|09 - Jairus' Daughter & Hemorrhaging Woman, Nov 4, 2012|
What we call Jesus’ miracles are actually called signs and wonders in the Greek of the NT. They inspire wonder because they show an authority Jesus has over nature and the laws by which nature works. But the wonders that Jesus performs are not to dazzle us. They are signs; they signify something.
It’s not hard to see that the miracles, the wonders that Jesus performs in this morning’s Gospel – raising Jairus’ daughter to life and healing the hemorrhaging woman, whose hemorrhaging was, in effect, a dying – signify the wonder of His Pascha. Their significant connection to Christ’s Holy Pascha therefore signifies that Christ’s Holy Pascha is for the healing and the raising up to eternal life of all mankind. God the Word destroyed the power of death not for Himself but for us.
Filled with wonder, those who witnessed Jesus’ miracles were inspired to give glory and praise to God. But we should be inspired to give glory and praise even more than they; for, we know who Jesus is. The people did not. They thought He was a prophet. But we know that He is the Lord’s Christ, the Word of God, timelessly begotten of the Father before all ages.
This morning, let’s step back and reflect not so much on the miracles that Jesus performs in this morning’s Gospel, but on the wonder of Jesus Himself, and what the simple fact that He performs these miracles signifies.
The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the heavenly temple. He saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. The temple, he says, was full of His glory. Around Him stood seraphim who cried out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” From the beginning, biblical faith has confessed that this Lord whom Isaiah saw, whose glory filled the temple of heaven, whose holiness fills heaven and earth, whom the cherubim and seraphim and heavenly powers worship without end is the same Lord who created heaven and earth, who led Israel out of Egypt, and was born of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit and who died on the cross and rose again on the third day. This Lord is Jesus who raises Jairus’ daughter and heals the hemorrhaging woman in this morning’s Gospel.
In Isaiah’s vision, the Lord sends one of the seraphim to the prophet Isaiah. He touches Isaiah’s lips with a live coal taken from the altar of the heavenly temple, and says: “Lo, this has touched your lips. It takes away all your sins. It removes all your iniquities.” (Isa 6:1-7) The live coal, of course, is the mystery of the Church’s Holy Eucharist. It is a heavenly prefiguring of the Lord’s Incarnation, when the Lord becomes flesh and dwells among us.
The prophet, Ezekiel writes of a vision in which he saw the same Lord of Glory seen by Isaiah riding a chariot of cherubim. From the beginning, the Church recognizes the Lord whom Ezekiel saw as Jesus, as He was before His Incarnation. The chariot signifies the soul (cf. St Macarius the Egyptian, 3rd century, Homily I). Ezekiel was seeing in his vision the Lord of Glory in the mystery of His Incarnation, when He would take to Himself a human soul and body to become man and to dwell among us as one of us.
This Incarnation of the Lord, God becoming flesh and dwelling among us, seen in the prophets’ visions is the wonder behind all the wonders of Jesus’ miracles or signs: the wonder of the Heavenly Lord of Glory emptying Himself and taking on the form of a servant, and becoming obedient to the Father even to the point of death on the cross.
St Peter, for example, records what he and James and John saw on the holy mountain: “We were eyewitnesses of His Splendor. For, He received from God the Father honor and glory (the same glory that was His in Heaven, which the prophets saw in their visions) when the voice came to Him from the Exceedingly Great Glory and said: “This My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased! We heard this voice when we were with Him on the holy mountain [of His Transfiguration].” (II Pt 1:16-18) And, St John the Evangelist writes: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His Glory, Glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth….No one has ever seen God the Father at any time [even the angels dare not gaze at Him, so great is the glory of His majesty]. The only-begotten God who was in the bosom of the Father, He [Jesus Christ] has made Him known.” (Jn 1:14 & 18) The significance of these NT testimonies is that they proclaim that Jesus is Himself the Lord seen by the prophets in their visions of the Heavenly Temple.
