Monday, July 10, 2017

Reaching to the Heavens

Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God's messengers were going up and down on it. And there was the LORD standing beside him and saying: "I, the LORD, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants.  Genesis 28:12-13

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, "My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live." Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.  Matthew 9:18-19

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?  (Robert Browning)

Just as Jacob’s ladder reaches back and forth between heaven and earth, the people who encounter Jesus reach between their lives and the heavenly possibilities that await their faith in Jesus. The faith that the official (Mark and Luke tell us his name is Jairus) and the bleeding woman have in Jesus is now the ladder connecting the miracles made possible. Jesus becomes the physical and spiritual ladder that they reach out to touch and to climb.

Today, Jesus brings Jairus’ daughter back down to earth on the stairway that would have carried her to heaven.  This is one of only three times Jesus performs such a miracle.  The other times involve the widow Nain’s son and Lazarus. 

Those who witness this miracle and the parallel cure of the woman who was bleeding are now at a point when Jesus identity is nearly fully revealed.  Last week, we saw Jesus take command over the natural world by calming the stormy seas. Then, Jesus commanded the spiritual world when he ordered the demoniacs to depart and tossed them into the sea.  Now, Jesus also exhibits his control over the physical world of disease and even death. 

Despite the faith that is on display by Jairus and the woman, people who are mourning the death of the girl continue to doubt and mock Jesus. (“When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute-players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him.”)  However, Jesus silently gets in the last word simply by taking her hand and bringing her back from the sleep of death. Now, who do you say that He is?  

No matter how hectic our lives may be or may become, step back.  All that glitters is not gold and no amount of money will buy us a rung on the stairway to heaven.

Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains. (I Timothy 6:9-10)

Instead of a quest for money or power, we are on a journey in search of meaning in a world filled with ambiguity just like Jairus and the woman who is bleeding.

If we reach out in the right direction, there is still time to change the road we are on.  We can choose the path of faith as exhibited in today’s Gospel.  Or we can choose the path of ridicule and mockery.  The Piper Jesus is calling on us to join him on the spiritual stairway to heaven.

[Verse 4 – Stairway to Heaven by Jimmy Plant and Robert Page]

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now
It's just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on
And it makes me wonder
Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

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