Jesus Changed the Needy—not the Nazarenes (Mark 5:21-6:6)
We are a bunch of needy people. We need oxygen. We need food—certain kinds of food too. Vitamins, protein, potassium, fiber, and donuts. We need exercise. We need water. We need warmth—but not too much. We need shelter. Without these things, we will probably die very shortly. And these are just the average physical stuff! Many of us are dealing with some other weighty needs.
We need a new car or a new kidney. We need a second chance with our spouse and we need a second opinion on the cancer diagnosis. We need freedom from addiction and freedom from the abuser. We all have weights that hang on our shoulders every day—we call these things “needs.”
The two people we’ll look at today both had some serious needs. The first was the ruler of the synagogue—a type of lay “elder” who would arrange services at the village’s synagogue (the Jewish version of a local church). This guy was important. But even he could not escape a desperate need. Because his little daughter was at the point of death. Your heart would break for this man if you saw him, in all his importance, fall prostrate before Jesus and beg for His help. None of his fame, his popularity, or his success could help him now. His daughter was about to die—so he found the only One Who could help. And Jesus felt this man’s pain—and decided to go with him to his house to see this poor dying child. The man rushed him off down the street, with the hordes of people trailing along.
It’s then that this hurried parade stumbles upon our second needy person. Her condition almost seems worse. She has a discharge of blood—which means that inside her body she was continually bleeding out, perhaps from some tumor. Back in the ancient world it wasn’t like they had medical schools or cancer centers. But the woman went to every doctor she could find. For twelve long years she had traveled up and down ancient Palestine, looking for someone to meet her need. She took every coin she had and spent it all up with every village physician who claimed to be able to cure her with some “local remedy.” She tried the “healing pools.” She tried the “herbal remedy.” She even tried the Temple—maybe God would have mercy on her as she touched those sacred stones. But no…the cold marble was as lifeless as she was becoming. Every day that passed she felt more strength leave her. She was not getting better…rather, she was getting worse.
Then she heard about the Teacher. Maybe He could help her. But when she found Him, he was in the midst of a thick crowd, marching off to help some important guy. Who was she to barge in and demand healing? But she had to at least try.
Even if I just touch his garments, I will be made well, she thought to herself. She had faith that this Man was different from every other physician. He could cure the incurable. So she positioned herself on the side of the street and waited for Him to pass by with the ruler. Then, she jumped into the stream of people and waded her way over toward the Teacher. In her weakness, she nearly toppled over several times, but she summoned what little strength was left and leapt the remaining two yards.
There! She managed to get a fistful of His long cloak, but only for a second. She released it and sat upright as the people waded past her angrily. Something was different inside her. She could feel it. There was no more pain—no more constant aches and nausea. The flowing of blood had been stopped by a flowing of power through the Man’s clothes!
The Teacher stopped.
“Who touched my clothes?”
His followers frowned. “Look at all these people around you—why did you ask, ‘who touched Me?’”
But the Teacher ignored them and turned around…to make eye-contact with the woman. And smile at her.
She felt fear. She wanted to shrink away and not be seen. But He knew. He knew she had touched Him. So she, with trembling, stumbled to His feet and said, “I touched your garment.”
But He only smiled at her.
“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Before the Teacher could even finish, the needs of the other guy—the ruler—came back up. For into the crowd came a messenger from the ruler’s house, saying, “Your daughter is dead! Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
Jesus stepped between the confrontational messenger and the shocked father and pushed the bringer-of-bad-news away. So much for breaking it gently. He grabbed the ruler’s shoulders and brought him to reality.
“Do not fear—only believe!”
Believe!? Believe what!? That everything would turn out right? No way! His daughter—just a young girl, innocent—was dead. Struck down in her vulnerability. The joy of her father—now gone. How could he believe…?
Jesus dismissed the crowd and even most of His disciples and hurried the man to his house. When they arrived, the mourners were already there. In Jewish style, they were making a racket over the death of this little girl. But Jesus did not have time for that. “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
Some of the mourners gasped, while others chuckled. Is this guy crazy? We weren’t born yesterday—we saw the girl! She’s obviously dead! What is that Man even doing here? Oof!
Jesus pushed them out too, leaving only Peter, James, and John, plus the dad and mom of the little girl. Grasping the mother in one hand and the father in the other, He led the weeping parents into the child’s room. There she lay, pale…lifeless. The parents lost control and huddled in despair. The disciples felt awkward. Why was Jesus doing this? Sure, He had healed plenty of sick people—but raise a child back to life?! Ludicrous! What is He doing now…He’s going to grab this dead girl’s hand? He’ll be unclean!
Jesus looks at the little girl, an innocent face without breath, and says,
And that dead girl…took a breath. And so did her parents. They lit up and ran to their reawakened child. The girl got up and danced around the room with her father and kissed her mother. Jesus laughed at the merriment of the scene.
Peter’s jaw was still on the floor when they left. But Jesus hurried them on with the rest of His disciples. He had to go back…back to His hometown of Nazareth. He had work to do there too…
What a contrast to what had just happened! In one place, Jesus had solved two desperately needy situations. But back home in Nazareth…He couldn’t do any of that. As He taught in the synagogue He had grown up in, the people were more focused on His upbringing—son of Mary, brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon—than on His unrivaled power. They couldn’t move their minds off of Jesus the Nazarene to Jesus the new King. They didn’t believe.
On the one hand, the woman and the ruler had intense faith. They were both desperately needy and came to Jesus to meet that need. He was the only One Who could. And He did—He changed their lives with His power. Blood was stopped. Death came back to life. Just a few miles away, however, He received none of that belief. The people still thought of Him as a Carpenter and not as a Changemaker.
How about you? How do you see Jesus? Do you have a lesser view of Him than what you should? He is the all-powerful God of the Universe. It’s time we treat Him as such. He has all you need to meet every need of your heart. He can change your neediness into new life. Are you going to have faith in Him to bring your need to Him…or are you going to be so comfortable with Him, so familiar with His story that you just sit back and pretend He’s just an everyday carpenter with no bearing on your life?
We are all needy for something. But above all, what we are really needy for…is the Nazarene.