Mark 5:21-43 Lamentations 3:22-33
There was an article in the newspaper about somebody needing to make an appointment at the hospital, only to be told that he had to wait six months before the first one became available. Six months! Now you can’t say that it’s the doctor’s fault, or the nurse’s, as we all understand the pressures they are under, all those working their socks off in the medical profession. So, imagine, if somebody desperate, waiting for a cure, all of a sudden hears of a physician who is available now and visiting the area: wouldn’t they run to get help from this person, either for themselves or their child? I suppose something like that was happening when Jesus came ashore that day, and the leader of the synagogue, named Jairus, fell at his feet, begging Jesus to come and heal his daughter. Hearing Jairus’ plea for help, Jesus agrees and goes with him. If we can also appreciate the background to this story, that in the main, synagogue leaders were not always happy to see Jesus in their congregations, we may understand even more how desperate Jairus was and how he threw caution to the wind in his cry for help for his daughter.
Mark, the gospel writer, also inserts another story within the outline of the first one. Like a sandwich, he puts in the account of the woman suffering from haemorrhaging, unable to find relief from any doctor for twelve years. She, too, throws caution to the wind when she finds herself close enough to Jesus to just touch his cloak, saying to herself that it should make her well. When Jesus realises that power has gone out from him, he turns around in the crowd and asks to know who touched him. The disciples find this a ridiculous question: in a crowd like this, with everybody pressing in, how can you ask who’s touched you? But Jesus knows more than they do, and in fear and trembling, the woman acknowledges her act before Jesus. And Jesus says to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’ At this point, the message arrives from Jairus’ house that his daughter is dead and he shouldn’t bother the teacher, Jesus, any longer. But Jesus tells him not to fear, only believe, and continues the journey. Only at this point, he doesn’t want any crowd to follow him, except the disciples Peter, James and John, and when they get to the house, it’s already full of people weeping and wailing because of the girl’s death. Jesus tells them to stop, saying that she isn’t dead, just asleep. And, putting them all outside, he takes the girl’s father and mother and the disciples and goes to the child. There, he takes her hand and tells her to get up. And immediately the girl gets up and walks about, to everybody else’s amazement. Jesus then also says to the parents that they should give her something to eat. It’s a lovely, practical touch, and no doubt very necessary for the girl, who probably hasn’t eaten for some time.
This story sandwich is remarkable in its own right: two people healed and raised up from a deathbed. It’s a story, in two parts, of going from fear to faith. From death and despair to resurrection and restoration. Mark doesn’t beat about the bush either; in his brush-stroke style of painting with words that we know him for, he almost throws it at our face: bring the people who are suffering to Jesus, and the result is: dynamite! New life, a new lease of life, for the two. Is it any wonder that many people were amazed and wanted to tell the story. We find it in Matthew and Luke’s gospel too. Perhaps the biggest wonder is that so many still haven’t heard. It’s one thing to tell a story, it’s another to actually hear it. And yet another to act upon it. What the stories are there for is to bear witness to who Jesus is. They record his teaching and his miracles and combined, they tell us that there is hope. If you haven’t yet read Lamentations 3 verses 22 to 33, then do so still. As it says, ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.’ That doesn’t mean that we will always be spared pain or problems in this life. But let’s remember what the two people who came to Jesus in the story today had in common: they both surrendered completely to Jesus’ authority. It might have cost them something, but it gave them everything. May we too surrender our will to God, throwing caution to the wind and simply ask, and see how he transforms our fear into faith. Amen.