Just like there are dirty jobs that are inevitable in life, there are also, believe it or not, dirty jobs that are the creation of our systems, beliefs and ideologies. For example, when I was in the Philippines, after a meal, the men would remain at the table and talk while the women went into the kitchen to clean up. Cleaning up was considered a “dirty job” for a man to do. (I kind of liked that part of their culture!) Anybody see the movie “42” about Jackie Robinson? First African-American man to play in major league baseball. And yet when he traveled with the team, in some towns he still had to stay in different hotels than the white players, eat in different restaurants, and only go to the restrooms marked “Coloreds”. Certain ideologies and even religious systems define some people as “dirty” or “unclean” and others as clean.
Even though the strict religious culture in which Jesus lived identified certain things as “dirty jobs,” Jesus never caved in to the pressures of that culture. He was always crossing the line and reaching out to people He wasn’t supposed to reach out to, touching people He wasn’t supposed to touch, eating with people He wasn’t supposed to eat with, and doing things He wasn’t supposed to do, because they were considered “dirty jobs.” We read about a couple of these instances in Mark 5:21-43. If you have a Bible or a Bible app, go ahead and turn there if you would, and let’s stand together out of respect for the reading of God’s Word.
In Jewish Law, human contact was taken very seriously. God embedded in His Law such a high value of holiness, sanctity, and purity that making contact with someone who was considered “unclean” would make you “unclean.” And what would make someone considered unclean was sickness, blood, and, most definitely, death. Now, the intent of the Law was not for the “clean” people to look down on the “unclean” people. The intent was for people to understand how serious God was about holiness and sin. The intent was to instruct Jews on how sin ultimately separates us from God. But through the centuries, the same thing that we do with laws and rules and regulations was done in Judaism. We tend to forget the heart of the law; why it was established; and we turn the law into legalism.
And so by the time of Jesus, what was meant as a way to help people understand the holiness of God and their own “uncleanness” turned into categorizing people by the descriptions of their “uncleanness.” And those people were not to be touched, not to be spoken to, and not to be engaged. It was considered “dirty,” or a “dirty job” to have to deal with “those kinds of people.” And what does Jesus do? He reaches out His hand anyway. He speaks anyway. He engages anyway. In both stories from our text, Jesus makes the unclean clean. And He’s been doing it ever since. When we get really serious about rediscovering the Jesus of the Bible, and we ask ourselves, What does He want with us?, we can’t avoid the fact that Jesus calls us to do the same. He makes the unclean clean. He does that for each one of us, and He calls us to be His hands, and His feet, and to share His love with everyone around us.
Let’s take a look at the first story in vv. 25-34. Jesus was on His way to heal the daughter of Jairus, one of the synagogue rulers, and the crowds were pressing into Him. Mark describes how a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years “…had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and she was no better but rather grew worse” (verse 26). In other words, she has no hope! [back to Title] But she heard that Jesus was coming, and so she got up close to Him and all she did was reach out and touch His garment, and she was healed! Jesus knew somehow that power had gone out from Him, and so He asked who touched Him? His disciples, always the realists, point out that EVERYBODY is touching Him, so come on! But the woman, who didn’t want to create a scene, knew she’d been found out, and “trembling,” the Bible says, she fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your disease” (v. 34).
Anybody familiar with the show “Monk”? Well, Monk would have made a good rabbi, at least in this respect. Rabbis were to be respected, which means people were to give them their space! No pushing, no shoving, no crowding, no reaching out and touching—because you might be one of those “unclean” people. How does Monk respond to this kind of behavior? Well, let’s watch this together. Monk, like many of the rabbis in Jesus’ day, would do everything possible to avoid a crowd, in order to keep himself clean. And here Jesus comes along, and He’s walking through the crowds of the commoners, the unclean, and He even stops when He recognizes that one of the most unclean of them all—a woman who had been hemorrhaging—touches Him! And He doesn’t stop to scold her, but to commend her for her faith!
