As Jesus stepped out of the boat, a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came forward, fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” If we notice Mark’s simple context we might avoid anti-semitism, stereotypes, and biases that at times plague the church. Everyone in the story is Jewish, including Jesus. We, Christians, may mistakenly conclude every temple or synagogue leader opposed Jesus. Jairus falls down before Jesus with the desperation of prayer, pleading for his dying child. Christians have at times pointed out the discrimination in the ancient Levitical codes that oppressed and limited women. Jairus reminds us that love can exist inside oppressive religious codes or dysfunctional family systems. I imagine Jairus never dreamed about his daughter becoming a rabbi, and perhaps as a synagogue leader, Jairus might have opposed his daughter becoming a pastor like Priscilla or Phoebe; we do not know. We like to tell our tales with clear heroes and villains – the forces of good against evil, but life is more complex than that. What we do know is that Jarius deeply loves his daughter, grabbing Jesus’ attention by falling on his knees and pleading for his dying child.
Jesus helps Jairus to his feet and goes with him. “A swarm of people followed Jesus, crowding in on him.” Mark hints at the swarming weariness that we all may feel as we seek to help heal our hurting world. The crowd swarms, pushing and pulling as Jesus and Jairus navigate the crowd like ancient paramedics driving their pedestrian ambulance through rush hour traffic. Gawkers crane their necks hoping to catch some exciting news to share. Celebrity hounds point with excitement, “Is that Jesus?” Peter brashly honks, “Step aside people; nothing to see here, folks!”
Amid the swarm of people was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse.” Perhaps, some ancient sense of HIPAA kept Mark from sharing her name. However, Mark seems to see her, sharing with us her feelings, hopes, insights, and story. “She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse.” Scripture naming her suffering and medical bankruptcy reminds us that God cares about our physical, mental, and economic health. Jesus offered free healthcare. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, how can we ignore a corporate medical complex that requires some very sick or very poor people to spend everything they have? Is not advocating for a system of affordable healthcare for all people one of the simplest ways to follow Jesus?
Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind Christ in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, “If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed.” Jairus falls down before Jesus pleading for his dying child. The unnamed woman thinks, “If I could just touch Jesus’ lab coat or elder’s stole, I will be whole.” Have you ever felt like that? Many of us have been in that moment, thinking if I could just get into that college, that break, that vacation, that promotion, that friend, that date, that house, that car, that ticket, that, that, that… I would be whole! Everything would be alright. She came up behind Jesus in the crowd and touched his clothes, thinking, “If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed.” Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that she had been healed. Maybe you have experienced a moment where you sensed in your body, your heart, or your soul that sense of peace, that dawning of hope that things were going to be OK. You may not know it right in the moment; you may not know it until you tell your story. You may only know it looking back on it. In that moment you may just sense the healing, hope, and love breaking in.
Somewhere I acquired a childhood soundtrack that played in my head for 18 years: “If you don’t do well in elementary school you won’t do well in middle school; if you don’t do well there, you won’t get do well in high school; if you don’t…you won’t get into college, and if you don’t you won’t. You won’t, won’t…” This ‘don’t-won’t’ earworm haunted me as I struggled to read, especially after flunking fourth grade. Nine years later I stood on the 14th floor of the Patterson Office Tower checking my final grade for freshman Sociology 101. It was posted by our Social Security numbers on Professor Kusha’s door. I ran my finger down finding my number. I pulled out a book to double check the alignment of my social security number and the letter A. I considered knocking on the door to triple check. Dr. Kusha stepped out of the door and rolled his eyes, “You, Purdue, of all people, do not need to check your grades!” I ran down 14 flights of steps, skipped the bus, and ran 1.4 miles toting my backpack to my car. Spotting a hedge, I hurdled over the bushes, shouting to the empty December quad, “Parkour!” I sensed in my body or somewhere deep in my soul that I was going to be okay. The grade was a talisman erasing that old ‘don’t-won’t’ mix-tape. Wholeness was blooming.
