Guest Sermon by
Rev. Robert D. Shofner Jr.
St. Johns UCC Boonville
We’re in a little series on the . The one we want to talk about today is not one we usually think of when we think about miracles. It’s really just a quiet, low-keyed type of thing. It’s the story of the woman who’s been hemorrhaging for twelve years and reaches out and touches the coat of Jesus, and she’s healed. Actually, it’s really a tale of intimacy.
The woman’s story is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. What we know about her is she was a woman who probably lived with very little hope. Not only was this a physical illness, but it was a social illness as well. She was considered religiously unclean, and therefore could not worship in the Temple . She was an outcast, someone we might call “unlovely.” And she meets Jesus on a very busy day.
He’d just got off a boat. He’d just come back from meeting the mad man possessed by demons. Remember that story? Jesus cast out the demons into a herd of pigs, which is where we get our first description of “deviled ham.” After he gets back, he’s immediately met by a beggar. Now this beggar is no transient, he’s a high ranking religious leader named Jairus. Jairus falls at the and says, “Jesus, my daughter is on the verge of death. Will you heal her?” Jesus agrees. And that’s where we pick up the woman’s story. It was our scripture for this morning. And it’s a great story!
Now, the first thing I want to talk about is “What is God like?” When we’re reading about Jesus, we’re really getting a snap shot of the supernatural deity of God. So, based on what we know about Jesus, let’s take a look at three qualities of God. And as we look at these qualities, they are going to answer some fundamental questions about God that every person in this room has asked. “Does God know I exist? Does God care about me? With billions of people in this world, does God know me? Does He care about my problems, or are they too petty for such a big God?”
What is God like? Three things.
Number 1 - God is concerned with individuals in every crowd. God is concerned with individuals in every crowd. The moment that Jesus was face to face with this woman, there seemed to be nobody there but Him, and her. Jesus forgot about the crowd and treated her as if she was the only person in the world. She was poor, she was unimportant, she was considered unclean, but Jesus saw someone in need and gave all of Himself to her.
Many times we’re tempted to attach labels to people. And when we attach labels to people, we tend to treat them according to their relative importance. But Jesus didn’t believe in manmade labels. It’s the same with God. God doesn’t see labels. God sees a soul in need. God sees a heart in need. God sees individuals in every crowd.
God loves each of us as if we were the only one for Him to love. You don’t want to miss that. God loves each of us as if we were the only one for Him to love. 1 Peter 5:7, “ ... he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” Have you ever wondered, “How can He be thinking about me when He’s thinking about you?”
Imagine what was going on the mind of Jairus. His daughter is dying. And Jesus, the Healer, is loitering with somebody that’s unimportant. Jairus had to have been saying, “Jesus, my concern is greater than her concern! Come with me!” But the truth about God is that He has the leisure of heart to feel for each of us and love each of us without neglecting another. Let me repeat that. The truth about God is that He has the leisure of heart to feel for each of us. Attending to the needs of one does not neglect the needs of another.
So how can God love each of us as if there is only one of us to love? I have a simple answer. I don’t know. I don’t know how He can love me the same way He can love you ... and the other billions of people that are here on this earth. But if God is limited to our intellect, He’s a small God. The problem we have is that we place our finite thinking on an infinite God. We try to figure Him out, and we make God too small.
Romans 11:34, "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 1 Corinthians 1:25 , “For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.” Just because we don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
God knows you exist and He loves you as if you were the only one to love. God zeros in on individuals in the midst of a crowd. God delivers His love to each of us as if we’re the only ones there.
What’s God like? Number two - God connects with people of faith. God connects with people of faith. Without faith, we can’t get connected with God.
In the midst of the crowd, what got the attention of Jesus? Was it the touch? No. It was the woman’s faith. There were people elbowing and shoving and pushing ... much like the crowd of kids standing in line at Holiday World ... and yet in the midst of that, it wasn’t the touch ... it was her faith. Jesus felt the touch of her faith.
Romans 4:5, “But people cannot do any work that will make them right with God. So they must trust in him, who makes even evil people right in his sight. Then God accepts their faith, and that makes them right with him.” That’s what makes us right with God. Not our works, not our church attendance, not how much we give ... those things happen as a result of our faith. It’s faith that makes us right with God.
The third thing we can know about God based on this event is that God changes lives where all else fails. God changes lives where all else fails. You see, this woman came to Jesus at the end of her rope. The Bible tells us she’d spent all of her money. She’d tried everything else. And then, finally, she comes to Jesus. Jairus was no different. What we forget when we read this story is that Jairus was a religious leader in the synagogue. These were not people who embraced Jesus. This was a person who maybe even despised Jesus, who wanted Him eliminated. And yet, in the last resort, he humbled himself and said, “I’m going to go to Jesus.” They both tried everything else, and it didn’t work.
