I offer this sermon, preached on a Mother’s Day Sunday at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, as “sermon fodder” for preachers as well as for devotional reading for all.
Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet Mark 5.22 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 23 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 24 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 25 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 26 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 27 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 28 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 29 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 30 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 31 And he looked around to see who had done it. 32 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 33 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 34
While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Mark 5.35 But overhearing* what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 36 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 37 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus* saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 38 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 39 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 40 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 41 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 42 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. 43
Mother’s Day is a time for the whole family to focus on the role of mothers and also to focus on our relationship with women and the unique role of women in the world.
The stores are filled with Hallmark greetings and I for one think they are wonderful. I love the idea of glorifying the person of mother, of setting aside time to honor those who have given so much. I have always thought it was a great day.
Literary giants have noted the special place of moms and women in our midst and I particularly love William Thackeray’s line from Vanity Fair:
“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”
I love what Abraham Lincoln said when he remarked:
“No man is poor who has had a Godly mother.”
But all of the greatest lines about mother or woman, if they are true and great indeed, arise from what the Word of God says of women and mothers:
“And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3.20).
“Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise” (Eph. 6.2).
“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 1.8).
But the Bible not only urges the glory of motherhood and womankind upon us, but also shows them in real life settings with all of their struggles. From Eve and her temptation and fall, to the epic life of Sarah, and the struggles of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. There is Deborah, Esther, and so many more. I think my favorite story of great women of faith in the Old Testament is the story of the mother of the boy who fell in the field from a sunstroke. She cried out to God through Elijah and the boy came back to life. In my mind, as a child when I would sit on my Aunt Eva’s lap and hear that, I imagined that I was a boy and that I had fallen out in the field pulling turnips under the sultry South Louisiana sun. And that Aunt Eva had gone for Dr. Pierce, our pastor at Amite Baptist Church. And He laid on top of me and brought me back to life. I wondered how he could do that, not squash me, and kill me again. But that is the way kids think.
But this morning, let us turn to the New Testament and again to the Gospel of Mark. Mark is no haphazard Gospel. It is of course written by the Holy Spirit who weaves together a remarkable story. Jesus went about healing and he healed those who were outcast¾like the man of the Tombs. And then, in Mark 5, Jesus heals two females.
The incident of Jesus’ healing Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood gives amazing insights in Jesus’ relationship and plans for women.
It is clear from the Word of God, that while Jesus did not have a relationship with women that led to romantic love or marriage, He cherished the role of women. And in seeing this, we are led to cherish the women in our lives.
See what principles this passage has for women.
1. Jesus cherishes women by giving them attention (v. 24 And He went with him [Jairus])
One of the greatest mistakes a father can make with his daughter is to not give her the attention that she needs. Husbands, too, need to show loving attention to their wives. The word “to husband” is an agricultural word meaning to cultivate and care for.
The ancient world did not show proper attention to the role of woman. But in this passage, we will see the careful attention of Jesus, first, to a little girl and then, on the way to her, attention to an older woman. First, see how Jesus leaves all to go to this little girl.
If you are a parent, this is a very moving scene. The synagogue leader, Jairus, has a little girl. The synagogue leader would have been the equivalent to our Clerk of Session perhaps. He would have been a layman, but a man elected by the people to work with the rabbi to oversee the ministry of the synagogue. And this ruler believed in Jesus for he fell before Jesus to heal his little girl. Because of his role in the community, many would have known about this little girl. And Jesus, having healed a man possessed of a demon, now turns his attention to this little girl. With Jesus, it mattered not whether you were a man or woman, He valued your life.
Jesus would show the great value of a woman as He healed them. He would show his value of women as He taught on divorce. When He stood up for the woman caught in adultery, He stood for women in sin who needed forgiveness. He would emphasize the value of a woman’s life as He honored His mother while He hung on the cross.
The doctrinal truth of the coming of Jesus is that Jesus is the greatest liberator of womankind the world has ever known. Jesus, by whom the world and all that is in it was created, made woman. He came to fulfill the prophecies concerning Eve. The first Gospel message in the Bible is that great passage Genesis 3.15:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3.15
And ever since that, the condition of women in the world has been deplorable. She is treated in many ways as a slave in most her history. We cannot deny that even in the higher culture of Jewish civilization in the first century, she had no rights and her testimony was not even counted as worthy in a court of law. And in lower cultures, she existed in utter servitude. If we examine the world today, for instance in Communist China, we see that little has changed. Little girls are aborted in preference to male children. Look in certain cultures in Africa and see the brutal customs perpetrated upon infant females.
