Sunday, June 30th, 2024

The Great Physician: His Blood Heals

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our father and from our Lord the living Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. There are 37 miracles of Jesus described in the gospels during our Lord’s earthly ministry between his baptism by John and his betrayal by Judas. I’m sure many of you know the first miracle. Jesus turned the water into wine, fine wine at the marriage feast of the wedding in Cana of Galilee. It’s estimated that our Lord made 120 to180 gallons of fine wine based on the size of those six purification jars containing the water he used. But there was no joy like that of a wedding celebration when our Lord performed his miracle in Gethsemane. There was fear, there was fighting, there was violence, and when the guards appeared with Judas to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his weapon, a sword, and cut off the right ear of one of them named Malchus, and even in the midst of a confusion, the pushing, the shoving, our Lord showed compassion and power by performing yet another miracle: taking the man’s severed ear and reattaching it to the side of his head. Most of the other 35 miracles our Lord performed, as recorded in the holy gospels, had to do with healing. In some instances he raised people from the dead: the widow’s son in the town of Nain, his friend Lazarus in Bethany, and the young daughter of Jairus as we heard in today’s gospel. On a few occasions, Jesus instructed the people he healed not to tell anyone what he had done, like the man he healed of leprosy. And the Bible teaches us that Jesus’ power to heal was so great that he didn’t even need to be present with the afflicted person. He simply spoke the word and the person was healed, restored, such as in Capernaum with the centurion’s servant. On other occasions, we are told that Jesus heard of someone in need of healing, and set out on foot to do just that, to bring them healing like Jairus’ daughter. But there is one miraculous healing different than all the rest, one that stands out from all the others. It is the healing of the woman with her 12-year affliction. A flow of blood that would not cease. This woman was healed by simply touching our Lord’s garments, his clothing. This woman had struggled with the condition that caused her to bleed, and despite the efforts of many doctors, her condition was worse than ever, and because of the particular nature of her condition, she would have been considered unclean, an outcast. Those of you who like to cross reference and learn more about God’s word, can read in Leviticus chapter 15 to learn more about her status as an untouchable. Yes, she would have been shunned. She would have been lonely, and Mark tells us that she was destitute, for she’d spent everything she had in trying to find some relief, and in her desperation, she decides to go to Jesus. She’d heard about him, and she was hopeful that if she just touched his clothes, it would be enough, and thanks be to God, it was, and in that moment, Jesus knows something has happened, but we’re told that he sensed some power had left him. “Who touched my garments?” Jesus said. Now we know he was on his way to care for the daughter of Jairus, an important man a synagogue leader, but Jesus paused in the midst of a crowd with this outcast, a person from the polar opposite end of Jairus and his status in the synagogue, in the social order of things, and I want you to use your sanctified imagination, imagine how that woman may have felt having been unclean for 12 years and now finally feeling whole again. Jesus is calling her out. She’s being called out by the one who healed her. What would Jesus do? Would he take the healing away? What kind of trouble might she be in for being so bold to touch the teacher’s garment? Try to think what it must have been like for her to come forward and admit to everything, everything, and to declare in front of others what had happened. But she was not admonished. Jesus did not take back or remove the healing that had gone out. Our Lord blessed her and he called her daughter. She was publicly declared not just to be ritually clean again, but accepted fully, cleansed entirely. She was called daughter by the living God, and Jesus sent her on her way with a blessing of peace, after so many years of being marginalized and rejected. There are many people who feel unclean, unacceptable these days. Last Sunday during the education hour, we talked about people who hesitate to enter a church building because they think they are so unclean and unworthy. That they would stand out from all the other people, thinking that all the folks in the sanctuary, just like this one, don’t have any problems, don’t have any disappointments, don’t have any regrets, don’t have any heartaches. I remember from many, many years ago, shortly after I was ordained in 1984, the pastor, describing his efforts to minister to the homeless in the streets of his community, one day spoke with a woman who looked like she was engaged in what is sometimes called, based on her appearance, the oldest profession. He wanted to talk with her about Jesus. He invited her to come to worship the following Sunday and she said to him “I already feel bad enough about what I’m doing out here on the streets, and how I’ve made such a mess of my life. Why would I want to go to church where I would be judged? Why would I go to church where I would feel even worse?” And one wonders, I did, what kind of church experience she may have had before her life on the streets. One wonders why she thought church would be a place of condemnation instead of restoration, forgiveness, healing, good news of God’s love. Now that pastor was not a Lutheran. He was from a different church body and when I heard his story I thought surely no one would ever feel unwelcome or judged in a Lutheran setting, after all we are known, are we not, for preaching and teaching justification by grace alone, through faith, justification by grace, not through our standing in society, not through our pedigrees, our resumes, our good works. But I was young and I had much to learn, and during one of my previous calls before coming to Albuquerque in 1998, I found myself in the presence of a woman, I learned later, who had been shunned by most of the people in the small town where that congregation was located. Everyone, you know life in a small town, everyone knew her story. She was treated as if she was unclean, not because of a physical disease, but because of her history, and as