Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The long and short of a twelve year span

Twelve years can be a long, long time – or a brief period – according to its events and our perspective. Mark 5:21-43 tells the story of two women who shared the same twelve years of time (verses 25 and 42). The first had an ongoing health struggle that had endured twelve years. In that time she sought healing and pinned her hopes on many physicians – physicians whose “cures” were painful in themselves and that drained her of her last penny and her last ounce of earthly hope. For all this she was not any better, but instead grew worse. For her twelve years was a long, long time in which she had suffered greatly. The second was a young girl whose entire life span was only equal to the twelve years of suffering the first had encountered, and now she was dying.

Life is busy and distracting. As these two women suffered, life bustled around them. Jesus had taught great multitudes, removed himself from them, calmed a storm at sea, cast demons from a maniac, and then returned across the sea to be thronged by a great multitude of people. Among this throng came Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, with an urgent request. His twelve year old daughter was at the point of death, and Jesus seemed his only hope. Jesus accepted his request and headed to help the girl, with a jostling multitude tagging along. Among this crowd was the distressed woman who had been sick as long as Jairus’s daughter had been alive. Out of money and out of options, she thought if she could just even touch the hem of the garment of this marvelous worker of miracles she could be healed. And she was!

Then the procession to Jairus’s house stopped. Perhaps Jairus’s heart stopped also. Jesus – knowing who touched him – asked who touched him. The distraught disciples were disturbed by the question. Everybody is touching you and you ask who is touching you?? But Jesus laid his eyes on the one who touched him and she came forward, fell down before him and told her whole story. Jesus her faith, blessed her departure and assured her the permanence of her healing. While he was speaking this a dreaded report was delivered from the household of Jairus: “Thy daughter is dead.” All was stopped, all was still, all was sad for this man whose hopes had run so high. Now, now, nothing. Trouble the Master no further. Hope has fled.

The Bard of Ayrshire Robert Burns warned us “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, for promis’d joy!” Plan and scheme as we might, sickness and death are perennial and unavoidable. Despite the first woman’s plans and all the doctors’ assistance, she could not get any better. Sickness is an ubiquitous imprint of a fallen world. There is no life without it. Some may be sick more and some sick less, but all will be sick, and some, like Elisha, will “fall sick of the sickness whereof they die” – for death is unavoidable and there in no discharge from that war. Jairus had grand designs of meeting with the Master of disease and death before his daughter could die, but his plans went awry as well. It is easy to expect that he was envious of the cure of the one Jesus called “Daughter,” which delayed the Lord’s arrival at his own home to heal his own daughter.

Delay and frustration are inevitable and patience is a virtue. We will not eliminate the former, so must “let patience have her perfect work.” In our society we become more and more accustomed to instant gratification – getting what we want when we want it. The first daughter wanted healing twelve years before she got it. The fearful father wanted Jesus to get to his home quickly to heal his daughter. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to come to Lazarus as quickly as possible, but when he arrived four days late he was right on time! None got what they wanted, but in the end they received “exceeding abundantly above all that they could ask or think.” Though Jairus hoped for healing for his beloved twelve year old, he received resurrection instead. Jesus walked into the room of despair and rebuked it, spoke the word and the little one revived. Glory!

“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy (James 5:11).” Though our schemes and plans, hopes and dreams “gang aft agley,” it is not true that there is nought but grief and pain for promised joy! Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning! Where Christ is there is hope. The doctors could not help, and even hurt, the first “daughter” – and apparently had done little to help the second. But the Great Physician now is near, “lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.”

When we think of twelve years of continual worsening sickness, we perceive such a long, long time of one dreary day dragging on after another, without help and without hope. When we think of a child dying at age twelve, we perceive such an unusually brief life, one taken in a moment, as we say, “before her time.” And yet it was the same time, the same twelve years. Into each of those twelve years walked the Master of the Storm, the Wearer of the efficacious garment, the Voice that says, “Arise.” Life is busy, distracting, and full of pain and woe. Sickness and death are perennial and unavoidable, delay and frustration are inevitable. Patience – waiting on the Lord – is a virtue. Know this. Where Christ is there is hope. Wait on the Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; touch the hem of his garment – Christ in you, the hope of glory – and hear him say to that which rages within us, “Peace, be still and to our death “Live, Arise.”

The Great Physician now is near,
The sympathizing Jesus;
He speaks the drooping heart to cheer,
Oh, hear the voice of Jesus!
Sweetest note in seraph song;
Sweetest name on mortal tongue;
Sweetest carol ever sung:
Jesus, blessed Jesus!

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