The Rev. M. Craig Barnes: Jesus’ mercy is for one person as much as it is for the world


The gospel writer Mark did not spend time on Jesus’ back story; he jumped right into Jesus’ ministry. “By Chapter One, verse 23, Jesus’ fame has spread. He heals the sick, teaches, and the crowds keep getting bigger. They were amazed by what he could do,” said the Rev. M. Craig Barnes.

Barnes preached at the 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. His title was “Healing Doesn’t Hurry,” and the scripture reading was Mark 5:21-34.

We talk about the big issues of the day, and as a pastor I try to get Jesus in on those issues because the gospel of salvation is critical. Maybe you are wondering if the issues you bring sound petty and full of self-indulgent piety.”

Chaplain-in-residence, Chautauqua Institution

Jesus was on his way to the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader in a small town near a lake. In Jerusalem, the party of the Herodians and the Pharisees had already labeled Jesus a threat and were conspiring against him.

Jairus begged Jesus to come to his home and heal his daughter. “This was not a good career move on Jairus’ part if he wanted a larger synagogue. But Jairus was not think- ing about his career. He was thinking about his daughter, who was sick to the point of death and he was willing to do anything to heal her,” Barnes said.

Jesus agreed to go and the amazed crowd, now a parade, followed along. The disciples, said Barnes, “were excited. They thought their movement would finally get some legit- imation from the synagogue. They wanted Jesus to hurry and heal the little girl.”

But suddenly in verse 25 the progress stopped. “The pa- rade was going 90 miles an hour and suddenly hit a speed- bump. There was urgency to save the daughter of the town leader,” Barnes said.

A woman with a hemorrhage touched Jesus. She had spent all her money on the chronic problem, only to have physicians make it worse – and she stops the whole story. (As an aside, Barnes told the physicians in the congrega- tion to read the account of this story by Luke, himself a physician. Luke left out the part about making the woman’s health worse.)

“She is nameless, out of money, health and hope. But the whole story stops and the focus is on her because that is the way the gospel is written,” Barnes said. “Have you ever felt anonymous in the gospel, in a crowd, trying to figure out what faith had to do with the issues of the day?”

He continued, “We talk about the big issues of the day, and as a pastor I try to get Jesus in on those issues because the gospel of salvation is critical. Maybe you are wondering if the issues you bring sound petty and full of self-indulgent piety.”

The woman in the story just wanted to touch grace as it passed by her. She tried to touch Jesus and stay out of the way. But Jesus would not let her go anonymously. He stopped the parade. “He said, ‘Power left me,’ and I don’t know what that means,” Barnes said. “Jesus said, ‘Who touched me?’ and I don’t know what that means. The disciples looked around and said ‘What do you mean?’ There is a difference be- tween someone touching you for a little mercy versus grabbing for what you want.”

People can “grab” a “good time,” a “lunch,” or “power,” he told the congregation, but the things that are most import- ant “we don’t earn or achieve. We don’t earn our health, the people in our life, our service. We reach out gently and receive mercy.”

Jairus’ head must have been exploding, said Barnes, but Jesus would not hurry. “As with so much in leadership, we are almost always reactive. In the morning, as I was shav- ing, I prayed for the grace to handle the surprise of the day, and there always was a surprise. Jesus never lived under the tyranny of the urgent.”

The woman came forward and told Jesus the whole truth. Jesus was more interested in the whole truth of the tender mercies that heal than partial truths.

As an example of not telling the whole truth, Barnes talked about presiding at weddings. “You don’t see the whole truth. You may see the best part of marriage but not the whole truth about marriage.”

He said that in every wedding, with the groomsmen and best man on one side, the groom “looks better than he ever will again and appears proud like he is responsible for all the happiness.” The parents are seated and then the bridesmaids, who are “in dresses that don’t fit,” walk down the aisle followed by the bride, “who hovers as she walks.”

“I want to have those orange flashlights with cones on them to bring her down the aisle and get her parked,” Barnes

said. “Then, I steal a glimpse as the bride and groom look into each other’s eyes and seem to say, ‘So far, this marriage is going great.’ But that is not the whole truth.”

To find the whole truth at a wedding, look at the parents sitting in the front row — people who have seen hurt, who have lived through “for richer or poorer, in good times and bad, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.”

Barnes said, “They still have the faith to be together; that is the whole truth, what the grace of Jesus is all about. The grace of Jesus is not just about global concerns — Jesus is concerned about you. Until you see him as a healer in your own life, you can’t see him as healer of the whole world.”

He concluded: “At Jairus’ house, Jesus got rid of the crowd and healed the little girl. But the big event was that Jesus would not let the woman remain anonymous. Jesus is dying to save the world and also has mercy for you.”

The Rev. Mary Lee Talbot, morning worship columnist for The Chautauquan Daily, presided. Roland Bennett, a retired public librarian and long-time Chautauquan, read the scripture. Joshua Stafford, director of sacred music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist, played “Fantasia in
C Minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach for the prelude. For the anthem, the Motet Choir sang “We cannot measure how you heal,” music by Malcolm Archer and text by John L. Bell and Graham Maule. The choir was directed by Stafford and ac- companied by Nicholas Stigall, organ scholar, on the Massey Memorial Organ. Stigall played “Nun danket alle Gott,” by Johan Ernst Rembt for the postlude. Support for this week’s chaplaincy and preaching is provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Uhler Follansbee Memorial Chaplaincy.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.