Scripture Reading: Mark 5:21-43
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This week in the Gospel of Mark we have Jesus dealing with two females. One of which has been ill for 12 years, the other is a 12 year old girl who is sick to the point of death.
Jesus dealing with two women would have drawn some attention to the readers of the Gospel of Mark. Since Jesus was not related to either of them, he should not be touching or talking with them. It would have raised some eyebrows to say the least. And that’s just the start of it.
Last week Jesus was teaching people from a boat as they stood on the shoreline. And he was teaching them about the kingdom of God through parables. In particular he was teaching them using parables about seeds.
After he taught them they took the boat to the other side of the sea, and there he cast demons out of a man. After which he crossed back over the sea, where it seems a great crowd of people were waiting.
As Jesus steps into the crowd a leader from the temple comes to him for help. Jairus tells Jesus his daughter is very sick and is expected to die soon. He begs Jesus to come to his home and heal her.
As they make their way to the home, a great crowd forms all around them as they walked. Among the crowd is a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. She has spent all her money seeing doctors trying to end the illness which causes her to bleed. After all her money was gone, she was no where near being well, in fact, we’re told it is even worse than before.
When she hears about Jesus, and knew he is back in her town, she seeks to get close to him. She knows deep in her heart he is the only one who can help her.
She works her way through the crowd, and when she is close enough, she reaches out and just manages to touch the hem of his robe.
How often, I wonder do we get touched and not realize it? When we’re in a crowd and someone just barely brushes up against us, do we realize it? Probably not. I don’t think I would notice if someone managed to just graze my jacket as I walked through a busy mall.
Yet, as Jesus walks through this crowd of people, a woman reaches out and touches the hem of his robe, and he stops.
Why did he stop?
We’re told he stops because he felt power had gone out of him.
The woman, when she touched his clothes is instantly healed. Her bleeding stops. She is healed of her disease. His power HAD gone out of him.
Now this is interesting because in other healing stories we’ve looked at recently, Jesus chose to reach out and touch people and make them well. But this example is different. Jesus was walking along and someone touched him without him realizing it, and she was healed.
Jesus didn’t choose to heal her, but the power of the Spirit left him and healed the woman of her disease.
What happens is the opposite of what we should expect. It would be the opposite of what Mark’s audience would have expected. This woman has been bleeding for 12 years. She’s unclean. Everyone who comes in contact with her is then unclean for a period of time.
When someone is unclean, it can spread easily. Anyone who comes in contact with this woman or her belongings then becomes unclean themselves. It’s like a virus, passed on from one person to another. The only way to stop it is to be in quarantine. If you can’t be in contact with someone else, then the spread will stop.
This woman, by walking into the crowd takes on a big risk. Everyone she comes in contact with becomes unclean and will then need to undertake rituals in order to become clean again, which takes days.
This woman is also pretty desperate. She has been unclean for 12 years. Imagine, 12 years of no contact with anyone. How lonely would you feel? How badly would you want it to all finally end? How badly would you crave for someone to just touch your hand?
So she goes for it. She reaches out and touches his clothes. Whatever she can reach it’s going to be enough, she hopes and believes.
And sure enough it is. She is healed. Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Remember, Jesus has been walking with Jairus. I would think Jairus has been losing his mind in all of this. He has great concern for his daughter, she is on the brink of death. He’s likely trying to pull Jesus along as quickly as possible, and he stops because someone touched him? Come on! There’s more pressing issues to be taken care of!
And then, as Jesus stands there talking to this woman, a few people from Jairus’s house come and tell him it’s too late. His daughter is dead.
I expect Jairus has probably lost control of his emotion at this moment, as any parent would. Jesus offers him words which are to comfort him, “Do not fear, only believe.”
As Jesus arrives at the house, he tells those who are wailing and weeping to not worry, the girl is only sleeping. And they actually laugh at him when he says this.
