Compassion in CommunityPastor Lutzer | September 22, 2013
Selected highlights from this sermon
Jesus loved outcasts. He represented the compassion of God, especially to the woman who struggled for twelve years with continuous bleeding. With only a touch, the faith-filled woman was completely healed. Jesus’ powerful presence was life-transforming.
We too are transformed by the presence and message of Jesus Christ. We are to continue His work, breaking protocol to reach the unclean and disreputable. With faith in Christ, anyone can be healed and restored into a right relationship with God.
In the New Testament you discover that Jesus loved outcasts. He was always looking for the marginalized. He was looking for those who were poor, those who had no support system. Jesus Christ represents the compassion of God.
This is the second in a two-part series on the compassion of Jesus, and I am preaching it so that first of all we might go out looking for those who need compassion, hope and help and forgiveness and restoration, and that we might be the first to do it. But I’m also preaching this for another reason, and that is that I hope that as a community of believers here at the Moody Church we might understand that it’s not enough simply to attend services, to sing the songs, to enjoy the worship, but to leave here with our lives representing Jesus Christ wherever He plants us because the world is broken. All of the wells are dry and people are looking for hope and help, and that’s what we are called to do.
As a matter of fact, in some sense I hope that this continues to remind us of what the promise statement is at Moody Church. I don’t mention it often enough, not nearly often enough. It’s fourteen words. “Moody Church is a trusted place where anyone can connect with God and others.” May it ever be so that we can connect here together.
The story that I’m going to draw to your attention today is found in Mark 5. Turn to Mark 5. It’s a beautiful story of three miracles. First of all, the demoniac! Jesus confronts the evil spirits and you know that story all too well. Jesus Christ totally triumphs over the kingdoms of darkness and Jesus still has the very same authority today. You can count on it.
And then we have another story about a man named Jairus in Mark 5:21. Jesus crossed again into the boat to the other side, and this man, a ruler of the synagogue, comes, falls at His feet and says, “My daughter is dying. Please come immediately.” So Jesus is on His way to the house of Jairus, and it’s on His way that He is interrupted by the story of this woman that we want to concentrate on today. It’s really the story of two different people in need. On the one hand what you have is a chronically ill woman – twelve years in her condition, and you have that up against a child who is very ill as well, and about to die.
And of course there are other contrasts. You know, the child was twelve years old. This woman had the issue of blood, a discharge for twelve years. One was more prominent. After all, he was the ruler of the synagogue. This was his daughter, whereas the other was an outcast, a woman marginalized by society. And Jesus stops and accepts the interruption.
I don’t know about you but I don’t like interruptions too well. When I am going to some place I like to just go. Rebecca knows that when it comes to going to an airport, for example, I obsess about being there on time. I guess it’s just because I don’t want to be known as the late Erwin Lutzer (laughter) at least as long as I live.
Jesus accepts the interruption. He isn’t too busy for people, and that leads us to our story. I’m going to pick it up there in verse 25. “And a great crowd followed him and thronged about Him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.”
Let’s just stop there for a moment, and we’ll pick it up at verse 27 in a moment. Let’s look at this woman with three different descriptions, three different ways to describe her experience.
First of all, she was a woman in great need. Think about it for a moment. Twelve years with this discharge of blood! Think of how anemic and weak she must have felt, and here she is. She’s a woman who not only is weak but she is poor because she spent all of her money on physicians. And it is very clear that they not only did not make her any better, but they actually made her worse. And she did not have an HMO or anything like that to appeal to, or an attorney to try to set the record straight however right or wrong that would be in our society.
But the point was here was a woman who was under duress and in poverty. We can only imagine what these ancient physicians might have suggested or might have done, but the only things is, she grew worse and not better. So she was a woman who very clearly was in great need. She had continual bleeding, poverty, and then something else that you and I don’t understand very well. She was ceremonially unclean.
Now I’m going to read some verses from Leviticus 15. I know that all of us struggle with the book of Leviticus, and we try to fit things in and somehow we can’t relate, but this is the environment in which she grew up. She very probably was unable to read but the rabbis were able to read, and they would instruct the people and they read the Scripture so often that oftentimes many people who couldn’t read even were able to recite them.