St Paul in his letter to the Hebrews calls Jesus the effulgence, the outpouring radiance of the glory and character of the Father’s very being, through whom He made the ages. (Heb 1:2-3) In his letter to the Colossians, he calls Him the icon of the invisible God, in whom all things were created both in heaven and on earth, things visible and things invisible. (Col 1:15ff.) Apart from Him, nothing was made, writes St John. (Jn 1:3)
These are examples of the biblical witness to Jesus as the Lord God who dwells in unapproachable light, who sits enthroned in the heavens from eternity. As God of all, He is all-powerful and absolutely free. He does whatever He wants to do; and He does nothing that He doesn’t want to do.
The Psalmist saw this, and it filled Him with dread and wonder when he turned to contemplate man: “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” he says. The great patriarch, Abraham, cried out before Him, “I am but dust and ashes!” Isaiah cried out when he saw Him in His Heavenly Temple: “Woe is me, for I am undone! I am a sinful man with unclean lips in the midst of a people of unclean lips!” So, when St Peter falls down before Jesus and cries out: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!”, or when St Thomas falls to his knees in the presence of the risen Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” we see the biblical proclamation that this Jesus who was crucified, dead and buried, and who rose again, is the same Lord of Glory seen by the patriarchs and the prophets of the OT.
This brings us to the point I invite you to ponder this morning: Why would this Lord of Glory become flesh and blood, so that we see Him, as we see Him in this morning’s Gospel, always submitting to the pleas of those who are sick and in need? He is Master of all, yet His life in the flesh seems not to be His own. Always, it seems, His daily agenda is set not by Himself but by those who come to Him that day for healing. Jairus comes to Him while He is on the way and falls at His feet, asking Him to come save his daughter. Without hesitation, the Lord drops what He was doing and follows Jairus back to his house. Meanwhile, a woman with a flow of blood elbows her way through the crowd to touch just the hem of His garment, and is healed. He stops and turns to her not to scold her for touching Him without asking, but to send her away not only healed, but forgiven of her sins and in the peace that He gives to her!
Why has He become flesh and blood? Why does He give Himself to those who are sick and in need? He doesn’t have to. He is free. He is all-powerful. He doesn’t have to do what He doesn’t want to do.
And so, it is self-evident that He became flesh and blood, that He was obedient to the Father even to the point of enduring the agony and shame of the Cross, because He wants to. For, as God, the Lord is love; and, as love, He wants to heal us. More than that, He wants to forgive us our sins. But, even more than that, He wants to destroy the death that is the consequence of our sin, and that separates us from Him. This love of the Lord, in which He voluntarily becomes flesh and endures the agony of the Cross for our salvation because He wants to: this is the wonder that all His miracles signify! Who of us can begin even to imagine the depths of this love of God that was revealed before our eyes in the sacred and fearsome mystery of His Holy Cross? There is a reason why the Church describes the love of Christ Our Savior as inexpressible, unspeakable, as an unfathomably abyss, even deeper than the abyss of nothing from which He called us into being.
Look again and contemplate the wonder borne witness to in this morning’s Gospel, the wonder of the Lord of Glory emptying Himself and becoming flesh to dwell among us, the Master of all taking on the form of a servant to give Himself to us in love and compassion to us who were dead in our sins and trespasses. Now, we see why Jesus went with Jairus without hesitation. He loved Jairus’ daughter. Now, we understand why He didn’t scold the hemorrhaging woman. He loved her. In tenderness and compassion, He raises Jairus’ daughter to life and gives to the hemorrhaging woman not only the healing of her sickness, but the forgiveness of her sins and His peace.
This Lord of Glory who is the God of inexpressible love: This is the Jesus whom we worship as Christ, Our Lord, Our God, and Our Savior. I think if we ponder this deeply in faith, we’ll find it to be the remedy that heals us of our pride, our vanity, our conceit that make us sick unto death, and transform our inner life with the wonder of Eucharistic thanksgiving, giving praise and glory to Christ Our God, the Lord of Glory. Amen.