Sunday, July 1, 2012

Healing Presence of Jesus

The 13th Sunday in Ordinary time
Mark 5:21-43
When Jesus had crossed again to the other shore, a large crowd gathered, and so he stayed by the lakeside. Then, one of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward, and seeing Jesus, fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with Jesus, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death. Please! - Come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live."
Jesus went with him, and a large crowd followed, pressing upon him from all sides. Now in the crowd, there was a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years;
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had seeking a cure. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up secretly behind him in the crowd, and touched his cloak. She had told herself, "If I can touch even just the hem of his clothes, I shall be made well again." Immediately, after touching Jesus' cloak, her flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. And Jesus, aware at once that healing power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
The disciples said to Jesus, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" But Jesus continued to look around to see who had done it. Then the woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, " My daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace and be free of your affliction."
While Jesus was still speaking, some people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said to him, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher any longer?" Disregarding this message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, "Come, and Do not be afraid; just have faith." Jesus did not allow anyone to accompany him
except Peter, James, and James' brother, John.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, Jesus caught sight of a huge commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. So he went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep." At this, they all began to ridicule Jesus, so he put them all outside. Jesus took the child's father and mother and his own companions and entered the room where the girl lay. Taking her hand, he said to her, "Talitha, koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" Immediately, the girl, a child of twelve, arose and began to walk around. At this, all were overcome with astonishment. Jesus, though, gave strict orders that no one should know of this and told the family to give the little girl something to eat.
In all three synoptic gospels, the raising of Jairus' daughter and the cure of the woman with the 12-yr hemorrhage are combined, one story sandwiched within the other -- the term for which is "intercalation".This suggests that the 2 stories can be better understood in relation to each other...indeed, that one interprets the other.
There are several similarities between the two stories...both have to do with the curing of women--women who both for different reasons were considered by their society to be useless in their present condition;both women remain nameless; both of their circumstances render them unclean (the young girl becomes a corpse, and the woman's bleeding makes her continuously unclean and untouchable)........both are 'as good as dead'...both are restored by the 'touch' of Jesus, as he rejects his culture's degradation of women. Both Jairus and the woman had a great need, they both believed that Jesus was the only one left who could help them;they both threw caution to the wind (risking ridicule and even punishment); and they both humbly fell at Jesus' feet in their worship and entreaty. The term 'daughter' recurs (Jairus describes his daughter's grave illness, and Jesus addresses the woman as 'Daughter".)
Jairus' daughter is '12 yrs old' (the normal age for marriage, perhaps already promised to someone, meaning that Jairus was facing financial loss, as well as social disgrace, in addition to personal sorrow for his daughter's illness and death) 12 yrs is the same length of time the other woman has suffered hemorrhages ( and given the life-expectancy of the time, basically, this suffering has gone on most probably, for her whole adult life) The 2 cures are very public affairs, witnessed by many....but at the same time, the cure and the resuscitation are inward and private....Both Jairus and the woman had the opposite options of fear and faith, and they both chose faith.
Let us look first at Jairus....he is described as one of the leaders of the synagogue, the main teaching institution of Israel since the time of the return from exile in the 6th century BCE. As we know, many of the Jewish authorities (whether Pharisees, scribes, or Sadducees) took issue with Jesus' preaching and actions, and determined from his earliest public life, to put him to death. Yet, here is Jairus, who not only believed that Jesus was capable of healing his daughter, but also that Jesus would do so if asked !!! It took a lot of courage, with much risk to his standing in the synagogue and in the community, for Jairus to beg for Jesus' help in such a public, demonstrative way....his faithful expectation is rewarded, as Jesus straight away starts following him to his home where his daughter lays so gravely ill.
Jairus' hope must have been short-lived though, for immediately their journey back to the house is interrupted by an unnamed woman, who picked that moment to exercise her faith and create her own commotion. In a subtle, but powerful way Mark identifies this woman with Jesus. The phrases "suffered greatly" and 'afflicted' describing her torture are the same words used by Mark in Jesus' passion predictions to describe the outcome of his journey to Jerusalem [Mk 8:31; 10:34]. Let us just picture this woman, suffering from a bleeding uterus for 12 agonizing years, going from one doctor to another, having exhausted all her funds and yet remaining unhealed. Shamed because she was labeled unclean by the rabbis and ostracized due to Levitical prohibition to touch others and to be touched, the woman was desperate. Life was ebbing out of her day by day, not to mention the debilitating stigma resulting from years of gossip and innuendo that her ailment was caused by her sin of sex...she is physically, spiritually, financially, and socially empty and alone......Then she heard of Jesus and believing he could help, traveled the 30 miles to Capernaum; but as a social outcast, she did not have the nerve to ask him for help.
Unable to really communicate with anyone else, she is described as shoring up her confidence by talking to herself...She has no one to run interference for her, no one to intercede on her behalf as Jairus did for his daughter, so she approaches Jesus secretly, from behind. Remember that people in the crowd are pressing upon Jesus from all sides, so to reach him she must push and shove and elbow her way between people when tiny openings occur. She is weak; her strength is drained, and yet she will not give up. She must reach Jesus, and so she continues to wedge her body through the crowd until she comes up behind him. She has decided in her heart, "If I can just touch the hem of his clothes, I will be healed." She does not want to confront him in public, and so is crouching low, crawling, on her knees; she is too ashamed to admit the nature of her illness, and too afraid of being rebuked and punished for mingling with others in her unclean state. She must do this without revealing anything about herself; but she must touch him....she must.
By the way, and this is the IRONY of the story, dozens of people in this crowd had been touching Jesus in these few minutes of moving towards Jarius' house, but only one (this ill, but determined woman) touched Jesus with faith that released his saving power -- so we see, that unfortunately, it is quite possible to be in the immediate vicinity of Jesus without receiving his salvation because of our own lack of faith
By law the woman's touch would have made Jesus unclean; but by His grace, just the opposite happened. "Immediately her bleeding stopped". Without a word, a look, or a touch from Jesus, she was made whole simply by believing he could heal her and by acting on that faith. But her heart must have really started to pound when Jesus, realizing that healing power had gone out from him, kept looking for the one who had done it !!... The disciples thought he was being silly; the woman thought she was caught. And Jairus??? We wonder what he was thinking !!! He just wanted Jesus to get to his house as quickly as possible....and here they were wasting, precious moments on seeking useless information!
Jesus wasn't looking to accuse the woman, but to affirm her, only at the time she did not know that -- but the same faith that enabled her to stretch out her hand to touch Jesus, now gave her the strength to step forward and tell everyone her whole story. Mark notes that the woman spoke the 'whole truth" -- similarly, Jesus is recognized even by those seeking to entrap him, as a 'truthful man' -- not concerned with anyone's opinion. Here this woman is, shunned for years, and now suddenly Jesus wants to listen to everything! Very likely she began hesitantly, and as she witnessed, with Jesus patiently and lovingly standing and listening to her every word, she continued at length, until Jesus responded with great affection and tenderness, calling her "Daughter' , thus linking her with the other 'daughter' whose life was hanging by a thread. With this single word from Jesus, 12 years of pain and isolation were swept away...In no other gospel account does Jesus use this term of endearment and respect. Daughter.
Jesus was not condemning her after all, but acknowledging her faith .......Although the witness of women is not valid in Judaism and women's testimony is not accepted later by the Christian male leaders, such as Peter [Luke 24:10-11], the witness of this woman is confirmed and celebrated by Jesus himself, thus naming her a disciple as well as a daughter.....In making her actions so very public, Jesus was saying that it wasn't his clothing, but that it was her faith that healed her, saved her, made her well and made it possible for her to return to society....this was a life-giving moment for her!!!!... but not so for Jairus....who was having to listen to a recital of 12 yrs of sickness and doctor troubles, with rising distress at what this delay meant for his own daughter.
For just at that moment, came the news to Jairus that his daughter had just died !!! It was too late; Jesus didn't get there in time. How might an important person react to this news that an interruption by some unkempt, unclean, homeless person turned out to have fatal consequences for his child???We can only wonder...because, Jairus is not given an opportunity to respond. Instead, Jesus turned to him and said, "Come, don't be afraid; just believe." Jesus was offering him a choice--fear, anger and sadness, or BELIEF. He had just witnessed the faith of the homeless woman and seen its powerful results; he could learn from her he led Jesus to his home. At this point of learning that his daughter had died, Jairus could have lost heart and given up or keep believing that even now, Jesus was both able and willing to help him.In our own waiting moments it's of course much longer than those few minutes that Jairus had to wait, but the lesson is the same and the questions we must ask ourselves are the same.....
What is draining me in my faith life?
What draws me to believe that Jesus can heal me?
Has my faith ever moved mountains?
Do I believe that I can have faith enough to move mountains?
Do I know that I can learn to have faith to move mountains?
In reading these stories together, we can see that there is no limit to the good that God can do. One person is not healed at the expense of another. Those choices do not have to be made -- ie., either/or, one wins/the other loses,.....Jesus demonstrated that our life-giving God is present and caring for everyone--rich or poor, male or female. The young girl, like the hemorrhaging woman, were considered outside the boundaries of cleanness and holiness--but are now included in the righteousness found by faith in Jesus -- which is not dependent on or beholden to, any human standards to the contrary. No one is more important than another.
Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-998-2220 Office
702-998-2221 FAX
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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