or awareness to care for your body better so that you live this life longer. It may begin with recovery or victory over depression with medication or therapy. Or it may not. It may be awareness that these things will win here, but that God always wins in the long run.
Either way, your eternal healing that can begin now and it will see you through every ill in this place. It doesn’t guarantee we won’t see hard times and face consequences of years of bodily burden. But it does guarantee that this will not last, that God is always with us in our darkest moments, and that we are truly delivered in our eternal life.
The greater question now is if we are healed from true Death, into eternal life, what shall we do with this life? What will we do with this healing? We are freed from death in all ways through Christ.
We will never know if the girl goes on to marry and have children and teaches others the value of precious and few days on this earth. We will never know if the woman overcomes the stigma that has been attached to her like a different kind of scarlet letter. Maybe she moves to a new city where she can start over. Maybe people welcome her in. Maybe she herself marries and has children. No matter the road ahead, they are both, we are all, claimed as children of themost high God and delivered in Christ, the redeemer who cast out death once and for all on the cross and daily grants us new life, eternal .
Talitha Cum. Little Girl, Rise up.