Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"Just believe"

Message preached June 29, 2003
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon Mark 5:21-43

Order of Worship

[This message is shared as if I was the Biblical character, Matthias.
See the endnote. It is similar to one delivered four weeks previous.]

            We were inseparable - my friend Barsabbas, my baby sister Galyah, and me. We called ourselves the "Three Maccabees," remembering those great heroes of the faith. With sticks as our swords, we pretended to drive Godís enemies out of Israel, to cleanse the Temple of all the filth that those dirty Greeks had brought into it. At other times, we would stand beside the sea with our staves and imagine parting the water, just like Moses, and letting Godís people go free. Or we would go up into the hills and march around some rock we pretended was Jericho, and blow our imaginary horns until the walls came tumbling down in our minds.

            Itís great being a kid. I loved growing up in Magdala. At first, I wasnít so keen on including Galyah, but I didnít have much choice. When your mother tells you to take care of your little sister, you do. Fortunately, Barsabbas didnít have a problem with it, so there we were. Since our fathers were fishermen, like most of the men in town, your life gravitates toward the water. The "Three Maccabees" spent a lot of time in a boat, pretending to fish. Oh, we caught some, mind you, but it was all in fun - practicing, I guess, for the day we would join the men at sea.

            Childhood is great! Unfortunately, the day came - all too quickly - for Barsabbas and I to sail upon the sea with our fathers and learn the trade. I still remember the first time we went out, looking back at the shore and seeing Galyah standing there all alone. My heart went out to her, for she would never know this part of life. This was menís work, after all. The "Three Maccabees" were no more. A threshold had been crossed. From that day forward, a distance grew between me and her. Itís only natural, you see, for boys and girls to grow into men and women - and what once was changes forever.

            Galyah soon didnít look like my baby sister. She filled out and became quite an attractive young woman. I noticed a different glint in Barsabbasí eye when he saw her, to which Iíd poke him in the ribs and say, "watch it, thatís my sister!" I never lost that big brother attitude, you see. The voice saying, "take care of your little sister," came from the inside.

            Not that she needed my protection. She had the spirit of a Maccabee, which she put into starting a business. In spite of Motherís disapproval, she became quite successful. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, something happened. She and I never talked about it directly. Itís not the sort of thing men and women discuss together. All that I knew was that her "time of the month" never ended. You know what the Torah says about such things. A woman is unclean during those times, it says. Everything she touches becomes unclean also (Leviticus 15:25-30). I overheard my mother once say that it gave her an excuse to pull back once a month and let someone else do the work. "A womanís curse," she said, "sometimes has itís blessings."

            Even though I had little idea what it meant to a woman, I could see little blessing in Galyahís curse. Little by little I watched her pull away, forced into a lonely life. What man, after all, would want a woman with such a problem? Not only that - I noticed the women in town slowly pull away from her, also. She spoke with Rabbi Jairus about it, but he could offer little help. The hemorrhaging needed to end before the requirements of Godís Law kicked in. She tried everything she could, went to every doctor she knew. They all had an answer, a treatment, something to do - for a price. She wasted all her savings on it, never getting any satisfaction.

            I felt so helpless. As her big brother, I was supposed to take care of her. But even I allowed the distance to grow between me and her. When I visited in her home, I sat on one side of the room and she on the other. It became so very formal between us. I hated it, but I couldnít seem to do anything different. The Torah didnít say to keep this much distance, but I did anyway. Oh, for the days of the "Three Maccabees." We would have drawn our stick swords and attacked this enemy who defiled the temple of her body, driving it out. But thatís just childís play.

            I told her about how me and Barsabbas had discovered this new rabbi named Jesus, how we became his followers. Our fathers were none-too-happy that we left the fishing nets behind, but what could they say, we were men now. I periodically came home, and when I did, Galyah and I would talk about Jesus - at a distance, mind you. He was so good with words. When he spoke about Godís kingdom, it was like you could almost reach out and touch it. Such authority in his voice! With a word he drove out the unclean spirit from a man - just like that (Mark 1:22-28). I wouldnít have believed it if I hadnít seen it with my own eyes. He healed the mother of one of the twelve (1:30-31). A leper along the way was healed, also (1:40-45). Get this - the friends of a paralyzed man even broke open the roof of a house Jesus was in and lowered him in through the hole before the rabbi, who then made him well (2:3-12). I shared all this with my baby sister.

            After a day of teaching beside the sea (4:1-34), Jesus wanted to head out to sea. As we had one of our boats there, Barsabbas and I volunteered to go along. Partway across, a big storm hit. We were all afraid, even those of us familiar with the sea. Jesus just slept through it all, so they said, until they woke him up and with a word he stilled the storm (4:35-41). Why he crossed over to the other side, I donít know. People there we just considered ignorant. They didnít believe in the God of Moses. They were Gentiles, for heavenís sake. Anyone who raises pigs should know better. No self-respecting Jew would be caught dead with those unclean animals (Leviticus 11:7-8, Deuteronomy 14:8). There was a crazy man over there, possessed by a legion of unclean spirits, whom Jesus healed. He sent the spirits into a herd of swine - if you can believe that- who then fled off a cliff (5:1-20). I believe it, cause I saw it with my own eyes. When we returned, I immediately went to my sister and told her all about it.

