Mark 5:24 – 32. You surely know this story of one needy woman in a large crowd following Jesus. With one timid touch her life is changed forever after years of suffering being unclean because of bleeding that no amount of doctoring or money could cure. She was left unable to participate in any of the life affirming rituals of Jewish law. And Jesus says…
30b “Who touched my clothes?”
34b “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
There was a life and death principle to the Jewish purity laws. This woman wasn’t unclean because of anything she’d done. She was impure because her years of continual bleeding were viewed by law as the loss of potential life and kept her perpetually separated from the ritual practices that could connect her to God.
Her need was so great that she was willing to take one timid step to reach out and secretly touch Jesus’s clothes. She knew Jesus would be defiled by her touch and that act could be punishable by death. A timid step and a secret touch was enough for her new beginning!…but when Jesus stopped and turned around to ask who’d touched him she was terrified. Now what had been one secret touch became a far more public risk she had to take…confess. She “came and fell at his feet “and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
We don’t subscribe to ritual purity anymore but this woman’s story is the story of faith today as well. Faith still begins by taking one timid step in belief Jesus has the power to respond to our need. It’s in confessing the whole truth of our need for that relationship with Jesus that we are freed to enjoy the potential of life God intends for us, without depending on ritual.
• 35 “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
At the end of the day it was Jesus’ idea they cross to the other side of the lake but the scriptures says “they took him along, just as he was.” What in the world could that mean? It’s likely he was showing the effects of a full day of being surrounded by pressing crowds. The same elements that had been inspiration for his parables, dirt, rocks, and scorching heat had taken their toll. “Just as he was” likely meant he was emotionally drained as well as physically tired, just as they were.
Being human was a condition for those men. Being human for Jesus was a sacrifice. He saved them through the storm. Now his life AND the cross have become the fullness of our salvation.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:21-24
There’s the truth of Advent in Luke’s story of the son who came home. It’s a revelation of the heart of God that shows his desire to welcome and celebrate the life of those who bear his image if they will just do that one thing, come home.
That’s God’s promise to a world filled with needy people like us really, convinced we can figure out life if given the chance. God has gone beyond chance to provide for our need. Advent is the celebration of His promise in the flesh. It’s our reminder every year of why He sent a baby in a Christmas cradle, ready and waiting.
After all what else can a baby do but wait? There’s no forced compliance at the cradle, no persuasive words, no clearly laid out “do it this way” doctrine, but a waiting baby…an invitation…to come home to the celebration of an unexpected and undeserved reality of new life that triumphs over circumstances.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
I love advent. I love taking the time every day to think about how the story of the birth of Christ is the beginning of life for so many of us. It’s as if remembering all the long-ago events that led up to his actual birth is God’s way of refreshing us. I love Advent Calendars and wreaths. This year I’m going to create a digital version of a less-well-known way to remember these days leading up to Christmas, the Jesse Tree, the branch Isaiah 11:1 mentions. There’s a lot of information on the internet about that if you want to know more.
On this first day of Advent 2016 I can’t help but think of the effort God put into preparing what we are here to remember again this year. Isaiah is a perfect place to begin. Out of the root of that stump of a great tree that seemed seemed only to be lost, there came Jesus, the branch who began at the very moment of his birth to bear fruit that you and I are living proof of.
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The phrase that got my attention this morning is “your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” It’s that word “hidden” that made me wonder – is it the old life, the new life, or both that’s hidden…And why?
Most of us would like at least part of our old life to be hidden. That’s where those “earthly things” before “Christ, who is your life” are. Why would that old life with those scars be worth hiding “with Christ in God?” Why not just throw it away?
How about that “new life?” We get to live with new realities and new options where responses can be based on transformation not old information. Why would we want anything about this life hidden?
Maybe it’s God’s Safety Deposit Box! It’s odd, but those scars may be part of the treasure that has been hidden there “for” your future, not just “from” your past. God has kept you safe and finds valuable purpose in your new life even with scars. They’re your proof that he has kept you safe, and they’re your witness.
√ John 20:27 Then he [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
God’s Safety Deposit Box is where every proof of your inheritance, your treasure, is hidden and protected from loss. It continues to grow and you continue to receive its dividends; the new realities, new options and responses in your daily life.
√ I Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope…4 …an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
It’s a fact of be-ing that food and water are real physical needs of life the body craves. Our bodies make us very aware of those needs. It was that word “craves” that connected my mind to this blessing this morning. It means to long for, yearn, desire, want, wish or need.
This is Jesus at his best using something as basic and daily as hunger and thirst as images to remind us there’s Another Kind of Life to long for, yearn, desire, want, wish or need – a life of righteousness.
The blessing is two-fold: to crave and to be filled.