- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

The following are excerpts of a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Charles Nalls at the Parish of Christ the King in the District.

In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St. Mark, we find our Lord on His way to answer the plea of Jairus, an official of the synagogue whose 12-year-old daughter was close to death. Along the way, He is surrounded, swarmed by a crowd. What were those people thinking about Jesus when they pressed upon Him in the streets of that little village? It is clear from the story that most of them were there for the wrong reasons.

They thought they might see a miracle, so they went along with Him in the hope that He would do something remarkable. However, because Jesus never liked putting on a show for anyone, He sent almost the whole crowd out of Jairus’ house when He got there.

When Jesus did raise the little girl, He did so behind closed doors with only a few witnesses. So, what did they get to see that day, then, since they had been shut out at the climactic moment?

In the press of the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Because of her affliction, she was ritually unclean, so that she had no business being in that crowd. According to the law of Moses, everyone she touched became ritually unclean, at that moment, and everyone those people touched became ritually unclean, and so on and so on.

It is pretty clear that the woman pressing herself into that crowd to reach Jesus meant that everyone in that whole swirling mass was ritually unclean and would have to go through the whole process of ritual washings before they could function normally again. She was taking an awful risk to get to Jesus that day, but she did it because she was certain that He could help her.

This is one of the most important stories in the New Testament for coming to a full understanding of what the Church proclaims and believes about Jesus. In this story, like the woman who grabbed hold of Jesus and the people in the crowd around her, we are, unexpectedly, confronted not just with the Jesus we can see, but with Jesus as He really is.

As Jesus walked through that village street, everyone in the crowd jostled Him and everyone stepped on His feet and on everyone else’s feet. Everyone was touching everyone else, but only the woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus’ divinity. Because she reached out and touched Him, intentionally, with her heart full of faith and trust, she touched an aspect of Him that was not available to anyone else in that crowd.

The incarnation is the presence of God on Earth in the midst of His creation, reaching out to us to save us since we cannot reach out to Him over the gulf of sin we have dug between us. But the incarnate son of God only makes contact with those who reach out, with faith, to touch Him.

Though Jesus was human, like all the others in the crowd (How could they doubt it as they trod on His feet?), He was also something more; infinitely more. Many times throughout His life, Jesus would appear differently to the eyes of those who followed Him than He would to those who opposed Him, but never do we see so clearly why that was so as we do in this story.

The miracle the woman experienced, the miracle of needing God’s help and having it given to you right when you need it, was not offered to her differently than it was to others. Anyone in that crowd who had the proper faith and need could have reached out and touched Jesus and felt the power of God surge through him. No one did, except for her, because all the others lacked her need and her faith.

This story is not just a historical tale. Its lessons still apply to us today. We still live in a world in which we can come into contact with Jesus, both human and divine. This can happen in many ways.

In a few minutes, we will come forward to receive the sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood in the Holy Communion.

To those who reach out their hands or open their mouths to receive the body and blood of the Son of God, it will be the body and blood of the Son of God. They recognize the presence of Christ among them in His sacrament.

God was present in the world in that village as Jesus, and Jesus will be present in the world, inside this church, in the bread and the wine. We touch Christ as the woman in the crowd touched Him.

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