God is all about life

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 4, 2021

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We caught up with some longtime friends the other day. Their daughter, the baby we remember being born, became the little girl with whom we joked and traveled. The young woman became so gifted and smart. She went off to college with honors and studied pre-med. The twenty-something is now applying to medical schools. 

She interned in a hospital during the Covid-19 era. Day after day and week after week, she showed up for work and did her job faithfully. She and the doctors who worked brutal shifts saw such tragic things. They made decisions no one wanted to have to make. The work broke her. She is a shell of her former self now, suffering from deep emotional and psychological issues because of the strain of the last year. Our friends have almost lost their little girl, and are trying to help her get the skilled care she needs to find herself and her life again. 

You may have survived an illness or surgery recently, but it doesn’t mean your fear and tiredness are gone. You may have “moved on” in the eyes of all who watched you lose your beloved — but it doesn’t mean your grief has subsided and that your hurt is gone. We may have found our way through the last year now. But that doesn’t mean that all the pain is gone. 

The stories found in Mark 5: 21-43 remind us that God is about life, and not about death. Jesus said to these, and to so many more, that it was their faith that had made them whole. Wholeness. Completeness. These words get at one of the most central biblical concepts there is: shalom. That Hebrew word is at the heart of what God is building in us. Those words also include healing as Jesus taught us. Wholeness, as Jesus sought for us to understand. 

In our text this week, we fly right over the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene Demoniac only to land right in the middle of a Markan Sandwich. What is a “Markan Sandwich?” It is a story — wrapped-inside-a-story, and a literary technique that this gospel writer employed often. Actually, that strange and powerful encounter with the Gerasene character right before this does give us context for today. Jesus crosses back over the water and runs right into Jairus. This father is so desperate because his little girl is near death.

One writer believes that if you take the Gerasene Demoniac, then add in Jairus and the Woman in this story, we have an interesting comparison even with Jesus’ own Disciples. All three of them are encountering Jesus out and about. Each of them respond to him readily in ways that recognize his power. 

These are people who come off strikingly clear about who and what Jesus is, maybe even expressing a level of commitment and confidence. Perhaps because of their trust, their commitment to Jesus exceeds even his own Disciples at this point. Each of them regains life precisely because of their faith in Jesus. That’s not surprising, actually, because God is all about life, not Death. Another scripture reading from Sunday, Psalm 30, connects so powerfully. In that, we hear the psalmist rejoice saying, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. You have turned my mourning into dancing;you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy …” 

Sooner or later, every one of us falls down and reaches out for the hem of Jesus’ garment just hoping that some of his power will rub off on us. Sooner or later, we wonder if there is a cure for what life can do to us. Sooner or later, we hear a desperate voice leap from our throat and we cry out to Jesus for healing. Or we cry out to God to please visit some relief on someone else whom we love so much. 

These stories in Mark’s gospel remind us that there is no time for hate. There is no time for viciousness or malice. There is no time for manipulation or threatening. There is no time to mess up someone else’s life. There is no time for selfishness, nor to do bad things to other people. Because each of these only lead to death, both in others and in us. Mark reminds us here that God is all about life and not about death.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.