Rev. George Miller
August 23, 2015
Last week, Rev. White preached about being on the road to Jericho. Today, Jesus is on another kind of road, a road full of folk pressing in, following him, caught up in the promise of his presence. Folk who are leaders, sinners, mourners and those dealing with the chronic conditions of life.
Previously, Jesus was confronted by a man living with an unclean spirit. This time, he is confronted by the uncleanliness of a woman hemorrhaging blood and the uncleanliness of a dead young girl.
Earlier this month I stated that Jesus was provocative. That what he said, did and taught led him one step closer to the cross.
There are at least two different kinds of provocative people. There are those who provoke and rock the boat for the sake of others, to make the Kingdom of God a bit more real, and to bring about much needed, positive change.
Then there are those who are provocative simply for the sake of provoking. To shock, offend, to dominate, and to make it all about them.
We certainly experienced some provocative behavior this political season, especially during the debates broadcast on FOX, especially from Donald Trump.
By now we’re all aware of the question moderator Megan Kelly asked him about some of his misogynistic statements. We also know that the following night on CNN, Trump said “You could see there was blood
coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Trump says he said nothing wrong. Instead he’s blaming everyone else for the backlash that has occurred, blaming Kelly, blaming the media, blaming the other candidates.
But no amount of blaming can erase what Trump said. He wanted to make Kelly look like she was in the wrong, so he turned to blood, and regardless of what he thinks he meant, at least 50% of the US population knows exactly what he was inferring.
If blood could be used to shame and silence enlightened folk in 2015 America, imagine how much more so blood was used to shame and silence people 2,000 years ago in Israel.
So today we are on the road with Jesus. On this road we meet other provocative people.
Let’s start with Jairus. He’s a husband; he’s a father. And right now his little girl is ill, very ill; to the point of death. He comes to Jesus in hopes that she may be made well.
But Jairus does not just ask, he begs; he pleads. He is tenacious like a mustard weed.
He falls onto the road; he grovels at Jesus’ feet and implores him not once, not twice, but many times to help.
Sure, we can say Jairus is a devoted father willing to do anything to save his little girl. But there is more going on.
Jairus is not just anybody; he’s a somebody. He’s a religious figure, a leader at a house of worship. It’s assumed he has his own close connection with the Almighty. He’s the one people come to asking for assistance.
Which means that by coming to Jesus for help, by throwing himself at his feet, Jairus has just placed his entire reputation at stake.
He has publicly acted in a way that’s seen as shameful; he has acted in a way that would bring humiliation.
He is a man who has everything to lose, and yet he is willing to do whatever it may take so his daughter can experience life.
Whereas Jairus is a man who has everything to lose, the unnamed woman is at the point of her life where she has nothing left to lose.
For 12 years she’s been bleeding out, and the doctors cannot make her well.
For 12 years she has spent every cent, every dime, every dollar she has seeking a solution: cat-scans, co-pays, referrals, prescriptions, alternative medicine, the Mayo Clinic.
Nothing has helped; in fact it’s become worse.
She’s not just bleeding out physically and financially, but for 12 years she’s been living with the shame of being seen as unclean and ritually impure.
This would have prevented her from entering a house of worship; this would prohibit her from attending block parties and street fairs.
No doubt she would have encountered her own set of Trumps talking smack about her and shaming her on how she’s bleeding from her “wherever”.
Yet here she is, tenacious like a mustard weed, amongst the people, trusting that if she just touches the clothes of Jesus she will be made well.
And what happens? Jesus refers to her compassionately as “daughter” and tells her to go in peace and healing.
And Jairus? Jesus travels with him along the road to his house where they meet mourners grieving the death of his daughter.
Jesus tells them “Do not fear, but believe” and brings the girl back to life.
Wonderful stories that should make us feel oh so good about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…but remember- I believe Jesus was provocative and everything he did brought him one step closer to the cross.
How could healing a woman be a bad thing? How could telling people not to be afraid make anyone angry?
Well, let us think for a moment.
Let’s move these stories into present time. Let’s place Jesus along Highway 27 by Lake Jackson. Better yet, let’s place Jesus right in front of the CVS.
