Proper 8, Year B: 2 Corinthians 8:7-14, Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and 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.”
So, he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-43)
In some ways, what we just heard were a couple of very powerful yet simple stories from the gospel of Mark. This is a passage that’s often split into two so that you hear either the story of the long-hemorrhaging woman who was healed by Jesus. Or you hear the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Both are extremely powerful examples of the healing that Jesus performed. And we need to hear that.
These are miracle stories – a person who had suffered for years and years and had gotten to the end of her rope in terms of treatment options, she was healed. And a little girl who was pronounced not only gravely ill, but by mid-story had actually died? She was raised with the kind yet powerful words of Christ, “Little girl, get up.” In these stories we hear the power of Christ to heal against all expectations. The power of Christ to raise from the dead! And so, we’re invited to lean into this, to share stories of healing among us, and to proclaim and give thanks for the power of Christ to heal.
And… as is often the case with Mark, there’s also more going on here. There’s more healing than we might catch at first glance, and I want us to see that too. And to do that, we need to allow these stories to stay as one. The hemorrhaging woman and Jairus and his daughter are deeply related; they are in some ways even dependent on one another – and that’s something we need to hear too.
This whole passage is a story about courageous people reaching out, crossing lines, and taking risks for the sake of the healing which Christ gave to them all. Before there was healing, there was courage. Before there was healing, there was a desire for wholeness. And before there was healing, there was the willingness to risk on behalf of another.
Jairus was a leader of the synagogue. Don’t miss that. Jairus’ position as leader of the synagogue is something mentioned by Mark three times in this passage, and so it matters. It matters because as we’ve been hearing for the last several weeks, the Pharisees (religious leaders who worked very closely with the leaders of the synagogues) were out to trap Jesus by this point in the gospel. Jesus and the Pharisees were very publically and theologically duking it out.
And that’s because by chapter three (and here we are in chapter five) Jesus had broken with religious law several times; we’ve been hearing these stories for the past several weeks. Jesus did it by healing on the Sabbath, touching the untouchables (lepers, bleeding women,) and by eating with outcasts and sinners. And so Jairus was risking a lot by reaching out to him. Jairus was breaking with his own ranks in significant ways and he did it in a rather exceptional fashion.
Jairus didn’t just email Jesus, or send a note, or even go to Jesus by night. This was not “a private conversation among leaders.” When Jesus had gotten off the boat, Jairus was there in the crowd, surrounded by the crowd, many of whom were members of his own congregation, his own constituents and probably a Pharisee or two. And right out there in the light of day, Jairus “fell at Jesus’ feet,” the gospel says, and Jairus begged him repeatedly to come help his daughter.
And Jairus would very likely have suffered consequences for his actions. But that didn’t seem to matter as much as the healing did. And I think that’s an important point in this gospel. Here was a leader, who had a whole lot to lose and he very publically risked it all by placing the potential for healing over the priority of religious purity and personal position.
Note: it can be done.
Now odds are good, Jairus took those risks because it was his own daughter who was suffering. It’s what any parent would do, right? Of course and back to that in a few minutes.
On their way to Jairus’ house another incredibly courageous person entered the scene. This person had no name. But she, reached out too. The woman who had been “hemorrhaging for twelve years” Marks says, broke through the crowd, came up behind Jesus, and she touched him. Now it’s important to note that this woman was,, by virtue of her hemorrhaging, ritually unclean and therefore had likely been permanently banished to the very margins of the community. She was an untouchable. And so, for her to even be present in a crowd, let alone in voice and touch was a huge risk too. She was on the completely other end from Jairus of just about every societal spectrum you could name – in terms of power, privilege, probably economic status and certainly acceptance in their community. This woman didn’t even have a name.
But because they were both willing to take risks, healing came to more than each of them. And it took them both to pull this off. And I think that’s a part of the point here too. In her touch, this woman rendered Jesus unclean. But that didn’t matter to Jesus who celebrated this woman’s faith – by proclaiming it to the whole crowd! And it didn’t matter to Jairus who by religious law, should have stopped Jesus from entering his home because of the woman’s touch (and so many other things that Jesus had done to this point.) But none of that mattered. Because Jairus’ child was hurting. And so Jairus invited this religious-law-breaking, unclean healer into his home. And Jesus went there. And in these simple words, “Little girl, get up,” Jairus’ daughter rose. And then as Jesus often did he said, “Now get her something to eat.”
And so, what happened here was a miracle larger than two people being healed, although they were. What happened here was that an entire people watched a leader risk his position of power and break ranks to appeal passionately on behalf a child. And they watched a woman break through the crowd essentially risking her life because she believed that healing could happen. And they witnessed Jesus celebrate her courage and her faith.
And so, I want to say that this is what it takes. Healing writ large takes us all, those with power and privilege, those on the margins, and everyone in-between. The crowd (many of them the “in-betweens”) could have stopped all of this, or at least tried to, but they didn’t. Probably because on some level, their hearts wanted it too.
It takes all of us to desire a healing that is greater than any of us. It takes people of all kinds to reveal what healing can look like for humankind.
Like this gospel passage, we need to allow our stories to be one.
Yesterday hundreds of thousands of people across the country, and over a thousand here in Holland, came together to say, “There are children at our border who need healing. Desperately. And together, we can help that happen.” Like Jairus, we proclaim that there is nothing to protect that is worth more than the safety, wholeness, and well-being of a child, let alone thousands of them. Many of these children at the border (and I realize there are exceptions and that the entire immigration process needs reform) but many of these kids came with parents who are the ones breaking through the crowds reaching out to a Body with the potential to heal. They are also Jairus, but with no power or privilege who are very simply seeking new life for their children.
We need to let their stories be our story. Yesterday people crossed well established lines of political party, denominations, and faiths to say that it is so. “Who is my family?” Jesus asked a few chapters back in this gospel. And he responded to his own questions through actions that reached out to those who were hurting: “All of you are my family,” he said, “And all of them are too.” Sons and daughters, children of God, family of God one and all.
And so, we are Jairus. And we are the woman hemorrhaging. And in this story, we hear that healing is possible for us all. We also hear that it will in part be our desire, our faith, our hope that helps healing writ large come into being. May we have the courage of the people in this passage. May we continue together to seek a way in which we as a people can say to the children of this world, “Little girl, get up. Little boy, get up. Here is your family. Now let’s all get something to eat.”