She sensed in her body that she was whole. She felt the power. She took agency. She broke through the swarming crowd. She slipped up on Jesus; she grabbed hold of Christ’s coat! She did not seek permission; she did not ask. She grabbed the power. She broke the rules of polite culture and Leviticus 15:19. She embraced what she needed. She stands up; she reaches out. She breaks rules; she grabs the power. She sensed in her body that she was whole, and Jesus will say, “Your faith made you whole.” Her faith made her whole.
Jesus sensed in his body that some spiritual power had been spent. Perhaps her boldness drained Jesus a little bit. Mark notes that at that very moment, she touched Jesus. Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. She took some of Jesus’ power! Jesus turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” I love this banter. The disciples push back! They do not pretend to understand what Jesus is talking about. They help Jesus find clearer words. Jesus works in a team seeking to build a kin-dom. Jesus values the ideas and opinions of the disciples. Jesus is not a solo superhero working alone.
Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus, everybody is bumping into you. Lord of mercy, we need to get through this crowd. Jesus, Jairus’ daughter is dying. But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it. The Scriptures hint that it is not enough for the unnamed woman to walk away healed. Jesus needs to see her. We all need to be seen. Being seen helps heal us- seeing others helps heal us! Jesus affords her the chance to tell her whole story. Amid the swarming rush, Jesus slows down long enough to spot the sacred. If you have eyes (for the sacred for humanity), then you can see! (Matthew 13:15) Jesus lays aside the extremely urgent task of racing to heal a dying child to see someone. Jesus’ followers see people.
The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told Jesus the whole truth. Jesus responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.” I imagine her moment of coming out froze her. She had grabbed power. She had not asked permission. She wrote a new narrative. She grabbed the power; she broke the rules embracing what she needed. She fell before Jesus, just like Jairus the ruler of the synagogue. She fell before Jesus and told her story. Would Jesus throw her into debtors’ prison and not let her out until she paid the last penny? Would Jesus rebuke her for breaking ancient taboos about touch? Would Jesus ostracize, label her, or use like a sermon prop to elevate himself? Perhaps, sensing in her body that she was whole, she was whole enough to risk telling her whole story. She had faith, hope, and enough love to believe that it was going to be alright!
She had hoped to stay hidden in the crowd, thinking, “If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed.” She came up behind Jesus and touched his clothes, (grabbing her power), and immediately, she sensed in her body that she had been healed. Full of fear and trembling, she came forward. It is a scary thing to come out and tell your story. Fear and courage usually flow together. Mark notes, “knowing what had happened to her.” Knowing. She knows her story; she knows what happened to her for 12 years. “Her inner knowing is a kind of healing or wholeness”. (Rev. Heather Harris) Knowing how she sensed healing deep in her bones, she fell down in front of Jesus and told Jesus the whole truth. Jesus responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.” Her faith healed her. Her boldness healed her. Her grabbing the power healed her. Her embracing her needs healed her. Her “sensing” healed her. Her “inner knowing” healed her. Her agency healed her. Daughter, son, child, Jesus applauds her grabbing power. Daughter, your faith has healed you. Could it be that she was healed before she even grabbed hold of Jesus’ tunic or heard Jesus’ blessing upon her life? Oh, bold daughter, you knew your healing already; you sensed it in your body before Jesus said a word. God knows, do not be afraid to tell your story. Go in peace, knowing your wholeness.
Oh, friends, let us stop thinking that we can grab something that can make us whole. Jesus’ tunic did not heal her. Her faith made her whole. That acceptance letter, that promotion, or house will never make us whole. The tunic did not healed her. Your faith makes you whole. Faith fuels the fire, breaks through the crowd, grabs the power, tells our story and that heals us. That seems to be Jesus’ work, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; you sensed in your body that you were whole, knowing what happened to you, you told your story: go in peace, healed from your disease.”
Let us toss those earworms that keep us silent- that whisper “don’t won’t” . Let us boldly push through the crowd, breaking some rules so that we might find ourselves. Let us know we are beloved enough to risk grabbing power and finding the courage to come out and tell our whole story to God, ourselves, and maybe even the swarming crowd, sensing in our bodies our wholeness, and knowing what happened to us. Let us go forward in peace, being whole! Amen.