Proper 8b 2015: grabbing the cloak of Jesus

Mark 5:21-43

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God.” These words are the beginning of the gospel of Mark. Mark gives us no birth story, no lineage in order to prove who Jesus is. Mark almost immediately begins to tell us what Jesus does. Let’s get caught up with where we are now. Jesus calms a storm on the sea, and the disciples are “filled with awe.” Jesus heals a man in Gerasene from his many demons, and “everyone was amazed.” This Jesus is teaching, preaching, and healing.

Jesus and his disciples “cross again to the other side” of the sea, and a great crowd presses in. A leader of the synagogue whose name is Jairus sees Jesus. We might wonder how Jairus got through the pressing crowd, so close that he could see Jesus. In any case, Jairus sees Jesus and falls at his feet. Such an action is a sign of humility and obeisance. Jairus begs Jesus – repeatedly – to heal his daughter who is so ill she is at the point of death. Jesus goes with Jairus; the crowd presses in.

Let me tell you a story. There is a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years. The doctors have not cured her and she has spent “all that she has” on remedies. Her condition is worsening. (She has heard about Jesus.) The woman makes her way through the crowd around the man named Jesus, and him from behind, where Jesus cannot see her. We might wonder how she got through the crowd. In any case, she has approached Jesus, sure of his healing ability; she approaches silently, hidden in the crowd, and from behind. She reaches out and touches the edge of Jesus’ garment. Jesus’ feels power (healing?) leave his body. She immediately feels healing in her body.

We are experiencing one of the masteries in Mark’s gospel, the intermingling of two stories. The technical term for this technique is “intercalation.” The technique is also known as a Markan sandwich. The intermingling happens in such a way that we hear the beginning of one story and before we know the whole story, another one is told in the middle of it. Here, the unnamed woman’s story is sandwiched in the middle of the story of Jairus and his daughter.

We notice a few things about our intertwined stories: two particular people find their way through a great crowd to seek healing from Jesus. One is a man of some status (as a leader of the synagogue), and we know his name. He is seeking healing on behalf of his daughter. The other person is an unnamed woman; we know nothing about her status. She is seeking healing for herself. The man speaks to Jesus right away; the woman, not until Jesus asks who touched him. The woman, like Jairus, falls at Jesus’ feet. Oh, the desperation they must have felt! Oh, the determination to get to Jesus!

We notice how Jesus, son of God, responds to each of these people. Jesus goes with Jairus to his house, responding to his plea for help. It is on the way that the woman “grabs” Jesus’ healing. Then he does something remarkable even beyond the miracle of immediate healing. Did you hear it? Jesus calls her “daughter.” We now have two beloved daughters. One has been “made well,” Jesus says, by her faith, her “pistou.”

Jesus’ declaration of the woman’s faith making her well is interrupted by the news that Jairus’ daughter has died. We’re back to the other part of the sandwich, the first story. “She’s dead. Don’t bother the teacher any longer.” Then we hear that word from Jesus again, pistis, faith, which also means “believe.” Don’t be afraid, believe.

It is laughable to think that Jesus can heal a dead person, and laugh is what the crowd at Jairus’ house does. Jesus sends most of them away. And then the most miraculous thing happens. Jesus takes the twelve-year-old girl’s hand, says, “little girl, get up!” And she does. Another daughter is healed. This one is brought to new life through the ultimate healing; that is, in the victory over death.

We may remember later a man who bleeds, whose story is interrupted not by healing but by betrayal and denial. There will be derisive laughter, for who can be saved from death? This man pleads to God in desperation for saving power, for life.

We hear an echo in words that pronounce: “Truly this man was God’s son.”

The little boy was very ill. With his heart born on the opposite side of his body than its usual place, he had endured multiple surgeries, therapies, blood transfusions, and pain. He was very ill. His mother made it through her very own crowd of emotions and desperation. She made it through the crowd to Jesus; we can only imagine that faith, the belief in the power of Jesus Christ that she had when she said these words to her son. “My child,” she said. You need a new heart. You are going to be healed, and you are going to have new life. You can get that new heart from the doctors, or you can get it right away from Jesus. Jesus replied, not “daughter,” but “My son, you are healed.” And the little boy was lifted into the ultimate healing, in victory over death, and into new life.

There are many ways to get through those things which keep us from Jesus. Faith will get us right up to the feet of Jesus, where we, too, can have his healing power. Jesus will answer us. Our healing may come in many ways, but we will be healed. However it is that we receive the healing power of Jesus Christ, that, too, is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, son of God.

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