Sunday, July 1 – Mark 5:21-43

Mark 5:21-43

Our Gospel text for today is one of the most remarkable stories I have read in a long time.  What is remarkable about it is how drastically different the two main characters of the story are and then what happens to them.  First, you’ve got Jairus, the leader of the synagogue.  Which means he has power. He has status.  People listened to what he said, so he has authority. And money.   And then there is this woman who doesn’t have a name.  And that right there is enough to show you the difference between them. Jairus gets a name.  This woman doesn’t.  And names are so important.

A friend of mine just went to a conference and everyone had a nametag made up for them except her.  She walks to the check-in table, scans the name tags only to find that hers isn’t there. You can imagine the feeling.  Suddenly, you feel uninvited, unwelcome, or even excluded when you are the only one without a nametag.  Or the only one without a name.

So this woman doesn’t have a name. But that isn’t the only thing different between her and Jairus.   She been bleeding for 12 years, which by the customs of the day, meant she was unclean.  She was supposed to stay away from society.  She was an outcast.  She is not the leader of the synagogue, she is the one nobody knows.  The one who hasn’t been around for 12 years.  No wonder she doesn’t have a name.  And then there is the simply fact that she doesn’t have any money.  And that is a huge separator, isn’t it?  Those who have money and those who don’t.

So we have these two people whose lives are light years apart.  They would never encounter one another in their everyday life.  But now notice what happens to these two people who are so far apart.  Jairus has a daughter, about 12 years old, who is sick.  And if you have ever cared about a child that they feel like your very own heart beating outside your body, then you know that when they are gravely ill, you are gravely ill as well.  If the child dies, a part of you dies too.  So Jairus comes and he kneels at Jesus’ feet, begging for his help.

So Jesus goes off with Jairus to see his daughter.  But on their journey, the people begin to crowd around Jesus, making it difficult to get anywhere quickly.  And in the midst of this crowd is this unnamed woman.  Remember she is sick and has been for 12 years. She isn’t allowed to be around the community.  But while hiding amongst this crowd, she reaches past the people just to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe.  Not even his body, just his sleeve…so that she can be healed of her bleeding.  And it works!  Her bleeding stopped immediately.  But then Jesus calls her out.  He says, “Who touched my clothes?”  With a little fear and trembling, the woman steps out from the crowd and kneels before Jesus, just like Jairus.  And then she tells him everything – the whole truth, the text says.  And then what does Jesus do?  He calls her “Daughter.”  Suddenly, the unnamed woman is given a name.  Daughter.

Jairus kneels before Jesus.  This woman kneels before Jesus.  Jairus has a name.  Now this woman has a name.  Jairus has a sick daughter.  This woman is a sick daughter.  Jairus’ daughter is twelve years old.  This woman has been bleeding for twelve years.  All of a sudden, these two persons, who couldn’t have been further apart, this leader of the synagogue, Jairus – this one with status and money – and this bleeding, poor, unnamed woman are no different.  They are the same.  Their suffering brings them together.  Two hurting human beings yearning for healing in their life.

What we becomes clear from this text is that suffering and pain show no partiality.  It affects everyone.  It doesn’t matter who you are, there will be pain in your life.  We know this.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have, or the color of your skin, or whether you are young or old, Christian or non-Christian, or how nice of a person you are.  It just comes in ways we cannot predict.  Whenever you drive past an accident, don’t you always think, even if just for a second… “That could have been me.”  Suffering and pain levels everyone. It puts us all on the same plain.  It brings us all to our knees.

Who has experience pain and suffering in their life?  See it is all of us.

And yet it is headline news whenever a celebrity is injured or is suddenly experiencing suffering. Just last week I saw the headline: Justin Bieber falls down the stairs.  Just this weekend, it was front-page news that Tom Cruise is getting a divorce. And I think it is because we can hardly believe it.  We don’t believe that they are the same as us.  They suffer just like me?  How can this happen to them?  But it does.  Suffering knows no partiality.  We see this in Jairus and this unnamed woman.  Both kneel at Jesus’ feet.

In the end, we are all beggars.  Those were Martin Luther’s last words that he ever wrote.  We are beggars.

So Jesus heals both women, the unnamed woman and Jairus’ daughter (and consequently, he heals Jairus too).  But, notice, what does he heal them from?  This woman has been bleeding for 12 years.  What this most likely meant is that she hasn’t been able to have any children for those 12 years.  And Jairus’ daughter…she was 12 years old.  Which means she was just approaching the age when she would be able to bear children.  But if she dies from her illness first, then she would never bear any children.

So both women were being prevented from having children.  Both were prevented from bearing life into this world.  But then Jesus heals them.  The woman stops bleeding and the child lives.  Which means both might be able to have children.  So when Jesus heals people, Jesus always heals so that we can be life-givers again[1].  So that we can be people who generate life in the world.  I am not just talking about procreation.  I mean, Jesus wants us to be people who bring about life in this world.  To give life and share life with others.  Who seek abundant life for all people.  But so often suffering and tragedy prevent that for us.  They drain us from any hope and joy and any desire to live fully.

If the healing that Jesus gives is one that helps us to be life-givers again, maybe the healing we get is not always the healing we expect. As we know, too often people are not healed from their sickness and tragedy.  But maybe another form of healing can be found.  I heard a story this week about a man who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease twenty years ago.  Now twenty years later, he still lives with this debilitating disease.  But he says that his prayers for healing have been answered.  He said, “I have been healed, but not of Parkinson’s disease.  I have been healed of my fear of Parkinson’s disease.”[2]

Suffering and tragedy are the great common denominator of humanity.  We all face them in some way – like Jairus and this unnamed woman.  And so no matter who we are, we come to God with nothing but our brokenness and a plea for there to be some healing.  Whenever we are healed, however we are healed, we are always healed so that we can be life-givers again.

But so what does it mean to be life-givers?  Well, let me ask this – what gives you life?  What gives you energy to go on living each day?  For me, it means being loved and recognized for who I am, despite all of my failings in life.  It means being welcomed and accepted.  It’s about being given second chances.  Being a life-giver mean living life in a way that generates life for others.  Raven Caldwell is a perfect example of some one living as a life-giver.  She has collected a truckload of supplies and household items for tornado victims in Kansas.  She is helping to give life back to people who have had it taken away.  And I am certain there has been pain and suffering in Raven’s own life.  And maybe there has been some healing too.

Jairus and this unnamed woman both come to kneel before Jesus.  They are the same. And so it is for us.  We are the same.  We are all beggars.  And today as a Christian community, in our sacrament of Holy Communion, we all come forward to this same table with nothing in our hands.  We come to kneel before God and one another and we bring our illnesses and our sufferings and our tragedies and we lay them before God.  We all come as beggars.  Like a plastic cup in the hands of the homeless or the tattered hat at the feet of a street musician, our hands also reach out for something that will heal us. Something that will feed us.  We come to the table with open hands.  We come to receive communion and blessing.  And placed in our hands is a simple piece of bread and simple cup of wine; or marked on our foreheads is a simple blessing.  And those are promises from God that we do not live this life alone.  We do not live this life just for ourselves.  We have been named as children of God and we live this life as God’s who care for one another and support one another through these suffering and tragedy of life. And so I pray that these simple promises might bring enough healing so that we too might go and be life-givers out in the world once again. AMEN


[1] I am indebted to Alan Storey for this insight.

[2] Feasting on the Word, “Mark 5(21-43) – Pastoral Perspective”, Michael L. Lindvall.


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