Authority, Character, Healing
July 1st 2018. Mark 5:21-end and also 2 Samuel 1.
Marvel’s film ‘Avengers Infinity War’ is the end of a 10 year journey, which began with the film ”Iron Man”.
In Iron Man, huge battle has happened the night before. Tony Stark is going to the press conference and he is being told they will ask if he is Iron Man, because of that battle. The government agents from the organisation SHIELD say they can prove he was on a yacht. and he is to deny it, reject it etc, using a statement the government gives him.
And he gets to the podium, he starts reading the cards, he is asked a question, tries to go back to the cards,
then he looks up, says – Truth is,,,
”I am Iron Man.”
Unlike Batman or Superman, no confusion who is the man in the suit. Stark wants people to get the identity right.
Mark’s Gospel began with
”The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (1:1).
And in these first 5 chapters, including our gospel reading, he shows, 5 pieces of evidence pointing to the identity of Jesus and why is he good news. We see his authority shown.
1. He had the power and authority to teach (Mark 1:21-22), people are amazed in the synagogue and say he teaches with a authority unlike many they heard.
2. He had power and authority to heal sickness. Mark 1:29-31, and here with the woman who has suffered for 12 years with internal bleeding. A touch – in this case a touch of his clothes – fevers go, a paralysed man is healed, long term sickness healed. When we go through the gospels there are thirty occasions where Jesus heals. In addition there are those he heals from demonic oppression. Remember from a few weeks ago – the religious leaders from Jerusalem do not accuse him of fake healing – rather they say he is healing because of dark powers.
3. Jesus had power and authority to forgive sin. This was scandalous to the listeners – only God can forgive sins – and yet the first words he speaks to a paralysed man before healing him (Mark 2:1-12) – ”your sins are forgiven”.
4. Jesus had power and authority over nature (Mark 4:35-41). With words, he calms a storm. In Britain due to the warm weather, they are giving our equivalent of a code red for this evening due to thunderstorms etc. People just take care, don’t bike, etc etc. Jesus, in a storm, code red, he says – ”Quiet Be Still.” No wonder they ask ‘Who is this?’ Only God is the one who rules and commands nature.
5. Jesus had power and authority over death. We heard the well known story. He ignores them when they say the girl is dead. He ignores the detail of her death. ”The child is not dead but asleep.” he says. She was dead. But he is suggesting it is easier for him to bring her back to life, than for us to wake a waking teenager! He is the Son of God and He has authority over death…
By this stage, of end of Mark 5, we have seen how Jesus has authority and power to teach, power and authority to heal sickness, power and authority to forgive sins, he has power and authority over nature, he has power and authority over death. All this shows he is good news, that he has power and authority and he is not one to be ignored, it all points to God among us. So for us – when we meditate on these pieces of evidence, let it stir our souls to worship, as we remember and adore the one to whom we entrust out lives.
But also, when we encounter folks in work, or family, who are open to the good news about Jesus. They are interested. Have they read about his life? Do they see him only as a teacher, or a good man. Invite them to read a copy of Mark, and offer to sit down and chat and ask them what they think about these stories what do they say about who he is? We want people to get his identity right – not to disregard him based on what wrong views in the media may say. Rather to get them into the Bible and think – so this is who Jesus really is…
Second point is character.
A tutor when interviewing for his seminary, would always ask the students who came, to read out part of Genesis 3. It is where Adam and Eve have fallen into sin and are hiding and God says: ”Where are you?” He said he could learn a lot from how people read that, insights into how they understood God’s grace, heart.
Think on one phrase. ”Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Think – for you, how does Jesus say these phrases. To Jairus a broken man. He has heard that his daughter has died. He had taken courage to go see Jesus which as we have seen would have been a unpopular action among some, he doesn’t go quietly like Nicodemus, he goes publically and even falls at his feet and ”pleads earnestly with Jesus” to come. And he learns she has died. Grief, maybe range of other emotions – why did Jesus stop at the woman and heal her, why didn’t he go sooner to Jesus – as his daughter has been ill for a long time – … ”Don’t be afraid, just believe.” How does Jesus say that? Now we don’t know. But our reaction is important.
Is it a ‘factual’ statement and off Jesus goes into the house…
Is it like what some coaches have been saying in the World Cup, as they have gone out to play – a gee me up – ‘Don’t be afraid, just believe’.
Or is it a taking Jairus by the arms, looking at him in the eyes, feeling that emotion, seeing that grief and pain, with eyes that later would look at Mary and Martha near Lazarus’ tomb, and ”Don’t be afraid, just believe”. Is she speaking incredible words of compassion. No condemnation for the fear that is rattling inside Jairus. Filled with compassion, grace, love is the way I believe Jesus would have spoken those words.
I want to ask, could Jesus say that to you. Would he say that to you? When we are in suffering – and suffering is part of every person’s walk with Christ Jesus reminds us by using the image of taking up the cross – when the suffering part of being human and in a fallen world hits us – when we cry out as David does in his lament over the death of his dear friend Jonathan and the death of Saul, (2 Samuel 1). I believe Jesus looks at you, holds you by the arms, and says ”don’t be afraid, just believe.” In those words he understands you pain and fear and grief and desires you keep close to him.
