“Power has gone out from me…”

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It’s a remarkable statement: “Power has gone out from me…”  Does it express a feeling of ennervation or lethargy – or perhaps the sudden tiredness that follows an adrenalin rush? Was Jesus focused and hyper-intent on what the Father was doing and saying, and then the moment was over? A similar phrase is “The Lord’s power was present to heal…”

Do you experience that? A sense that God is on the move, that something is about to happen?

To be frank about it, I sometimes sense when someone is about to break through into repentance. Every now and then I will stop preaching and make an appeal, because I sense that a special moment has arrived. Or sometimes we just have to stop and pray for healing, sensing that God is in the house, moving through the crowd, touching lives… Is that a little of what was happening here?

Well, here’s the context of the statement. It’s a narrative of two interwoven miracles at the end of Luke 8. We know that they are interwoven because of the sequence of parallels between the two. See how many you can spot:

“Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’

46 But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’

47 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. 48 Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher anymore.’

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. ‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’ 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.” (Luke 8: 41-56)

Do you see how the stories blend together? Both the people who are healed are female. Both have a condition that has lasted twelve years! Both conditions are somehow connected with their “womanhood.” One is a virgin, on the cusp of becoming marriageable; the other has an “issue of blood,” presumably connected with the end of her childbearing years. One is young, of high reputation and named as the daughter of a town dignitary. One is old, of no reputation, and is unnamed.

The parallels and contrasts are significant. And yet there’s a twist: the one who is ritually unclean is healed publicly, in exposed conditions. The one who is ritually pure is healed secretly, with a request to  tell no one!

So here’s the thing: two people come to Jesus out of a sense of urgent need: A man called Jairus and an unnamed woman. Jairus is in pain for his daughter’s suffering and the woman for her own. And perhaps that’s what pain is for –at least to an extent – it jogs us into an awareness of need and prompts action. You don’t think about your breathing patterns until something gets lodged in your throat, and then it becomes critically important in no time at all! And the heart pumps on with banal regularity until some grief or pleasure stuns it into hyperactivity. Neither do we really feel the presence of God in our lives until life pulls the carpet from beneath our feet, or till breakdown or break-up forces us to become conscious of a need.

And this, too, is the reply to the old rebellious question: Why is this happening? What have I done to deserve this? Job complained that God had set him up as a target. The point comes clear in the old Joni Mitchell song: “You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.” The truth is this: God confers his gifts with distinct reminders that they are his. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.” Sorrow just puts God back in the picture.

You can misuse sorrow, of course. You can make too much of it, or too little. When Jesus came to Jairus’ house, he found it filled with professional mourners. Of course, there are differences in the expression of grief and much must be allowed for temperament. These two opposite tendencies, however, indicate the two extremes into which we may fall in this matter of sorrow. There are two ways in which we may defeat the purposes of God in grief; by forgetting it, or by over-indulging it.

The world’s way is to forget. We gloss over it, or shuffle it into hospital wards and old peoples homes. We often move on far too quickly, stiff upper lip in place. We push pain away without realizing its place in a spiritual world. Listen: when Jesus was on the cross, he refused the cup of wine that would anaesthetize his pain. But the cup he chose to drink at Gethsemane was a cup of suffering.

And sometimes you just have to drink that cup.

The other way is to nurse sorrow in a morbid introspection, lost in nostalgia and pain for what is gone. We refuse to be comforted. But can’t keep it up. There’s a kind of elasticity in the soul. A bounce-back.

Here’s the point: We are meant to sorrow, but not as those without hope. Be natural. Jesus wept and he joined in the parties. So no stiff upper lips please ….and no wallowing in artificial and prolonged grief, no minstrels making a noise. Bring your grief to your Father who knows and loves you. Let the wound bleed. And let the wound heal.

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