September 16, 2007

"A Chance To Be Made Whole"

(Matthew 9:18-26)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


INTRODUCTION:

A young man and woman had been dating for a long time. One starlit evening, the young man called up his sweetheart to ask her to go on a ride with him. He said he had something very special to share with her. He picked her up in his much loved antique sports car and drove out to the park. There they had a lovely candle and starlight picnic.

For some reason, the young man did not talk much. He seemed distracted. The young woman noticed all of this and was too excited to talk much, herself. She'd been waiting all night to hear his special news. After the picnic, the couple drove around the park looking at the stars.

The whole time, the young man spoke of how special and important this moment was. He didn't know quite how to share it with her. Then he smiled over at her with a beatific smile and said, "There, it's happened. My car just reached the 100,000 mile mark. 100,000 miles in this old beauty. Now the speedometer is starting over again. Everything is back to zero."

Shocked and disappointed the young woman said, "Yes, you're right. Everything is back to zero." (1)

For the characters in the passage we're going to look at today, everything WAS a zero in their lives. At least at this juncture of their lives. And all they were looking for was a way to change the zero in their lives to something. They were looking for A Chance To Be Made Whole.

Let's look at the passage for today: Matthew 9:18-26

[18] While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live."

[19] And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.

[20] Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak,

[21] for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well."

[22] Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well.

[23] When Jesus came to the leader's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,

[24] he said, "Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him.

[25] But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. [26] And the report of this spread throughout that district.

This is the passage which was the original inspiration for this series because it's all about interruptions on the Journey and how Jesus responded to them.

There's a old country western song that says: "Whenever I make my mark, somebody paints the wall." I can't tell you how many times I've felt like that. How about you? That's exactly how the characters in the passage felt.


I. THE WOMAN:

A. Let's look at THE WOMAN first. This Woman with the Hemorrhage comes in desperation for herself. She was one of the walking dead. You know those people who feel so alienated from society that they are just plain dead inside. For a long time they struggle to be normal. They struggle to be whole and a part of the community or family. But there is something in their character or in ours, I don't know which, but it doesn't let them be connected or bonded with us and others.

You can see it in their eyes. Physically they are alive. But spiritually they are dead. Have you ever looked in the eyes of the homeless? For many of them, there is no sign hope there. Instead there is a quiet desperation; a desperation to survive. There is a desperation like this woman had, to be raised from the dead and made whole again.

B. There was an interesting story I ran across years ago, I think it came out of Readers Digest. It was titled, "When Someone Is Drowning, It's No Time To Teach Him How to Swim."

The author tells of sitting near a swimming pool one day and hearing a commotion. A head was bobbing in and out of the deepest water. She saw a man rush to the edge of the pool and heard him yell, "Hold your breath! Hold your breath!" Then a young lady joined him, screaming, "Turn on your back and float!" Their voices caught the attention of the lifeguard. Like a flash, he ran the length of the pool, jumped in, and pulled the man in trouble to safety.

Later on, the lifeguard said to the author, "Why in God's name didn't somebody holler that one word - Help? When someone's drowning, it's no time to teach him how to swim." (2)

This woman was drowning in desperation. No one was helping her. No one was crying out for her. Unfortunately it's easy to feel despair, even when your a person of faith.

This woman came in desperation. Like the woman in the clip, she kept asking, "Where's God? Where's God? Where's God?" She felt abandoned by God. But when she heard about Jesus, there was a faint glimmer of hope. "If I can only touch his cloak, I'll be made well." She took that Chance To Be Made Whole and she was. For her it was a resurrection back to life and normalcy. For her an outcast had been brought home and made clean.


II. THE MAN:

A. THE MAN in the story, the father whose daughter had died, came in desperation, too. He came out of desperation for his daughter, like any father would do. Except, coming to Jesus for this father was a shock to everyone. Coming to Jesus for this father was really a last resort.

You see, he was a leader in synagogue. He was one of those out to get Jesus, one of those who may have been standing in the crowd, stone in hand ready to stone the woman caught in adultery. He was one of those who thought Jesus was a charlatan and a heretic and was constantly trying to catch Jesus up in some little twist of the law.

His desperation must have run deep. And it must have been hard for him to swallow his pride. Can you imagine turning to the one you had been persecuting for help? Jesus could have laughed in his face and said, "You! You want ME to heal YOUR daughter. Of all the audacity and gall I've ever seen, yours takes the cake."

Jesus had every right and every reason to turn His back on this leader of the Synagogue. BUT HE DIDN'T. Jesus looked at this leader of Synagogue with the same compassion He looks at each of us. Jesus felt the same love and understanding for this leader of the synagogue that he felt for the woman with the hemorrhage or the woman caught in adultery.

There's an old story about an atheist who was very vocal about his beliefs. He never let an opportunity to deny the existence of God go by. He truly was a thorn in the flesh.