But Jesus, as He valued the life of this little girl, values the lives of all women. He came to free women from the oppression of sin and shame. He came to bring God’s great purposes to life in the lives of the women He created.
Today, we boast of how women are treated so much better here than in other places—and it is most certainly true—but we must admit that without Christ, women, in practice, are not valued as they should be in our land. The advertising agencies use women as primarily sensual objects to sell everything from clothing to cars. Her place in popular art is also relegated to the category of sensuality. In certain so called art forms, such as rap, women become not only objects of lust but also objects of brutality.
Make no mistake. In a culture that moves away from Jesus Christ, that culture moves towards barbarism in regard to women as well as children.
Let us follow the model of Jesus. On this Mother’s Day, let us, men, love the wives that God has given us. Let us, children, prize the gifts of our mothers. And women, remember that Jesus Christ values your life. Your life is not defined by Madison Avenue or by Hollywood or by Oprah or by Cosmopolitan—all of which lead you to chains—your life is defined by the love of Jesus Christ for you. As He left to attend to the needs of this little girl, Jesus left heaven to redeem your life. And should you call upon Him now for your life, should a man her call upon Jesus to come and minister to his little girl in her needs, or a wife or a mother, Jesus will not remain in Heaven. He will come, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to the women He made.
Jesus cherishes His precious little girls by going to you and giving you the attention that only your Creator could give. But in this passage, we learn a second way that our Lord cherishes women.
2. Jesus cherishes women by giving them wholeness (v. 34 Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease)
Along the way to heal a little girl, Jesus heals a woman afflicted with an internal bleeding. This condition had affected her for twelve years, had eaten up her finances in seeking cures as she sought healing through many different physicians. But the faith of this woman latches on to Jesus. But there was even more: the woman, according to Levitical law, was unable to be married, and was cut off from the community. It is this woman who says to herself: “If I touch even this garments, I will be made well.” What lessons here for us.
How many women here feel like this woman? I know as a pastor that this old world has brought great pain to women. There is the pain of those who want to marry and cannot. Like this woman, something inside of them is bleeding their heart away. And they too feel ostracized from others. Sometimes the church can be a lonely place for such a woman. There is the woman who is married and longs for a little child. My heart breaks for her and I wish I could personally stand by every abortion clinic and place a child destined for abortion into the arms of these women. I wish I could also speak to those who have gone through abortions to speak Christ’s peace to them. There are widows who are bleeding inside because of loneliness. We are a wounded race, a wounded generation¾and as a Church we are here to speak Christ’s peace and wholeness to women.
But the truth is, like this woman who sought cures before she sought Jesus, some women seek remedy of their pain through isolation, or hatred, or jealousy, or becoming clever on the outside while hemorrhaging on the inside, or through drugs or alcohol, or through bad relationships with men. Maybe you are here today. Perhaps, depleted by all of this, you come today. It was only by God’s grace that you could come. But you are here or you are listening. Today is the day—where you finally see Jesus for who He is: one who is on His way to healing another, is here to heal you—and you see that He values women, loves you as no one can love you—and God unleashes a faith within for you, too, to say, “If only I could touch the hem of His robe! If only I could have the power of this love and grace and supernatural power, forgiveness, wholeness flow from Him to me! Then, all of the pain of the past, all of the lost causes of yesterday, all of the years of self hate, all of the wasted attempts for healing through powerless means would fade like a bad dream under the present weight of His glory!
Today, you need not reach out in desperation, but receive with open hands and heart, in gratitude, the forgiveness, and healing that is yours in Christ Jesus. The one who said to this woman, “Daughter, you faith has made you well…” says “Go in peace and be healed…” to you, right now.
Finally, let us see the end of this amazing story of healing and see how He cherished those least cherished by others in the world.
3. Jesus cherished women by giving them new life (v. 41 Taking her by the hand He said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’”)
Jesus, healing along the way, finally arrives at a pitiful mourning scene over the death of this little daughter of the Manse. She had died. There was much commotion. But Jesus brought calm as He told them, the child is not dead but sleeping. It says they laughed at him.
Do they not laugh today? Doesn’t the world still mock at the truths we profess to be Gospel: That woman’s ultimate healing is in Christ?”
