I want to talk today about revolution. I have to admit that politically I’m pretty left wing. I’m not a Marxist, but the word “revolution” still gets me excited. I think Jesus was a revolutionary. In fact, the Bible says that the first Christians were thought of as revolutionaries. They are described as being “men who have caused trouble all over the world”, but the word means to “overthrow” or to “subvert”. This is what revolutionaries do! One translation of that verse in Acts 17 says that they were “men who turned the world upside down.” That’s what the English word “revolution” means - to turn something around or to turn something over.
And in the passage we’re going to read today, Jesus turns around a lot of ideas that were part of the society of his time. Let’s read the rest of Mark 5.
At first glance, this looks like a passage about healing. And of course it is! In the last passage we looked at, Jesus demonstrated his power by driving out demons. This time, he shows his identity by healing the sick and raising the dead. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” This is what Jesus told his disciples to do in Matthew 10; these are the marks of the Kingdom of God on earth. The power that Jesus has demonstrates who he is; but that power is also available to those who follow him today.
But this is more than just two stories about healing. If we look a little further, there are some similarities between the stories. They are both about healing women. In those days women were considered to be less important than men. Maybe they still are these days too. But Jesus did not agree with this. He turned it upside down, and spent a lot of his time healing and saving women.
The first woman who meets Jesus is poor. She has spent all her money on doctors. The second one is a child. Again, people that society was not interested in. But Jesus was interested in them.
Poor women and children were not important people. Now Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue, he was an important person. And he was in a desperate situation. His daughter was about to die. Jesus should hurry up if he is going to help this important person! If someone is important, you should concentrate on them. You should not get distracted or interrupted.
I have a mobile phone. It’s very useful, but actually I hate these things. I hate them because sometimes when you are talking to somebody, their phone goes off, and it is very difficult to ignore. They have to answer it, or stop it, or do something! Anybody in the world can call and interrupt our conversation. At that makes you feel unimportant.
So I wonder how Jairus felt when Jesus stopped. Jairus is desperate. His daughter was going to die, and Jesus has stopped to find someone in the crowd. I think he felt at least unimportant. Jesus turns upside-down who is important and who is not important. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”
Jesus also turns upside down what is important. He stands in the middle of desparation and crowds and business. And he stops. He takes time to talk to people. Why did he have to stop for the woman? She had already been healed. He said that he felt power go out of him. But he wanted to have a conversation as well. Jairus did not want him to have a conversation. Jairus wanted him to hurry, to run, to get to his daughter. But Jesus knows that people are more important. He stops for a conversation. He doesn’t just want to give her healing. His conversation is not just “be free from your suffering” but it is also “go in peace”. As we saw last time, Jesus wants to bring the shalom, the peace of having right relationship to the people he touches. And so he stops for a conversation.
Let’s have a look at the woman he stops for. She is suffering from bleeding. According to Leviticus, this makes her unclean according to the Jewish Law. She is supposed to stay out of the way; she is not supposed to be in the middle of the crowds. But she knows that if she gets to Jesus he will heal her. She wants to just touch his clothes.
And he lets her. This is a strange thing. He is the Messiah. He must know that she is unclean. Why does he let her touch him? Won’t she contaminate him? That’s what everyone thought. Again, maybe people still think it today. They think that Christians shouldn’t go into “unclean” places or be with “unclean” people because it might make them unclean. We hold on to our “holiness” very carefully, in case it might be broken. And so we get very conservative about what we will do and who we will associate with.
Jesus is not conservative. He is a revolutionary! He turns around the ideas of cleanness and uncleanness. His holiness can make unclean into clean. Instead of being made unclean by the woman’s touch, his holiness makes her clean. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
At my Bible college we had a teacher called David Burnett. He’s also a missionary, and he did a lot of study and scholarship about Buddhism. For his work, he had to spend a lot of time with Buddhists, and in Buddhist temples. And when he got back to his church, everyone would want to pray for him. They would want to make sure he was spiritually “clean”. There was nothing wrong with this.
But they had forgotten that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” They had forgotten that he had taken with him the Spirit of God into the places he went. Everyone worried about what influence that Buddhists had on him. Nobody thought about the influence that the Spirit of God had on the Buddhists he talked to!
The presence of Jesus, and our presence if we have the Holy Spirit in us, can turn unclean into clean. It is one of the great revolutions that Jesus brings.
And now he gets to Jairus’ daughter, and we find that she has died. Jairus must have been furious! His daughter died because Jesus did not get there in time - because he was stopping to talk to some woman! Maybe Jesus wanted to teach Jairus a lesson. When Jesus is in control of the situation, he can stop to talk. He can be calm and deal with people, while everyone else is rushing around. That’s another revolution. I think it’s a revolution Jesus needs to bring to this country. I think it’s a revolution Jesus needs to bring to me.
And when Jesus gets to Jairus’ daughter, we see another revolution. She is not dead, says Jesus, but she is sleeping. He says the same thing about Lazarus. And actually the Early Church used to say the same thing; in Acts it doesn’t say that Stephen “died”. He “fell asleep”. Of course, it means that he died. But Jesus was not just trying to be nice. He was showing them something. When someone is dead, they stay dead. But if they are asleep, they will wake up again. Jesus turns death upside down! Death used to be the end - now it is no longer the end! Jesus says to Jairus “don’t be afraid”. For those who follow Jesus, there is no need to be afraid of death - he has turned it upside down!
But once again Jesus is getting his hands dirty. In this chapter, he has dealt with tombs, demons, pigs, blood, and dead bodies. These are all things that a good Jewish boy should stay away from! Jesus is the situation upside down again - he is challenging how we see clean and unclean. Later he will say that it’s what comes out of a person that makes them unclean, not what he eats or touches. God in the Old Testament tells His people to be holy. But He also says “I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” The touch of Jesus makes these unclean women clean. The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6 cries out because he is unclean, but the touch of God makes him clean.
So often we see being “holy”, or being “clean”, in terms of what we don’t touch. If we avoid the bad things, we will be holy. But here is the revolution: being holy is not about what we touch; it is about God touching us. Jesus touched all the “bad things” and he made them clean. He can do this for our lives, and he can do it through us in the lives of others.