Sermon: When the Kingdom Comes

Bible talk by Steve Millay

When the Kingdom Comes
September 12th, 2013 7:42 pm     A+ | a-
Reading Luke 8 Verse 40 to 56
This was not a good situation. Here is a woman that has uncontrollable bleeding. For 12 year’s she has suffered with this disease. She has spent everything she has trying to find a cure. This disease is a very personal one. How embarrassed she must feel. This disease is very difficult to hide from those around her. Her clothing is stained with blood, and she can’t afford new clothes. She has the smell of dried blood on her. The perfumes she once used to cover up the smell are all gone, and she cannot afford any more. Everywhere she goes people avoid her. She is unclean, diseased, an outcast.
No man would want to be with her. And, even if this woman were married, she was required by the law to separate herself from her husband, so as not to make him unclean.
So after 12 years of suffering here she was –embarrassed, ashamed, alone. She cannot partake of any religious activity. By law, she could not partake in the Passover. By law, no one could touch her or anything she touched. Cut off from family and society, with no hope.
When she had the money, she had gone to every doctor that she knew of, or had heard about. They had tried many ancient methods, new experiments and unusual ways to heal her.  Each time her hopes were raised, “maybe this is the time”. But, each time, her hopes were torn apart and her condition just became worse.  Not one of them was able to help her. And her suffering continues.
Those who would talk to her had little comfort that they could give. They felt helpless and could only say – “when the Messiah comes, he will cure you”. “When the Messiah comes, all will be better.” Then they just shook their heads and walked away.
So, that was all she was left with. This hope that one day a Messiah would come and would cure her. But that day didn’t come. And with the loss of blood, she had little strength. During the days, she begs for food and clothes. During the nights, she cries. She knows the pain of loneliness. The hours turned to days and the days to years.
All she has left in the whole world is this hope, that one day Messiah would come.
She didn’t like to be around people. She didn’t like the way that they looked at her. Some looked at her and had pity on her as if she were a sick puppy. Others glared at her, thinking she must have been some terrible sinner to be suffering the way she was. Others just pretended not to see her, and they hurried by trying to stay far away from her so they would not be contaminated. She grew use to being alone. Only speaking to beg for food. And when you are one of those people that no one likes to talk to, a person that people don’t feel worth giving the time of the day to, you tend to hear things that others don’t hear.  People don’t think you have the capability to know what goes on around you, but you do. You see things, you hear things, you know things. She saw the best and the she saw the worst of people.
This woman could sense that something was up. She had heard talk in the streets about a man who was performing miracles. Some mocked the miracle man, others wondered. This woman wondered.
It was perhaps a day just like any other day. The woman awoke to pains of hunger. But as she starting going around looking for scraps of food she sensed that something was going on. A crowd was gathering. This woman had learned to stay back away from crowds. So she turned to avoid the crowd. And then she heard it, someone was whispering something not meant to be heard. She heard the words, and all of a sudden, her whole world stopped. Someone asked “Could this be the Messiah?”.
For 12 long years, she had waited for this moment. This was the only thing she had left in her life, the hope of the coming of the Messiah.  The hope that he and only he could bring an end to this terrible curse that she was suffering. All the bits and pieces she had heard about this man finally came together and she knew in her heart that he was the one that she had been waiting for, been praying for, been longing for.
She turned toward the crowd. There were just too many people. No one would let her in. In her mind, she knew what she needed to do. In her mind, she said, “If I could only touch the tassel of his garment then I would be healed”
This is perhaps one of the most amazing things in this story. Here is this woman, who is an outcast, who people deliberately avoid because of the disease that she walks around with. She was not allowed to go to any religious services. But she knew that there was something special about the tassels on the edge of the garment that Jesus wore. What did she see in those tassels?
God instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel “Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the edges of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God."
