Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/19/14 Sermon - Reach Out and Touch Someone

“Reach Out and Touch Someone”

Mark 5:21-43

 

How many of you remember a commercial from the Bell telephone company,

 
“Reach out, reach out and touch someone.”?


It’s amazing how just a simple touch can make a world of difference for those who feel isolated, or in need.

 
This is what makes the Ebola virus so devastating and dehumanizing because the person who has the virus cannot be touched, or hugged, and those around them feel so constricted because the very first thing loved ones want to do is touch the one they love when they are sick and dying. Yet, by doing so, the consequence could be lethal.

 

When I lived in California, I worked as a chaplain at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. If you were a patient in this hospital it was because you were expected to die or live with a devastating disease. One of the units I ministered in was the NICU unit, the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit. I spent most of my time ministering to the parents of the infants who were fighting for their lives. Often times the parents of these children were not able to be with their child all the time. So this unit had volunteers, mostly women, whose job it was to come into the unit and rock the babies. Their standard medical practice for infants, especially those who were in the NICU, was for them to be touched, held and caressed.

 

The need for touch has actually been researched by many scientists, but one leader in the field of touch, Tiffany Field, found that preterm newborns who received just three, 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5-10 days, gained 47% more weight than premature infants who’d received only medical treatment.

 

When we think about the value of a gentle touch or a pat on the back, we understand. Unfortunately, many Western cultures are touch-deprived. Here are some statistics I found.

 

Sidney Jourard, a psychologist, studied the conversations of friends in different parts of the world, as they sat in a café together. He observed these conversations for the same amount of time in each of the different countries.

Here is what he found.

Ø  In England, the two friends touched each other zero times.

Ø  In the U.S. in bursts of enthusiasm, we touched each other twice.

Ø  But in France, the number shot up to 110 times per hour.

Ø  And in Puerto Rico, those friends touched each other 180 times!

 

There are a variety of reasons for this data, and I am not here to promote an increase of our touching each other, but what I do want to point out is as Americans, we have lost the significance of the power of touch.

 

Michelangelo said, “To touch can be to give life,” and he was right.

 

And in today’s message we have three people whose lives were changed drastically, by a mere touch, when they were  willing to act on what little faith they had.

 

Today’s Scripture begins with Jesus and his disciples returning to the other side of the lake, after their evening in the horrific storm and encounter with the madman. We notice that the crowd they had left just the evening before was still around. For whatever reason, they had not gone home or maybe others had shown up, not knowing that Jesus had taken off the night before. Regardless, Jesus is back in the midst of a crowd. One particular person had chosen to seek Jesus out, and that was Jairus, and the significant piece of information with Jairus, is he is a leader in the synagogue. This demonstrates that although the majority of the leaders of the synagogue may have had difficulty with Jesus, that didn’t mean ALL of the leaders did. Jairus was one example. And we quickly discover why Jairus is willing to approach Jesus and fall to his knees. It turns out, his twelve year old daughter, and in other accounts we learn she was his only child, was sick and dying. He begs Jesus to come with him to his house, to put his hands on her, so that she may live. Then we read, ‘So,Jesus went with him.’

Does this strike you as odd? The latest encounter Jesus had with leaders of the synagogue they said he was an agent of Satan, and now we have a leader pleading for his healing hands. It is amazing how when the life of a child, or loved one is at stake, all else seems worthless. Here we have a leader of the Jewish faith, who has obviously either been personally listening to Jesus, or has heard about Jesus from other Jewish leaders, who was on his knees, pleading for help. I want you to understand the importance of this, based on the society of which it occured. Jewish leaders were the ones who had others come to them and bow down on their knees. I suspect, Jairus had already been on his knees in the synagogue, praying for his daughter’s life. As a leader, he probably had the best physicians attending to her as well. Enough of what he had heard about Jesus or from Jesus gave him enough faith to drop all of his authority, all that he had put his security in and drop to his knees and plead for his child before this new teacher.

 

We might call it his “One last ditch effort.”

 

 And without batting an eye, Jesus choose to follow him. Jairus was probably walking fast, checking back over his shoulder to make sure Jesus was keeping up, when all of a sudden Jesus stops, and asks the crowd, “Who touched my clothes?”

 

I can just imagine what was going on in Jairus’ head.

“Oh, no, now what?”  This Jesus guy is out of his mind, why is he asking who touched his clothes? The crowd was so tight, that anyone near him would be touching his clothes.

In fact, we have the disciples asking that very question.

 

Can’t you just see Jairus with his hands on his head, shaking it and sputtering? As a leader, he was probably used to having people do what he said, immediately, and not being interrupted by foolish questions, especially when he had described the severity of his need to Jesus.  

 

But we read Jesus kept looking around the crowd to see who had done so. In comes our second vulnerable person. She has been caught. And she knows that what she had done was powerful, because we read “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” I suspect she was a bit shell shocked. Sure, she had told herself if she could but just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed, but I am sure there was more of her that suspected even if she did she would be disappointed again, yet she was willing to try. It probably took her a few minutes for the realization that she really wasn’t bleeding, she was healed, to sink in. She hadn’t felt that way for twelve years. She comes to her senses, she sees Jesus looking for her and her response is to drop at his feet, tremble with fear, and tell him, her story.

You see, what she had done was against the law.

It was against common sense.

It was against what she had been told by everyone around her.

Except, this little seed of truth had entered her mind, the truth of seeing others being healed. And yet, she knew that if Jesus were to touch her, he would be labeled “unclean”. If she could just touch his clothing, without anyone knowing, she could be healed and not have to make Jesus unclean.

