–By Elizabeth Ahlman
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. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 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.” And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. 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. And 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, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 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. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement (Mark 5:21-42 ESV).
The way these two stories intertwine has always been intriguing to me. Mark weaves them together in a sort of sandwich construction, or a frame. We begin with Jairus, are interrupted by the woman hiding in the crush of the crowd, and then return to Jairus and his daughter. There is so much that makes these stories different: Jairus is a ruler of the synagogue, likely wealthy and prestigious. He comes to ask Jesus to follow him to his home in order to “lay hands” on his daughter. His request is made in front of the crowd, and on behalf of someone other than himself. The woman with the issue of blood is trying to be as surreptitious as possible. She is considered unclean due to her disease and the issue of blood, so her plan is to touch Him, be healed and do so in a way in which she hopefully will not be noticed. She doesn’t belong there, and so she wants no one to know she is there. She is older, the daughter of Jairus is young.
But the two stories also have a lot in common: Both have faith in Jesus to heal. Both believe that mere physical contact (touching the garment, having Him “lay hands” on the girl) will be enough to heal their respective diseases. Neither one really belongs there. Jairus, as a ruler of the synagogue, would normally be among those who opposed Jesus. The woman, with her flow of blood, was considered unclean, and should not have been out in public. Both had their own respective fears. The woman feared being found out because of her flow of blood. Jairus feared once word came that his daughter was dead. In either situation, things without Jesus were grim and at their end. The woman with the flow of blood had expended all she could over 12 long years to find cures from doctors, but to no avail. She was doomed to living with this flow until her death, cut off by her ceremonial uncleanness and unable to produce life from her womb. Jairus’ daughter’s death is also final. Jairus’ daughter’s death puts an end to a 12 year old girl on the cusp of womanhood, likely close to the time when she would be betrothed and herself poised on the brink of being able to bring forth new life. In both situations, the fears they have are natural and understandable.
Fortunately, these two so very different, yet equally hopeless situations have one more thing in common: Jesus. They have in common a Jesus Who is willing to buck all social mores to bring about wholeness and healing. They have in common a Jesus Who incarnates Himself in this fleshly world in order that He can be physically touched by a woman who was not allowed to be touching anyone. He allows that touch, though, and He heals her of the physical flow of blood and of her fears. He makes that fear unnecessary and obsolete. He brings her into the midst of the crowd and does not rebuke, but praises her. He honors her faith which received His healing, and He sends her on her way in peace, a fruit and gift given only by Him. For Jairus, He offers words of comfort: “Do not fear, but (to catch the meaning of the Greek more closely) CONTINUE believing.” Then He accompanies Jairus to his home, and reaches out His hand to take the girl’s. In the face of all the social mores that forbad Him from touching her — touching a dead body made one unclean, touching a woman of marriageable age (as the girl was) was forbidden — He takes her hand and raises her from the dead. He drives out fear even of death itself.
This same Jesus does the same for us. He drives out our fears and gifts us with faith in Him. He bucks all social mores to speak His words of Law and Gospel to a world in need of both. He speaks words of comfort into our sorrows. He draws we who deserve it not, and who do not belong there, into life with Him. Whether we are those with prestige, or those at the fringes of life, we belong to Him by virtue of our Baptisms, and He gifts us with faith, healing, life and salvation. He takes death and He brings life out of it.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Lord of Life, grant us to continue believing in Your redemption so that we may live without fear and in confidence of our resurrected life; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.