He decided to go on vacation to Scotland one year and chose to visit Loch Ness. He was fascinated with the myth of the Loch Ness monster. He rented a little boat and decided to go out on the lake by himself. He was enjoying himself when all of a sudden the Loch Ness monster appeared, reached over and snatched him out of the boat. There he was dangling in the jaws of the Loch Ness monster. He didn't know what to do, so he cried out. "O God, please save me."

The heavens opened up, time froze and God asked, "Why should I save you? Up until five minutes ago you didn't think I was real."

The frantic atheist said, "Gimme a break, up until five minutes ago, I didn't think the Loch Ness monster was real, either."

B. This father was just like that atheist. Up until the moment of his daughter's death, this leader of the synagogue didn't believe. But something of what Jesus had taught, something of the miracles that Jesus had performed had planted itself in this man's heart. The hope of the Messiah that all Jews carry in their hearts was awakened enough to see Jesus might very well be who everyone claimed he was.

And out of love for his daughter he had to take the chance, A Chance for his life and his daughter To Be Made Whole. He took that Chance and Jesus raised his little girl to new life.


III. THE RESPONSE:

A. I think the real message of this passage is in Jesus' response to each of the characters. He was on the way to somewhere else, yet he stopped and took time for the needs of these people. All three, the woman, the father and the daughter were raised to new life and made whole.

The woman's life had been broken and nearly destroyed because she was considered unclean. She Everybody knew her story and she was seen as an outcast. The father's life had been wrecked and fractured by loss of his daughter. And his daughter's life had ended prematurely.

But because of Jesus, there was resurrection and new life in each of these families. Their lives and their families were made whole again.

One of the things this passages teaches us is that God is never too busy for us. We may be too busy for God but God is never too busy for us. We get this notion that God is so busy taking care of everyone else and all the universe that God doesn't have time to care for our petty little lives. Instead, we see Jesus on his way to raise a little girl from the dead. He was in a hurry. The father was frantic, driven and in a hurry. Yet, Jesus paused. He stopped and turned around, when this woman touched him. He had a conversation with her and He healed her.

The father probably got impatient, his blood pressure probably went through the roof. But, you know, he was between a rock and a hard place because he really couldn't say anything. He was asking Jesus for something extraordinary. And Jesus was responding.

B. It's told that the only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small uninhabited island. He cried out to God to save him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed to be coming. He built a little hut on the highest hill overlooking the beach and continued his cries to God.

But one day, after hunting for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened. He was filled with grief. He knew God had abandoned him.

But then early the next day, a ship drew near the island and rescued him. "How did you know I was here?" he asked the crew.

"We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

What for him was a moment of despair and grieving became an act of renewal, hope, resurrection and new life. Jesus saw the smoke signal in both this man's life and in this woman's life; he reached out and rescued them from the pit of brokenness and despair to wholeness. Jesus gave each of them a Chance To Be Made Whole.


CONCLUSION:

There was a man who had a gold-plated safety pin which he carried in his pocket. Frequently he would be seen fingering it. Someone asked him one day what the significance of the pin was. He told how he had run away from a good home. He mixed with the wrong crowd and had gone from one trouble to another, finally ending up like the Prodigal Son, in poverty and degradation with nothing to his name but the clothes on his back.

One night he sold his overcoat to get money for liquor. One cold winter night he had his sweater pinned together with that safety pin. To him it was the only thing holding things together. But that night he walked into a mission to keep warm, and it was there Christ found him. It was there that he was given a Chance To Be Made Whole and he took it.

After he started his new life and began to experience some success, he had that pin gold plated to remind him of what he once had been before he knew the Lord.

The feel of that pin reminded him of where he'd been and how much he didn't ever want to go back there. It also reminded him of the fact that the only thing holding him together back then was the same thing holding him together today, the love of Christ. His own strength, his own will, his own determination had done little to help him. But the redemptive grace and love of Christ had given him new life and A Chance To Be Made Whole.

It's the same today. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the only one who can hold our lives together. He's the one who keeps us from going "back to zero." He's the one who offers each of us a Chance To Be Made Whole. He is the Gold Pin in our lives.

Where do you need to be made whole?

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

______________________________

Bibliography

1. King Duncan & Angela Akers "Amusing Grace" #120 pg. 0, Seven Worlds Corp., PO Box 11565, Knoxville, Tennessee

2. AutoIllustrator Database

3. AutoIllustrator Database

4. Leadership - Vol. 14, #4

5. Eric S. Ritz, The Ritz Collection, www.Sermons.com, adapted.

Other References Consulted

Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible of the New Testament (WordSearch Bible Software Version)

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Ministry and Media

Internet Movie Database

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The Text This Week Movie Theme Index

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