This woman had her eye on the tassels that Jesus wore on his garments. This poor ignorant woman, this despised unclean thing - she understood the meaning of a piece of scripture that no other wise men in her day did. The meaning overlooked by the Pharisees. A meaning of a scripture the chief priest did not consider. A scripture that even the lawyers had missed.  – She understood a piece of scripture in a way that no one else did because she suffered so bad. She knew the scripture by memory. She would recite it repeatedly in her mind. She fell asleep dreaming of the hope, dreaming of the day that she would meet the Messiah. She knew that the world could not free her from her disease. She knew there was only one who could.
What was it that she saw? The edges of the garments, where the tassels were, were called, “wings”.
The verse that she understood so well, the verse that carried her through the darkest times, was from the book of Malachi. “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings”
The Greek word for edges is kaònaòph ( “Kaw-nawf”). This same word is translated “wings” in the book of Malachi.  She understood the passage to say - “But to you that fear my name, shall the son of righteousness come, with healings on the edges of his garments”. It was as if this scripture was written just for this suffering woman. And so, she now was focused on reaching the man and touching the edges of the garments.
The fact that she got through to Jesus was a miracle itself. Not only did the disciples surround him, the large crowd that had gathered was following him closely and beginning to press against Jesus to the point of crushing him. Not only did she have to keep pace, she had to move up, get free and wiggle through. All she had was the strength of a woman, a sick one too, and she had to withstand a crowd of men, and worry about suffocation from the crowd, separation from Jesus, and her own sanity for being there.
She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garments.
It happened quicker than she had thought it would. It was instant, in the twinkling of an eye. Her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was now free from her suffering.  The feeling of her body being healed was overwhelming, and she just stood there while people passed, in a daze trying to take it all in.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"  His disciples could not understand the question; there were many people crowded around him. There were many people accidentally bumping against him, touching him. His disciples were perplexed. Yes, there were many people that may have touched the edges of his garment, but only this one woman was healed. Only her, because she believed that there was power in the wings. Power to heal her. And that belief was a necessary ingredient in her healing.
Something was wrong; the crowd had come to a stop. This woman began to release that the man that had healed her seemed concern about something. “Who touched me?” she heard him say. Thoughts began to come into her mind: Oh no, is he angry? Did I do something wrong? Will he punish me? She slowly moves forward in the crowd and now stands face to face with the son of God. Their eyes meet. She looks at him, he looks at her. She trembles with fear, and then she falls on the ground before him, her eyes streaming with tears as she pours out her heart to him. Everything comes out, all the pain and emotions that she felt for 12 years, the hope she had of touching the wings, and the joy she felt the moment she was healed. Then she looks up to the man who saved her and their eyes meet once again. He reaches down, pulls her up, and gently tells her: "Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be freed...."
What a beautiful end to a sad story. But, the story doesn’t end there. At the time this miracle happened, Jesus was on his way to heal a dying little girl. Jairus is the ruler of a Jewish synagogue, and his daughter was only 12 years old. The little girl had lived as many years as the woman had a bleeding problem.  Now came the news that the little girl was dead. What a moment in time that must have been. One woman brought back to life after 12 years of suffering. Another died after 12 years of living. Jairus now looks into the eyes of Jesus – looking desperately for any sign of hope. This was his daughter, his only daughter.  A beautiful little girl, so young and so small. He is so afraid of facing her death, he is so afraid of having to say goodbye. Jesus looks at him and says “Be not afraid, only believe”.
The events that happen now are even more amazing. Jesus comes to the house, and tells everyone that the little girl is only sleeping. Those who heard this did not let their tears stop them from laughing at him and making fun of him. He takes only his closest disciples and the parents and goes in to where the girl is. No others are allowed in the house. Then he takes her by the hand and say: “Talitha cumi” Immediately the little girl came to life, it happened so quickly. The parents stood their speechless as the little girl stood up, smiled and walked around.
What a beautiful end to a sad and tragic story. Two women, two miracles! But there is more to the story than that. This is also a story with a much deeper meaning to it.