But this is what it says in Leviticus 15. It says that if a woman has a discharge of blood many days, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness. And then it goes on to say that every bed she sits on, and every chair she sits on is rendered unclean. And then it goes on to talk specifically about the situation where the bleeding doesn’t stop, and it says that she continues in her uncleanness.
This does not have anything to do with moral uncleanness because it’s not a matter of morality, but it is a ceremonial uncleanness. It seems as if in the Old Testament all the discharges of the body are considered to be unclean because they are a way in which we give off our life. And of course, the larger picture is this. God wants people to understand as you read the rest of the book of Leviticus that to come into His presence you have to come the right way. All of the priests had to be ceremonially cleansed before they could come into God’s presence. And today we recognize that you always have to go to God in His way. And thankfully, and I said this to Dr. Michael Rydelnik on the phone yesterday as I was discussing this passage, “Thank God we live in New Testament times and not Old Testament times.” Are you happy about that? I hope so. (applause)
Now, the point though is that everything she touched became unclean. Strictly speaking she should not have been in this crowd. Did the people of the town know about it? Of course they knew about it. You know I once read that in a little town there isn’t much to see but what you hear makes up for it and I am sure it does. And so everybody talked about this woman. She had mentioned it to her friends that she was a woman who was unclean and there she was in the crowd – a woman in great need.
There’s a second description. She had a very humble faith. I’m going to pick it up now in verse 27 where I left off just a moment ago. And notice what the text says. “She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even His garments, I will be made well.’ And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” I’ll take it just that far for a moment but keep the text open.
Notice this woman first of all was anemic, incurable, destitute, untouchable, almost certain unmarried because during that period of time if a woman had a discharge like this there was to be no intimate relationships with her husband. She probably lived alone. She probably didn’t have any children, and here she hears whispers of a man by the name of Jesus. And she hears that He’s not your average rabbi. He’s not going to say to her, “Now Lady, don’t you dare touch Me because you are unclean, and don’t you recognize that I am clean? I am cleansed.” He was not that kind of a man, she had heard.
Furthermore, there were these rumors that were circulating that He was indeed a healer. He could actually heal people. So let’s just imagine for a moment what her strategy was. She said to herself, “I’m going to sneak up secretly. There are all of these throngs that are surrounding Jesus. I’m going to sneak up and I’m just going to touch Him, and after I touch Him I’m going to disappear into the crowd and nobody will even know about it. But if I so much as touch Him, I will be made whole.
Mark doesn’t put it this way but Luke does. Luke actually says that she said in her mind, “If I could but touch the edge of His garment – the tassel of His garment; if I could touch (as the old song goes) the hem of His garment, I will be made clean.”
Now what happened was the rabbis would wear a certain garment with tassels, and it represented their commitment to the Law. It represented the fact that they needed to be reminded of the fact that they were representing the Law and were ceremonially clean and were keeping themselves from contaminated people and contaminated events that would render them impure.
So there she is. She is saying to herself, “If I could touch one of those tassels of His garment, just the very edge, I will be made whole.” So this woman does that and she touches the hem of His garment – a tassel – something like a part of a prayer shawl. She was a woman of great humble faith.
But there’s a third description now and that’s life-transforming in the presence of Jesus. The lives of everybody Jesus was involved with were changed. Let’s read the rest of the story.
“And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power had gone out from Him, immediately (Mark by the way loves that word immediately; everything for Mark is immediate.) turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’ And His disciples said to Him, ‘You see the crowd pressing around You, and yet You say, “Who touched me?”’ And He looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’”
What an amazing story of the power of Christ and grace! But let’s break it down. First of all, you notice that she knew that she was healed. There was something in that touch that made her realize that the flow of blood finally, after twelve long years, ended. She felt new vigor. She knew that she was healed.
Jesus turns around and says, “Who touched Me?” And the disciples correctly say, “Master, You are being jostled by the crowd. You are being pushed. You are being shoved. There are people around You and You are saying, ‘Who touched Me?’ You’ve been touched for the last 15 or 20 minutes trying to get through this crowd.” And Jesus said, “Oh no, I know that somebody touched Me. Some virtue, some power (the text says) has gone out of Me.” Wow! That causes us to pause for a moment. Jesus, King of kings, and Lord oflords– a woman touches Him and He loses power.
