Readings:Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24Psalms 30:2, 4-6, 11-132 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
We are treated in today’s gospel to a miracle story within a miracle story. Last week’s gospel had the disciples being tossed about in a boat, and we saw Jesus perform His first nature miracle in the gospel of Mark. Today the disciples and the accompanying crowds have arrived in Gentile territory, and before our Sunday gospel begins Jesus shows His power over unclean spirits, when He casts the demoniac’s evil spirit into a herd of swine (not a good outcome for the herd of two-thousand swine who drown in the lake).
Today’s gospel will show Jesus’ power over sickness and death. Sickness and death was not originally in God’s plan for His people, as the Book of Genesis and our first readings show: “God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living.” Indeed, God formed people “to be imperishable,” and Jesus, recognized by God the Father as “His beloved Son,” must also be viewed as having dominion over sickness and death.
In this gospel a Synagogue official had already heard so much about this itinerant preacher from Nazareth, that he is willing to make Jesus what appears to be his last resort, approaching Jesus on behalf of his terminally ill daughter. Jesus graciously decides to follow Jairus, the Synagogue official, home, and the large crowd that accompanied the disciples from the other side of the lake follow along, crowding Jesus and pressing in upon Him from all sides.
Somewhere in that large crowd is a woman feeling just as desperate as Jairus. “Afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years,” she suffered greatly at the hand of many doctors (sound familiar?), and she spent her entire worldly resources (not impossible). What our gospel doesn’t tell us is that her affliction made her no better than a leper, for her consistent bleeding would make her impure, unclean, and incapable of worship. Those who came in direct contact with her would also be made unclean, and need the permission of a priest to resume worship. Her life, no doubt, had not been easy.
Like Jairus, she had heard enough about this Jesus from Nazareth, to say, ‘what the heck, it’s worth a shot.’ One can almost see the woman jostling her way through the overwhelming crowd, trying to get as close to Jesus as possible, perhaps even getting His attention. When getting His attention seemed unlikely, she decided that “if I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured.” The unnamed woman would be satisfied with just brushing His cloak, so confident was she that this man could work miracles. When she felt the light brush of His rather rough cloak, “immediately her flow of blood dried up,” and “she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.” That was surely worth the effort!
What the woman could not have imagined was what happened next. She no doubt had brushed up against all sorts of people in her lifetime, and none of them paid her any heed. Jesus, however, was aware that “power had gone out from Him,” He was aware that that power for good was transforming someone’s life, and He wished to draw closer to whoever it was. The crowd stopped moving, and Jesus asked His disciples, “who has touched my clothes?” The disciples looked at Jesus with a “you’ve got to be kidding” look, but the woman who had not fallen too far behind, and who was so extraordinarily grateful for what she already felt in her body, timidly approached Jesus so that she might tell Him “the whole truth.” That truth no doubt included recounting years of suffering, and years of shame for being considered unclean, and also included the belief, from whence it came she knew not, that Jesus could make her well. The confirmation by Jesus of what she already knew surely strengthened her great faith and confidence even further, and it also must have strengthened Jairus’ belief, who, standing nearby, knew he had made the right decision.
The crowd continued on, and when people from Jairus’ house tell him “his daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer,” he all but ignores them, comforted by Jesus’ encouragement, “do not be afraid; just have faith.” As strong as Jairus’ and the woman’s faith was, there were others ready to ridicule Jesus for sharing what He knew to be true: “the child is not dead but asleep.” In the presence of His closest disciples and the child’s parents, He tells the girl to “arise,” the same root word for resurrection. It is amazing, and somewhat laughable, that it is Jesus who is worried about giving the girl “something to eat.”
Jairus and the woman with a hemorrhage served as examples for the disciples and crowds of people with a strong and unwavering faith. There were no pre-conditions for these healings; no inquiries of how often the recipients worshipped or gave to the temple. The religion of the woman is not even mentioned. The love of God, Jesus’ love, is lavished on all. By now in Mark’s gospel Jesus is seen as having control of what grows and flourishes, He is master of the wind and the seas, and He is now seen as having control over sickness and death. “At nighttime, weeping enters in, but with the dawn [of Jesus’ love, comes] rejoicing.” We are called to a faith so strong that it never loses hope like Jairus, a faith so strong, like the woman with a hemorrhage, that we are able to jostle through the unruly crowds of life just to touch Jesus’ garment. Most of us have been to the dark places of life, the places where no good is clearly seen on the horizon, but we are called to have hope, for we are loved by Jesus, the master and God of the universe.