Several years ago I woke up with a stiff neck. So what? Just move around the bedroom and kitchen a little more carefully when you get your morning coffee and all should be well. I said to myself. I managed this, but everyone in the family knew that something was amiss. "You should get that looked at," the people in my life said, with concern furrowed in their faces. Ah well. There was too much on the schedule. There were people that could not be let down....places to go and things to do. Just suck it up and put on a brave face, I thought. Well, the brave face worked for a while. But a few days later I woke up and knew that if I moved my head left or right even a fraction, I'd be in excruciating pain. Now that I at last recognized that I had needed a doctor all along, I realized too late that just GETTING to the doctor would require a major effort! As the great C. S. Lewis once said, "Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Though deaf, for a while, to God's whisper of my own limitations, the message came through loud and clear when I ruefully agreed with the people around me that a brave face wouldn't cut it. I needed a doctor. And I needed one NOW.
The text for this Sunday is all about people who know that a brave face isn't enough. First there was a religious leader who abased himself before Jesus (the text tells us he threw himself down at Jesus' feet, 5:22) because his daughter was near death and he needed help. Then there was a woman who had been suffering from some sort of internal bleeding for twelve years. The cures that ordinary doctors had attempted seemed to have only made matters worse. She went running after Jesus, certain that if she could only touch his garment without anyone noticing, she would be healed. And she was. But when confronted by Jesus, and after she had confessed what she had done, she is not rebuked but commended for her faith. She receives the gentle and freeing command to "go in peace" (34). Should we be tempted to conclude that faith is everything, the story of the religious leader ends with an outcome that his faith never imagined. Not only does Jesus go to the religious leader's house to restore this man's daughter...the work Jesus would accomplish in her was not only to restore her from a physical illness but to raise her lifeless body from the dead. Jesus is the healer of both body and soul.
This week has been Vacation Bible School week at Trinity. What joy to see the spirit of Life in the children of our community as they sing songs and learn about the love of Jesus, the Great Physician of the soul, while making friends and having fun! Which makes me wonder: At what point do we stop approaching our Great Physician with the wonder, awe, and unabashed helplessness of small children? Can we all (little kids and big kids alike) just take a moment and admit that we don't have it all together...that we need a Doctor, that all of us (Christians and non-Christians alike) continue to need Someone to rescue us from the brokenness of sin and the mistaken notion that we are self-sufficient and self-improving? Jesus came not for the "healthy," but those who are sick. The message of our Savior and friend to all who know their need is this: "Go in peace." May that peace that passes all understanding bring us and all patients of the Great Physician Life again, this week.