I think that this is an indication of the cross. It’s anticipating the cross because there on the cross of Jesus Christ He is going to become weak that you and I might be made strong, and here Jesus is letting this woman know in advance, “I will take upon Myself your weakness, but you receive My strength.” So Jesus said, “Some power has gone out. I know that somebody touched Me in a very special way.” And so He’s looking for her and she is discovered. He looked around to see who had done it but the woman, knowing what happened to her, came in fear and trembling. She bows before Him and tells Him the whole truth.
By the way, why do we think that we know that she had this discharge for 12 years, and why do you think that we know that she spent all of her money on doctors? It’s because the Bible says there that she told Him the whole truth. The disciples were listening to her story and that’s why they wrote about it in the New Testament and told us exactly the kind of experience she had had during the past 12 years. She tells Him everything. Luke makes it very clear that she told everybody around why she touched Him, and what her problem was.
Why did Jesus call her out? Why didn’t He just let her go back into the crowd as she intended so that she could leave with anonymity and nobody would know what happened? Does Jesus call her out to shame her? Does He call her out to embarrass her? Does He call her out because after all she violated some protocol because she should never come to a man without a husband on her side, and furthermore, for her as an unclean woman to touch the hem of a garment of a clean man? Is that what He does? Jesus never does it that way. What Jesus was trying to say in this context is this – the opposite. “I want to exalt you. I want to validate you.”
Look at the beauty of the words. First of all, daughter! She’s not been called that before, and by the way, in no other story does Jesus ever call somebody daughter in this way. Now later on He’ll talk about “daughter, arise,” but He’s speaking about it as a daughter in relationship to her parents. But here daughter! What that means is not only was she healed as Jesus indicated, which was beautiful enough, but something else happened, namely her sins were forgiven. She was now a daughter of the most-high God, and Jesus was saying, “Now you can be integrated into society. You don’t have to be embarrassed anymore. Your uncleanness has been made clean. Go in peace as a daughter of God.” It’s just like Jesus to take the outcasts to encourage them, and to give them hope and status. And the woman leaves, changed forever.
And then Jesus goes on and He heals the child. You remember Jairus comes to Him now and is upset with Jesus, taking out all that time with that woman. He sends a delegation saying the child died, and we don’t have time to go into that story but it’s interesting that some of the translations say that Jesus disregarded what they said and went in and then raised her from the dead. Do you ever have to disregard what other people say and just go ahead and do God’s will anyway? That’s what Jesus did.
But why should this story that I’ve told you about today transform us? What are the implications for us as believers, the implications for the Moody Church? Let me give you three transforming lessons.
First of all, we are called to continue the work of Jesus. You say, “Well, where is that in the text?” Whenever I preach you should always ask that question. Where is that in the text? It’s not here exactly, but do you remember how the book of Acts begins? “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach….” Jesus began the work and the whole book of Acts is the continuation of His work on earth and you and I are a continuation of that work.
Now it’s true that I can’t speak the Word and heal someone. I can’t go into a room where there is a dead daughter and raise her from the dead and I don’t think you can either, and I don’t think those kinds of miracles are happening today because as I explained last time, when Jesus was offering the kingdom to the nation there were all of these miracles that accompanied them. And furthermore, Jesus healed these people but there are many other people that were left apparently unhealed as they surrounded Him.
But there is something that we can do that is not quite as spectacular but just as important. Dare I say it’s more important in the physical healing? And that is to be able to represent a compassionate Jesus to a world that has lost hope, and to let them know that Jesus receives sinners, and Jesus Christ’s grace is poured out upon His people. And now we represent Him wherever we go, not just in church but also in every single environment we are dispensers of grace.
I want to say that I am so greatly encouraged by the women here at the Moody Church. Many of you know that they have a great burden regarding sex trafficking – human trafficking. And they’ve already begun plans and they are working toward certain programs, and we are going to see how that is all going to turn out because this is a long process. But we have women here at the Moody Church who actually go to the streets of Chicago and speak to prostitutes and pray with them and encourage them and let them know that there is a God in heaven who cares about them, and a God in heaven who is willing to forgive and to restore. In a world that has lost its way we need to distribute to as many people as we meet the compassion of Jesus who cares about the outcasts, the marginalized, the poor and the rejected. Let that ever be true of us.
