Sermon – “Daughter…” – Mark 5:21-43

Full Text

Sermon Text: Mark 5:21-43

In this sermon I did something that probably would have received low marks from seminary profs. I probably strayed too far into allegorizing the text for the application. That is part of the reason why the opening includes the remarks that the reading might be idiosyncratic. It probably comes from studying Hebrews in Bible Class which contains an extended allegory on Melchizedek, an obscure OT figure. A full allegory has four levels of meaning: Literal, Christological, Moral and Mystical. It is not that an allegory can’t be true, but that modern textual methodology calls it a foul ball. What one person sees in an allegory might not be universally applicable. An allegory can be too cute for its own good. The other side of the balance sheet is that the church for 1200+ years primarily read the scriptures as allegory. Only with the advent of the pre-modern university did a heavily literal approach start to take priority. It can be said that the reformation was really and argument over which level of allegory was the most important. The Reformers argued for the Literal and the Christological while the late medieval Catholics emphasized the mystical and then the moral. (And that paragraph is one that could be picked apart to death as to those who really study this stuff that is really superficial to the point of being wrong. Forgive me the brevity.)

When reading a text, and in preaching on a text, those levels of meaning are still important. You can talk about a moral meaning from a text without necessarily allegorizing. The literal events of this text were the faith of a woman in the power of Jesus to heal, and a demonstration of that power even over death. To transfer that text to modern day you would emphasize the power of Christ in the the people who live by faith. I still did that, but in a way that makes the literal meaning of the text receed into the background.

A contrast is established between Jairus who approaches Jesus from the front and the unnamed woman who approaches from behind. I tried to set us or most moderns up as Jairus – the respectable churchman who approaches Jesus desperate but asking for a favor. The flip is that Jesus calls the low status unnamed woman daughter. While we might associate with Jairus, salvation, peace and health are in approaching Jesus like this woman – in fear and telling the whole truth. [Think confession and absolution.] Jairus and the disciples are amazed at the power of Jesus, but it is the woman who is called daughter. In fact it takes a miracle of Jesus – a raising of the dead – to convert us from thinking of ourselves a Jairus (fundametally respectable and ok asking for a favor) to thinking of ourselves as the woman (bloody and unclean with sin). And when Jesus does raise us from the dead, we must be fed with the Word of God. See what I did, certain elements of the story like how a person approached, physical attributes or physical needs are read as symbolic. If you agree with my symbolic readings it makes sense, but you might just as easily think I’ve gone off the deep end.

All that said, I think the sermon conveys truth. I would defend its textuality on the basis of the words and events narrated and how the church has matrixed those words and events through time. Being called a child/daughter by God is the result of accepting the Gospel which follows repentance. True repentance is the work of God in us – a raising of the dead. It is the poor that are blessed with the Kingdom of Heaven. The church has consistenly talked about sin as a disease. This was not an academic’s sermon, but I think it might be closer to the way actual people think.