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I think this story could be a comfort when it is read. But the more time I spent with it, the time I spent wondering what it would have been like to be there, to be in the crowd, to be the father, or the woman; the harder and harder the story became.
I thought about my Seminary professor who was 19 or so your old daughter Moira had a return of cancer and the doctors told them there was nothing they could do. And I thought about my cousin who cared for an nurtured her daughter for 9 months and when she was born in the doctors told her she wouldn’t survive. The story is hard because sometimes little kids get sick, sick unto death.
So if I spend enough time with the story, if I let myself go there, Jairus looks like my professor or my cousin or millions of parents or grandparents or loved ones who have tried everything for children who are sick or in pain or suffering untold violence when they have done everything they can and they fall at the feet of the only option left hoping for healing, only in the middle of the story to see that it has come too late. And then that it is almost the easy answer when she is resurrected, when so many of us live with grief.
Our writer wrote this story as a sandwich, a story that interrupts another story. It’s thought that the outer story is there to inform the inner story. But practically I wonder what just thought when as they rushed in this crowd to save his daughter Jesus stopped.
Until he feels something has shifted. The unnamed woman was also desperate. After she was healed she tells Jesus her whole story and we have to imagine that took some time. She had gone on for 12 years bleeding, and the only way that makes sense is if it were her menstruating for 12 years straight. And everyone was so uncomfortable that even our modern translation say hemorrhaging, some say “bleeding issues.”
Women menstruating on a cyclical monthly basis where be treated differently during that window. They were ritually unclean they would have been touched less, they probably would have had some distance from community even parts of their own family. It’s possible between pregnancy and breastfeeding women didn’t have a lot of time and which they were menstruating regularly.
One of the reasons a husband at the time could divorce his wife had to do with whether or not she could bear children because lineage and Legacy were that important. I wonder when she lost her family. I wonder if she hadn’t been touched by anyone , not a handshake not a hug not a kindness on the shoulder for 12 years . She’d obviously had some means at one point because all of her money had gone to doctors had gone to healers had gone to Mystics had gone to whoever could claim to make her well and she had nothing left.
And I wonder if she went to doctors who just told her she was crazy or who minimized her experience or who wanted her to get permission from her husband. I know it took my friend’s months and months to convince their doctors to commit to a hysterectomy to solve their issues. Medical debt and chronic illness are some of the most substantial reasons for extended homelessness, making it impossible for someone to get a leg up to move forward. When I hear this story and think of this woman I imagine my friends, the masses of women who have sought medical answers only for their experiences their pain to be minimized, and those who have sought answers who have gone to be made well and the financial cost devastated them.
This was a woman who seems to have had no family no means certainly no place in the social structure of society and her story becomes the central one. Her story postpones the healing of Jairus’s daughter. The blood that was flowing was stopped, and this woman was given her life back. She could be given a place back in society back in her community and she is named family, a daughter by Jesus.
There is so much we could say about these stories, and I know my job is to narrow stories down to the thing I think will be a blessing or motivation to this community. But, some days it’s hard because the story carries so much. And I think it’s about how medical debt is managed and the systems that can make becoming well unlivable. How some people’s pain and illness descriptions are trusted and others are ignored. How women’s bodies and needs are capitalized and controlled and expensive. How important it is to hear each other’s stories, to pause the person in need in front of you, the faith inside the woman and the faith given to Jairus, that Jesus exuded so much power his clothes could heal her. So, write those sermons.
I wonder though about this whole chapter, this run of stories that we start with last week–
The man possessed with demons, so many that he had lost himself, living within sight of but outside of society, community, connection, family–his mind and body were broken.
And this women with no means, no family, no physical touch, living in sight of but separated from society, community–her body with blood pouring out.
and this child, raised to new life, resurrected.
The body, the blood, the new life.
And I think, if this is the story that Mark is trying to tell, to prepare us for Jesus sitting with the disciples on the last of his days, it isn’t about the brokenness–it isn’t about the man self injuring or the man on the brutalized on the cross, it isn’t about the woman who’s body won’t heal or the man stabbed in the side. It’s about the new life that each and every one of these characters is given: a place in society and a mission to tell others of his healing; a family to be part of and a place back in her community.
Maybe it’s not about the brokenness when we come to this table but about the healing, about the community that is made and healed and brought together.
Maybe that’s what it is about the daughter, the little girl, and about resurrection. Because there are some who think this story is less about healing and more about an eternal resurrection–something Mark seems to believe.
As I remember the story that was told, when my Seminary professor and his daughter and whoever else was in the room her the news from the doctors that there was nothing left to do, Moira climbed onto her father’s lap, and said, “Don’t worry, Daddy. I believe in the resurrection, so either way I have life.” Which sounds a lot like what Jesus said to the father in our story. Don’t be afraid, believe. Trust. I wonder if I would have faith like that.
Maybe Jairus is us–in a place of privilege to heal this woman’s place in society as he is a leader in his religious community and we can make space to learn each other’s stories and call each other family, to the heal the wounds of loneliness and isolation with love.
And maybe we are Jairus–in the face of great struggle and possible, perhaps inevitable loss–because that is part of what it is to be human–we can fall at the feet of Jesus begging for healing. and we are reminded again and again to not afraid, believe, to trust, until we do.
And when we gather at this table old wounds are healed, lives are reconciled, family is formed, the farthest places of creation are brought close, and the past and the future meet. Maybe that’s a miracle. Maybe that’s enough to give us courage and trust, if even for a moment.