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Jesus loves us the way he finds us, but loves us enough not to leave as he finds us.
Jairus’ daughter and the Women who touches Jesus (Mark 5 :21- end )
Two stories are here woven together, where both central figures are female. The place of women in the church and indeed in the kingdom of God has received very great attention in recent decades and we live now in the middle of a revolution.
The bible is primarily “patriarchal” in character, reflecting the culture of its origin, but has as surprising amount to say about women, and they are surprisingly central to what goes on in the life of Jesus, despite the fact that his inner circle of disciples were admittedly all men.
In Israel, the place of women seems to have deteriorated in what we call the inter-testamental period, between what we might regard as “Malachi and Matthew”. An aristocratic scholar of Israel named Ben Sirach argued that that women should be “good mothers and wives, but if you don’t like your wife, don’t trust her and keep close records of the supplies you entrust to her, do not entrust her with property and do not let her support you.” Basically, women were responsible for sin coming into the world and daughters were a disaster! Jesus comes into a society that has been influenced in this way for 400 years or longer. How did he respond ?
The first woman in our reading that is the woman affected by an issue of blood. He is surrounded by a crowd so great that he is not sure who is actually touching him at any given moment but mysteriously, healing power flows from Jesus to the woman without his deliberate intent. Somehow the Holy Spirit, flows through him and heals the woman. I do not wish to explain that, merely to note it.
The more significant thing so what happens next. Jesus is aware of the power that has just flowed through him and wants to know “WHO TOUCHED ME?”. The crowd stops moving, silence falls into an awkward embarrassed tension. Lots of people touched him, he was in a crowd, but someone’s contact with him had been deeply significant. That is somewhat true of every meeting here at St John’s. We gather a crowd of 70 or 80, all of whom “touch Jesus” in a certain way. But usually there one for whom that touch is deeply significant. God has a special gift for someone every week, but it is not everyone every week.
The woman knows it has happened to her, but right now she is afraid rather than overjoyed. She knows that she should not be around other people with an affliction that made her ritually unclean. The trouble was, in this legal sense, she would be unclean most of the time, and consequently completely socially isolated. She is not just afraid of Jesus, but the crowd of people, lest she be shunned, excluded , and punished. So it is in fear and trembling she falls down before Jesus. What happens then is revealing
What is said about Jesus is that he cared for everyone. His agenda was abundant life for everyone. If the gospel authors and actors had felt that women should not be shown in this light, they were perfectly placed to edit these stories, along with Mary Magdalene, the woman the well, the Phoenician woman, and the woman caught in adultery, out of the record.
Let us look at our second woman.
Actually she is not even a women but a girl, which makes her standing even less, were it not for the fact that she was the son of leader. Our friend Ben Sirach wrote that a daughter was to the father, a “total loss and a constant potential source of shame”. Jairus to his credit clearly doesn’t feel this way and comes to Jesus also in desperation. His daughter is sick to the point of death. Imagine his frustration at the distraction of the unnamed women, especially when some people duly arrive to say “Do not trouble the teacher any more, your daughter is dead.”
Jesus instantly addresses Jairus and says, “Do not fear, only believe”
He selects only Peter, James and John to accompany him, so this is not a public moment but a private one. He now acts deliberately and with faith and intent and says, “Little girl, get up.” She rises and sets up ; all watching are overcome with amazement.
And then another mystery. Jesus truly orders them that no one would know this and asks them to get her something to eat. If I raised someone from the dead I would be on every news program going. The temptation to use that act to build “my church” would be overwhelming. I would be in articles in print, many books would be written. But Jesus commends secrecy, a simple joy in having their daughter back from death…….and by the way she’s probably quite hungry and needs to have her strength built up, so how about getting her something to eat!
In the first instance Jesus calls out the woman and makes her identity known. In the other he asks them to keep it a secret Why?
Two healings, two different circumstances, two different approaches but in each case the ends of the individual were paramount for Jesus. There could not have been a bigger difference in status between the two key people in the story. Jairus was the synagogue ruler, the lay person in charge of the local synagogue, a devout Jew who kept Torah. It is interesting to see Jesus keep Jairus waiting, he would not have been a man who was used to that. The woman on the other hand, would be very much a second class citizen, a female, permanently ritually unclean according to the law of Leviticus and isolated from the community because of this, virtually an outcast. Both come to Jesus and are transformed by coming into contact with Him.
Jesus loves them the way he finds them, but loves them enough not to leave them the way he has found them. Jesus does not care what our background is, but is constantly waiting for us to reach out and touch Him so that we too can be loved as we are , and transformed into something else!