This story teaches something much greater than the healing of two women. These two women represent something else. The little girl, who lived for 12 years, was a child of Israel . She represents the period of time when the 12 tribes of Israel were the called and chosen ones. They had been given the way of life. The other woman represents the Gentiles. So horrible was the plight up the Gentiles that even the term Gentiles sounds so cold. The Gentiles were real people, with real emotions and feelings. We descended from them. Therefore, the woman represented our parents. During the period of time that Israel was living, blessed as being the children of God, our Parents were suffering from being cursed. They were called dogs. While some had pity on them, others avoided them – not wanting to be defiled and to become unclean by them. The children of Israel considered our Parents sinners with no hope. Our Parents were not allowed to partake of any thing holy.  They were just people, living under a curse.
Some of them hated that life, and longed to be free from it. They cried out to their Creator to rescue them. The Creator responded that one day, a son would come. A son of righteousness, he would come with healing in his wings. That the edges, those outside of Israel longing to enter, would find healing. They would become Children of God. But just as the healing of the woman required power to go out of the son of God, the healing of our Parents could only come by the death of the son. “For God so loved the world.”  And ONLY those among us who believe in that healing, only those among us who make a public confession, just as the woman confessed publicly to all, only those among us that come to Jesus are healed. What a beautiful end to a sad story.
But the story doesn’t end there. Because at the same time that the Gentiles were healed. The children of Israel were cut off from the land of the living. So many years they lived as a blessed people, only to end up losing everything. Their homes, their temple, their lives. They died, just as the little girl died. But something even more amazing than the healing of the Gentiles is to happen. The promise of the story is that the little girl will be raised again to life. However, in the same way that many people alive at that time did not witness the resurrection of the girl, the true resurrection of Israel will only be witnessed by a chosen few. Just as Jesus went in alone into the house with some of the disciples, the true resurrection of Israel will only be witnessed by a select group, including the Parents of the child. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be there. That chosen few will see this resurrection happen very quickly, in the twinkling of an eye. Then the Lord will feed those that are resurrected. Just as the little girl was fed when she came back to life again.  What a beautiful end THIS WILL BE to a sad and tragic story.
“When the Kingdom comes.” How often have we said, or have we heard these words? They are spoken in times of sorrow, or pain. They are spoken at times when we witness sad and tragic things in this world. “When the Kingdom comes, it will be better.” “In the Kingdom Christ will heal your pain.”
There are times when we may also know of someone, even ourselves, who the doctors can’t heal, the psychiatrists can’t comfort, the religious leaders can’t help. There is a lot of pain in the world, and even among some of those here today. Often that pain is held inside a person, as they quietly suffer. They have learned long ago that there is nothing anyone in this world can really do to take away that pain. They have heard the words: “when the Kingdom comes…” “When the Kingdom comes….” Just a few simple words, but for these people who live in pain and sorrow, whose tears sometimes just overwhelm them, these words are everything to them. They fall asleep at night longing for the time when the Kingdom will come! This is really the only thing that they have left!
If you are among those who this world can not give comfort to. If you are among those who have been cast aside by this society. If your pain is unbearable, and you just don’t feel you can go on. Then hold onto this: “When the Kingdom comes.”
Each week, many gather here to partake of the bread and cup. And there are many things that are represented in these memorials. Usually we read from 1 Corinthians 11 about the night Jesus spent together with his disciples, and shared this bread and cup with them. He told them that he would be leaving them. That they would long to be with him again. If the story ended there, perhaps we would have little motivation to partake of these emblems today. But the story doesn’t end there. He also told them that he longed for the day when he would eat and drink with them again in the Kingdom of God .
The weeks and years that followed this event, must have been sometimes very difficult for those disciples to bear. But one thing that keep them going was this promise that one day they would eat and drink with Jesus in the Kingdom of God . When they were being dragged in prison, when they were being spit on, and cursed. When they felt the bruising of the stones against their bodies, when they felt that they could not go on. One thing held in their minds. The day when Jesus would come again. It is this day that we proclaim now in the breaking of bread. For the promise to hang onto during the darkest of times is that we “shew the Lord’s death….TILL….HE…COME!” 

Steve Millay
Older Post Home Newer Post