Stroll through Scripture for Sunday January 28, 2024

Based on Mark 5:21-43

This week’s gospel could be considered a sandwich reading.  There are two stories – one inside the other.  The inside story helps us understand the surrounding story.  

The first story is of Jairus and his unnamed sick daughter.  Jairus is the leader of the local synagogue and in Mark’s account he is named.  We can venture that Jairus was well known and respected in Capernaum, where Jesus came back to after healing the Gerasene demoniac on the other side of the sea right before this story in this same chapter of Mark. 

What is striking are the similarities of these stories.  Jesus gets out of a boat in each story and a man immediately approaches Jesus.  Earlier in chapter five, the man is unnamed and an outcast from society.  In this story, the man is named and most likely held in high regard.  Both come to Jesus and drop down before him seeking help.  Both the outcast and the respected recognize what Jesus is capable of.  

And then we have this interlude – a large crowd gathers around Jesus, slowing him down considerably. You can almost feel the anxiety that Jairus must have felt.  And an unnamed woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years enters the scene.  The fact that she is bleeding makes her ritually unclean and anything she would touch would become unclean as well.  She’s in the crown and it seems safe to say that she probably inadvertently touched many people as she was trying to reach Jesus.  But by touching Jesus’ clothes, she is healed.  This isn’t just a personal healing.  That alone would make it amazing.  Rather, she is made well socially.  Ritually unclean people could not touch anyone or else they would become unclean.  In other words, it is likely that she has not felt human touch for 12 years.  This miracle of healing goes beyond just a physical healing.  She is also socially healed as well – relationships are restored.  This is in direct contrast with the previous story about the healing of the Gerasene demoniac.  When he is healed, the people are afraid.  It’s as if they don’t want relationship restored with the man.  We’re told in Mark 5:20 that the healed man, the only one who was labeled as being in his right mind in the story, went away and began to proclaim what Jesus had done for him.  

After this healing, Jesus continues on to Jairus’ house and his daughter.  We learn in the course of the story that Jairus’ daughter is 12 years old.  Mark specifically points this out.  How interesting that Jairus’ daughter is the same number of years old as the how long the woman had been hemorrhaging – 12 years.  Jairus’ daughter has a label and we hear Jesus tell the woman “daughter.”  Both are healed and the healing is more than just an individual physical healing – there are communal aspects to both healings.  Both stories involve believing that brings about healing.  In the Lutheran Study Bible, the side note for Mark 5:34 states “In the original Greek, the word translated here as ‘has made you well’ expresses the idea of ‘has saved you’ (from your disease). The concepts of health, wholeness, and salvation are closely related in the Bible.” (Pg. 1668).  In a sense, Jesus is always practicing shalom – which can be translated as peace, wholeness, completeness.  In the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the healing of the woman who had been hemorrhaging, and the healing of the Gerasene demoniac, there is more than just an individual healing, more than just a physical healing.  There is a restoration of health, restoration of wholeness, restoration of relationships.  Jesus does all of this.  But the reactions to these healings determine if wholeness will continue and spread or if humanity and the community will again insert something unclean and unwell.  

This sets us up well for chapter six, when Jesus will return to his hometown.  Will the community embrace Jesus like the crowds in the second half of chapter five, or will they reject him and demand he not upset the status quo, like the Gerasene community?  Stay tuned and find out.  

Questions for reflection

  • Our culture more often than not looks at events and situations through an individualistic lens.  Even in Christianity, there is often more concern for personal salvation above anything else.  How is Jesus restoring our community, our congregation, our nation, our world?  
  • When Jesus heals and restores people, the reactions range from embracing the healing and restoration to rejection of these miracles because they upset the status quo and known.  Where do you see Jesus’ continued healing and restoration happening in our community and world?  And where do you see these reactions to that healing and restoration taking place?  
  • What are we called in relation to Jesus’ healing and restoration of the world, relationships, and physical and social health?

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