Could you imagine the ruckus Jesus would cause if he was out there, healing people simply by their faith alone?
There would be no need for people to come in to pick up or drop off their prescriptions. No need for ACE bandages. No need for aspirin or cough drops.
How much business would CVS lose in one day if Jesus himself was standing by the doors, with a crowd of folk surrounding him?
The fact that faith in Jesus can bring healing sounds good, but if Jesus was indeed here today, there’d be no need for doctors or specialists. No HMO’s or co-pays or inflated emergency room fees, and none of the urgent care offices that have been popping up all over town.
Why, if Jesus was here, he’d be offering free health care to all. Wait…I didn’t realize Jesus was Canadian!
Can we begin to hear a bit more how provocative Jesus really is, and why there were leaders who did not like him?
Jesus gives life to the daughter of Jairus. How can that be bad? He tells the crowd not to fear, but believe. How can that be provocative?
It is if you’re a business owner or a politician or a religious leader who gains your power and makes your money based off of people’s fear.
Imagine Jesus as the lead reporter for a newspaper. Put him on the news as an anchor. Better yet, put him on FOX.
Could you imagine if all the stories Jesus shared were about hope; if every story he covered was about how the Kingdom of God is here?
If instead of telling stories about a random attack in a movie-theater or an abducted child or a rare shark attack, he instead shared the news that we are now living in the safest time of human history?
Could you imagine Jesus saying “Do not fear: fewer people are dying in war, violent crime has dropped 48%, homicide has dropped 50%, and of the 115 kids abducted each year by strangers, 90% of them are returned within 24 hours.”
No one would buy it. They’d laugh at him and debate. The truth is, crime and violence has gone way down, but the advent of TV, radio, internet, social media has increased reporting and made it known immediately.
And fear is power. Fear sells papers. Fear increases ratings. Fear sells products. Fear dictates government spending.
Fear keeps people in their place, feeling helpless and easy to control.
To live with hope instead of fear means more kids on the street playing. It means more bicycles at the park with jungle gyms being utilized, and it would mean knowing more about your neighbor.
To live with hope instead of fear means there would be less need for cops, less jails, less defense spending, less security systems, and way less cell phones per family.
Fear also distracts us from the real issues.
Don’t believe this? 115 children may be kidnapped this year, but 1,300 will die in a car accident. Yet what would happen to the auto industry if we said that?
We are a nation concerned about safety, so much so that the security industry is reported to make $350 billion dollars.
That’s a lot of money to be lost if folk stop living in fear.
Look at Highland County’s budget which spends 32% on public safety, but only 4% on human services and it’s been decided to put off hiring new paramedics for 3 months.
Here’s an exercise for anyone to see how much of our news is fear based- for one week try not to read any articles about war, crime, ISIS, police brutality and possible hurricanes and only stick to the feel good articles that offer hope and inspiration.
See how long that lasts and how difficult it is to do.
During the presidential candidate season, listen to how much of the discussion and debates are based on fear and perceived threats, from terrorists, illegal aliens, gays getting married, and a female Democrat running for president.
Have we heard any candidate run on the platform of hope? Have we heard any candidate evoke images of the Kingdom of God?
In today’s story, Jesus offers free health care to a woman and he restores life to the daughter of a public figure, assuring people that it is better to believe than to fear.
This is the radicalness of Jesus Christ. This is the radical nature of being a Christian.
This very provocative, progressive notion that in Jesus Christ:
-we can be healed
-we can be fearless.
Today’s story places us on the road with Jesus. Are we willing to mix and mingle with people different from us, people who are hurting, wounded, bleeding out?
On the road with Jesus are we willing to mix and mingle with people of authority, with people who have nothing left to lose, people in pain, people in loss, people confronting death and grief head on?
On the road with Jesus are we willing to let go of fear and to believe?
Are we willing to let the sick become well? The fearful to become brave? The dead to experience new life? The mourners to rejoice?
Are we willing to find ways to play our part in making God’s Kingdom more evident to those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to welcome?
In Christ, are we willing to allow healing and hope to pave the road we travel?
If so, let us say “amen.”
*Crime info taken from http://www.freerangekids.com/crime-statistics/ As always, consider the source & do your own research