God of Salvation, please guide us this morning by your Word and your Holy Spirit, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.
As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
“Morning Has Broken” — Eleanor Farjeon (YouTube video with lyrics for in-home worship: https://youtu.be/we-n-Zmglt0)
Morning has broken like the first morning, Blackbird has spoken like the first bird. Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them springing fresh from the Word! Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven, Like the first dew fall on the first grass. Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden, Sprung in completeness where His feet pass. Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning Born of the One Light Eden saw play! Praise with elation, praise every morning, God’s recreation of the new day!
It’s Christmas morning, and here come Mom and Dad carrying this long package with a red bow perched awkwardly on top, and your heart jumps. You laugh that anyone ever thought they could disguise a baseball bat with a bow, but you unwrap it with relish anyway and, after glorying in its sleek design, you excitedly reach out for the phone looking to get the gang together that afternoon at the field. But, something strange happens. Your parents stop you from making the call. They insist that, since they gave you this bat and not your friends, you should always and only play with it in private. There will be no sharing your beautiful new bat.
We all know that, outside of using it to play a game with friends, a bat is just a glorified stick. Unfortunately, this is sometimes exactly how we approach salvation today. It’s a private, spiritual thing between me and God. We’ve all seen those billboards: “PREPARE TO MEET GOD” and “IF YOU DIE TONIGHT, WHERE WILL YOU GO?” It is no doubt true that our salvation includes the restoration of our personal relationship with God, and there’s an important sense in which it does involve what’s going to happen to us after we die. But, according to the Bible, this is only part of the picture. Salvation, come to find out, is so much more.
When Jesus agrees to go heal Jairus’ daughter, he has to work his way through a crowd. Someone reaches out to touch him, a woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years, and when she does, her bleeding stops immediately. It’s a miracle — something only Jesus can do. “Daughter,” he says after discovering who had touched him, “your faith has made you well; go in peace.” It’s a beautiful story where desperation meets compassion, and we get a good picture of what Jesus is all about. However, the translation here is misleading. When Jesus tells the hemorrhaging woman that her faith has made her well, he uses the Greek word sozo. It’s a word most often translated “saved.” In Matthew’s version of this story, he adds, “And she was saved at that very moment,” seemingly to emphasize the point even more. Here was someone who was saved by faith, but her salvation came in the form of physical healing. There is no mention of eternal life or even the beginning of a vibrant relationship with the guy who just healed her. Instead, Jesus just sends her away “in peace.”
The same sort of salvation happens two verses later when Jairus learns that his daughter has died. Jesus responds with his typical casualness, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” So, here we have it again, a faith that leads to salvation, though now it involves literally bringing a dead girl back to life.
Might these two experiences of salvation have included more than healing and resurrection? Sure, and there are plenty of passages in scripture that speak of salvation in “larger” terms. (We might just quote John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.”) But, these passages sit right next to plenty of stories like those that we have here in Luke 8. The combination didn’t seem to bother our early Christian forebears.
Why? Because, as N. T. Wright has cleverly put it, “We are saved not as souls but as wholes.” Salvation in the Bible isn’t just about what happens to us after we die. It’s about healing God’s world — all of the creation we hear about in Genesis 1-3 that has been so damaged by sin and death. This is why Paul can use the same language of salvation for all the plants and animals and molecules and matter around us that he uses for humanity itself:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”Romans 8:19-21
Salvation then isn’t about escaping this world of sin and death, as if it was somehow not the good creation that God loves. Nor is it, as we sometimes hear, about escaping our physical bodies. Instead, it’s about healing the world — body, souls, and all. The story of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman make this plain.
The implications that come with this thicker understanding of salvation are significant. For starters, we can’t separate our personal salvation from God’s call on our lives to live that salvation out in the world — to share it and spread it around. This is what we call mission.
To put it a different way, God’s big plan isn’t simply to bring us back into right relationship with him. It’s to heal the world — to rid it completely of all sin and death and evil. This is why the Christian life isn’t done when we take that “leap of faith” into God’s arms. It’s only beginning. Our healed relationship evokes change in us, and that change is not just to bring about personal holiness but to heal what is wrong in the rest of the world, which is the very definition of righteousness and what Jesus put into action on the cross by defeating sin and death. Then as today, defeating sin and death meant healing social ills — injustice, poverty, oppression, war (see our devotional from last week) — just as much as it meant healing the bodies of the two women from our story.
So, salvation really is like a baseball bat that is meant to be shared and enjoyed by others as part of a much larger game. That game, the Bible says, is the healing of the whole world. Or, as the hymn we just sang put it, the “recreation” of a new day. Now, isn’t that a beautiful thought?
Creating, Redeeming, and Sustaining God, keep us today in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace each of us may proclaim your truth with boldness, and perform your justice with compassion, for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For further reflection on today’s theme, see N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.