- Church of the Ascension
6/30/18 & 7/1/18 Proper 8B 6 Pentecost
This is a very touching gospel for me today. My daughter is facing surgery, and a good friend is recovering from the same surgery. The surgery that would have helped the woman in the crowd, had it been available for her.
So of course they have been on my mind as I read and prayed about these words of Mark.
Like a lot of what we read in the gospels, this story is about so much more than the health of these two women. It is about the unhealth of the whole world.
Jesus is trying to change the entire social system. He is saying and showing that everyone is equal in God’s eyes. Everyone should be seen as equal in our eyes, too.
The social system, the culture, in Jesus’ day was very different from how we live today.
But think of Saudi Arabia, a fairly modern country in some ways. But women have few rights. Their lives are governed by a “guardian” – their father or husband or another man in the family. Finally, last week –last week! They were granted the right to drive a car.
Or think of Victorian England, where there were many rules of behavior for the upper class. If a man got up from a chair, a woman was supposed to wait until the chair was cool so she could sit.
In Jesus’ day it wasn’t only women who lived by social codes and rules. Men also were bound by these restrictions. Your status at birth was probably to be your status for life.
There was no idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and doing whatever you wanted.
Jesus said this social structure was wrong.
In Jesus’ day, not unlike our own, many people with high status—the rich and famous—thought that God had given them this place in life.
If they had listened to Jesus, or to the prophets who lived long before him, they would have had a different idea.
Jesus did not have high praise for those who thought themselves better than others.
Robert Capon said often that Jesus came for the “least, littlest, last and lost.”
Jesus broke rules, and broke down boundaries—between people and between nations. While we see dividing lines, Jesus is already on the other side. Calling us to join him.
Mark shows us this in today’s gospel.
Jesus has just come from the other side of the lake—the gentile side. The not Jewish side. He healed and taught there just the same as at home.
This story about women who are healed would have been shocking and amazing for his listeners. Those who witnessed this must have had their lives forever transformed. As did the women.
In Jesus’ day there was a strong “purity code.”
They didn’t understand about germs, but they considered some things unclean.
For Jews certain foods were unclean. It was unclean to touch a dead person, or a sick person. And if you were sick, you were unclean.
The woman in the crowd is nameless. Just a poor, sick, unclean woman made more sick by spending all her money on useless medicine.
She broke the purity code by reaching out to touch Jesus’ – even the hem of his robe.
Instead of making him sick, too, it healed her.
Jesus spoke to her—breaking another of the social mores. He restored her to health and gave her back the dignity of being a daughter of God.
But what about Jairus and his daughter? He was there first! Still waiting! What’s Jesus up to?
Jesus is up to righting wrongs. He is saying that until the poor have access to health care, no one should have it.
Mark has combined these two stories this way so the second story gives new meaning and intention to the first. He likes to “sandwich” stories this way to emphasize his point.
In fact—there are two lines that should be read simultaneously. “Daughter, your faith has made you well. God in peace and be healed of the disease.” and, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher any further?”
These connect the two stories and help us see that Jesus is healing and restoring them both.
And echoing what he said to the disciples in last week’s passage, “Do not fear, only believe.”
Jesus had not forgotten Jairus. That name means something like “enlightened” and I’m sure Jairus was enlightened by what happened.
The woman in the crowd reached out anonymously, hoping to stay anonymous. Jairus, as befit his status, came to Jesus face to face. He bowed, as one did when asking a favor. He is proof that not all the Jewish leaders were out to get Jesus.
He is asking for healing for his daughter. The woman in the crowd had no one to support her in her quest for health. Jairus had wealth. He could have sent a hired messenger for Jesus, but he went himself. A sign that he loved his daughter? Maybe.
Healing only happens when we admit that we need it. The woman and Jairus both admitted their need. As they sought out Jesus, they found the way to the healing they needed.
So, sometimes, we need to let down the boundaries we put up to protect ourselves. To make ourselves “perfect.” We need to admit our need and offer it to Jesus for help. That is having faith or trust in God’s love and care.
When word is brought that the daughter is dead, Jesus tells Jairus to trust, have faith.
When those at the house laugh at Jesus he “casts” them out. As he cast out demons.
When he heals the young woman and tells her to get up, Mark uses the same word used for Jesus resurrection. Not just get up—have new life. Be restored and alive in a new way.
Mark uses many parallels in the story. Jairus’ daughter is 12, the woman has been sick for 12 years. There are 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus calls both women “daughter.” He erases all the differences between them and unites them in God’s love.
As we heard in Paul’s letter, “The one who had much did not have too much. The one who had little did not have too little.” Because the one who had much reached out to share with the one who had need. Just like Jesus.
This story isn’t just about two women. I think it can be seen as an acted out parable. Jesus is saying, “the kingdom of God is like two women who need healing.”
This story is for all of us and everyone.
Jesus is calling each of us to have faith, trust, and to admit our need for God’s healing. We give our lives to Jesus and they are transformed and made whole. It’s how we know that God calls us daughter or son. And we can’t do this on our own.
This reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s song, “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. (there’s no such thing) There’s a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.”
If we want the light to get in, if we want healing, we have to admit that we are not perfect. We have to see that crack, that imperfection, and ask for help to be healed. Healed – made whole in our relationship with God.
May we find the courage do this, and call to Jesus. He will help us find the healing and new life that is there for us.