Holding onto belief in tough times

Jesus raises a dead girl and heals a sick woman

 

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered round him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 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.’ 24 So Jesus went with him.

 

A large crowd followed and pressed round him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 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. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

 

30 At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’

 

31 ‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, “Who touched me?”’

 

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

 

35 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?’

 

36 Overhearing[a] what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’

 

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ 40 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. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat

 

Juxtaposition, two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect, is a well-known literary and speaking device.  It helps draw out a meaning.  It’s a device undoubtedly used by Jesus in the Gospels and found many times by the gospel writers.  And so we have it in this passage and I have no doubt that Mark intended us to look at them both together and to learn from them.  And that is my intention today.

 

Let us unpack what was happening.  Jesus is in the northern part of Israel, where he lived initially before his ministry, and is attracting large crowds drawn by his loving, merciful and, yes, distinctly different ministry and message.  For those of us used to smaller gatherings, it would have been a right melee.  But then as now, the important people seem to get the VIP access.  Was Jesus only interested in the well-connected people?  We will see.

 

A local leader, a synagogue leader who would have been an important community leader, name of Jairus, approaches and says his little daughter is dying.  Please come so that you can heal her and she will live.  Note the explicit assumption and faith that he could do so.  Jesus agrees and sets off.  Not by boat.  Walking.  No bouncers and heavies in black suits keeping back the hoi polloi.  They were all around him.  It would have been slow progress.  Pressing in on all sides.  People holding onto him, touching him, maybe even a bit of pushing and shoving with the huge crowd all around.  This was not a question of keeping his own space.

 

A woman, unnamed, was there.  For 12 years she had suffered from prolonged haemorrhaging, bleeding.  This would have made her unclean in Jewish community.  Blood had a special significance.  In earlier Jewish times, women during periods were expected to be separate.  Coming into contact with people with blood on their hands or clothes would have made others unclean.  Her clothes would have been bloodied.  She would have been socially shunned, would have been lonely, in frequent pain, pale and anaemic, in a pitiful and desperate situation.  If she had a family, her husband and children would have left her.  She would have been poor, probably a beggar.  Somehow, she manages to get close to Jesus, behind him, and just touches him.  More precisely, touches his cloak.  Not even bodily contact it would seem.  Why did she even approach him?  It must’ve been really hard even going close to the crowd let alone being able to push away near to Jesus.  Because she believes she can be healed.  What happens?  She was healed immediately.  The bleeding stopped.  She felt immediate release from her disease.

 

But Jesus realises.  How?  So many other people pressing in.  Not just touching his clothes but him.  But they were not seeking healing or if they were, not with the faith and confidence shown by this woman.  He realises something has happened and turned around and asks.  It wouldn’t have been obvious.  The disciples are amazed.  So many people touching and yet he asks about just one?  By now the woman would have slipped away.  Used to shunning people.  But Jesus is not moving on.  He wants to know.  The woman comes back and tells him.  He says that her faith has healed her.  Go in peace and be free from the suffering.

 

Why did Jesus do this?  We can be confident he wasn’t drawing attention to the woman to cause embarrassment, causing even more social difficulty.  It was not illness shaming.  Instead it was a public declaration that she had been healed immediately.  Mosaic law required seven days to perform the ceremonial rituals, Leviticus 15.25.  Jesus healed immediately.

 

But it’s more.  Physical healing, spiritual healing, leads to restoration.  Jesus is publicly restoring her to her community by making everyone know she was now made whole.  She could socialise.  She can do things we can’t yet do with our rampant disease.  She could touch, hug and kiss, something she had not done for more than a decade.  We know what it feels after four months.  How much she must be filled by joy.  Jesus restores when he heals.  He restores when we come to him in faith.

 

Jesus crossed ritual, religious and gender boundaries to heal this woman.  Today there are boundaries that separate us from others.  Social economic status, educational levels, wealth, and still in some communities, caste or class divides.  Jesus crossed them.  He is challenging us today to cross these boundaries to reach those who need a healing touch from our Lord.  What boundaries is he asking you to cross for his sake and for the sake of those on the other side of that boundary?  What boundaries are dividing you from doing more work for the gospel?

