a Homily for Proper 8B
Text: Mark 5:21-43
The Physical Presence
From the moment Jesus pulled the fishermen from the sea to follow him, to learn to fish anew, we have been following along. We have witnessed healings and exorcisms, teachings and miracles. Each movement an opportunity to learn about Jesus and to test our faith. They crossed the sea by boat and the wind unleashed its fury. They finish their journey, facing their fears, and return, crossing back to their side. It is here, that they meet Jairus.
Jairus, a synagogue leader drops to his knees at Jesus’s feet and begs Jesus to come with him. His daughter is dying, and if only Jesus would put his hands on her, He could heal her. But Jesus takes him along elsewhere.
A crowd gathers around them, pressing in on them. And a woman, suffering pain for the last 12 years approaches them. She believes that by simply touching Jesus’s clothing she can be healed. So she reaches out and touches his cloak. Jesus, noticing something has happened inside of Him, looks for her, asking who touched Him. The woman comes forward, telling Jesus what she did and why. He tells her that it is her faith that has made her well.
They return to Jairus’s house too late. Reports from inside claim that the 12 year-old has died. But Jesus says those claims are wrong, that she is already healed. Jesus leads Jairus, his wife, and three disciples to the bedside of the girl, and Jesus takes her hand and whispers in her ear to “get up!” And she does.
The Physical and the Mysterious
This is a stunning story of healing. And we are tempted to see this as just another miracle story. Further proof of Jesus’s divinity. Or some other thing. We are tempted to ignore its most challenging elements.
The pericope is filled with physical elements. And we know Jesus as a physical healer. And yet, the woman is healed by touching Jesus’s clothes herself and the girl is healed without Jesus anywhere near her.
Those of us with scientific minds want to figure out how and when this happens—when does the magic happen. If it isn’t in Jesus’s hands, then what? Maybe he has magic healing powers in his mind—like a form of ESP. Or is it in his life force itself, that it might decrease from Him and increase for others.
Those of us who embrace the mysterious are likely to ignore the trouble, striking it up to another mystery; we go along happily ignoring the clues that reveal more of the Great Mystery. Clues that help us understand what is going on here and may help others better know that Mystery.
What the evangelist we know as Mark does is to pair these two together, a 12 year-old girl who is dying and a woman suffering for 12 years from a condition most likely similar to Endometriosis. Their stories inform each other, so we read them together. And with them both, he sets up this difficult paradox. Jairus takes Jesus for a faith healer, that can touch his daughter and heal her. Or perhaps bring the Spirit down to do the job. And he asks Jesus to do this. But Jesus wants to show that it isn’t because of touch, but it happens with touch.
The woman is healed by her proximity to Jesus and faith that that is enough. The girl is healed by her father’s proximity to Jesus and faith.
The telling line for us, is the last one. We get the familiar refrain in Mark’s gospel of “telling no one,” but we also have a clause we are likely to mistake for a throw-away line: “[Jesus] told them to give her something to eat.” For Jesus, food is the radical source of equality. In GOD’s Kingdom, no body wins bread or earns bread, but all are given bread. And we all eat our fill. It is also a great unifier and source of intimacy and gathering together.
What Jesus does with this woman and this girl is bring them back to the community. They are given a new life. The girl is brought back into community by being physically brought back from the brink and rejoins the community by eating. The woman was pushed out of community by her persistent state of ritual impurity and increasing poverty. Jesus restores her ability to rejoin community and removes the community’s excuse for excluding her.
Jesus makes this yet another profound teaching about faith and community. This woman and this father, whose faith make them profoundly sympathetic to Jesus; but they also serve to demonstrate the essential connections to community.
Our power is not found in magic hands of healing, in those that have special gifts, or in expectations of miracles. Our power is found in our faith and in our radical sense of community. And St. Paul’s thrives on embodying that mission. Our patron, Paul, wrote about that radical sense of equality this morning. About fair balance between one another: about abundance meeting need.
We are compelled to make radical community together and proceed out of those doors and make radical community with others, breaking bread, reconciling with the hurt, and sharing the generous love of Christ with everyone and anyone.