Luke 9:46-48 and Mark 5:21-43
(Quoted scripture is New International Version)
“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” – Luke 9:46-48
In Jesus’ day children were not considered important. I wonder if this was because nearly one third of infants died before their first birthday and mothers and fathers had to prepare themselves that this might happen. Yet Jesus, in this passage, clearly says, every person, including children, is important.
A business executive became depressed. Things were not going well at work, and he was bringing his problems home with him every night. Every evening he would eat his dinner in silence, shutting out his wife and five-year-old daughter. Then he would go into the den and read the paper using the newspaper to wall his family out of his life.
After several nights of this, one evening his daughter took her little hand and pushed the newspaper down. She then jumped into her father’s lap, wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him strongly. The father said abruptly, “Honey, you are hugging me to death!” “No, Daddy,” the little girl said, “I’m hugging you to life!”
This was the love of Jesus. He took people where they were and hugged them to life. That is precisely what we see Jesus doing here in this passage in Mark 5. He is loving needy and hurting people, hugging them to life. This passage is a fascinating one because here we have two healing stories rolled into one. The two people involved could not be more different.
Jairus, shown in the top picture on the front of your bulletin, represented the upper class of society. Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue. He was a man of substance, rich and powerful and religiously prominent. In the synagogue, he decided who would preach, what scripture would be read, and what psalms would be sung and ran the school. He represented the upper class, especially in the religious world. As the synagogue leader he would have a close relationship with the Pharisees, and they were likely pressuring him to not support Jesus. Yet, now he needs Jesus and because he believes Jesus can heal his daughter.
‘Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”’ – Mark 5:22-23
The second picture on the front of your bulletin is the hemorrhaging woman, also down on her knees in front of Jesus. She was a social outcast, considered unclean, as one who was under the judgment of God and therefore not allowed to set foot in the synagogue. If she touched even the hem of Jesus’ garment, he would be defiled.
Picture this. The crowd around Jesus is like the crowd around a Hollywood celebrity. Pushing, shoving and making it impossible for this woman to get anywhere near Jesus. She knows she is considered unclean, yet she thinks, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment) “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” (v.28).
In this wonderful passage, these two vastly different people, the down and out hemorrhaging woman and the upper class daughter of Jairus, are loved into life by Jesus.
Some people think they are unclean because of their past, or unimportant, and ‘why should Jesus care about me. I am no one special.’ If, as a child they were abused, verbally, sexually, physically, or told they were not important. If, as a child, they were told they would never amount to anything or couldn’t do anything right; that person could think they were unworthy of the love and healing of Jesus Christ. That is untrue! Every person is important to Jesus. We see Jesus healing the hemorrhaging outcast woman and also the daughter of the upper class synagogue leader.
On Wednesday America will celebrate the 4th of July and remember when the newly formed Congress of the United States of America declared our independence from Great Britain. Very near the beginning of the Declaration of Independence is this phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It is evident that the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence were only referring to themselves. They were not referring to women, Native Americans, or Africans.
In this United States of America, women, Native Americans and Africans, who became African Americans, have had to fight and sometimes die to be granted equal rights. In many cases they are still fighting and dying in the pursuit of their unalienable rights endowed by their Creator, yet taken from them by men.
Melba Pattillo Beals writes in the July 2018 Guidepost magazine what she encountered as an African American in pursuit of her unalienable equal rights. At 15 she was one of the Little Rock Nine, the group of African American teenagers who integrated all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. She writes that it hurt her to see her mother, a teacher working on her doctorate degree ‘kowtow’ to whites. It hurt to have to drink from ‘colored’ water fountains and sit in the back of the bus. She was ready to fight for those unalienable rights as stated in the Declaration of Independence. She didn’t know what she was in for.
Every day, escorted by the 101st Airborne, through an angry mob, the teenagers were hit, kicked and spit on by white students. When she went to the bathroom they tossed burning strips of paper over the stall. Melba walked the halls of Central High School in constant fear. When she complained to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. he said, “Don’t be selfish, Melba. You are doing this for generations yet unborn.” That changed Melba’s direction of her commitment. Her grandmother told her, “You can always call on the Lord. He’s as close as your skin.”
Melba had to leave her home in Little Rock, Arkansas because she was afraid to go to school. She went to live with a white Quaker family in San Francisco, California. She attended an all-white school where she was treated differently from the all-white school in Little Rock. Students smiled at her, helped her with her locker and offered to show her the way to her classes. She did face some discrimination at the city swimming pool, where she was told she couldn’t swim because of the color of her skin.
The white Quaker father she was living with stood up for her and he and some friends from San Francisco College, where he taught, marched on the pool for a week continuously. After that it wasn’t a problem for Melba to swim in the city pool. Melba was surprised when this white Quaker man referred to her as his daughter and came to her defense.
Melba went back to Little Rock for a brief visit over Christmas and she had the same hurtful experience she’d had previously. She finally understood, that her true home was not a particular place, or even with particular people. It was with God, and that he cared about her.
Melba graduated from San Francisco State College and is now a wife, mother, TV news reporter, writer and university professor. She achieved those unalienable rights the signers of the Declaration of Independence wrote about yet didn’t put into practice.
Every person is important to Jesus, and every person should be important to Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
Every person is important to Jesus; no matter what color their skin, what their economic status, what sin they’ve committed or what has been done to them in the past.
You are important to Jesus. Whatever you’ve done in the past, whatever unfair thing was done to you in the past, Jesus’ love and healing power can heal you. You are important to Jesus. If you build walls around your heart to keep people out, because of something you have done in the past, or something unfair that has happened to you; those walls will not let Jesus’ love and healing power in either.
Please know that you are important to Jesus and please look at others with eyes and a heart that knows everyone is important to Jesus. John the apostle writes in
1 John 2:2, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Jesus died so that all people may have; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Believe this and practice what you say you believe.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut