Mark 5:21-43 NIV
When we come to this wonderful passage in Mark’s gospel we find Jesus had already been busy gathering disciples and followers, teaching, healing, exorcising demons, performing miracles travelling on land and water.
Now comes the story of two people meshed into one reading that speak of Jesus on one level as a unique healer, mystic and teacher. But on another level he cements his place amongst the folks of Israel while teaching us valuable lessons in Australia today.
Jesus is on a mission, as he travels across the Sea of Galilee. Whatever the task is, he is waylaid by a Synagogue leader, and in typical fashion, he focuses on the need at hand – he doesn’t turn people away.
Now you may say – this is a leader – so he does the thing that is politic but when a woman reaches out and touches Jesus – again his focus is shifted to the need at hand.
Now if this is about acting within the mores of an ancient Jewish culture – Jesus and the bleeding woman break several key rules.
Firstly, this woman is by herself and is not with a man – a real no-no.
Secondly, she is ritually ‘unclean’ because of the issue of blood, yet she touches a Jewish man [making him unclean]. After all, she is one of the excluded, someone on the margins.
She is behind Jesus and reaches out through the crowd, while the disciples are holding folks back. She instantly knows the effect of her faith in action. Jesus instantly knows that someone special has reached out for him in faith, rather than touching him in curiosity and wonder.
Jesus then continues to attend to the need of Jairus’ family. Again the social strata of the time would not allow too much concern over a child, let alone a girl child, let alone a dead girl child.
But Jesus is about breaking the culture, even to the point of holding the hand of a stranger’s dead child – another no-no.
His power and compassion overcame the human cultural rules which frowned on such activities – to bring instead – as we read in verse 23 – healing and ‘life’ [often interpreted as salvation].
At this point, it is probably worthwhile mentioning the importance of the number ‘12’ in this passage and its relevance to healing and life as it also instructs the reader about Christ’s mission.
The woman had been suffering for twelve years and the child was twelve years old.
Let’s not assume this is random. We might think of the times throughout the Bible when ‘12’ is mentioned, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples, Jesus attending the temple for the first time as a 12 year old, and the 12 gates, and the crown with 12 starts spoken of in the book of Revelation.
Twelve signifies the beginning of a new thing, instituting a new government or a new reign, it is considered the perfect number, but particularly a sign of God’s authority and power – a fact that could not have gone unnoticed by the earliest readers or hearers of this story – with the new beginning of life and salvation granted to the woman and the child.
We are both the inheritors of that tradition and the disciples charged with pushing forward the new reign of God through Christ in today’s world.
How do we attend to the needs of those people who are marginalised and excluded or who have little voice in society today?
I worry that our voice in today’s world has diminished, that we don’t speak up for those who haven’t a voice.
Many say we live in the land of a fair go, where we look out for each other, where mateship is more important than getting ahead of the next person.
In recent years I have seen a more mean-spirited, less compassionate Australia that often pays only lip service to these concepts.
I see polarisation in politics that focuses on things that would separate us rather than hold us together.
I see the stigmatisation of people who are refugees as ‘illegals’ or ‘non’ citizens or ‘queue jumpers’ – remembering not only that the haemorrhaging woman indeed was a queue jumper or that Jesus and Mary and Joseph had been refugees to Egypt after the babe’s birth.
Then we see the distaste often behind the words broadcast by media people, politicians and business people as they speak of ‘dole bludgers’, ‘greenies’, trade unionists, ‘half-castes’, ‘faggots’, ‘wogs’, retarded people, ‘drugo’s’, towel heads, psychos, westies, yobbos, reffos – there are many others also.
They are often used even in public forums to talk of the ‘other’ – not of us – not to be seen as social, economic, racial, sexual equals.
Moreover, they are terms used to classify, stigmatise, vilify, and label the ‘other’.
Jesus acted not only with power, but with compassion. He told Jairus, as he tells us, not to be afraid. He calmed the fear of the newly healed haemorrhaging woman and then instructed her to go in peace and to be freed from her suffering – not free from suffering but ‘freed’ from it – an action on Jesus’ side and ours too.
Too often, our fear of the other stems from a lack of trust in Christ’s freeing power and the lack of will to be ‘freed’ of our own prejudice.
Jesus reminds us through these healings that he has overcome the world and remains compassionate of the people in it – no matter who they are.
Lord, heal us – spiritually – so that we too may be effective teachers, prophets and healers who mirror your compassion in all we say and do.