Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 26:05 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We are not in the habit of waiting. No doubt there are people who are naturally patient by temperament, but generally speaking, people at this time in history are not good at waiting. And why would we be? We can get nearly anything we want immediately. We can stream it, charge it, order it, look it up, and have it immediately. Obviously there are things that are scheduled at some point in the future for which we have to wait, but most of the time, for most of the things, we do not have to wait, nor do we want to.
And for people who have no idea where things are ultimately headed, or where everything is going, of course they need everything now, because who knows how long we have, or what’s going to happen. If you have no future, no assured goal, then you have to have everything now. And in a world where people do not know how to wait, and don’t know why they should wait, it is necessary to emphasize that there are some things for which we have to wait. We have to wait for some things to be healed, and fixed, and made whole. Actually, if anyone should know how to wait, if anyone should be in the habit of waiting, if anyone should be able to practice waiting and practice patience, it ought to be us—Christians who belong to the Lord of heaven and earth, the Lord of all creation, the Lord of time and history. We have an assured future, because the future of the Church is the future of Jesus. And since He has already died and risen from the dead, our future is certain and absolute.
There is a lot of waiting in the readings from Lamentations and Mark today. These few verses from Lamentations are not like the rest of Lamentations. Most of the book is exactly what its title says: lamentations. Jeremiah cries out to God on behalf of the people in exile in Babylon, and most of the book is filled with things like, How long, O Lord? How long until You return us to the place You have chosen for Your people? How long will we have to suffer? How long until You act? How long, O Lord? For those people waiting for God to act, Lamentations 3 is about the only hope they get in the entire book.
It is good to wait, Jeremiah says. But it’s not that waiting itself is some good thing. It’s not waiting in itself that Jeremiah is praising. It is waiting for the Lord. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of Yahweh. Yahweh is good to those who wait for Him, to the one who seeks Him. It is only because they knew the one for whom they were waiting that they could wait patiently. They knew that this God kept His promises, however long it took. And how long did they have to wait? 70 years! An entire generation, an entire lifetime of a person is how long they were in exile. Which means that some who went into exile never came out in this world. Some who entered Babylon alive never left Babylon. But eventually God did what He said He would, and after 70 years, He caused them to return to Jerusalem.
There is waiting in the Gospel as well. There is a woman who has been waiting for 12 years for healing. She has been bleeding, hemorrhaging, likely in a way unique to women. And she’s been suffering with this affliction. The word can also mean a whip. This is an ongoing pain and difficulty for her. And it’s not just a physical problem, it’s a religious problem, because she can’t enter the Temple as long as she’s bleeding. She’s considered unclean, and she’s had to live with both kinds of suffering for 12 years. She must have had some wealth, in order to see multiple doctors and to spend her money on anything that might help her. But now she seems to have used up all her wealth, and nothing has gotten better. Instead, it’s only gotten worse.
12 years she’s been waiting, and now she hears about Jesus. She thinks that if she can only touch His clothing, she will be healed. So she sort of sneaks up behind Him in the crowd and touches the edge of His garment, and immediately the fountain of blood is dried up. That’s what Mark says: the fountain of blood. Dried up, and her body tells her that she’s been healed. She knows, and Jesus knows. And Jesus says, Who touched Me? His disciples think the question is ridiculous. They say, essentially, everyone is touching you. Mark makes it clear that the crowd is pressing up against Him all around.
No doubt Jesus as the Son of God knows who she is. But as the Son of Man He asks, Who touched Me? And He waits. And He looks around. And she knows that He will not stop seeking her, so she comes and falls at His feet and tells Him the whole truth. And Jesus says to her, Daughter, your faith has saved you, healed you. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.
But while Jesus has been waiting for this woman, He has waiting too long. And servants from Jairus’s house come to tell him that his daughter is dead, and he doesn’t need to bother Jesus anymore, since it’s obvious He can’t do anything for her now. Too late; waited too long. But Jesus tells Jairus not to be afraid. Only believe. He goes to Jairus’s house, kicks out the mocking mourners, and tells the little girl to get up. And she does. And Mark throws out this tiny bit of information: she was 12 years old.
The daughter Jesus claims and the daughter of Jairus are tied together completely. See how many words in the text tie them together: the woman has been suffering for exactly as many years as the girl has been alive. Jairus comes and falls down at Jesus feet, just as the woman does. Jairus asks Jesus to come lay His hands on his daughter so that she will live and be saved. The woman knows that if she touches Jesus’ clothing, she will be saved. The woman is afraid and trembling, and Jesus tells Jairus not to be afraid. He says to the woman, your faith has saved you, and He tells Jairus, only have faith. These two daughters are tied together in their waiting, and in their waiting for Jesus.
The girl waits the 12 years of her life to her death for Jesus, while the woman waits 12 years for Jesus to heal her. And it is only in Jesus that they find their health and salvation, no matter how long they have to wait. They are healed and raised by Jesus as a sign and a demonstration that the one for whom every sick person and every dying person—that is each one of us—is this Man. He is the only one who will not disappoint your waiting and in whom faith is well-placed. No waiting for Jesus will be waiting in vain, and the day is coming when all those who wait for Jesus will find their healing and salvation forever.
So we wait because we know the one in whom we have trusted, and in whom we have hoped. We know that our hope is not in vain as long as it is hope in Jesus, the resurrected one. But it is not only that we wait for a day that is however far off. (It could be today, or tomorrow.) Notice what Jeremiah says to the exiles in his prayer to God: Your mercies are new every morning. According to each morning, each day, there is the mercy of God. While we wait for the day of ultimate healing, we still have the mercy of God each and every day. And it is enough for this morning, and tomorrow morning, and all the mornings that we will see until that great resurrection morning.
Today Your mercy calls us! Today we see again the faithfulness of our God. Not only do we have our bread for each day, like manna in the wilderness, we have the Bread of Life each morning. Each morning we have what we need for body and soul. Each morning we have Jesus. Each morning we have His word. Each morning we have the healing of a new day. Each cut that heals, each wound that heals, each sickness; it is all a reminder that His mercy that is new today will find its fullness in that coming, eternal day.
Today, and each day we are gathered here, we have the healing medicine of Jesus’ word and sacraments, the mercy that never runs out and never is exhausted. Your faith is in this Jesus and your hope is in this Jesus, and it is for Him you wait. Whether for a few hours, or for 12 years, or 70 years, or 2000 years, we will not be disappointed. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of God, as we rest in the confidence of His promises. And on that day we will say, this is our God, we have waited for Him that He might save us. This is our God, we have waited for Him. He who has promised is faithful. He will surely do it. Go in peace, you live, and you are healed, and you are saved.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 6/25/21