Jesus confirmed her healing, for after he heard her story, and so did everyone else around him, Jesus declared, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your sufferings.” Talk about healing! Jesus calls her “daughter” remember what Jesus had said, anyone who does my will is my family. And Jesus told her it was her faith that healed her, not the touching of his hem. There is two different Greek word used for “healed” in this story. The Greek word for the healing that takes place when she touches Jesus’ hem is to “be healed” but the Greek word for the healing that occurs when Jesus claims her faith has healed her, means she is made well, or signifies a more holistic, spiritual wholeness, not just a physical cure. Her symptoms had disappeared, when she touched Jesus’ hem, but it wasn’t until she had a heart to heart talk with Jesus, that he pronounced that she was made completely well.

We read that while Jesus was conversing with the woman, and Jairus was standing around waiting, some men come from his house and told Jairus that his daughter had died, so there was no sense in bothering the teacher, or Jesus.

Jesus ignored what the men had said and told Jairus,

“Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

 

At this point, Jesus went into command mode. We read that Jesus allowed only Peter, James and John to continue with Jairus and him to the leader’s home. I don’t know about you, but I had been wondering why Jesus didn’t seem to have power over the crowds. Up until now it seemed like the crowd was taking over his life. He was becoming exhausted, he wasn’t able to eat and he was escaping in boats. But we see here that when Jesus wanted to, he was able to handle crowds, just like he was able to handle legions of evil spirits.

 

They get to Jairus’ home and they found it was full of mourners and wailers. Some of them may have been family members and others would have been hired to go there and cry and wail loudly, because this was a family member of a leader in the synagogue. Jesus confronted them and asked them why they are making such a commotion, when the girl was in fact only sleeping. Their response was interesting, we read they laughed at Jesus. That piece of information makes one think that the people intimately around this girl truly believed the girl had died. And what Jesus ended up doing, was really raising the little girl from the dead.

 

Jesus made everyone leave the house except his three chosen disciples, and the girl’s parents. They entered the girl’s room and we read that Jesus took the little girl’s hand and spoke to her, in Aramaic, saying, “Talitha koum,” or “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”

She immediately did exactly what he asked, everyone was astonished and again, Jesus told everyone to not say a word about what had happened, and to give the little girl some food.

 

So there we have it. This story tells us about three characters that encounter Jesus and how their lives are changed, forever. Each character starts out in a vulnerable place and after meeting Jesus, encounters the Kingdom of God, in a personal way.

 

What about us? What about today? What does it take for each of us to be changed forever? From this story I’d say it takes the following:

 

1)      We have to be willing to be vulnerable.

a.      Maybe you are like the leader of the synagogue in this story. You have some leadership qualities. You have succeeded in your life, achieved some things that are important or significant and others look up to you. Like Jairus, you need to see that when it comes to being in the Kingdom of God, all of that does not matter. What matters is you are willing to give it all up, to have an encounter with Jesus that says, I need your help. I need you.

b.      Maybe you are like the woman who has been hurting for years. You have done everything humanly possible to take your pain away, but it still keeps coming back. Everyone around you is tired of hearing about your troubles, or maybe you are tired of sharing them with others. You are at your wits end. And by design, it is exactly at “wit’s end” we find Jesus, waiting for us, ready to not only heal us physically, but to grant us peace, spiritual wholeness, give us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

c.       Or maybe you are like the little girl. You don’t even have the energy or ability to advocate for yourself. You need a father, a friend, someone who loves you to reach out to Jesus for you, to go to Jesus, get down on their knees and have them plead for Him to come and touch you. Maybe there are people in our lives that we know who fit this description and we are being called to be a “Jairus” for them and we are choosing not to, for whatever reason.

Not only do we need to be vulnerable.

We have to be willing to be touched by Jesus.

And that takes faith.

How much faith? you may ask.

 

The answer is:

You have enough faith when you are willing to act because the pain to change is less than the pain to stay the way you are.

Let me put it this way,

“When the pain to change

is less

than the pain to stay the way you are,

you will have enough faith to step out.”

 

Jairus and the bleeding woman are prime examples.

The pain Jairus would experience from his fellow synagogue leaders when they discovered he not only went to this Jesus, for help, but fell on his knees, before this man they deemed as heretic,

was less than,

the pain of seeing his daughter die.

And what about the woman who has been bleeding for twelve years?

She was penniless, friendless and desperate. The pain of others shunning her or maybe stoning her if they had found out she was touching people to get to Jesus

was less than

the pain she experienced on a daily basis.

 

Why it takes us getting to the end of our ropes before we are willing to be vulnerable and allow Jesus to touch us and lead us, is beyond me. But that is the human way.

 

Yet, God has called each of us to seek Jesus’ touch. God has also called each of us to stay in touch with Jesus so that we can be His agents of healing and salvation.

This story demonstrates that it doesn’t matter if you are a leader or the lowest in society. God wants to touch you and He wants you to reach out and touch others, in His name. We have the opportunities every day to touch others and be touched by others. That is what the Kingdom of God is all about.

And all it takes to spread that Kingdom knowledge

is a simple touch.

 

The lyrics to a song, sung by Diana Ross, say it quite well, you will find a copy of them in your bulletin. (read lyrics).

Let’s Pray.

 

BENEDICTION:

As Jesus said to Jairus when he heard that his daughter was dead, so I repeat to you for encouragement this week,

“Be not afraid, only believe.”