After Jesus speaks to Jarius, we hear his resurrecting words to his daughter. ”Talitha Koum – I say to you little girl get up.” Third point is healing. He says to the woman ‘
‘Daughter, your faith has healed you, Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Jesus wants the woman to be healed in many ways – healed of shame, that she has grabbed Jesus robes and snuck up to him and not been bold like Jairius. Healed in public eyes – that she was no meant to be in such close knit public gatherings in case she would touch and make people religiously unclean. Jesus says – ‘she is healed’ – he restores her within community life and religious life so she can now go to synagogue and temple. Healed emotionally, physically, communally, spiritually – ”her faith has healed her” he says – he commends her walk towards him instead of condemning her for having been secretive. Jesus the healer.
But if we were reading this gospel with a non Christian, they would come to Mark 6 and see that the 12 are sent out to preach about the kingdom and to heal the sick. They are sent out to do what Jesus has been doing in chapter 1-5. And it isn’t just the 12 disciples – who later are known as apostles. Jesus, in Luke, in chapter 10, commissions 72 others who also are sent out to heal and preach. Only one of those 72 later becomes an apostle – Matthias – as Peter preached about weeks ago, when he preached on Acts 1. In fact as we read Acts, we see Philip – one of the first deacons – who is used to heal those who are paralysed and crippled, (Acts 8). Ananias, a disciple, not an elder, or an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor teacher, he prays for Saul to be healed of his blindness, (Acts 9). Paul later when writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12-14), describes a list of 7 gifts and one of them is the gifts of healing. Suggesting in a congregation’s life, as there can be people who prophesy, or have the gift of wisdom or tongues, can have one of the gifts of healing. When we come to James, ”Is any one of you in trouble, he should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the lord and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” (James 5:13-16).
NT teaches, that prayer for healing is to be something offered within each congregation. Not only by elders – priests – but the teaching on gifts would suggest it is an activity of people who are not ordained or with a recognised ministry. And in fact, when we go back in our thinking as to who it is who lives inside us. Jesus by his Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus lives within each of us. He has taken up residence within. Jesus who describes the Holy Spirit, as another counsellor, (John 14:15-18), suggesting the role of the Spirit would be similar to his own ministry. As Acts begins (Acts 1:1) – ‘All Jesus began to do and teach’ – suggesting what we see in Acts is the work of Jesus through his people to preach, do good works, to love, to reconcile, to bring healing in all its many forms. And that continues since then, til now.
But on day to day. There are situations in life, where long term illness is not healed, despite people having people prayed for them. Yet in this congregation, we also know stories like Frank Fink-Jensen and Annemarie, where healing has come. As some of you know, in recent weeks, our brother in law, Mark died of cancer. Mark was married to Jolanda’s youngest sister Marijke. Mark was diagnosed 7 years ago. In his church people prayed for him – like the prayer ministry we offer her – and family friends did. And he received excellent medical and cancer treatment. And it amazingly went into remission. To the extent that Mark and Marijke could pursue what they felt God was calling of them to move to SW England and receive from and contribute to an English Church Ministry – this was very much what was on Mark’s heart. Not long after their move almost two years ago, the cancer became more aggressive again, spreading, taking with it Mark’s energy. Many continued to pray for him and with him. But his health and energy slowly declined. Mark passed away just after Pentecost, peacefully in the UK.
Mark when talking about his illness and prayer said once – this was a win win situation for him – if he was healed, he won, if he was not healed, he still won – because he knew the one to whose house he was going, he knew the one who offered eternal life, he knew the identity of the one who offered good news and he knew, that when it comes to the resurrection, he would hear the commanding voice of the Lord ‘Mark, I tell you, get up.’ ((1 Thessalonians 4:16).
So as a vicar I believe the church has many ministries and callings upon it and one of them is healing. Healing in its many forms as Jesus brings into the lady. That means I will continue to pray for people to be healed physically, emotionally, spiritually, communally. But I also know from many situations, as you do, where healing has not come. I have seen healing in my father healed after heart attacks, I have seen others I prayed for – in person and in my intercessions – and not seen healing in this life. It is so tempting at times to stop doing the praying. But I believe the Church is called to pray for healing, as Jesus brought healing in all its forms into so many lives. So I will continue to do so and encourage you to continue to do so.
As we think of Jesus identity. We note his beautiful character. When we cry out like David did, we know that Jesus draws near as he did to Jairus. In our suffering, and when grief comes, and when there are no answers, he is still near, he comes near. And when we think of the power and authority of Jesus, we see his character how his authority is expressed in love. We see the challenge to continue to pray for healing for believers and non believers. And as we look at his power and authority, we see how he truly is good news, we know that if death comes, through sickness, or through age, we can trust him with everything and on the day of resurrection we will hear the voice ”’Grant / Jolanda / Mark / Chris / Corrie / Sheila I say to you, get up.”
Shall we pray…