Loving God, may we love you with all our hearts, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, and may we love our neighbour as ourselves; Amen
When we first came to Canada, over 20 years ago, we moved into new home and went grocery shopping. At that time Safeway was the only grocery store at our local mall, so we went there. Over the years it has been our store of choice, mainly because of convenience and familiarity. In the last few years, a whole bunch of high rises were built in the area with a huge new Save-On too. We always expected our Safeway to close but recently there have been doing major renos inside and out, it has to be said, for the first time in 20 years. This is all fantastic, as we know it must be staying. However, what isn’t great is that someone decided it was time to move everything around. Not in the way this usually happens, gradually … but whole departments have moved from there to here and here to there. This is a problem for shoppers like me for are creatures of habit and keep looking for stuff in the wrong place. Yesterday when we tried to get our walk in early and in the air conditioning, I nearly asked a member of staff if there were able to find everything because we certainly could not.
Throughout Mark’s gospel Jesus often encounters large crowds and sometimes seeks respite from them. And yet time and time again, as in today’s gospel passage, he is back in the midst of people.
We hear in this passage of two healings; one account occurs in the middle of the other and some commentators suggest dealing with them separately so that is our plan.
So first the women suffering from hemorrhages; we are told for 12 years, in other words, a long time. She had seen many doctors, spending all she had, and there was no improvement, in fact, her condition had deteriorated. This unnamed woman had heard of Jesus and believed if she just touched his cloak she would be healed. And as she touched Jesus immediately she knew she was healed. Jesus also knew that someone had touched him and asked the disciples who had done so. This seems an odd request when they are surrounded by a crowd. The woman approached with fear and trembling, fell as his feet and told her his story. Jesus' words to her express the entirety of the story: ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well'.
The narrative that surrounds this episode begins with a man called Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue. He falls at the feet of Jesus and asks him to come and lay hands upon his daughter, whom we hear, is at the point of death. It was as Jesus was going to the man’s house that he encountered the woman in the previous narrative. After Jesus has healed the woman, a group of people comes from Jairus’ home to tell him that his daughter had died. Jesus at once says to him ‘Do not fear, only believe’. He then led the way with just his closest disciples, Peter, James and John. Arriving at the home he found people already mourning and tells them the girl is just sleeping; he is not taken seriously. Jesus went with the mother and father in to see the child and told her to get up, speaking the words ‘Talitha cum’ meaning little one, get up. And like the woman in the other encounter, she is immediately healed, and we hear she is 12 years old. Those present were amazed, but Jesus told them not to tell anyone what had happened.
The woman who suffered from hemorrhages had suffered much more than just from a challenging physical illness, she would have been regarded as ‘unclean’ and therefore kept at a distance from the community including the synagogue, as well as her family. Any form of normal life would not have been possible, she would have been regarded in the same way as anyone suffering from leprosy, an outcast from society.
Yet the woman, as other people of faith in the gospels, clearly had not given up hope. She heard of Jesus’ teaching and healing and came to believe he could make her well. Yet by touching a rabbi (teacher) she was again breaking the cultural norms of the day; she likely expected to be rebuked by Jesus. However nothing is further from his mind; he proclaims to her, the disciples and anyone else present, that her faith has made her well. It is hard to over-estimate what this healing would have meant to the women; her body was healed, but she would also have been restored to her family and faith community, she also became part of the community of Jesus too. The woman approaches Jesus twice, once to seek healing, once to make known what Jesus has done for her; both times she demonstrates huge courage and faith.
Jairus too was a man of faith. In spite of the serious condition of his daughter, he believed (as the woman did) that Jesus could heal his beloved child. When the news comes of the girl’s death, Jesus is not distracted, and as he said to the disciples (in last weeks’ boat journey in the storm), do not to be afraid. Jairus then continues with Jesus to his home and going into the room where the girl was, with her parents and his close disciples, Jesus heals the girl, on the basis of the faith of her father.
Here then are two extraordinary examples of faithfulness. Both Jairus and the unknown women know their need for Jesus and are not afraid (as it were) to ask. In our own lives, we often know our particular needs but aren’t always ready to ask. We should be encouraged and inspired by these two faithful people, one concerned for themselves, one for his daughter.
Perhaps we should be clearer with God in terms of what we need, perhaps we should be more faithful in our expectations. May we continue to love the God who first loved us, with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength, and may we love one another as well as ourselves.