Faith and Power
June 28, 2015
By John Partridge
Scripture: Mark 5:21-43
Last week, we read the story about David and his battle with Goliath and we remembered that even though David was just a boy, and even though Goliath was twice his size, well armored, experienced, battle hardened, and incredibly strong, the battle itself was not about swords, armor and brute strength. David understood that and he wanted to be sure that everyone else did too. David knew that the real battle was not between Goliath’s strength and David’s inexperience, but between the physical strength of Goliath, backed up by the power of the armies of the Philistines, against the faith of David and the power and strength of his God, the creator of the universe and all that is.
It was never even close.
Because David understood, and because his faith allowed him to see what others could not, he had the courage to do what others, others who were older, stronger, and more experienced, were afraid to even try.
In Mark 5:21-43, we hear two stories that reveal the true strength of Jesus, but also the power that was revealed in the faith of others.
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He 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.” 24 So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
While Jesus was on earth, he was fully (100%) human but, at the same time, fully (100%) God in human flesh. We have trouble with that. In our world, that math doesn’t work. In the physical world that we inhabit, you can’t be 200 percent of anything but God is more than a physical thing. God is a spiritual being and so, in God’s math, Jesus could be, and was, 100% human in the physical world but also 100% divine in the spiritual world. We don’t really understand how that works, and we wrestle with it, but we know that it is true.
Jesus is on the way to see a sick little girl, when a woman who has suffered for years with a chronic illness, pushes through the crowd to see him. She can’t quite reach him but she believes that Jesus’ power is great enough that all she has to do is to touch his clothing. And so she reaches through the crowd, through a tangle of arms and legs and shoulders, and touches the edge of his jacket. Immediately, she is healed, and even before she realizes that she is better, Jesus knows that the power of God has flowed through him and into her. What Jesus doesn’t know, is who she is.
This is one of those puzzles where we struggle with Jesus’ divinity. How did Jesus know that she had been healed but not know who she was. We really don’t know. But Jesus was human. He knew, he felt, God’s power flow through him, but in the press of the crowd, he couldn’t tell who had been on the receiving end. Since the woman had reached through the crowd, she might have already been several rows back from where Jesus was. But she had been healed just the same. Jesus didn’t see her, or pray over her, or recite some religious incantation, God had done all the work, through Jesus, simply because of the strength of the faith of this courageous woman.
Later, in the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus tells Jairus to ignore the people who have given up. The entire household gave up because they know that the girl is dead and that a healer is of no use. But Jesus is no ordinary healer. Jesus tells Jairus not to be afraid, but only to believe. The girl is restored to life, not only because Jesus wielded great power (which he did), but because Jairus had faith.
When we remember that Jesus was fully human, we begin to see the real power in these stories. The power did not reside only in Jesus, but in the faith of those who were healed. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead because of Jairus’ faith. Jesus didn’t even know that the sick woman was in need of healing but she was healed because of the power and strength of her faith. David was able to defeat Goliath because he was the only one who had the faith to trust that God was able.
More often than not, we do not witness the power of God because, like Saul and his army, we lack the faith to trust that God can do it.
Our regular and fervent prayer must be for God to grow our faith so that Jesus Christ can do his work through us.