Jesus-A Healer Interrupted

Luke 8:40-56

40 And as Jesus was returning, the people welcomed Him, for they had all been waiting for Him. 41 And a man named Jairus came, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus’ feet, and began urging Him to come to his house; 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. But as He went, the crowds were pressing against Him.

43 And a woman who had suffered a chronic flow of blood for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, 44 came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had left Me.” 47 Now when the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and admitted in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

49 While He was still speaking, someone *came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher anymore.” 50 But when Jesus heard this, He responded to him, “Do not be afraid any longer; only believe, and she will be made well.” 51 When He came to the house, He did not allow anyone to enter with Him except Peter, John, and James, and the girl’s father and mother. 52 Now they were all weeping and mourning for her; but He said, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.” 53 And they began laughing at Him, knowing that she had died. 54 He, however, took her by the hand and spoke forcefully, saying, “Child, arise!” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately; and He ordered that something be given her to eat. 56 Her parents were amazed; but He instructed them to tell no one what had happened.

Jesus – A Healer Interrupted

Over the past month or so we have become accustomed to hearing during the presidential debates, many interruptions by the candidates. It became quite a favorite topic of the media even altering the way ensuing debates would be handled. Debates are no different than everyday life. No one really likes them but they are inevitable. Some disruptions are necessary and some in spite of inconvenience result in wonderful endings!

Personally, one of the worst interruptions I’ve had was putting my life on hold for 7 months fighting for my life. This interruption resulted in the most amazing and life changing experience of God’s manifest glory, healing and presence in my life giving me a miraculous experience of his love.  We learn and hear today’s Gospel another of these great miracles in the life and ministry of our Lord. It too began with interruptions. These great miracles, of the healing of the woman with an issue of blood and the Raising of Jairus’ “dead” daughter happen in the context of Jesus’ ministry, preaching and teaching. In both cases, Jesus himself is “interrupted” while he’s speaking because of the unexpected “interruption” in the lives of these two desparate and disparate people and families. We’ve all heard many stories of friends and family members whose lives were turned upside down by the unexpected interruption of illness and death. 

In my 30 years of pastoral ministry one of the most difficult and saddest experiences has been when I hear too late of the passing of parishioners or faithful from my church community without the opportunity of having prayed for them. Sometimes these deaths are not so sudden and they happen after a lengthy illness about which I knew nothing about. I always hope that families will call on me and let me know that I might keep the one who is ill as well as those who are suffering along with them emotionally in my prayers especially during the Divine Liturgy and to visit under normal circumstances where possible.  This is why I keep a running “Prayer List” that I recall during Divine Services. 

I’ve asked people about this and they’ll often say “there was nothing you could do” or “I didn’t want to bother you”!! Please never be that person. I’ve even heard “don’t visit because they might think they are dying.”  I’ve never simply gone to visit a parishioner in order to “give them permission to die” as if there was no hope. I’ve only gone to pray that God would make them well not only if it is his will, physically but especially and always spiritually.

I hope and pray that you don’t think you are “interrupting” or bothering me or that my visit has no benefit. Don’t be like the crowds saying “don’t bother the Teacher (v. 49)…” If you hear of anyone who is sick, please tell me so that if possible I could visit. As the apostle James commands all of us, the faithful: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders (priests) of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

Like Jesus, naturally we priests can’t always be there, but we want to know so that we can pray and if possible visit. Prayer is the first thing we do, it is the essential thing. Don’t think I only pray simply for physical healing! The medical field is awesome, it is life saving and has made great advances. I am a recipient and beneficiary of the amazing and marvelous advances in modern medicine but I too will ultimately die and face eternal judgement. We can’t add anything in this life but maybe a few extra days or even years. I remember years ago a woman approached a priest who was eating some fried food and said “Surpazan that is bad for you.” he later whispered to me quietly “some people are going to die healthy.” Of course it was meant as a joke, and not that we should/n’t treat our bodies as the temple of God and take care of it, but we have to be equally and perhaps more diligent with the care of our soul! Afterall, we are a dichotomy of both body and soul, one with the other. Death is the tearing apart of body and soul and Christ has come to redeem it all! He became a man truly, body, soul and all things.   

We should pray for physical healing of course, but our souls are in greater need of healing. When I was in the hospital and seeing only clergy as visitors they’d ask, “can I bring something?” to which I would always answer your prayers, presence and Holy Communion. My body and my soul together needed God’s presence and healing touch. 

We all know that presently our nation is in a state of war. The Armenian nation and Diaspora are doing everything to help the war effort and to bring material support raising 100s of millions of dollars. But, “what does it profit (us even) to gain the whole world and forfeit (our) soul?” (Mark 8:36)  Raising money is a great, and heroic act of patriotism. It is admirable, but where is our faith and our trust in God? We should be going to God, to the Lord and giver of life, to seek nourishment and healing form him. He should be the first place we go, he should be our focus, not the “if all else fails.” 

