Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, andhad spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
This is a tale of two daughters. One little girl, extremely sick, daughter of Jairus, and one whom Jesus calls daughter. Mark loves to interrupt himself and put a story within a story. He uses that technique all the time to place two similar but different situations alongside each other for us to compare and contrast. Both of these stories today are relatable for us.
A frustratingly relatable situation for many is feeling utterly helpless when it comes to your own child’s health and pain. When you as a parent know your child is suffering and you can’t do anything about. When you have exhausted your options and you’re at your breaking point and you will literally try anything and everything and even embarrass yourself in the process as you beg anyone who will listen to help your child. Jackie and Mark, as relatively new parents, calling the Dr’s office in a bit of a panic is totally normal.
My four year old daughter Vivian had been sick last week with a mild summer cold. And just when I thought she was getting better, she got worse. Can you imagine trying to parent in the ages before antibiotics? When a simple infection could get so out of control?
And then the woman that Jesus calls daughter, experiences the emotional exhaustion of illness that is both stigmatized and untreatable. Or at least treatment has not yet been found. The lack of awareness or willingness to discuss what are seen as “women’s” health issues, and therefore somehow less serious than “regular” health issues. One commentary forum I follow, a male preacher took the approach that there was nothing about this passage to suggest that this had anything to do with infertility, menstruation, uterine fibroids, or endometriosis. Another scholar commented, where do you think she’s been bleeding from for 12 years? Her ear??
Recent seminary grade and author Alisha Riepma writes “I find it unfortunate that the blood that is shed by women routinely for the sake of giving life has been shamed throughout history, while the blood shed by men in battle—in the act of taking life—is honored. Women, simply by having a body that works, were considered unclean and cast out routinely.” This woman that Jesus calls daughter would have been avoided and isolated by virtue of her illness. There would be no casseroles, no family members showing up to help with laundry or cleaning.
The similarity I see in these passages about healing, is that everybody is at the end of their rope. They have exhausted their resources. They spent all the money. They tracked down each specialist. They’ve risked and they’ve sacrificed, and they’ve made no progress. They are still suffering. But a touch restores them, even though the rest of those around them don’t understand.
These are both in places where many well-meaning friends and family sense a boundary. And in 1st century Palestine there are actual boundaries in place…. No contact with women who are bleeding. No contact with the dead. People offer sad platitudes and start to back away. God does everything for a reason. Just pray harder. Maybe if you had more faith. To be at that place is a feeling of hopeless desperation.
In that place, Jesus is with us, and provides healing, wholeness and restoration. New life, where we had only seen loss and death.
For Jairus, his nameless wife and daughter.
For the woman who had been ostracized, isolated is now given status and place – declared a daughter by God’s own son. And now that we know the lengths parents are willing to go for their children, perhaps Mark lines these stories up together for that reason. This healing sandwich helps us not only to see that Jesus brings new life out of death and possibility out of pain – but shows that love to each believer to each who even just reach out to touch the edge of the cloth. To those who just feel like they need to dip their toe in the pool of organized religion.
For parents here, especially Jackie and mark, this feeling we get that we would stop at nothing for our child to have wholeness and healing. For anyone who has served in the role of a parent, that urge to want not just the best for your child, but life – that is a powerful motivator and parents move heaven and earth for their children. How much more so does our heavenly parent desire these things for each of his children – like a mother or a father who loves their child without condition. May we deeply understand the depth of God’s love for us, his children…
Yes, we are taught to call God father, but how much is god like a mother waiting late nights at the beside of her sick child. At least from my own experience of mothering, that is a holy calling. We model gods action when we attend to those who are suffering and do everything in our power to bring compassion and healing to the situation. And fathers, thanks be to God, model this as well. Laila, may you know deeply the love that your parents have for you – and deeper each day, the love that our holy parent has for you.