Picture the scene. Feel the desperation.


Jairus is a man accustomed to having things his way, I’m sure – A man of status, and privilege, and cultural and religious power, but when he’s faced with the prospect of impending death, he knows he is powerless. Worse yet, it’s not even his own death, but the death of his child. Is there anything worse for a parent than to have a child taken from them?


Picture the scene. Feel the desperation.


Jairus’ friends encouraged him, or maybe he had heard of or seen Jesus himself, but he knows, somehow, if there’s any hope of defeating death, if there’s any hope of his being reunited with his daughter, that hope lies in Jesus. And so he goes, and he falls at Jesus’ feet, begging for help. Please, just come and touch her so that she might be made well and live. You have the power to reunite me with this daughter who has been taken from me.


Of course, I’ve chosen to use this language deliberately, in order to make a statement about power, and who has it, and how it’s used, and misused. This man will do anything not to lose his child, and so he goes to beseech the one who has the power to effect change.


Yesterday I gathered with hundreds of our neighbors in Asbury Park, and I know that other members of this congregation did so with their neighbors in Red Bank, to publically speak out against the dangers of exclusion, and the brutal practices of family detention and family separation. And, I don’t know, maybe you think that it’s okay what’s going on in our immigration system, but I don’t. And a growing number of my more conservative friends have even begun speaking out against the more extreme aspects of it, as well. For example, Peter Koenig, one with whom I often have clear disagreements, when I said recently that I had no words to describe my feelings about some of the immigration related events this past week, specifically the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Muslim Ban, Peter told me, and I quote: “No Words? Speak, and loudly.”


Desperate times call for desperate measures, people say. Well, Jairus found himself in a desperate time, and he took the desperate measure of reaching out to Jesus for help – Jesus, whom the religious authorities had already labeled as deserving death, because he was a rule-breaker, a law-breaker – Jairus a member of that same religious authority, reaches out to this law breaker for help.


Picture the scene. Feel the desperation.


As Jesus is going along with Jairus, and a large crowd is following to see what might happen, a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years, a woman who couldn’t find any help, but had gone broke dealing with a broken medical care system, reaches out in her desperation and touches Jesus’ cloak. You see, there was a belief at the time that when Messiah came there would be healing power in the fringe of his garment, and it’s this that the woman touches – doing so as an act of faith, as a way of declaring that she believes Jesus to be God’s Messiah. And she’s immediately healed.


Only, she’s broken the law. Women were not to touch men. Bleeding women, in particular, were not to touch men, but to live in quarantine, essentially, each month during their menstrual cycle. But this poor woman had been bleeding for 12 years!


Picture the scene. Feel the desperation.


People will go to extreme lengths to save themselves from extreme threats. This woman risks further cultural and religious sanction by what she does, but she does it because she’s desperate for help, desperate to be saved, to be delivered from her situation. She’ll even risk breaking the law.


Picture the scene.

Feel the desperation of a mother living in a country where the rule of law has been weakened to the point that gangs are now effectively in control. And a gang comes to this mother saying we want your teenage daughter for our gang, meaning she’ll be initiated into the gang by being gang raped by its members, and she’s told that if she doesn’t hand over her daughter, then the gang is going to kill the entire family, and make her watch. What’s a mother to do? Desperate times call for desperate measures, even to the point of risking breaking the law.


Does Jesus reject the woman with the 12 year hemorrhage? I mean, she broke the law! Does he reject her for it? Of course not! Does he say: “Well, you broke the law, you’ve got to pay the penalty. Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time!” Of course not! He calls her “daughter.” He commends her faith, and he sends her off in peace, having been healed of her disease.


Picture the scene. Feel the desperation.


Jairus must have been flipping out! “Why the delay? What about my daughter? Why are you wasting time and energy on this law breaker? I got to you first! My daughter is innocent! Isn’t my innocent daughter more important than this law breaker?” I know that’s how I’d feel if I were Jairus and Jillian was dying!


And word comes: “It’s too late. Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”


Picture the scene. Feel the desperation!


Ah, but death doesn’t have the final word! Evil does not win the day! “Do not fear, only believe!” Jesus says, and then he does, perhaps, the most surprising thing of all. Jesus becomes a law breaker, right there in the house of the leader of the synagogue. Jesus reaches out, and takes the hand of the dead girl in his own hand, and tells her to get up!


A man touching a woman, or a girl, much like a woman touching a man, was not allowed.


A person touching a corpse, a dead body, made that person ritually unclean. But Jesus reaches out, and in compassion, in love, in response to the desperate need of this neighbor, makes himself unclean. He breaks the law.


Picture the scene. Feel the relief that comes with, and in, and through compassion.


The girl is alive! The woman is healed! Lives are restored and renewed! Everything is turned on its head!


The One who was rich, for the sake of those in desperate need, made himself poor, so that by his poverty, they might become rich.


The One who was without sin, for the sake of those caught in sin and death, made himself sin for us, so that we might become the very righteousness of God. There was no length to which Jesus wouldn’t go, even to the breaking of God’s own law, in order to deal in love and compassion with those in desperate need. And it is this example that we, as God’s Baptized people, have promised to follow. These are not just words that we speak around Baptisms. These are promises we make before God and one another, and that we promise to support and uphold one another in keeping.


We don’t have to picture the scene, or imagine the desperation from stories recorded 2000 years ago.


The scenes continue to play out in our culture every day. Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear? And if so, what will we do about it? May God help us as those who are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, empowering us by the Spirit to live ever more fully into our baptismal identity, following the example of Jesus as we strive for justice and peace in all the earth.  Amen.