Here’s how radical this is. In the Mosaic Law, we read that “If anyone touches an unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean wild animal or a carcass of unclean livestock or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him and he has become unclean, and he realizes his guilt; or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be…he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin” (Leviticus 5:2-3a, 6).
In the Law of Moses, for Jesus to have contact with human uncleanness, it was considered a sin that required a sacrifice in order to make atonement! And that was for your every day, common, ordinary Jew—let alone for a rabbi who was held to an even higher standard!
And now Jesus, a rabbi, comes along, and when this unclean woman touches him, He stops and turns and says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (v. 34). Amazing. Jesus doesn’t turn away from what’s unclean. He simply makes the unclean clean. It’s not a dirty job to Jesus. It’s called redemption. For those of you who feel unclean—you’ve done way too many “bad” things, you’ve tried this supposed solution and this promise of hope, and nothing has worked, it’s o.k. to press in to Jesus. He doesn’t mind. He welcomes it, because He wants to make you clean. And for those of us who call E91 our church home, we are to be like Jesus, and we recognize that ministry is messy and there are “unclean” people all around us, just like we’re all “unclean” unless Jesus makes us clean. But how are people supposed to be made clean if we keep turning them away? No, we let people crowd around, because some of them, like this woman, are going to reach out to touch Jesus—and He will make them clean.
Now, on to the second story, vv. 35-43. Do you remember that Jesus was traveling on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter? Well, by the time He’s through with this woman, the little girl is dead. Could you imagine how you would feel if you were Jairus? It’s all over! What’s the point? Jesus, you were too late! But Jesus, probably knowing what was going through this guy’s mind says, “Don’t be afraid; only believe” (v. 36).
Jesus takes Peter, James and John with Him. They arrive at Jairus’ house, and people are “weeping and wailing loudly,” v. 38 says. Can you picture this scene? This is a little girl, and she died! This is tragic, and what does Jesus say? He says, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping” (verse 39). And the people responded probably the way you and I would. They laugh at Him! I mean, who is this guy? Who does he think he is? What right does he have to come in here and make such a ridiculous pronouncement—she’s not dead; she’s just sleeping?? Jesus ushers them all out except for the mother and father, and here’s the most powerful phrase in this whole section—v. 41, “Taking her by the hand…”
Remember all this stuff about how Jews aren’t supposed to touch the dead, and how if they do it makes them unclean, and it’s considered a sin, and they have to make a sin offering for that? And what does Jesus do? He does the “dirty job” as it was seen in His day, He reaches out and takes the dead girl by the hand. Jesus makes the unclean clean.
Did you notice the order of the events in v. 41? Why didn’t Jesus just say to the little girl, “Talitha cumi,” which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise”? Why didn’t He speak to her to raise her from the dead, and then touch her? Why are the Gospel writers so specific to include such detail? It’s because they, through the Holy Spirit, want people to see how Jesus is not afraid. Jesus is willing to reach out to the most unclean of the unclean.
And this isn’t the only time. In Matthew 8, a leper comes to Jesus and says, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. “And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed (Matthew 8:2-3). Leprosy! Remember that? Lepers in Jesus’ day were supposed to wear a bell around their neck so everyone could hear them coming, and they were to yell out, “Unclean, unclean!” when they approached people, so that no one would touch them. And what does Jesus do? He reaches out His hand and touches the leper!
How about this one? Jesus goes up to a blind man, and He spits on the ground and makes mud with His saliva. Then He puts the mud on the man’s eyes and says, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he goes and washes off the mud and is healed (John 9:5-7). This is unclean!!
You see what the Gospel writers are telling us? There is nothing so unclean that Jesus can’t make it clean. There is no one so unclean that Jesus won’t reach out to touch him or her to make that person clean. And He…will…do…the...same…thing…for…you. This place is to be a place of cleansing, a place of healing, a place of restoration, and it’s not about us, our music, my preaching—all that we do here should point us to Jesus, the One who makes the unclean clean.