Grab Hold

1 Comment on Grab Hold

Preached at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church – Tifton, Georgia

Mark 5:21-43

When Mark wrote his Gospel,
he loved to take a story
of something that happened to Jesus
and insert another story within it:
a kind of Markan sandwich,
as some have come to call it.

If this were a TV show,
it would be like having
a main plot and a subplot,
(all of which get happily resolved
in thirty minutes or less).

The reason Mark did this—
aside from the fact that
it may well have happened that way—
is because when you take one story
where someone needs Jesus,
and you put another story within it
where someone else needs Jesus,
it creates a conflict . . .
it raises the stakes . . .
and you get to see something of Jesus
you might otherwise have missed.

*   *   *

The main story is this:
A leader of the synagogue,
a fine, upstanding man named Jairus
(picture a biblical version
of an upper middle class man
with a wife, two kids, and a mortgage,
a leader of the community
who is just trying to live the Galilean dream)
comes to Jesus in total desperation.

He comes right up,
falls at Jesus’ feet,
grabs hold, and says,
“I need you.”
My daughter is at the point of death,
but if you come and lay your hands on her,
I think she will live.”

But here’s the thing.
At this point in the Gospel,
the religious authorities—
guys like Jairus—
have already decided that
they    do   not    like   Jesus.
He is stealing their sheep.
He is in the way.
He has to go.

Guys like Jairus
do not come to
guys like Jesus.

But in pure desperation
he swallows his pride
and comes to the only one
who can actually help him.

And what does Jesus do?
He looks him right in the eye
grabs hold,
and says, “Okay. Let’s go.”

And this is my first point.
Sometimes in our lives
we fool ourselves into believing
that we have everything together.
Like Jairus, we’ve lived a good life,
we’ve done all the right things,
and so we hope, assume, and pray
that everything’s always going to be fine.

But inevitably, for all of us,
there comes a moment in our lives
where everything
very much
is not fine,
and we realize
we need help
from beyond ourselves.

The grace of this moment for Jairus,
and the grace of that moment for us,
is that when that moment does come,
Jesus looks at us
without condition,
grabs hold,
and says,
“Okay. Let’s go.”

*   *   *

But then here comes
the story-within-the-story
in Mark’s Gospel sandwich.

As Jesus and Jairus are urgently on their way
through this massive crowd,
a woman who has been menstruating
for twelve years straight
reaches out in desperation
and grabs hold of Jesus’ robe.

Even though everyone
is pressed in all around him,
he knows that something has happened.
“Who touched me?” he asks.

And the woman,
shaking with fear and trembling,
sobbing through her hot tears,
falls before him and says,
“It was me. It was me.
I’m sorry. . . . It was me.”

Now this is where the story gets good
because two gigantic problems immediately arise.

Problem number one is that
according to Jewish law,
a woman in her condition
was unclean.
A woman like her
could not touch
a man like Jesus
because to do so
would also make him unclean.

And that’s problem number two.
Imagine you’re Jairus.
Your daughter is dying.
You   do   not   have  time   for   this.
And not only has this woman slowed you down,
but she has also just made your healer unclean.

But what does Jesus do?
Jesus lifts her up,
looks her in the eye,
and says,
“Oh my daughter.
Your faith has made you well.
Go in peace,
and be healed
of your disease.”

And this is my second point.
Jesus always has time for you.
I am constantly amazed
by those of you
who often talk
as though you believe
that God does not have time for you,
that Jesus cannot be bothered by you,
that you are too unclean
or too far gone
for the Holy Spirit to tend to you.

Brothers and sisters,
plain and simple,
that is garbage.

Sure, maybe you’re not a Jairus.
Maybe you’ve made some mistakes.
Maybe your problems are big.

But the grace here for this woman
is the same grace for you.

Even if you think
you are the lowest of the low,
you cannot make him unclean,
you cannot mess him up.
And by extension,
you cannot mess this church up, either.
It’s all here for you.
It’s all pure grace.

So dagnabit,
grab hold
because for you,
Jesus always, always, always
has time.

*   *   *

Which brings us to the end of the story.
They turn back toward Jairus’ house,
and the crowd outside says,
“It’s too late.
Your daughter has died.
Let the Master go home.”

But what does Jesus do?
Jesus trudges forward,
kicks everyone out except
Jairus, his wife, and
his three closest friends,
grabs hold of the girl by the hand,
and says, “Little girl, get up.”

Immediately, she gets up
and begins to walk about,
and Jesus asks,
“Who here has something she can eat?”

In all honesty, though, this is actually
the hardest part of the story.
Oh how many times
we’ve all wished
that Jesus would walk
into the ambulance,
into the hospital room,
into the hospice facility,
and say, “Little girl, get up.”

And yet,
most often,
he does not.

And this brings me to my final point.
Sometimes the healing we seek
is exactly the healing we receive . . .
and sometimes
it is not.

But even with that being true,
there is still a grace at work.
The grace for this little girl
is the same grace for you and for me:
that with with Lord Jesus,
one way or another,
is never  
the final

As your priest,
I have been by enough bedsides, large and small,
and by enough gravesides, large and small,
to know beyond the shadow of a doubt
that even there,
our Lord is present.

And while death does come
as, for all of us, it inevitably will,
Jesus may not intervene in that exact moment
and say, “Little girl, rise,”
but he does stand there,
and he does hold you,
and he does point to that glorious future
in which he will one day say it to all of us
and   raise   us   up
on the Last Day.

On that day,
death will no longer have dominion
over anyone,
including you and me.

And of all the healings Jesus offers,
that, my friends,
is the greatest.

*   *   *

So, there you have it.
That’s your Markan sandwich for the day.
It’s a heavy one, I know,
but a good one,
filled with healing,
and grace,
and good news
not just for the people of the Bible,
but for people like you and me, too.

So when, like Jairus,
your “best life” falls apart
and you realize that
you never had it together in the first place . . .
know that Jesus will be there for you.

And when, like the woman with the hemorrhage,
you’re at the bottom of the ditch,
and you feel like God couldn’t possibly
have time for you and your problems . . .
know that Jesus will be there for you.

And when, like that little girl,
your eyelids close for the final time
and you and your loved ones wonder
what lies ahead,
know that Jesus will be there for you, too.

With this Lord Jesus,
all is healing,
all is grace,
and it’s all for you.

Grab hold.

One thought on “Grab Hold

  1. Lonnie, this sermon was so uplifting. Thank you for all you do at St. Anne’s. My heart has been so heavy and my eyes have been so teary since I heard the news about the dear, sweet Fisher family. Church was an emotional time for me Sunday morning but, you made it all better! Thank you , Ann

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