What tenderness is in this scene. Our Savior takes the limp hand of this dead girl and speaks life into her. The strange sounding words may seem to you an incantation from another realm, but they simply mean, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
If I were a woman, this would be the verse that I would cling to when the world puts me down. If I were a little girl in pain over a friend who has betrayed me or from a broken family or from feeling left out, I would trust in my Jesus who comes to me and I would want to listen to His voice say to me, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”. If I were a young woman struggling to emerge from a reputation that I may have even created for myself or a reputation given to me unearned, I would accept the hand of Jesus who comes to me in my condition and I would accept His Word to me: “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” If I were a single woman and the devil and the world and my own dreams battered me because I did not have a husband, I would accept the Lover of My Soul, Jesus Christ, as the first Lord of my life for He says to me, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” If I were to be a woman without a child, like Hannah, and the Penniahs of the world ridiculed me at every turn, if I longed for a child when it seemed the whole world was about motherhood, I would also feel the touch of the Son of God as He lifted me up. For dear sister in Christ, Jesus says to you, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” This, too, is the voice of Jesus to the dear saint of God who has lost the love of her life. God would have you to hear Him speak to you, even as you hold the old photo of your wedding day, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
But I am not you. I am not a woman. But, oh sister or mother, I show you Jesus. He knows. He heals. He gives new life. Go to Him. For in all of these things, Jesus speaks to the little girls, the young women, the married women, the mothers and empty nesters, and the widows of our church and Jesus says to you, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
There is always life abundant and life eternal for women and men and girls and boys in the Lord Jesus. He heals. He saves. He renews. And because He died for us and rose again, the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings new hope and new life:
For those who have never felt the touch of His hand on our dead souls—you feel it and receive Him by faith today’
For those who have known Him, for those who are like the daughter of the synagogue leader, you have had the benefit of the teaching of the Bible, the love of a father in the faith, the love of a home, but something outside of their control and yours has left you distant from God, unable to respond to God or people, today, Jesus Christ offers you new life. He is here. His power can transcend your pain and cause the things that work against you to pour forth new life on you.
This says that the little girl got up and began walking and the people were amazed (v. 42). And my beloved, I pray that God’s Word and His Promises and His Spirit will cause you to leave this place a new woman. I pray that you know that Jesus leaves all to minister to you because He values you as His own creation. Though years have gone by, other means have failed to bring you hope for the wound in your soul, Jesus comes near today to tell you, “Daughter, your faith has made you well…” And every little girl here—whether 9 or 99—will hear the beautiful words of Jesus, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
Let these words of new life transform your life. And that is a word for our women, and men and children.
I want you to all remember this: God met women at the place of her fallenness. It was women who fell first into sin. It was woman who bore God in the flesh and brought salvation into the world. It was woman who saw sin enter the world through being deceived by the devil. It was woman who deceived the devil by being the instrument that brought forward Jesus Christ into the world. And though Mary would weep at the sight of her son on the Cross, she would rejoice at His resurrection. And she would be there on there in prayer, waiting for the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1.14). And she who wept would rejoice as the Spirit of Jesus descended onto those disciples.
In the 1940s, there was a woman who entered Oxford University with little purpose. But I am told that this woman came under the influence of a brilliant professor by the name of CS Lewis. Her mind and her faith were stretched. Her faith in Christ led her first to nursing school and then to medical school, no small task for a woman in that day. Her passion was to be with those who were terminal and to bring the hope of the Gospel to them, to bring the compassion she had known from Jesus Christ to others. Cicely Saunders was that woman. She began a movement that eventually spread over England and came to America. It is called “hospice.” And hospice has been used to bring Christ’s compassion to hundreds of thousands of people.
One woman inspired by the compassion of Christ in her own life can make a great difference.
And today, my beloved, God is at work and through the ministry of women in this very church, prayers are going up for people to be saved, people to be healed, marriages to be restored, and children to grow strong. Today in this church, on this very day, women will teach our children in Sunday School, visit the needy, prepare meals for those who are sick, and mothers will lay hands on their children for salvation, and pray for wayward sons to come home to Christ. In other words, women are still used of God to bring forth salvation in this old sin sick world. And today, those who once were under the curse of sin, are worshipping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And the company of honored women who have been ministered to by Jesus is not over. There are some hearing my voice who do not feel whole, who feel that there is no hope, who may even feel that of all days this is the hardest for they feel wounded and nothing can help. Jesus can help. And will. I pray that you know that He is near, reach out by faith and hear Him say to you, “Daughter, be made well…” And if you do not have enough strength to even reach out to Him, then be of good cheer. The Christ who healed the little girl, the woman who touched the hem of His robe, is the Christ who died and rose again and touches us today. He will come to you. He will reach out to you, take your hand, and say to you:
“Daughter, be made well.”
“Little girl, arise.”
And what great thing comes after that only God knows.