By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
June 27, 2021
Mark 5:21–43 (ESV)
21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “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.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 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. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But 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. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
The stories in today’s scripture are some of the most powerful stories of healing in the Gospel accounts. I say this for a reason. The main reason is because of who is being healed and our jaded and somewhat incorrect understanding of ancient cultures. I also say this because of how Jesus interacts with the people.
Last week we saw Jesus getting on a boat to go across the sea. He was leaving his adopted hometown of Capernaum and going to an area of Roman Palestine that had a denser demographic of Gentiles. Because of this population density those that lived in the area found it more profitable to serve the people or their customers than to remain religiously pure. The people began raising animals that were considered by Hebrew people as being unclean, and they did this not for their own consumption, but instead to sell the animals to others. They were contributing to what they considered sin. This highlights the hypocrisy of many that claim to be religious. I, myself, will not do this but I will provide access for others. That is a discussion for another day but this type of lifestyle weakened their spiritual resolve. Since they were relying on sin to provide for their lifestyle, were they committed to following the ways of God?
Jesus stays in that region for a short time. The community out of fear and greed basically drove Jesus back to the boats because the consequence of his ministry hit them financially. The redemption of one man, carried a steep price for the community. And this I think is important. The cost of redemption is paid in part by the members of that community.
We as humans are social beings. Early in our spiritual history we are told that it is not good for mankind to be alone so God created a helpmate. There are many theological, sociological, and political theories that can be derived from that statement, but the one I want us to focus on is simple. We need other human brains around us to assist us to fulfill our purposes. We are not complete without others. We as strong and as intelligent as we cannot function to our fullest capacity without someone beside us to communicate with. We need others, because the others that we communicate with will look at the same things with different eyes and provide a different perspective. Those others we interact with provide us with more information and allow us to broaden our knowledge.
Adam had a simple job. He was to name all the animals, and to tend the garden. This does not seem like a two-person job, but we are looking at this from a cultural perspective. Animals to us are, by in large, a source of income. God created humanity to be farmers, naming animals and tending a garden. Farmers may take care of the livestock, but very few have names. There is power in a name. By giving a name we are giving that being a place in a community. We are giving it a purpose and defining its essence. After a while we as humans begin to see things in generalities and without a different perspective, we miss aspects of a being around us. When I was a child, we had farm cats. At times we had as many as thirty cats running around our farm. These cats were there to work and were not pets. Because I had that perspective, I regarded these animals very differently than my sister. I had one name for thirty individuals, where my sister saw the individuality of all thirty. And consequently, how I interacted with these beings was also different. If I approached one of these cats, I usually was met with claws. But my sister, who interacted with these animals based on their individuality could pet and hold nearly every one of these thirty nearly wild cats. She saw them and named them and they were part of her community. I saw them only as animals and we interacted as such. The name defines how we interact and care for what is around us. When we know a name, we begin to build a relationship. Without a name there is no relationship.
Jesus gets back on the boat and a great crowd gathers around him. In that crowd is a synagogue ruler by the name of Jairus, and this man has a sick child. This child although we do not know her name, we know something about her. She is Jairus’ daughter. If we were to listen to all our history books and what is being taught, we would notice something off in this story. We are told that women are not valued in antiquity, and that might be true, but in our Christian text and in our faith, women have value and are part of the community. This daughter is loved by her father to such a degree that he would put his own name in jeopardy by asking a man accused of being possessed by Beelzebub to come to his home to heal her. I want us to just let that sit in our minds for a moment. We do not always apricate what is in scripture when we do not consider historic and cultural context. The historical and cultural context would tell us that Jairus is out of the ordinary, this is true. But the fact that this out of the ordinary activity being recorded in our Christian text is also telling us something profound. We as people of Christ should not see this as out of the ordinary, instead this should be the norm. A father should have just as much concern for a daughter as they do a son.
Jesus listens to Jairus’ plea and goes with him to his house. And a great crowd is following him as he makes that journey. And there is within that crowd a woman. I do not know if you have noticed, but women make up a significant portion of the stories within the gospels. This woman had a discharge of blood for twelve years.
Bodily discharges make people ritualistically unclean. This is something that we struggle with today. We do not fully understand this concept of uncleanness. Blood was regarded as the life force. In a simple and unscientific understanding of the human body, when blood leaked out of the body people were believed to be losing their life force. This is understandable because if you lose enough blood you die. Similar ideas are given to other fluids in the body as well, although blood was the greatest.
Those that are losing blood are unclean, not because of sin but because they are losing life force. They must be protected and cared for, and those that care for those cared for individuals that were discharging life fluids would need to be isolated from the larger community as well. We often see this as being barbaric and inhumane but we must remember that these cultures did not understand as much as we do today. They did not understand germ theory and that microscopic organisms transmit disease. All they knew was that life forces were draining out of the body and to prevent others from having life forces drained from them these people needed to be isolated or quarantined for a period.