There is a second lesson and that is that we must always exalt Jesus as the healer who touches the world and Himself remains uncontaminated. You know I think the big thing about this story is that when that woman touched the tassels of Jesus He did not become unclean. Other rabbis might have and Jesus, of course, wasn’t a rabbi in the classical sense. Others might have but not Jesus. You see, Jesus cleansed people with His touch but He Himself was not contaminated with that touch. He is, after all, the Son of God, the King of kings, and the Holy One of Israel.
You know, you read the New Testament and you discover that the woman, of course, broke with protocol. She should never have touched Jesus. It wasn’t a sin to do it, but it was contrary to protocol because technically Jesus would have had to go through rites of purification. So she broke with protocol, but so does Jesus break with protocol. He really does.
Here in this very chapter you see Jesus touching someone who was dead. You weren’t supposed to touch a dead body. After all, that meant uncleanness but for Jesus to be able to touch a dead body did not make Him unclean, but in turn, He made that body alive.
You find, for example, in Mark 1 (You can read it there for yourself.) the Bible talks about a leper coming to Jesus, and he comes and he’s crying and he’s saying, “If you can, make me clean.” The Bible says that Jesus stretched forth His hands and said, “Be thou clean.” And Jesus touched him.
You weren’t supposed to touch lepers. It was very clear in the Old Testament that they were to be outside the gate. There was a certain distance that they should stay away, and yet Jesus here is willing to touch people. He breaks with protocol in order that He might be able to get the Gospel and the Good News to those who desperately need it.
And as I was meditating on this it dawned on me that this in a sense is what happened at the cross, isn’t it? You see, when Jesus died on the cross all of our sin was laid on Him. He became legally guilty of all the sins you committed this past week and the ones that you are going to commit in the future. Jesus gathered all those sins together and even though the sin was on Him, there was no sin in Him because He was absolutely perfect. And in His person He was not contaminated by our sin so that He could touch the world and remain absolutely pure and absolutely righteous and not compromise His holiness and at the same time redeem sinners who desperately need salvation. That’s our Jesus for which and for whom we are deeply grateful. (applause)
Let me say this to you. There is no sin that you can bring to Jesus that will overwhelm Him. There is no sin that you will ever bring to Jesus that is too great for His grace to forgive and to restore. There is no sin that will ever contaminate Him but He is able to reach forth His hand (I’m speaking figuratively now) and say, “Be whole.”
You say today, “But Pastor Lutzer, I am a great sinner.” I say to you today that I recommend to you an even greater Savior who is able to save you from your sin. You come to Him and when you come to Jesus Christ you can come as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you in the way in which you came. He brings about healing. He brings about help and restoration. He really does have that power and to those who believe He will do just that. That’s the Savior this world needs.
We know that rules in the Christian life are important. It’s very critical that we live according to certain standards but rules and human willpower can never do what the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do because it goes right to the level of the human heart and it cleanses us from all sin. That is a miracle, and only Jesus can do that miracle. (applause)
Then there’s a final lesson and that is simply this. There is a difference between a casual contact with Jesus and the touch of faith. Isn’t it interesting that we look at the text and Jesus is walking along, thronged by people jostling Him, and yet He says, “Who touched Me?” And as I mentioned, if we were the disciples of Jesus we’d say the very same thing. “Of course, Lord, who touched You? You are being pushed and shoved.” But He said, “Oh no, who touched Me?”
The crowds were out there but only one person really connected with Jesus that day on the way to the home of Jairus. It’s interesting that when you read the book of Mark you discover that Mark never paints crowds in good light. He always talks about the crowd that follows Jesus. They followed Him because they wanted to see a miracle. They followed Him because they thought that He would be able to help them, and they needed bread, etc. etc. and they were always missing the real point of the coming of Jesus. The crowds never were really favorable to Jesus in an ultimate sense. It was always individuals that came to Christ.
This message is being listened to right now as I speak by several thousands of people, and will eventually be heard by even more. But the fact is this. For many it will not be a transforming message. Even for those of you who do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior it may simply be another message that you have listened to that maybe is interesting, because Jesus is interesting, but it will not transform you. But there are some of you who are saying today, “I believe in Jesus. I want to receive Him by faith.”
