(for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, June 28, 2015)
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 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 haemorrhages 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 haemorrhage 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 round 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, NRSV).
Two desperate lives await the arrival of Jesus. One is losing his daughter. One her life. Both see one opportunity.
Jairus has his plan. A respected community leader. He enjoys status, influence, family, servants, a home.
Yet this dignified leader falls immediately and openly at Jesus’ feet: ‘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.’
Clear. Succinct. He knew what he wanted from Jesus. Come. Pray.
Twelve years earlier a precious gift was given. Now she is fading. And he is desperate enough to let anyone see.
The unnamed woman also has a plan. Hers is a negative status: known through rare sightings and distant memories. She is labeled more by absence. The years took everything. Money. Family. Relationships. Even now her burden grows worse. This ritual uncleanness is likely the result of a pregnancy gone wrong. An abortion? A miscarriage? An unstoppable bleeding banning her even from her newborn?
So she approaches carefully. Legalities do not permit contact with anyone. There is no desire to detail her life before any man. Anonymity matters. Still the stories draw her…
But how to approach? Her conclusion: an anonymous touch will suffice. It is a risky plan. Jesus will become unclean. So will anyone who brushes against her. The payoff: no attention; no telling.
Twelve years earlier a precious gift was lost. Now she too is fading. She is desperate enough to break the law.
Hers is the first miracle of the two. It begins just as she imagined. When Jesus stopped, however, it all unravelled. ‘Who touched my clothes?’ With the crowd around his was an absurd search.
But the blood stopped flowing – and she knew it. Her thin cover is slowly breaking. Now she is kneeling. Telling all. A private miracle. A public testimony.
It was worth the risk. Deprived of status for over a decade she quenches a desperate thirst on the blessing of Jesus: ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’ This Jesus-issued title ushers her back among God’s people!
And all the while Jairus is waiting. Though he was first in line he now stands impatiently. Does Jairus think this interfering, law-breaking woman will cost vital time? If he does, it is not said. Who knows, perhaps he saw this miracle and found his faith deepening.
At least until the messengers came. Bad news: ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ If Jesus had not overheard, Jairus may have simply left. Jesus’ timely call to trust kept him following.
All the way to his home. Through the wailers. Past the mockers. Into the embrace of his heartbroken wife. Their heartache so public.
So Jesus graciously closes the door on all but this grieving couple and four of his closest followers. ‘Little girl, get up!’ And as she walked those few present were ‘overcome with amazement’. A public request. A private miracle accompanied by permission to hold silence.
It leaves me thinking that Jesus met these different, intertwined, requests perfectly, personally, and exceedingly graciously. A crystal clear reflection of the heart of God.