He had compassion for them

July 22, 2018

Summary

Over the last weeks, it seems that I have been confronted again and again with the reality of our human frailty, and physical mortality.

I have had news of friends’ being diagnosed with illnesses, visited parishioners in the hospital, talked with family members who are embarking on the hard journeys of fighting disease, and while back in the U.S. I attended the funeral of Sandy Nelson, my best friend’s mother.

Illness, disease, death…they are a part of life’s journey.  As a pastor I know this only too well.  Our human condition of strength combined with weakness, of happiness mixed with sadness, of loneliness in the midst of companionship has been very visible to me as I have encountered each of these situations that I have shared.

For instance, at the news of Sandy Nelson’s death, memories, many humorous, others touching, and a few of sadness came to mind.  You see, I have known Sandy my entire life, playing at her home when I was small and watching movies there when I was a teen.  She was important and pivotal at times in my journey of life and ministry.  So, though it was hard to see my friend Paul and his brothers and their families grieving her passing, we had also gathered to celebrate who Sandy was, and what her life had meant to each person there, and to remember her faith in Jesus Christ.

Similarly, as I sat and listened and shared with family members embarking upon the scary, and possibly painful journey of fighting a disease, I heard strength and fear, pragmatism and ideals, uncertainty and hope, all the time watching smiles mixed with tears, as they faced their futures.

Life is not often easy, and too often it is simply hard.  Many of us know this only too well.

So, how do we deal with it all?  How do we move forward when things are hard?  We need to follow the example of the people in today’s gospel reading. This morning we have two passages from Mark, put together, that focus upon people turning to Jesus in their time of need.  In fact, even more than simply turning to Jesus, rather they pursue him with great energy, hope and faith.

We read, “When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.”

The people, in their time of need knew that he was the one whom could help, that Jesus was the one whom could save, and so they pursued him from place to place, town to town.

Upon reading these verses for today, I immediately pictured in my mind each of my parishioners, friends, and family whom are struggling with sickness, disease and grief.  They too are being brought to Jesus…not physically carried like in Mark, but rather spiritually lifted up in prayer, and with hope.  They are being lifted up in my prayer, and in the prayers of many others, many of you in fact.

As I pray, each name runs through my brain, as I share their unique and individual situation with Jesus, praying that they may be able to simply touch the fringe of his cloak and find healing.  My hope mixes with theirs, even as my fears like theirs grow.  It is a convoluted reality of emotions and thoughts, of listening and speaking.  I lift my loved ones to Jesus in hope that he may do the miraculous in their lives.

It must have been the same back then too, right?

You can imagine a mother, upon learning that Jesus has arrived in the neighboring village, proclaiming to her sick son, “We must go to him, they say he is a miracle worker.  Perhaps you too can be healed.  We have got to try!”

Or perhaps we picture a man, carrying in his arms his frail neighbor.  His friend’s useless legs dangle as the man tries to push his way through the crowd of townspeople surrounding Jesus.  I can hear him saying, “This is worth a try.  I hear this man has pulled the lame up, right off of their mats, and they have danced down the street in joy.  Let’s hope for a miracle!”

The people whom Mark describes in today’s verses, weren’t so much people of faith, as they were people of desperation, and hope.  They desperately wanted Jesus to heal their loved one, or themselves, and so they pursued him in the hope of a physical miracle.

And as we read, their hope was confirmed.  Mark writes that, “all who touched [the fringe of his cloak] were healed.”

We want the same still today, right?  Jesus is whom we should turn to in desperate times.  He is also the one in whom we should have hope.  Right?  Right.

Yet, when we bring people to Jesus in prayer we do not have the same success rate for healing do we?  What is the difference between then and now?  Does this mean we shouldn’t turn to Jesus?

Today, we know who Jesus is, and why he truly came.  In Mark, chapter six, to most of those people Jesus was simply a miracle healer.  They didn’t know who he really was, just that he could heal a body for a time.  Remember all of those whom he healed became sick again, or fell victim to an accident, or humanity’s evil intent, and they all died.

No, we know that Jesus is the Messiah, promised by God, to save the world, and that is whom he is, and why he came, to save us by his love.  He had to die to do so, but in dying, he conquered death for us, and so, gives us life eternal in his loving presence.

The people in Mark’s gospel did not know this, and could not believe yet, in what had not happened.  He needed to show them his power, and he did so by healing.  The physical miracles pointed to him as God.  For us, Jesus’ gracious love, and his greatest miracle of life from death is a fact of our faith, we believe.

And so, I believe our prayers for healing, our desperation, and our hope are different, since we see life differently because of our Christian faith.  Our ultimate hope, at life’s end is to be in Jesus’ loving presence forever.

Remember how I shared that as I sat and listened and shared with family members embarking upon the scary, and possibly painful journey of fighting a disease, I heard strength and fear, pragmatism and ideals, uncertainty and hope, all the time watching smiles mixed with tears, as they faced their futures?

Well, that is how it is for us as Christians in facing the hardships of illness, disease and death.  We hope and pray for physical healing, that our loved ones, or ourselves do not need to walk the journey of pain, or grief, or loss that might be the result.  And yet, we believe that Jesus walks with us, lovingly holding out the fringe of his proverbial robe for us to touch, and hold onto as we walk the difficult path, or try and support a loved one walking the path.

Jesus’ presence is the ultimate healing.  Jesus himself is the wholeness that we desperately crave.

What I am trying to say here is best told by sharing with you what our departed brother Bjorn Radtke said to me more than once, as he himself was walking the difficult road of battling infections, that eventually led to his earthly death.  Here is a paraphrase of what Bjorn said to me, “God can bring healing in a variety of ways, through medicine, through miracles, instantly or over time, but ultimately, the healing that God gives is that of our earthly deaths, which end our sufferings, and bring us into eternal communion with him.”

Jesus is our ultimate healing.  He walks with us now, providing the strength, hope, and love that we need for life.  At times he gives us physical healing, even the miraculous healing of our earthly bodies, but not always…no.  Yet, he always offers us, gives to us, his forgiveness, his love, his compassion, his salvation, all that we need to fully heal our hearts, our minds, our souls.  For that is the greatest healing that we can receive.

Jesus wants us to turn to him for healing, for us to bring to him our loved ones in prayer for healing, for loves us all, and wants to heal each of us.  In fact as the good shepherd that he is, Jesus pursues us, rather than forcing us to pursue him, that we might know, and experience his love, for his healing is for everyone.

I want you to picture Jesus, in whatever way you want him to look, we don’t have any photos.  I want you to picture Jesus in your mind’s eye, as I read this short phrase from today’s verses, “As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Keep picturing Jesus.

Imagine the look of love, of compassion upon his face as he saw all the people needing his love, his presence, the hope that only resides in him.  That look upon Jesus’ face that you are picturing, that love is for you too.  That love is to heal the hurts and wounds that you carry.  Jesus’ came to heal you too, to heal your heart, your mind, and ultimately your soul.

Give your loved ones, give yourself into the care of the shepherd, for he loves us all, and offers healing now, and forever.

Amen.

Bible References

  • Jeremiah 23:1 - 6
  • Mark 6:30 - 34
  • Mark 6:53 - 56

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