Taking Jesus at His Word

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Ordinary Time 13
June 27, 2021
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary: In this account of Jesus healing two people, we see two common threads: taking Jesus at his word and admitting that one's need is greater than one's resources. Regardless of how far medicine and science and knowledge advance, we should never keep Jesus out of the picture.

What does it mean to take someone at their word?

A standard definition is that we interpret what a person has said as a true indication of what they are going to do. We may also use the expression "I'll take you at your word" to communicate that we believe what someone has said about something that we can't go see for ourselves. However, we also sometimes use the expression to indicate skepticism, such as when a friend says, "You should try these clams. They're really good," and we reply with "I'll take your word for it."1

Despite the similarity of the expressions, we can usually tell when a person is indicating that they believe what someone has said versus when they are being skeptical.

When it comes to what Jesus has said, however, faith should enter the picture, and it's important to leave skepticism behind.

And faith says we can take Jesus at his word.

The gospel writers knew this; so, they wrote down Jesus' words carefully. What Jesus said was true. What is also true is that 1) not everyone believed him; and 2) not everyone understood the full implications of what he said when they heard his words.

In our scripture passage for today from Mark's gospel, we will do well to take Jesus at his word.

The miracle on the way to a miracle

Our text today contains two obvious miracles. Both of them are easy to spot and each deserves our attention.

The second miracle is introduced first, when Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, saw Jesus and "fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, 'My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.'" So Jesus went with him.

On the way, a large crowd, apparently following the action and curious to see what Jesus would do, pressed in on Jesus. One person, a woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years, and who had spent all she had on cures that didn't work, moved toward Jesus in the hope that, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." So, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. "Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease."

Jesus knew that power had gone from him. He looked around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" The disciples looked the size of the crowd and said, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'"

The woman knew the answer. She came before Jesus in fear and trembling. She knelt before him and confessed that she was the one.

Jesus responded to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease."

The first miracle of the day was complete.

Then came the bad news. Word arrived that Jairus' daughter had died. Why bother Jesus any further? It's over. There's nothing that anyone can do.

Jesus overheard that conversation and said to Jairus, "Do not fear, only believe." Jesus then took Jairus, along with Peter, James and John with him and went to Jairus' house. Seeing all the commotion there with people weeping and wailing, Jesus said, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping."

And they laughed at Jesus.

Then Jesus took the child's parents and his disciples who were with him and went into where the young girl lay. "He took her by the hand and said to her 'Talitha cum,' which means 'Little girl, get up!' And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about ...." Not surprisingly, those who witnessed this were amazed.

The second miracle of the day was complete.

Taking Jesus at his word

As we look at these two stories, we see two people took Jesus at his word: the woman with the issue of blood, and Jairus. Both believed Jesus and both took him at his word.

You can argue that these two people had little option but to believe him. What choice did they have? But at the same time, we can easily point to someone - or point to ourself at some time in our life - who was every bit as needy and without resources, and yet did not respond with belief and faith. And I dare say that the results were different as well. Instead of faith rewarded, we can point to despair and hopelessness.

Of course, we know that God heals according to God's will and timetable. But faith is often a major factor in healing. Jesus told the woman with the issue of blood, "Daughter, your faith has made you well."

On another occasion, when Jesus healed a man named Bartimaeus from his blindness (who, when Jesus asked what he wanted Jesus to do for him, he said, "My teacher, let me see again.") he told him, "Go; your faith has made you well."2

Another time, a centurion approached Jesus on behalf of his servant, who was sick almost to the point of death. When the centurion spoke about his authority to command his servants to do his will, he implied that Jesus had authority to heal. Jesus was impressed and said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."3 And the servant was healed.

One of the key elements surrounding the faith expressed in all of these examples is recognition of the need for help beyond our own resources.

Why don't we take Jesus at his word? In our scripture today we saw a couple of instances where people laughed at what Jesus said. When Jesus asked, "Who touched my clothes?" his disciples, in effect, laughed at his question. How could they possibly answer Jesus with a crowd this big? Of course, people were touching him. The disciples were about to learn to take Jesus at his word. Later, at Jairus' house, when Jesus said his daughter was not dead but just sleeping, the people laughed at him. They knew what "dead" looked like, and it isn't "just sleeping." But they were all about to learn a lesson in taking Jesus at his word.

Hindrances to taking Jesus at his word today

Of course, it can be difficult to admit our need because we're too invested in having it all together - or at least in looking like we do - to admit that we need help. That, of course, is a hindrance to taking Jesus at his word. If we don't, or can't, admit our need, then we won't seek his help. In effect, what we are saying is, "What will people think if I can't even solve my own problems?" Lord, help my unbelief!

Another hindrance to taking Jesus at his word is this: Our modern age, and our up-to-date medicines and qualified doctors and teachers, and answers available to us through the internet and other sources - all these sometimes seem to make seeking help from Jesus unnecessary and irrelevant. Do we realize how arrogant that is? Do we really think we can put our resources and our intellect up against God of the universe, and come out ahead?

Of course, we should seek help from available resources, but we should also seek God's help, and we should take Jesus at his word.

Jesus' word

If we want to take Jesus at his word, there is a wealth of things to consider:

This list could go on. But the abiding truth in all of this is that Jesus' word is true and life changing. Listen to him!

  1. Per the Urban Dictionary , www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=I%27ll%20take%20your%20word%20for%20it.
  2. Mark 10:51-52.
  3. Luke 7:1-10.