A.J. Thomas is the Founder of Joyful Giving Group, whose mission is to cultivate a culture of generosity.
A.J. is a practiced believer in the power of generosity to transform individual lives, congregations, and entire communities.
A.J. is an ordained United Methodist pastor with over a decade of leadership experience in the local church. He is appointed to Joyful Giving Group as an extension ministry of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Footsteps of Jesus in Capernaum: The Healing Ministry (Mark 5:21-43)
Jesus crossed the
lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the
shore. Jairus, one of the synagogue
leaders, came forward. When he saw
Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to
die. Please, come and place your hands
on her so that she can be healed and live.”
A swarm of people
were following Jesus, crowding in on him.
A woman was there who had bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many
doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, she came
up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, “If I can just touch his
clothes, I’ll be healed.” Her bleeding
stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.
At that very moment,
Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who
touched my clothes?”
His disciples said to
him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who
had done it.
The woman, full of fear
and trembling, came forward. Knowing
what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the
whole truth. He responded, “Daughter,
your faith has healed you; go in peace, be healed from your disease.”
While Jesus was still
speaking with her, messengers came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to
Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Why
bother the teacher any longer?”
But Jesus overheard
their report and said to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid, just keep
trusting.” He didn’t allow anyone to
follow him except Peter, James, and John, James’ brother. They came to the synagogue leader’s house,
and he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “What’s all this
commotion and crying about? The child
isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” They laughed at him, but he threw them all
out. Then, taking the child’s parents
and his disciples with him, he went to the room where the child was. Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.”
Suddenly the young woman got up and began to walk around. She was 12 years old. They were shocked! He gave them strict orders that no one should
know what had happened. Then he told
them to give her something to eat.
season of Lent, we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, touching a few of the
places where he walked. Last Sunday, we followed
the footsteps of Jesus in the wilderness.
We remembered that it's tempting to settle for less than
what God wants for us. To give priority to our preferences over our purpose.
Anytime we’re tempted to take the easy way out, we’re reminded that we follow
the same Jesus who chose God's way over his own.
follow his footsteps about 60 miles north to the region around the Sea of
Galilee. In just 60 miles, the landscape
shifts from the dry and rocky desolation of the wilderness to the green and
fertile lushness around the Sea of Galilee.
The Sea of
Galilee is so important, we’re going to spend three Sundays on and around
it. Today, we remain at the water’s
edge, in the town of Capernaum, on the northwest side of the lake. What makes Capernaum so special? Simply put, it’s the town where Jesus chose
to live as an adult.
thinking, “I thought he was from Nazareth?!” and if you mean, where he was
raised and where his family was from, then yes, he’s from Nazareth.
But, if you
remember, Jesus’ teaching didn’t go over so well in his hometown of
Nazareth. They didn’t care for his
message – partway through his first sermon there, the good folk rose up and
angrily drove him to the edge of the hill on which their town was built because
they intended to kill him. Talk about a
strong reaction to a sermon!
Nazareth is a
great town to be from, meaning, you
don’t live there anymore!
Ruins at Capernaum
And so, the
scriptures tell us that Jesus withdrew from Nazareth and made Capernaum “his
own city,” his new hometown (Matthew 4:12-17, 9:1). The people of Nazareth had closed off their
hearts to anything new, and as a result Jesus withdrew from them. But in Capernaum, he found fertile ground for
his message, for the people were open to the words of hope, healing, and
reconciliation that Jesus taught.
The ruins at
Capernaum are incredibly well-preserved.
You can see the layout of the streets, the buildings, all of it. I looked over it, and in my mind’s eye I
could see Jesus, coming in from the shore, walking through the streets, talking
to people, laughing with them. This was
his town, and these were his neighbors.
Ruins of the 4th Century synagogue in Capernaum
Right in the
middle of town, are the ruins of the synagogue.
What we saw are the ruins of the synagogue that was built in the fourth
century, on the site of the previous synagogue, where Jesus would have gone to
worship and teach. In today’s Scripture
from the 5th chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we meet one of the leaders of
News of Jesus
calming the storm and casting out demons has made it back across the sea before
he did. A large crowd is there to greet
him when his boat comes ashore, and at the edge of the crowd stood a man named
Jairus. He was one of the leaders in the
synagogue, an important person in town.
He was also father to a dying girl.
named her Talitha, which means “beautiful little girl.” It’s a term of endearment, and for Jairus, it
may as well have meant “Daddy’s little princess.” No father has ever loved a daughter more than
Jairus loved his precious Talitha.
About a year
ago, six months before her twelfth birthday, she had gotten ill. At first they thought it was some sort of a
bug that would run its course and be gone in a few days, but she had slowly
gotten sicker and weaker. Every day she
was sicker than the day before, and you could see in the way Jairus walked was
someone who carried too much of the world’s weight upon his shoulders.
deep down in his heart of hearts, that Jesus was the only one who could help
his daughter. But, he also knew that
Jesus was controversial, and going to Jesus would potentially put him at odds
with his peers, possibly even cost him his job and reputation. But, the
unconditional love of a father wins out every time, and he pushes his way
through the crowd toward Jesus, and Jairus falls to his knees at Jesus’ feet
and says, “Please help. My little girl
needs you. I need you. Please, Jesus, help me.”
the only one looking for Jesus that day.
