Friday, July 24, 2009

Little girl, get up!

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘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.’ So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then 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. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

- Mark 5:21-43

In this passage, we have a case in which Jesus addresses the healing needs of two women: one older and infirm for twelve years, the other a very young woman indeed - she has been alive for as long as the other has been ill, she's twelve years old. Repeatedly, we're given to understand that Jesus' compassion is for everyone. Just before this passage, we were given yesterday's, in which Jesus healed the demoniac named "Legion," and then sent him on his way to proclaim his good news of healing into the Decapolis. In our passage today, Jesus has crossed back into Jewish territory, where he is met by the leader of he synagogue, Jairus.

It's important, I think, to understand that not all the religious leaders opposed Jesus. Here, Jairus comes to him and begs him to heal his daughter. This young woman is merely on the brink of womanhood - eligibility for marriage or betrothal and childbearing - and therefore has not yet attained any social status. Yet her father loves her deeply. He petitions Jesus to come to his house.

On his way to Jairus' house, there is a woman in the crowds who is ailing from a haemorrhages. Since we know how long she has suffered, we can consider her beyond childbearing capabilities. Her haemorrhage at any rate would have made her unclean and thereby ostracized from the society, perhaps she has also been divorced by her husband. Any man touching her would have been considered defiled. She has suffered from many treatments which have done nothing to help her, but rather made her worse. So she is, in so many ways, of no social status at all - and worse. In the pressing in of the crowds, she touches Jesus' cloak, thinking it could possibly help her. The reaction of God's mercy is automatic: there is an energy, a healing grace, that makes a connection with her through faith. Jesus at once understands this energy has gone out from him, and at the same time the woman can feel that her body is healed. There is a kind of instantaneous communication of faith that happens at once; Jesus is on his way to help Jairus' daughter who has been on the point of death for days, the crowds are pressing in so closely no one can even see who touches him. Yet the healing power that happens through this grace is instantaneous. Nothing stands in its way or delays its power and its completeness. Jesus stops and takes time to find out whence this answered need for healing has come. Who touched me? The woman herself comes to confess, and Jesus congratulates her on her faith, her healing. All of the narrative events take time, her seeking treatment has taken twelve years, Jesus is trying to see Jairus' daughter and make his way through the crowds, but there is no rush. The woman's healing is in an instant. Faith makes this connection in this moment of healing at the right time.

Some people come from Jairus' house at that moment to tell him that his daughter has died. There is no need to trouble the teacher. But Jesus overhears, and tells Jairus to "only believe." They continue to Jairus' house. Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him - his inner circle. The wailing and mourning of the young girl has already begun at the house. Like the demoniac and the haemorrhaging woman, this young girl of no social rank is now numbered as one beyond the reach of the living, of the society, and also unclean. Yet Jesus takes her by the hand. "Little girl, get up!"

The Law works one way, and Jesus - and healing grace - work another way. Healing is instantaneous. It always happens in the right time. Nothing deters it. A connection is immediately, instantly made through faith. There is an energy that is sparked. Most of all, we have seen repeatedly, Jesus' touch makes clean - he is not defiled by anything called "unclean." Everywhere this healing grace goes, there is transformation and healing: whether we are speaking of healing our brokenness on any level - sin and evil, physical ailments, despair of hope. We call upon this power to heal our brokenness in so many ways, and we should remember all of its characteristics and qualities. It needn't matter that we cannot see Jesus for ourselves, nor touch his cloak. The power that worked through him is still with us, within us, among us, in our world. This grace, this energy should be at work always and through our prayers. These examples teach us that no matter who we are, or where we are, or what we are doing or how anyone else looks at us, we are there in the presence of healing grace when we have faith, when we pray and make contact. Sometimes that grace will lead us to the right help and treatment, sometimes it will lead us to faith and understanding, and give us hope when we have despair. But we call on it and ask for help and it asks for our faith and trust in return. Let us remember the nature of this connection, this healing energy and grace and how its connection happens with us in an instant, at the right time. We are never beyond hope or too far outside of its reach for that healing instant to be made real in us.

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