I got to know her later, she was raised in a home that was anything but Christ-centered. She had three children and she had never been married. Our paths crossed on a basketball court, during a game in which my daughter’s team, which I was coaching, was playing against her oldest daughter’s team. This woman was intense, she was foul mouthed, she screamed at me several times, and after the game she came right up to me and she says “I don’t recognize you. Are you new here?” And I introduced myself and told her “Hi my, name’s Bruce. I’m the new Lutheran pastor in town.” and she just hung her head and said “Oh now, I feel really bad for if I’d known you were a pastor, I would never have spoken to you like that” and I told her she shouldn’t talk like that to anyone, and she shouldn’t talk like that in front of children, and I invited her to worship with us the following Sunday, and she laughed and cackled in my face. “Right. If I walk in your church, the roof would collapse.” And I assured her the roof was structurally sound and I repeated the invitation and I said, “I mean it. Why don’t come to church this Sunday?” and to my pleasant surprise, she did. She was in the House of the Lord the following Sunday, and the Sunday after that, and the Sunday after that, and it was about that time that several people in the congregation made a point to let me know about her and her history, and one even went so far as to warn me, “You know pastor, we really don’t need her kind in our church.” But she was undaunted. She came back again and again, and one morning she witnessed the baptism, and after the service, she said “What was that all about?” and she wanted to talk. And we did and eventually, I had the honor of catechizing her, along with her children, all four of them were baptized together. She continued worshiping every Lord’s day, she volunteered to assist with vacation Bible school. She was living her life as if she was a new creation in Christ, as we heard in our epistle reading just a couple Sundays ago, that if you are in Christ you are new creation, and I wish I could tell you everyone rejoiced in her new life, and I wish I could tell you that others welcomed her as a new sister in Christ, and daughter of the living living God, but I cannot say that, but I watched her as she was able to hold her head high, not an arrogance, not in defiance, but she held her head high, believing what she heard in the preaching of the gospel, that her sins though many, were fully forgiven. She actually had the audacity to believe that she had been buried and raised with Jesus, through her baptism into his death and resurrection. She actually believed that the old her had been swallowed up, and that she was utterly new, a new creation in Jesus, a child of the living God. Brothers and sisters, we don’t know, do we, what happened to the woman in today’s gospel, after she was healed of her disease by touching our Lord’s garment, but we do know this. Jesus called her daughter. Jesus blessed her with his loving presence. And sending her in his perfect peace. That woman that I met on the basketball court, and eventually have the joy and privilege of baptizing, had a past. Your past may not be like that of a single mother with three children having never been married, then again perhaps there are some things from your past that you’d rather forget, or you’d rather other people never heard about. These are sometimes called our secret sins, but as we know, none of your sins or my own are a secret from God. The Lord knows everything there is to know about us. He’s well acquainted with us, and that includes our sins. Nothing is hidden from God, and the Lord has come to free you from the old you, the old Adam and make you new in Christ. When the Lord declares his forgiveness of your sins, they are forgiven. Not some of them, but all of them, even the secret ones. Sisters in Christ, you are daughters of the living God. Brothers in Christ, you are sons of God. You may not be afflicted with a disease, then again perhaps you are, but regardless of your particular health or sickness, we all share one same disease. We are by nature sinful and unclean. We cannot heal ourselves, and left untreated, our sin-sick condition is fatal unto death. It kills, and there’s only one cure and that is the great physician, who comes not only to save you from death, but goes the way of death in order to give you life, eternal life. He is the physician and his blood is the cure. When it comes to worldly diseases, we often hear that someone has gone into remission. I remember hearing those words about two years after my wife’s diagnosis of cancer many years ago, but I know from all the years of ministry what remission means in that setting, that they are experiencing a temporary cessation of the intensity of the disease, the pain it can bring, but that word remission, in medical terms, always carries with it the thought that this is only temporary, it could come back. So, patients like my wife, continue seeing their physicians in order to verify that, at least for now, they’re still in remission. The healing Jesus brings to you is not temporary, his grace is not short lived, his love is not just for a part of you, but all of you, and it is a love that cannot be stripped or taken away from you, even if you’ve spent your resources like the woman in the crowd. As you approach the altar of the Lord this morning, you will hear familiar words. “Welcome to the table of our Lord.” then you will hear more familiar words. “This is the true body of Christ, given for you. This is the true blood of Christ, shed for you.” And truer words have never been spoken, greater grace and deeper mercy have never been given. You see you are welcome at the table Christ sets before you. You do receive his body and his blood, and just like the woman in the crowd, your station in life matters not. Oh, you may have title, you may have impressive resume, you may supervise many people, you may not have an advanced degree, or a position high in the pecking order. It matters not. You may have come to faith in Christ many years ago, you may have just started your life as a follower of Jesus and a beloved child of God, but it is the same Lord who calls all of you to his table. The same Savior offers to each one of you the same gift of life and the promise of an eternal home with him. May the peace which far surpasses all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord this day and until we see the Savior face to face. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.