2nd May 2021
Father your love and care for us is wonderful and we thank you at the beginning of our meeting today. Thank you for your hand of protection during this pandemic, if it were not for this, the number of dead would be so much higher. We thank you for the scientists who worked so hard to come up with a vaccine in such a short time. We thank you for raising up an army of volunteers to help during this emergency and for walking by our side as we have navigated a year that has been stressful and at times heart-breaking. Father we pause to remember those who have lost their lives and the loved ones they leave behind and ask that you would comfort them as they grieve. Holy Spirit thank you for being our constant source of comfort, please remain with us as we continue to worship.
In Jesus name
Luke 8 40-48
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’
But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
Jesus did not answer a word. So, his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
How do you approach Jesus? With excitement? With dread? With a feeling of guilt? Or do you approach him with a feeling of expectancy knowing you will get what you ask for? Today we are going to look at the way three different people approached Jesus to see what we can learn from them. From our readings this morning, the first thing we notice is three were desperate, they had a need so important to them that they were willing to breach the cultural norms to get Jesus to help.
As always context is important to our understanding of the bible. Jesus had just returned from healing a demonic man and a crowd was waiting for him. When a man approached Jesus and fell it his feet, to ask him to come to his home and heal his 12-year-old daughter. This sounds reasonable enough, Jesus was well known for helping heal the sick, but it is who this man is that makes it surprising. Jairus was a synagogue leader, one of the very people who was conspiring against Jesus. And having Jesus come to his home, could have been disastrous for him. But this man’s need was such that his pride went out the window, he approached Jesus humbly and he didn’t care what his synagogue friends though about him.
So, the first thing we learn about approaching Jesus is that we should approach Him humbly. He is our God and we need to acknowledge our need for Him. As Jesus agrees to help him and go to his home with him that is when the second person approaches Jesus. This time it’s a woman, and in keeping with the time we are not told what her name is, just the condition that she was suffering from. For 12 years she had been bleeding, and I don’t know if you have ever noticed but here, we are subtly told that her need is just as great as Jairus’ need. His daughter was 12 years old and this woman had been ill for 12 years. Just like our problems now, some are long term, and some are acute, immediate problems.
The culture in the time of Jesus was that women were not seen as of equal value to men, and it was not acceptable for a woman to approach a Jewish man. This woman is a Jewish woman and would certainly have known that she was not supposed to approach a rabbi. So, not only is she female but we know that in the Jewish culture she is also considered unclean, and anything and anyone she met or touched was also made ceremonially unclean.
This woman did not want attention from anyone, but she had enough faith to believe if she could just touch the hem of his garment then she would be healed. Her problem was intensely personal, and she wanted her healing to remain private, she didn’t want anyone to know.
I feel today that we still suffer with publicly acknowledging our need for God. How often I have heard in Salvation Army halls people saying “I needed to go forward to the mercy seat but, people in the room would wonder what I have done.” There may be some in the room who think they need to know what it is so that they can pray in support for you. To those people I say, it is your duty to pray, not pry.
Some of us are happier to pray in our seat and not be noticed by anyone, just as the women wanted her healing to remain secret, but Jesus would have none of it. Turning he asked “Who touched me? “The disciples are confused and tell him that everyone was crowding around him, and all were touching him.
But the touch that Jesus was referring to was a touch of faith. When we reach out in faith, we touch the heart of God. Jesus knows that power has left Him, the woman was able to access this power through her faith. She wanted to keep her healing secret, she only wanted an outward healing, but Jesus wanted to heal her completely. She knows the game was up and came forward.
Might I suggest, He knew exactly who had touched Him, He asked for her benefit, Jesus wanted people to notice her then He addresses her as “Daughter” He claims her as His own.
It is interesting that this is the only time in the gospels that Jesus addresses a woman as daughter. He knows that for twelve years this woman has been an outcast. She was not allowed to enter the Temple to worship God for twelve years as she has been ceremonially unclean.
How would you feel if this morning as you come to the door of the hall someone met you and said “No, you can’t come in, you are not good enough, you will defile the house of God”?
She needs more than a physical healing she needs to know she belongs, through her touch of faith she touched Jesus’ heart and He restored her dignity and sense of worth as a child of God.