We used to always sing that song that said, “As you are going, do not pass Me by.” If the Holy Spirit of God is speaking to you today, that’s really the ultimate message of Moody Church.
In all of our outreach ministries, and there are so many of them we will not name them, at the end of the day the real important thing is the message of Christ because you and I need a miracle. We don’t simply need good teaching, though that prepares us for the miracle.
Think for a moment of the miracle that took place on the cross. Jesus is there hanging on the cross, and there are two men. One is crucified on one side. The other is on the other side. These guys had breakfast together that day quite possibly before they were both crucified on the opposite sides of Jesus, and they were thieves. The Bible says they were bad to the bone.
The one thief looks at Jesus and says, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Now if Jesus had done that you and I would never have been redeemed, nor would the other thief have ever been redeemed if Jesus had followed that advice. Aren’t you glad that Jesus doesn’t follow people’s advice? (applause) You have to disregard what they say. He says, “If you are the Son of God, do something. Deliver us.”
The other man – where did he get this faith? Well, maybe he was able to turn his neck and notice that Pilate had written above Jesus, “The King of the Jews,” doing that in ridicule. And then as he noticed people walking along they would ridicule Him and say, “If you are a king come down from the cross.” And this man began to think, “You know, if this man is a king, that means He has a kingdom.” And so this writing above the cross, though done for very wrong reasons, became like a Gospel tract to him, and he said, “Remember me when You come into your kingdom.”
He never had the nerve to say, “Accept me,” or whatever. He said, “Remember me when You come into your kingdom.” And Jesus, still the King and still ruling from the cross says to him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
It is Jesus reaching out to individuals. It’s this woman who reaches out to Him as an individual woman and she touches Him with faith. Nobody else touched Him with faith and He says, “I know that there’s somebody who touched Me in this special way.”
And so the thief on the cross dies. That evening Jesus also dies. In fact, Jesus I think dies just a few hours later, and the thief actually is there with Jesus in Paradise. Breakfast with his friend here on earth! Supping with Christ in the Kingdom at the end of the day! “Today you are going to be with Me in Paradise.”
You see, Jesus is looking for individuals. Yes, it’s wonderful to have a crowd but at the end of the day, it’s you that Jesus Christ is looking for. It is you that responds to Him, and it is this message of hope and forgiveness that we can spread around today. And that’s what Moody Church is all about, and that’s why we have communities and that’s why we have compassion ministries. It’s because we are representing Christ to the world. It is the Christ who actually does save.
When Rebecca and I were in England a number of years ago I wanted to go to the grave of Charles Haddon Spurgeon because he was one of England’s greatest preachers, and what a remarkable man he was. And he died rather young. I forget exactly the age, but I think by the time he was my age he was already in heaven for a couple of years. That’s kind of scary but I’m just throwing that out there.
But his favorite song was “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins.” Now I know that that’s an old song but we’re actually going to sing it today because I requested it, but there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins. It’s speaking, of course figuratively, but it says that “sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”
And then on Spurgeon’s tomb there are the words of the song.
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save.
And then I love this other stanza.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day.
And there may I, though vile as He,
Wash all my sins away.
Jesus said to the woman, “Oh daughter, you’ve been healed physically, but you’ve been healed spiritually. Your sins are forgiven.” Thank God for a Savior who actually saves, and who enables us to represent Him (applause) in this community.
Now what about you? Are you part of the crowd? “Yeah, we were in touch with Jesus. We were at Moody Church and we sang songs and heard a message.” Is God calling you today?
Our Father, I want to thank You so much that You have the ability not only to heal people but actually to redeem them, and we ask today, Lord, that we might be a redeeming community here at Moody Church, a trusted place where anyone can connect with God and others. May we attend the communities that are set up for the specific reason of connecting with others, and developing our relationship with You, and our relationship with other people. Help us as a church to represent You on the streets of Chicago, in banks, in hospitals and wherever You put us. But at this moment, Lord, there are some people listening who have to believe on You right now. We ask that even as we sing this song they may reach out and touch You and say today, “Jesus, I receive You as my Savior. Thank You for dying in my stead.”
Do that, oh God, we pray that we might be able hear of many people who believe on You today because of the Gospel. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.