Look at Jairus. He was a good man, he provided everything he could for his daughter but we went to the Lord for true, eternal and meaningful healing trusting that only God could make his daughter whole. Or, consider the woman with the issue of blood, who knew that she only had to be in “touch” with Jesus, to touch the hem of his garment, that his power would be sufficient for her.  Are we like them or are we only after earthly solutions to eternal problems? Do we turn first to God? Of course, in our lives we too find ourselves in seemingly hopeless and desperate situations. Like our ancestors in the deserts during deportations and Genocide asking  “where is God?” Believe the trustworthy saying that, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed”? (Deuteronomy 31:8) God will never leave us although we may choose to leave him. This is why I am hurt when I see so many who on one hand do so much for Armenia but on the other hand won’t come and seek the Lord in his sanctuary, to offer their prayers, sacrifices, hurts, needs, and sorrows before him and seek his healing touch and trust in his salvation and promise give rest to our weary souls, to bless and multiply his gifts among us as he did the loaves in the wilderness. God promises that he will never abandon us and that he will be with us even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). It is the Lord who goes before (us). He will be with (us); he will not leave or forsake (us). (We must)  not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) If anything we would be fools not to draw forward with confidence before his holy and merciful throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need and communicate in holiness (Hebrews 4:16). I would expect that every Armenian of faith would come to fill the church where and when possible and seek to likewise touch the hem of the Lord’s garment like that woman and to push through the crowds like Jairus and to call the Lord to heal the sick and even raise the dead.

Like his response to the woman and to Jairus, the Lord Jesus promises us, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) So, we should “not  be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let (our) requests be made known to God, (Philippians 4:6) trusting that “whatever you ask in prayer, (you can) believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)

What I feel is lacking greatly is turning to God for spiritual support and healing of our nation. Why would we expect God to help us if we don’t come to him like the friends of Jairus or seek to take hold of his garment?  

For Christians from the beginning of the church, healing was associated with touching and touching was associated with the incarnational reality of God‘s presence in our lives which is distributed through God‘s authority given to his church through the laying on of hands and the distribution of the holy things for holy people. Healing is a very real and central characteristic of Christian faith. Jesus true God eternal and not made became men to redeem all of a broken hurting and dying mankind.

This is why after raising Jairus’ daughter who was dead, by commanding her to arise, he commands them to give her something to eat. Jesus is the bread of life. Whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood shall not perish but have eternal life.

Prayers of the church for healing are always therefore twofold. For both physical and spiritual healing, the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life. It is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote for sin.

When I go to a sick person, a primary priority, I pray as it is for one who is in the greatest need of God‘s mercy especially at the end of their days. I call upon God in his mercy to accomplish his will in the life of that person namely provide his healing balm. We know that our ways are not  God‘s ways and that our ways are not God’s ways. None of the prayers of our church handed down through time ever asked for the end of life but that a person would pass from death to life and that God would even raise the dead as Jesus said, “Daughter arise!” In our modern society it seems like we have subconsciously learned to consider prayer as the very last means and placing medicine as the first and sometimes only means rather than what Jesus brings. It’s not surprising that people didn’t want to bother Jesus, or why they mocked him when he said “the girl is not dead but only sleeps.”

Prayer for the sick and for the dying therefore has two very important, integral, inseparable and associated intentions. The one is obvious and that is for physical healing, associated with the sign of the laying of hands and anointing and the other tends to be forgotten in our modern age. 

That is for the forgiveness of sins. Doesn’t this make sense? Why after all has death come into the world? Death is quite simply the consequence of sin. It is that which we have inherited at the order of creation when Adam and Eve fell short of God‘s glory , disobeying him and thus banished from Communion from the “Tree of life”. That is to say restricted from the fruit from the tree which is the source of life. In their banishment they were told that they would die meaning that they would suffer the agony of deprivation from that tree-excommunicated.

When Jesus says I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly he doesn’t mean the usual understanding of 4 score and 10 but he means abundant life which is Communion with that eternal tree from which we receive life eternal. The antidote to sin therefore is forgiveness and its consequences eternal life. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Jesus therefore came into the world, by his sacrificial love to interrupt the course of a dying humanity in order to redeem it, to forgive it, to heal it, to save it and to return it, all of us. To five us Holy Communion in a new and eternal life, NOW, in Dear faithful, come to the Lord often, seek him out, confess your sins, ask for forgiveness don’t wait until things go south, until you are desperate. Interrupt him NOW.  

Jesus wants you, to hear you, to come to you, to heal you , to forgive you, to redeem you and to feed you with the food from heaven which never passes away and which is given for the life of the world. If any are sick, call your priest, seek the sacraments of Christ’s presence, the blessings and promises applied through them,

Come see, feel, touch , hear and taste how sweet is the Lord, receive the loosing of our transgressions, to life eternal, to the glory of God, Amen.

Published by

Fr. Shnork Souin

Priest of the Armenian Orthodox Church

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