2 Sam 1:1, 17-27, Psalm 130, 2 Cor 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43
I’ve been pondering of late the amazing way God touches our lives. Most of the time it is not through a miraculous healing as we have in our Gospel passage today. It is often through the small moments in our lives that God reaches out to us and embraces our lives. The gospel reading does tell us a lot about who God is, who Jesus is and of the work of the Holy Spirit, but it also says a lot about us, about human nature, about us.
There are two main stories in Mark today. The first is about a leader of the synagogue named Jairus who comes to Jesus and begs him repeatedly to lay hands on his daughter who is not only sick but at the point of death. As I sat with this reading, I was struck by the pain and anguish in this man’s pleading with Jesus. He is not asking nicely, not just saying ‘oh Jesus come heal my daughter’. Jairus is pleading, begging, kneeling at Jesus feet, calling attention to the fate of his daughter.
There are some significant similarities between the two stories and yet there are also some startling differences. Although we know the name of Jairus, we do not know the name of his daughter, nor do we know the identity of the woman who touches Jesus coat. They may be unknown to us, but they are known by God. Both need healing, the little girl is dying, and the with the haemorrhage will no doubt at some point die from her condition. Both Jairus and the woman are desperate. Jairus’ comes to Jesus begging and pleading for Jesus to take action. However the woman comes to Jesus secretly. She does not want to be noticed, she wants to receive healing without being seen. She is after all, considered unclean by the society in which she lives. She would be expected to live outside of society. To be found among the crowd, indeed to be found to have touched Jesus could have dire consequences for her. But not only are Jairus and this women desperate, they are brave. They both would fear rejection if their request goes unanswered.
Jesus says yes to Jairus, they walk together on their way to Jairus home where his daughter is laying close to death. On the way, the woman with the haemorrhage bravely enters the crowd and gets as close to Jesus as possible just to touch his clothes. She says to herself, ‘if I but touch the his clothes, I will be made whole’ (Mk 5:28). If I but touch his clothes. She reaches out, coming behind Jesus and touches his clothes. The woman immediately feels the change in her body. She knows something miraculous has taken place. The haemorrhage ‘immediately…stopped and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease’ (Mk 5:29). For her God had touched her in a miraculous way. She received the healing she had longed for, for many years. No doctor had been able to provide the healing she wanted. Only Jesus could do for her what she had longed for.
Jairus and the woman in the crowd tell us something about ourselves. When times get tough, when there seems no other choice, then desperate measures are called for. Jairus’, a leader of the synagogue risks his reputation approaching Jesus. The Pharisees, Chief priests and indeed many of the leaders of the Synagogues were not at all pleased with Jesus healing people and sharing with them about the Kingdom of God. Jesus was giving people back their lives. Jairus risks his reputation approaching Jesus but Jairus also knows something about Jesus. That Jesus could bring healing to his daughter. Those at Jairus’ home did not believe that Jesus could bring healing to his daughter. They say, ‘do not trouble the teacher anymore (Mk 5:35).’ Jesus tells Jairus, ‘do not fear, only believe’ (MK 5:36). Do not fear, only believe. Is this not a word for today, do not fear, only believe.
Jesus sends away all who were disbelieving and only takes his closest disciples in with him, Peter, James and John and Jairus and his wife inside. Jesus commands the little girl to ‘get up’ and immediately, she gets up. Her life is restored.
The woman with the haemorrhage also reminds us of how often we come to God hoping for something to happen but we do it hoping God will not notice. ‘If I should just touch the hem of his clothes, I will be whole’ (Mk 5:28). She is hoping no one will notice, no one, including Jesus. There is nothing that you and I can do that can escape the notice of our loving, compassionate God. When we reach out to God hoping not to be noticed, God reaches out to us. Jesus knew immediately that power had gone from him, turning to his disciples asks, ‘who touched me?’ The disciples are incredulous, ‘You see the crowd, how can you say, ‘someone touched me?’ Do you hear the doubt in the words of the disciples? God won’t hear you, God won’t be there for you, why would God pay attention to you? Can you hear the voice of doubt. This woman was by societies standards a nobody, outcast. She was not supposed to be in the crowd and yet Jesus noticed immediately. The woman responds to Jesus in fear and trembling because she knows her place in this society. But she tells Jesus everything and Jesus responds, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you whole’.
Last week gospel also had a theme of faith and fear and how they play a role in our journey of faith. Fear is a powerful emotion. It stops us from doing all sorts of things. If Jairus, or the woman gave into fear, neither Jairus’ daughter or the woman would have received their healing. Instead they took faith, courage and believed that Jesus could do for them as they desired, to bring healing and restoration.
This is the work of the Gospel, to restore us, to bring us back into relationship with God, to bring healing to our hearts and minds. Many people do not receive the physical healing they desire and that is hard to understand but the power of the Gospel is to bring us back into relationship with God and that in itself brings us wholeness in our lives. It does not mean we will not face fear and doubt, but we have a Saviour who is with us, that we can call out to, who will hear our prayer. If you have felt that God does not want your attention, realise right now, that God is reaching out to you, wants very much for you to be in relationship with. Prayer simply means talking to God, talk to God today about your desires, your needs. Amen.