I’ve been in ministry for over 30 years and I’ve learned that one of the things we all have in common is that we’re all looking for life. We’re all looking for life. And no matter how hard I beg people, and tell them that they need God, that He’s the only One who can really meet the need of what they’re looking for ... it doesn’t matter what I think they need, they’ve got to say, “That’s what I need.” And until somebody comes to the point where they say, “That’s what I need” ... nothing else works. The truth about God is that while people are looking everywhere else ... when you are ready to come to God, He’s ready to change your life. That’s the truth. God is changing lives where all else fails.
A while back I went to the store, and I parked next to a Christian car. I could tell it was a car by all the stickers on it ... I have nothing against Christian stickers, I just don’t want them on my car ... I don’t want anyone to know that Christians drive the way I do. So the lady was getting into her car as I was pulling up, and one of the stickers on the car said, “ .” So, just out of curiosity I asked her, “Hey, what’s Jesus the answer to?” She smiled and said, “Everything!” That’s nice. And I thought, you know, of all the people I’ve talked to over all these years, no one has ever come up to me and said, “Bob, can you tell me what the answer to everything is?” Now when they do, I’ll know what to say. “Jesus.” But until then, I’ve got to realize that people are asking different types of questions. They’re asking questions like, “How can I survive in my marriage?” “How can I be a better parent?” “How can I get on top of this financial mess that I’m in?” “How can I survive the stress my job puts me under?” “How can I deal with the death of my spouse, or my child?” These are the questions that people are asking. And until people see that their own answers and their own solutions are inadequate, they typically don’t turn to God.
I know that nothing else works. I have a friend who told me, “Bob, I tried God, and it didn’t work.” My friend didn’t try God. This person tried God like a vending machine; put in a 50 cent prayer, pushed a button, and expected the prayer to be answered in his timing and in his way. That’s not faith. That’s control. And control runs in direct opposition to faith.
Ephesians 2:12, “Remember that in those days you were living utterly apart from Christ ... You were lost, without God, without hope.” Notice those two words “without hope.” Because, really, when you’re without God, you’re without hope. So many people have this aching in their life, there’s this desperation, and they’re saying, “I’m looking for life, but I just don’t know what it is.” They have this God shaped emptiness that can only be filled by God. Some people will find out that I’m a pastor, and they’ll say, “You know, my life is a little out of control. Maybe I need to go to your church.” No, they don’t. Hey, it would be great if they came ... they’re very welcome! But they don’t need church ... they need God … they need a relationship with Him. And more than that, they need to be intimate with Him.
How do we become intimate with God? Why connect the word “intimacy” with the story of this woman? It’s because this woman went to have a physical need met, yet she left with an intimate moment with the Savior. All of us in here are looking for intimacy. And yet while we may have intimacy with others, we’re still longing if we don’t have . And from what scripture tells us, God wants to have that intimacy with us. He wants us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us.
Some action steps ... A, B, and C. They’re not as easy as A, B, and C. But maybe it will help you to remember them this way.
The A is to admit the person I’ve been. If you’re going to develop intimacy with God, you want to admit the person you’ve been. Now what do I mean by this? There are three different types of people – we see them in this story.
The first is what I call the “watchers.” These are the people that saw Jesus moving through town with the crowd. They didn’t follow ... they just kind of stood back and watched. They leaned up against the local Seven Eleven with their friends ... “Hey, there goes Jesus.” “Yeah, always draws a crowd, doesn’t he?” “Well, they say He’s the .” “Yeah, and I’m the Sultan of Soul.” The watchers.
Then there’s the “walkers.” Those are the people that just like being part of the crowd. They’re saying, “Hey, this is neat! There’s a lot of people! This is fun! Lot of energy here! This is cool!”
But then the “wanter” emerges from the crowd ... and wants Jesus.
Which one are you? Who do you most identify with?
This woman knew of her condition. Mark 5:26 ,27, “ ... but instead of improving, she was getting worse. When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his coat.” She knew her condition, and then she made the next step.
There’s a lot in common between those three types of people we’ve listed ... and the people who live in the Tri-State. There are a lot of people who are watching God from a distance. Lot of people living out there kicking back and watching God. Then there’re a lot of walkers. Lot of people just kind of flock to the big churches ... Crossroads ... First Christian ... they’re part of the crowd! They go because there’s good music ... no dress code ... it’s comfortable ... all their friends go. Those are walkers. Then there’s many wanters. They really want to know Jesus. They want to draw close to God. They’re not perfect ... they don’t claim to be ... but they want to know Him, and they‘re doing what it takes to prioritize intimacy.