If we only allow Jesus to meet our needs to resolve our problem and not allow him to fully change our hearts and minds, then we will miss the abundant and full life He promised us.
The final person we are going to look at is a woman again, but this time it’s different. Jesus has just entered the region of Tyre and Sidon, a gentile area. Jesus had just defended the behaviour of His disciples to the religious leaders and then had to explain His parable to His disciples, He had just heard the news that John the baptist’s head was now a centre piece of the king’s banquet table. He needed reflect and take time to grieve, but that is not what He got, we read that a Canaanite woman starts to shout out, “have mercy on me Lord, Son of David” Jesus ignore her.
This makes us very uncomfortable, and it should make us uncomfortable for two reasons. Firstly, we are presented with a Jesus who is not very likable. He appears to be ignoring her pain and we would much rather have a Jesus who is compassionate and loving and showing his compassion at the drop of a hat. But to suggest that is what we are seeing here would totally be twisting the text.
The second reason we are uncomfortable is that His disciples are showing the same lack of compassion. They are Jews, God’s chosen people, and consider themselves better than any Gentile. So, she is definitely not off to a good start. She is the wrong gender, the wrong religion, and the wrong nationality.
The disciples are well out of their comfort zone. They have nothing in common with this woman and any decent women would not speak to a man the way she was speaking to Jesus, she was a gentile and she spoke to Him first, something a Jewish woman would never have done.
Jesus’ response? Nothing. He totally ignores her. This probably led the disciples to think that He felt just like them. She had no business hanging around Jewish people, and she certainly did not have any rights under the Davidic covenant.
‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’ And to be honest what He said in verse 24 didn’t help ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’ So, they were expecting Him to do as they had requested. Send her away and humiliate her. But she throws herself at Jesus’ feet and repeats her request.
So, what does Jesus do? He calls her a dog. In verses 26 we read, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs’. Now I have heard sermons where the preachers have suggested that the term used here refers to a puppy and therefore it is a term of endearment. No, Jesus did call her a dog, but it helps us to understand why if we look at the history.
The woman is a Canaanite, they have been an enemy of the Jewish people since the time of Joshua. And to the Jewish people all gentiles are Dogs. The woman shouts out to Jesus using a Jewish title for Him ‘Son of David’. It could be that what is happing here is by calling her a dog Jesus is saying I know who and what you are, please don’t come to me pretending to be something you are not. The women knows she has been found out, and I think that we are just as capable of approaching Jesus as something we are not.
I find it hard to understand how anyone can approach Jesus without a sense of guilt. When we come into the light that is generated by the presence of Jesus, we cannot help but see our own unworthiness. This woman certainly knows she is unworthy but she does have faith and she displayed this by her answer to His objection. She shows that, despite not being a Jewish believer, she believes He is God and, as such, He has an unlimited supply. By helping her He would not deprive the Jewish people of anything.
And today I think that we can be just as confused when we see God deciding to answer the prayers of a non-believer even though they do not have a relationship with Jesus yet. You see, again, it is the faith that this woman displayed that got her an answer.
So, what have we learned about how to approach Jesus? Firstly, we need to approach Jesus humbly and not worry about what others may think. Only by humbling ourselves before God can we truly touch His heart. Secondly, you cannot sneak up on Jesus hoping He will not notice. Only when we approach Him in faith with our needs boldly can we obtain our answers.
And finally, there is no way you can approach Jesus pretending. Jesus knows you better that you know yourself so not being totally honest with Him is pointless. Coming to God, praising Him for his love and provision, whilst you worry about where the money for next week’s bills will come from, is pretence and God will call you out about it.
Father we come to you now with no pride, not hiding nor pretending to be something or someone we are not, and ask that you will reassure us that we are acceptable in your sight. We know and acknowledge that this is only possible because of the price paid by your son Jesus. We know we are all a work in progress and ask that you will help us help each other to grow closer to you and display more of Jesus to a hurting world. We need you; we love you and we want to serve you. Show us how, over the coming weeks. Wake our spirits to see the opportunities you bring our way to reach out and help someone. To tell someone that they too are acceptable in the eyes of God if only they would come to and except Jesus. We are here Lord use us.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body: and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Amen.” [Colossians 3:15-17]
Thank you for reading
Prepared by Major Fiona H