Another familiar figure was slinking through the crowd, her posture
hunched and her pace slow, also like someone with the world’s weight upon her
bleeding had gone on for 12 years now. “Unclean,”
they called her. She had been turned
into an outcast in her own community, as even her own friends and family turned
away from her. She knew Jesus right away
when she saw him, but she also recognized the man escorting Jesus through the
crowd. It was that man from the
synagogue, the one who had turned her away on more than one occasion when she
came to beg a few small coins from those coming to worship. He couldn’t allow an unclean person to defile the holy place, “nothing personal” he
always said, but it was certainly personal to
How can it not
be personal to be cast aside and treated like yesterday’s garbage? How can it not be personal to yearn for a
deeper connection with a loving God, yet banned from making that connection by
the very people who claimed to be closest to God? How can it not be personal, when you’re
desperate for hope, yet told by those around you that you are hopeless?
So she’s been
told - unless, unless, unless - she can get to Jesus. She crept closer. No one was paying any attention to her. Jesus and the synagogue leader were walking
this way. Jesus was going to walk right
past her, and as he passed, she reached out and the trailing edge of Jesus’
robe whispered across her open palm, so lightly that the fabric didn’t even tug
or buckle, but it was enough! She knew
she was healed, and no one would have to know how it happened.
sensing that power had gone out from him, immediately began to look around and
ask, “Who touched me? Who touched
me?” Jairus, having seen the woman
creeping through the crowd, secretly prayed, “Please God, anyone but her,
anyone but that woman, anyone but
that unclean woman.”
synagogue leader’s stare was clearly fixed on her, she knew she might as well
come clean. Embarrassed, she mumbled, “I
did it. I reached out for you, Jesus.”
sank, and then he became furious. Didn’t
she see that Jesus was on his way somewhere important to do something important
for someone important, but, before he could even blurt out, “Who do you think
you are?”, Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace.”
"Daughter . . . "
And that word,
“daughter,” pierced Jairus like an arrow.
“Daughter” is a word that means something to him. He thinks of his own daughter and his love
for her and his willingness to do anything for her, and then his mind flashes
back to the ways he has treated this woman – the times he has run her out of
the synagogue, the ways he has treated her like a pain or a nuisance, and here
Jesus is, calling her “Daughter,” a term not terribly different from “Talitha.”
addressing this woman with the same sort of unconditional love as Jairus has for
his own daughter; could it be that Jesus loves this outcast woman in the same
What might that
mean for how Jesus loves every other outcast, every other person on life’s
margins, every other person we have rushed to call “unclean?” Could the love of God fill our hearts and lead us to see others as
Jesus sees them – somebody important, somebody who matters, somebody who is
part of the family of God?
The call is to
see every other human being as Jesus does – as a son or daughter of God, as a beloved
and precious member of God’s own family, not to bully or marginalize or label
people who are already on life’s fringes, but to reach out to them with the
healing love of Jesus himself.
writes, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the
most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice,
solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds
with a warm and tender hand.
This is the God
we serve and proclaim in Jesus Christ. God, in Christ says, “Daughter, Son – I
see your pain. I’m gonna share your pain
and touch your wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
So, if you are
hurting and in need of healing in mind, body, spirit, or in relationships, hear
this: Jesus sees you, calls you as a son and daughter of God. Jesus knows your
name and stretches his hand out to you.
In a moment, we
will try to be faithful disciples and imitators of Christ by laying hands on
one another in prayer for healing and wholeness. The book of James says, “Are any among you
sick? They should call for the elders of
the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of
We’re going to
do just that. Martin Luther says that we
are to be little Christ’s to one another. We have the opportunity in this
sacred, present moment, to allow Christ to be alive in us and to be like Jesus
and “see” one another, - see and not judge, see and not ignore, but to see and
love in a tangible way, by laying these hands, my hands, your hands, these
hands crafted by God on one another with prayers for healing in Christ’s name.
I don’t know
what other people have called you. What
they see in you or don’t. And frankly, I
don’t care. Because, whatever other
people say, you’re a son or daughter of God, one of God’s beloved. No son or daughter of God who reaches out for
Jesus ever does so in vain.
If you are in
need of healing this morning in any form, in a few minutes I will invite you to
come forward, where I will anoint your forehead with oil in the sign of the
cross, and pray for the Holy Spirit to work within you to bring healing and
wholeness in all areas of your life. If
you would like to stand in and be anointed for someone else, that’s fine. Others who wish to come forward with anyone
else for prayer and laying on of hands are welcome to do so. If you can’t come forward, but need to remain
in your seat, and you desire anointing and prayer, we’ll come to you.
Let us pray:
O God, the
giver of health and salvation,
We give you
thanks for this gift of oil.
As your holy
apostles anointed many who were sick and healed them,
We ask that you
may use it
To give courage
to those who are afraid;
those who are weak;
those who are afflicted;
Hope to those
who are lost;
those who are alone.
out your Holy Spirit on us and on this gift,
That those who
in faith and repentance receive this anointing
May be made
whole; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
heal not one, but two daughters that day.
You’re a child of God. And so is
the person next to you. No son or
daughter who reaches out for Jesus ever does so in vain. Turns out there’s plenty of Jesus to go
around, and he’s still healing sons and daughters today. If you would like prayers for healing in any
form – body, mind, spirit, relationships – I invite you to come forward now.