Text: Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
In this week’s text, we see Jesus perform two dramatic healings: the raising of a girl presumed dead, and the healing of a woman who had been sick for so long, she felt like she had been left for dead.
Let’s consider the story of the little girl first. Her father, Jairus, was a leader in the synagogue. As such, he would have been a fairly prominent person in the community – the reason why we even get his name in the first place. He comes to Jesus, desperate for him to heal his daughter, who is close to death. (It should be noted, that while Jesus did face opposition from some of the Jewish leadership throughout his ministry, there were also many others who became followers – Jesus’ ministry in Galilee was, primarily, among the Jewish people, after all). Jesus responds immediately to Jairus’ request and goes with him.
But then, as they are going on their way, a large crowd has started to form around Jesus. People are pressing in on him from every direction. All of a sudden, Jesus stops in his tracks. “Who touched me?” he demands. How could he have even felt the woman’s touch, in the midst of all of the crowds? But Jesus knows. He turns, and he sees the woman – head turned down, eyes averted, falling at his feet and begging for mercy. Perhaps she can barely get the words out to tell him about her situation. Twelve long years of bleeding. Twelve long years of being identified as ritually impure. Twelve long years of perhaps longing to bear a child, knowing she had no chance whatsoever. This unnamed woman occupies a very different place in society than Jairus and his daughter. Rather than a place of prominence and respect, she exists on the edges, in the shadows, in the forgotten places. And yet, Jesus stops for her. He heals her.
Perhaps that is one of the jarring parts of the story for those who witnessed it. Shouldn’t Jesus have just gone on with Jairus? He was, after all, a very important person, and his daughter lay close to death. Couldn’t Jesus have come back later for the woman? But maybe, just maybe, that is the whole point of this story. Jesus shows up not only for the well-to-do, but also for those who are forgotten or shunned by the community. It’s not one or the other. It’s both.
It may have been the temptation for those who were witnessing these events unfold to scold Jesus for stopping to heal this woman. She was not in a good place, but she wasn’t about to die. And she wasn’t the daughter of a synagogue leader either! In healing both the woman and Jairus’ daughter, Jesus reveals that he has come for all who are sick – for all who are suffering – for all who need healing. It’s not a competition with Jesus!
In his blog, “The Listening Hermit,” Peter Woods reflects on this passage with these words:
At times of great disaster medical personnel are trained to practice triage. To decide who is most in need of medical attention and care. The injured are tagged with tape. Green for not serious. Yellow for serious. Red for critical. Black for terminal. If Mark’s edit of the gospel tells us anything it is this… Christian, pack away your tape and labels. There is no need for triage in the kingdom of God.
So maybe we should pack away our tape and labels and let Jesus do what he will with whom he will, whenever he wills.
o What words, phrases, or images from the text speak to you? What thoughts or feelings do they evoke?
o Have you ever felt judgmental and/or envious towards another person’s faith or healing experience? If so, why do you think that is?
o Have you ever felt like Jesus was neglecting your need?
Consider someone you know who needs healing. Lift them up in prayer, but don’t stop there. Give them a visit or a phone call. Send them a card. Let them know you are praying for them.
Think of a time when you have felt like God answered prayers for someone else, but yours got no response. Write about that experience. Offer all of your feelings and frustrations up to God.
God, you offer healing to the powerful and to the powerless. You see us all. Cultivate in me the faith of Jairus and of the unnamed woman. Restore life to me as you did to them. Restore life to those whom I love. I lay this all at your feet – you are my only hope. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.