And Jesus goes with us
21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-43 ESV)
Today’s account of Jesus has him back on the western side of the Sea of Galilee and he is away from the Gentiles and the demons called Legion. He is back among the people of Israel and the crowds are there we can imagine for more teachings and more miracles. Who wouldn’t want them if they could get them? And such stories can become controversial or troublesome – not in themselves – only the churlish would begrudge the healing the woman received or the raising of Jairus’ daughter from death – but with what we think about them if we want healing or someone not to die or even die and then come back to life. How do the accounts of Jesus’ miracles help us?
I’m not sure that they do if what comes out of them is some sort of formula by which we can predict when miracles might happen today. Such formulas often link faith and miracles together – add enough faith, the goodness of God, and desperate need in the right quantities and a miracle results. If no miracle results and you rule out a problem with God and the need is still desperate then the ‘problem’ must lie with the faith. Many pastors have had to deal with people’s questions and struggles – usually to do with serious illness – when the miracle doesn’t happen and then faith is questioned. So if we hear these accounts as Jesus did miracles back then so we can claim miracles now then what I do observe, at times, is that when no miracle happens one’s faith is challenged and burdened. If faith equals getting what you wish for – then crushed Christians will be the result.
So what is the purpose of hearing about Jesus’ miracles? The answer is that Jesus doesn’t shy away from the desperate need but goes with all who ask him to help and follows up on all who ‘sneak up from behind’ so to speak and gives them what they need. The outcome is that the help they want happens but not before they both have gone through a tough time which ultimately and more importantly brings them to faith in Jesus rather than his miracles.
Jairus is one of the rulers of the synagogue and the scene is set – there’s no time to lose – he’s desperate and in public he goes to Jesus and begs – on his knees maybe – prostrate maybe – he’s at Jesus’ feet in public – “my little daughter is at the point of death”. No doubt Jairus is desperate and what he knows about Jesus is not clear except that Jesus is now his last best hope. And time is of the essence. Jesus goes with him.
Now imagine Jairus and his feelings as Jesus and he and the disciples make their way through the crowds, the throng, the milling around, no pandemic physical distancing and Jesus then stops and asks ‘Who touched me?’. The disciples effective say, ‘You’re kidding, right? This is a crowd, Jesus.’ But Jesus knew that power had gone out of him – Mark has already told us about the woman with bleeding for 12 years – not just a physical ailment but also a social and ritual problem for her because she would be isolated and probably ostracised and unable to participate in much of the community living in case she touched others – particularly men and made them ritually unclean. We assume people know her. Maybe her synagogue leader, Jairus, knows of her plight – yes, her life is tough – but my daughter is dying – and Jesus is wanting to find out who has touched him.
Now it is the woman who in fear and trembling, knowing she has broken the Jewish laws and made Jesus unclean but she is also healed – she knows it inside – and she publicly ‘owns up’. We might imagine the embarrassment she feels, perhaps the scorn of the crowd – sadly more so from the men – but Jesus seems totally unconcerned about the ritual impurity aspect – it’s almost as if he is absorbing the impurities of disease – and instead publicly acknowledges her faith, blesses her with peace, and declares her healed – all in public – so who is going to ostracise her anymore? She is healed and restored to her community and more she has met Jesus and he is more than some healing magician.
But whatever Jesus is for Jairus is now too late. The clock ran out – he gets the news ‘your daughter is dead, why trouble the teacher anymore?’. Note the description of Jesus here. So Jesus – and we might think rather insensitively here – we wouldn’t do it! – steps into the picture and says to Jairus, ‘Do not fear, only believe’. Can Jairus learn from a woman who stopped Jesus? Can Jairus learn from this teacher not about healing or medicine but rather to trust him?
And the girl – also 12 years alive interestingly until she died – is in the house and the mourners know death and their role and mock Jesus or think him nuts or rude or both as Jesus and 3 disciples go into the house and the room where the daughter lies. Please note that Jesus enters the unclean realm. All who enter are ritually unclean, touched by death, so to speak, and yes there are washings and amounts of time to become ritually clean again but perhaps even the disciples are now wondering – what – is – going – on? Mark records the Aramaic Jesus said ‘Talitha cumi’ not as a magic formula but to show the power is not in the words themselves but the speaker. And the girl gets up and is walking and soon eating she is well and truly alive not a ghost. No one saw this coming – the Greek literally says “they immediately were exceedingly astonished with a great astonishment” – gobsmacked, freaked out, absolutely stunned – but everyone in that room has to look at Jesus and ask ‘Who are you?’. Jesus has moved far beyond a ‘teacher’ category.
In both cases faith about Jesus – that he might be able to help – drove Jairus and the woman to seek out Jesus. But their faith did not wrestle a miracle out of Jesus. In both cases, he did what was best for them and both of them came to encounter Jesus not as miracle worker but as someone who spoke to them personally and the issue, is always, when Jesus speaks – Will we listen? Will we trust what he says? Jesus went with Jairus because he asked. Jesus searched for the woman because she needed him so she could understand what had happened. Jesus wasn’t fazed by the disease or ritual impurity nor was he hesitant about death but it is almost as if he is a giant blotting paper absorbing the evil and making the unclean clean, the diseased better, the dead alive but on his terms and in his way of doing it.
Faith did not force a miracle out of Jesus but rather received what Jesus had to offer – firstly himself and then his blessing – whether healing and peace or life and joy.
If faith could force a miracle from God then Jesus should have had the cup pass from him when he asked in Gethsemane because surely Jesus had the best faith in God! And so Jesus drank the cup to its bitter dregs so that you and I who do not see Jesus as Jairus or the woman did can still come to the same Jesus in prayer, at worship, when reading the Bible, in meditation, ask for help and Jesus goes with us. Also Jesus seeks us out.
Of course we want the help in the way we want it but Jesus doesn’t want us to see him as an impersonal vending machine of good moments but as our Lord who genuinely cares for us, accompanies us, and helps. As Jesus said to Jairus so he also says to us, ‘Do not fear, only believe’ and Jesus goes with us into the next moment, moments, hours, day, days of our life helping us through them.
The stories we hear today are not formulas for us to get miracles but are promises that Jesus goes with us into every need and he does help – in his time and in his way – and nothing, no darkness, no disease, no destructive behaviour, no death can stop him going with us each day.
- Mark 5:21 - 43