Intimacy only happens to those who want it ... who make a conscience decision to draw near to God. There’s an old question that if you feel far from God, who moved? It wasn’t God. His character is always consistent. But intimacy takes priority. And wanters value the priority. So, just admit the person we’ve been.
The second action step, the “B” is begin with the faith that I have. Mark 5:28 , “She thought, ‘If I could just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’” Some of you get depressed when you hear a message on faith, because you think, “You know, I hear all about these great people with faith, and I don’t have that kind of faith. That’s not me. I could never do that!” You might think that this woman was a woman of incredible faith. Know what I think? I think she was incredibly selfish. She wanted to be healed. She tried everything else. Her faith was almost superstition. “If I touch his coat, then I will be healed.” Then she wanted to slip away and become a “walker” again. I think that’s being pretty selfish.
Not everybody has the same degree of faith. And the Good News that I want to say to you is that God responds to faith no matter how feeble it might be. When we express even a little bit of faith, God shares His power with us and the process of intimacy begins. I know many Christians who in the early stages of their life were more consumed with their own misery and wanting to escape their own personal hell then they were with wanting to please Jesus. But that is often the beginning of intimacy ... when we give a little bit of our faith, no matter how selfish it might be. Faith proceeds love, and if the predominate motive of your beginning faith is distinctly selfish, that’s okay, because that will change with maturity and intimacy, and God meets you where you’re at. No matter how inadequately or imperfectly we come to God, God’s arms are open wide and ready to receive us. And that means we don’t have to what until our motives are all together, we don’t have to wait until our faith is perfect, we don’t have to wait until all our questions have been answered. We come to God exactly as we are. And He meets us there. We do the possible with faith that He’ll do the impossible.
The last action step, the “C” is to call on God first. Call on God first. Pay attention to the word “first.” Because developing intimacy is not a “last” kind of relationship. It’s not a “last resort” kind of relationship. Let me ask a rhetorical question: when an issue comes up in your life, when a problem comes up at work, when a stress enters into a significant relationship ... who do you call on first? And if your answer is that you call on anybody else but God, what you’re doing is putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage. If you go to other people who have finite resources ... who really can’t pull off miracles in your life anyway ...and you say, “Fix my need” ... you’re putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage.
What does it mean to call on God first? When you have a problem, it means that your first conversation is with God. Why is it that when we have a problem, we go to other people? It’s because we have intimacy with people, and we don’t have intimacy with God. It’s like we’re afraid to bother Him. Like the time things really got rough at a Deacons’ meeting, and I said, “Hey, we’d better pray about this.” And a deacon said, “My God, pastor, are things that bad?” When we have intimacy with God, we call on Him first.
Let’s go back to our story.
The result of what happened to this woman. Mark 5:33 ,34, “Shaking with fear, she told him the whole truth. Jesus said to her, ‘Daughter, you were made well because you believed. Go in peace ...’” As I was studying this, I was wondering, “Why was she so fearful?” I mean, her life had just been changed! Why was she fearful? Was she afraid that Jesus was going to take away her healing? Was she afraid that Jesus was going to expose her as a nobody? And then I got to thinking, “Why didn’t Jesus just let her slip away?” Did He not want her to slip away so He could show the crowd He had healing power? I don’t think so. He had just cast out demons from a madman, and He was just about to raise a 12 year old from the dead. He was showing His power enough in other places. I think Jesus didn’t want her to slip away for her sake, not for His sake. I think Jesus wanted this woman to experience something more than just a healing. I think Jesus wanted this woman to look into His eyes and see a friend and a Savior, and remove her fear. I think Jesus wanted her to hear His loving words of assurance and restoration. Because by the time He finished speaking to her, she experienced more than just a healing, she experienced an intimate moment with God. Jesus called her “daughter.” It’s the only time Jesus called anyone “daughter.”
The results: wholeness ... He healed her. He gave her life, He made her whole. And peace.
What we see in this story is a that loves His child; a Father who’s so madly in love with His child that He makes it a priority to stop and make an intimate contact, to grant wholeness and peace. That in the midst of billions of people, He wants to be intimate with you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to give Him the faith that you have. He wants you to call on Him first. He wants to say to you, “Daughter ... Son.”
I hope you walk out of here today knowing that you’re loved. Call on Him first.
God, may we be different people as a result of today. Thank you for your love for us that we don’t understand. Thank you for the way that you care for us ... that we are individuals to you. Thank you that you are accessible, that we can draw near to you. Father, we don’t understand your love, and yet we bath in it. We thank you that you love us, not for what we’ve done, but for who we are ... daughter, son.And the people said, “Amen.