And Jesus goes to the girl, takes her by the hand, and tells her to get up. “Talitha cumi.” And the girl gets up and gets out of bed.
What rings in my ears when I think of how Jesus takes this girl and brings her back to life are the words he said to her father, “Do not fear, only believe.”
I know I would be a complete wreck if my child was dying. Yet Jesus, with all his reputation, his authority, tells Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”
Knowing what Jesus has been up to, I wonder what happened in Jairus’s heart when he heard those words? I would think there was a sudden small feeling of hope which wasn’t there before.
I like to think Jesus had a sparkle in his eye, maybe even a little wink as he said it.
I suspect the disciples kind of held back each other thinking, “Woah, I can’t wait to see what’s he’s going to do next!”
And then Jesus goes off to do the impossible. Something they should be getting used to by now.
An interesting fact we need to discuss about the story of the girl is in her death she is also unclean. Which means anyone who touches her becomes unclean.
Do we hear of Jesus being unclean after he touches her hand? No, we hear she comes back to life.
The story of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark is about the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One of God being revealed into human history.
As the Son of God, Jesus cannot be unclean.
By the touch of the bleeding woman, Jesus should have been unclean, even if he didn’t initiate the contact. But instead of taken on the uncleanliness, his power goes out and takes the uncleanliness away.
In the death of the girl, he reaches out to touch her hand, and instead of taking on the uncleanliness, his power again goes out and makes her clean and brings her back to life.
We know in these two stories these women were not sinners, they were victims of disease and illness. And with these diseases, they were unclean. Anyone who touched them would also be unclean, because who could know if they didn’t pick up the disease themselves?
Yet in Jesus, cleanliness spreads to the unclean. No one else has this power.
The bleeding woman has had no life for 12 years because of her illness. The young girl, 12 years old, loses her life to an illness.
Yet Jesus gives them their lives back. Literally in the case of the young girl. Both have received an amazing gift from Jesus.
Neither of them asked for it. The bleeding woman snuck up behind Jesus, just hoping something might happen. The young girl was sick, and it was her father who went to find help when he heard Jesus was in town. They didn’t look for help, but they found it.
When we look at Jairus, he was desperate for Jesus to come to his home. He begged Jesus to come. No doubt he was pulling Jesus along by the sleeve, rushing to get to his daughter. Just like any of us would.
Jesus had other plans. He stopped along the way. He helped another woman who needed him. After Jesus asked who had touched him, we read in verse 33, “But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.”
Jesus listened to her story.
Jairus had a different plan. It was to get Jesus to his house as quickly as possible so his daughter could be saved. Jesus agreed to follow him, but Jesus didn’t agree to his timeline. Jesus had other work to do along the way.
This is a story for us to hear.
When we invite Jesus into our lives, we also need to relinquish some of our desires for control. We need to give up our own preconceived plans for how things are going to work out.
Jesus knows what we need. Jesus knows we need his healing in our broken lives, but sometimes his timeline is quite different than our’s. Probably far more different than we would like.
So we need to hear those same words Jairus heard. “Do not fear, only believe.”
Trust in Jesus. It’s not as easy as you might think, because, again, we have our own plans!
We need to trust that Jesus will do what is right, but he’ll do it at the right time. Our time may not be the right time. But God’s time is always the right time.
Life is a long journey. A journey of ups and downs. A journey of hills and valleys. A journey of suffering and celebrating. And all through it we might be able to see where God has been active in places we didn’t expect, at times when we didn’t know where else to turn.
Sometimes we initiate it ourselves, but more often than not, God steps in when we need Him the most.
Jesus is on our journey with us. When the power of the world begins to overtake us, he releases a bit of his healing power to help us carry on.
When darkness, sin, pain, or the stress of life begin to overwhelm us, Jesus can take some of it away. Our darkness, our uncleanliness cannot keep Jesus apart from us. He has the power to offer his light, his cleanliness into our lives.
In this great journey we call life, we are never truly alone.
God IS with us.
Thanks be to God!