            Back down by the sea in Magdala, Jesus was teaching when rabbi Jairus came to him. "My daughter is very sick," he said. "Please come." It was on the way to Jairusí house that it happened. The whole crowd went with us. Not being one of the twelve, I followed from a distance, wedged within that mob. And then I saw her. Galyah was part of the crowd. On the one hand, I was thrilled. This was the first time she had come to see Jesus. On the other hand, I was afraid. She was, after all, "Woman Kneeling Before Jesus," from Harmoniae Evangelical libri quator :, by Osiander, Andreas, 1498-1552.contaminated. She shouldnít have been in that crowd. Everyone she bumped against was made unclean. This was reckless behavior. If someone recognized her, she would have been in big trouble. Rabbi Jairus was just up ahead with Jesus.

            I wanted to call out to her, but I couldnít. For one thing, with all the noise, she might not have heard me. More important, my yelling might have drawn attention to her. I didnít want to risk her humiliation. As best I could, I pushed and pulled to get closer to her. I could tell, though, where she was headed, and she was making better progress than I, that third Maccabee! I was getting frantic. I had to stop her before she got to Jesus. If she touched him, he would be defiled. Right there in front of Jairus. I wanted to protect him. I wanted to protect her. I wasnít thinking rationally, I know that. After all, Iíd prayed so long for this day, but it was turning out more like a nightmare than a dream.

            I saw her reach out and touch him, and then pull back into the crowd. Good! Maybe nobody would notice. Then my heart sank as Jesus stopped and looked around. He had noticed. I could see him talking to some of the twelve, who also started looking around. They were shrugging their shoulders. Then, I heard Jesus say, "Who touched me?" The crowd stopped and listened. Then I saw my sister step forward and talk with him. "Oh, God," I thought, "this canít be happening." I envisioned my sister being humiliated or, at worst, being stoned for what she did. Then, wonder of wonders, I saw a smile on Jesusí face. I will forever remember that smile. He put his hand on her shoulder, and she turned and left. And there was a "Christ and the Woman with the Issue of Blood," Paolo Veronese, 1565-70.smile on her face, also.

            I tried to make my way to her, but just then some runners came up to Jairus. We all heard them say, "your daughter is dead. Donít trouble the teacher any more." A gasp went up from the crowd. Poor girl. Poor Jairus, our faithful town rabbi. It was a tragedy, but such is life. However, Jesus wasnít finished. In the stillness of that moment of shared grief, I clearly heard him say, "Donít be afraid, Jairus. Just believe." Then he told the rest of us to stay, while he, Peter, James, and John continued on with Jairus to his daughterís side.

            "Donít be afraid. Just believe." Those words ran through my head as I made my way to my sisterís house. I hadnít been able to take care of her all those years. Her illness, which I didnít understand, nor could I as a man, had made me afraid. I had allowed it to come between us. Why hadnít I taken her with me to Jesus before this? She had had to do it on her own. What kind of big brother was I, anyway? "Donít be afraid. Just believe."

            When she opened the door, I did something I had not done for a long, long time. I reached out and hugged her. We then sat and talked. She laughed when I told her of my fears. "Matthias, you twit. Iím a big girl, now. You donít have to protect me. This was something I needed to do on my own." She then told me about how, when she touched the edge of Jesusí robe, something happened. She knew in her body that she was healed. When he asked who had touched him, she didnít return because she was afraid of him or anyone else. She stepped forward, instead, out of awe and wonder over what she knew deep within.

            "What did he say to you," I asked. "He called me a daughter of God, and said it was my faith that had made me whole. ĎShalom,í he said, Ďbe healed of your disease.í Thatís all." We sat there as brother and sister until sunset, enjoying the moment, in awe of the goodness of the Lord. It was like Godís kingdom had come.

            We later heard that Jairusí daughter was just fine. By then, we met up with Barsabbas, and together we joined in the growing entourage of disciples following Jesus to the next town along the way. The "Three Maccabees" were back in business. The rest, so they say, is history...    "Donít be afraid," he said. "Just believe."


         What we know of Matthias is derived from Acts 1:15-26, where he was chosen as an apostle to replace Judas Iscariot. In another message here four weeks ago, Matthias told the story of his calling. The text reveals that in order to be so chosen he needed to have accompanied the twelve "during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among (them), beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he (i.e. Jesus) was taken up from (them)" (vv. 21-22). As an apostle, Matthias was a witness to the resurrection. Other than this, we know little of Matthias - which leaves the door open to imagination. If he accompanied the twelve, he would have been an eyewitness to these events, also. For the purpose of this message, I have made Matthias a native of the town of Magdala, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
         For better or worse, I have also made a sibling connection between him and the "woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years(Mark 5:25). Like Matthias, we know little about her, except for what it says in Mark 5:24-34, Matthew 9:18-26, and Luke 8:40-56. We don't even know her name. Again, for better or worse, I have given her a name - "Galyah," which means "God shall redeem"

       Her name is thus a play on words.  "Ga'al," is a verb in Hebrew for "redeem." Interestingly enough, "ga'al" can also mean "defile" - i.e. made unclean. "Yah" comes from "Yahweh," the holy name of God.

         In giving her a name, I am in good company. "Later legend gives this woman the name of Berenice of Veronica, Eusebius of Caesaria (A.D. 264-340) in his Ecclesiastical History, tells of the bronze statue that was erected to her at Caesaria Philippi" [p. 183, All the Women of the Bible, Edith Deen, ©1955, Harper & Row.]
                              For more on "Berenice" of "Veronica," see Eusebius, book 7, scroll down to chapter 18
                                                                                                     or The Acts of Pilate chapter 7,
                                                                                                     or Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography (1911).
Also, see pp. 102-3 of Foremothers: Women of the Bible, Janice Nunnally-Cox, ©1981, Seabury]
.  ... 

online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see Mark.


©2003 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

return to "Messages" page

return to Long Green Valley Church page