Adult women have a unique place in this understanding. Every month there is a discharge of life force that renders them unclean. They were required to isolate themselves from the rest of the family during this time, and everything they touched was to be cleaned before this unclean status was transferred to others. We often regard this as being terrible but I want us to be a bit more gracious. An ancient understanding of the human body would not understand a cyclical discharge of fluids that maintain life, like we do today. There was a fear that a woman might die during this time, because she was losing life in their minds. The isolation was not because of sin, but concern for her wellbeing. The men in the family were to step up and care for the children so that the mother could do all she could to care for herself during this fearful time. That was the intent, but that was not always the practice.
We have similar concepts today. We know more and we do our best to act on the knowledge we have. That is why we encouraged people to wear masks during the pandemic. And yes, we know that there are differences of opinions in this but that is the intent. We wanted people to wear masks out of care and concern for the community. And those that were unable or unwilling to wear a mask were encouraged to isolate as much as possible. In many ways we implemented a concept of ritual uncleanness. These ideas were implemented to prevent the potential spread of agents that could drain life from people.
This woman had this discharge for twelve years. She had been in isolation for twelve years. We know the length of time because that is important. There are social ramifications to this that we can interpret. For twelve years she did not bear a child, because she could not have contact with her husband. She was regarded baron. Unable to produce life because of this life force draining problem. Most likely because of this condition she was divorced, and her dowery would have been used to pay for care so she was also impoverished. She was isolated and rejected by society. And yet she was in the crowd.
We do not give this woman enough credit. She would have been regarded by her society as someone cursed by God. Unclean, contagious, and a drain on precious resources. She was incapable to bear life and slowly she was draining life from herself and everyone around her. Yet she heard about Jesus and went to him. And she thought to herself, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
We are told that her faith made her well. I want us to think of this. Jesus healed her, but she had a part in the process. We as individuals must participate. We often look at faith from the wrong perspective. We often look at faith as passive, especially when it comes to health. I have faith that I will be healed. I prayed and that is all I need to do. No. She suffered much under many physicians but she was still active. She still pursued reports and acted on those reports. She, even in her delicate state, pursued information in whatever way she could.
We need to be active in the kingdom if we want to see God working. We must have the correct perspective or the distractions around us will cloud our vision. The crowd was pressing in on Jesus yet when this woman touched his clothing, Jesus asked who touched me? The disciples were surprised at this statement because they saw the crowd. Everyone was touching Jesus; how could he isolate an individual in the crowd? But Jesus was perceptive and knew. He turned around and looked for the woman, who at this point was swallowed by the crowd because she stopped surprised while everyone else surged forward. Then when the crowd stopped and she heard Jesus speak, she was fearful.
She was afraid for many reasons. The first she had just made everyone in that crowd unclean so she could face consequences for that. But also, what she had just done could have been considered theft. She stole her healing because she touched Jesus without his knowledge to gain the healing. She stole her healing. She fell before Jesus expecting the worst. But what does Jesus do? “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” He calls her daughter. This is a term of endearment and concern, not just a term of female progeny. Jesus looks at this woman and gives her value and restores her to the community.
This takes us back to Jairus and his daughter. He valued his daughter enough to risk everything for her life. We do not know why and that does not matter. He valued her more than his standing in the community as a ruler of the synagogue. People came from his house while Jesus was speaking to this woman, and informed Jairus that his precious daughter died. Jesus turned to this man when he overheard what was being said and spoke to him. “Do not fear, only believe.”
Faith is action and faith is hope. Jesus told Jairus that he would heal his daughter, and the people were attempting to distract Jairus from that promise. We must remain true. Continue to seek, continue to believe, and continue to live with the hope that Jesus will overcome what we perceive as obstacles.
What does this have to do with living today? If we believe something to be right and true, let us live it out. Early Friends looked at the church of their day, a church that claimed Christ yet were killing people that practiced faith differently, and they said the rituals that claim righteousness are empty unless the truth of those rituals are lived. They decided it was not good enough to eat a piece of bread and claim to have Christ if we would not actively live the love of Christ with others. They would not claim baptism as authentic unless the life lived was in keeping with the kingdom call. Faith is action. Faith is living hope. Faith is living our beliefs every day of our lives. It is seeking healing even when it could cost everything, even if the world around us finds it foolish.
Each of us here today has available to us everything those first believers had available to them. Use what we have, to bring individuals from the multitude into the community, like my sister did the cats. Call them by name and see them, give them value, and hope in the name of Christ.
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