 

Jesus moves on towards the home of Jairus, the synagogue leader.  But news arrives.  His daughter has died.  Others say to him: why bother Jesus anymore.  That’s it.  Too late.  You can hear the administrator planning the diary and striking that event out.  But Jesus is not bound, fortunately, by administrators who have their own agendas.  He knows what he wants to happen.  Don’t be afraid, he says.  Just believe.

 

He goes into the house but doesn’t allow anyone to follow and be with him except Peter, James and John.  In the house, a large probably walled area there is commotion.  We see it on the news of life in the Middle East and elsewhere when there has been death.  Some may have seen first-hand.  It is highly emotional, very noisy and demonstrative.  Jesus asks why the commotion?  The child is not dead but asleep.  They laughed.  They knew death.  We may not.  We may need a doctor to certify death but death was a frequent and close experience then.  They knew somebody who was no longer alive.

 

He chucked them all out.  He took the father and mother and disciples and went in to the child.  He took by the hand and speaking in Aramaic said: little girl, get up.  Immediately, and we’ve heard that word already because Jesus doesn’t hang around, she stood up.  Began to walk around.  And to show the juxtaposition, Mark says at this point that she is 12 years old.  The same period of time the woman had had that illness.  And everyone of course was astonished.  And Jesus cares for the whole person.  She was hungry.  No food for ages.  So he asks that they give her something to eat.

 

The woman who was healed was unnamed.  She has no status.  Unclean, shamed and lonely.  Jairus is a synagogue leader, of authority and prestige.  Jesus heals her first.  He may have got to Jesus first to ask for the healing but she was healed first.

 

Both were desperate people with urgent needs.  You can imagine how Jairus must have felt, with his daughter at death’s door, when Jesus stops and takes time out to heal what a community leader might have regarded as a worthless person.  You will note that it is not he who says don’t bother.  It is those around him.  But what an easy reaction to have, and I suspect we might all have been there to our shame as we have been desperate putting ourselves first.  And then what a difficult journey.  No mobile phone to find out how she was getting on.  Every step would have caused him desperate anxiety.  And then the news he had been dreading.  She was dead.  Jesus has already seen his faith but this event would have really tested faith.  So it is at this point Jesus gives him greater confidence.  Don’t be afraid.  Just believe, he says.  We ourselves have faith, thank God.  But there are times, and events, when our faith is sometimes quite hard to maintain.  Before that happens, because it’s hard when it’s happening, remember now that Jesus will help us have more faith, more confidence in him at that time when we need it most.  We have particular faith and grace when we need it, and not before.  Some of you will know the story of Corrie ten Boom, one of two Dutch sisters, Christians, helping Jews during the Second World War and she tells a wonderful story of how at the darkest hour Christ came to help her and give her faith when she needed it.  I so recommend her book: The Hiding Place.

 

Jesus was in control of what was happening.  News of her death was not the end. Jairus faith was rewarded when his daughter was brought back to life.  Jesus defied the weeping and wailing community.

 

Having faith in Jesus is a personal, continuing commitment.  It is often tested when we go through the darkest of times and the valley of the shadow of death.  Some refer to as the dark night of the soul.  This might be dreadful events occurring which we didn’t expect.  It might be physical or mental unwellness.  It might be relationship difficulties.  It might not be anything specific but nevertheless we find ourselves in a position where we are seriously questioning and asking deep questions.  Don’t worry.  Jesus is still walking alongside you.  He is still travelling with you in the direction of that place which seems to you without any hope, whether it is home where the daughter had died or wherever it is for you.  And at that place, that deepest and darkest place, he is the bright light and the greatest of hopes.  He will save and redeem.  He wants to do so.  He desperately wants to do so for each one of us and all whom we know and love.

 

Whatever tough times or difficult circumstances we may be going through now or may in the future, God will surely deliver us as he did the social outcast with a lifelong debilitating disease, as he did for the VIP whose daughter had died, as he does for each of us, has done so and will do so.  On that we can be completely confident.

 

I mentioned the valley of death.  Let me end with a prayer from Psalm 23.

 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and staff, they comfort me.  Thanks be to God

 

Amen

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