July 1, 2012—Emmanuel, Killingworth
Desperate times, I've heard tell, call for desperate measures.
And what could be a more desperate time than a terminally ill child? So, her father, Jarius, a leader of the synagogue, takes desperate measures. Jarius—a respected and conservative leader of the synagogue—approaches an iterate teacher and miracle worker. Jarius falls at Jesus' feet, risking his own reputation, and begs the strange rabbi to come and heal his child.
Jesus is impressed by Jarius' belief and agrees to go.
There are three things in Mark's Gospel that are always present. First is the crowds—there are crowds everywhere and always, grasping for Jesus, jostling him, making him so put upon that from time to time he escapes to 'a lonely place' to be by himself. The second omnipresent aspect of Mark is the urgency of everything. The word we translate as “immediately” occurs more in Mark than in the whole rest of the Bible. It is always crowded and things happen 'immediately'. Finally, there is the secrecy motif. Over and again in Mark, just as today with Jarius and his wife, Jesus tells people to 'tell no one' what has happened. Either he wants to cut down the crowds or it is brilliant reverse psychology since as soon as you tell someone not to talk about what happened, they can't help themselves and tell everyone!
As they move toward Jarius' house, the second desperate situation comes into play. A woman who has been bleeding for 12 years and spent all her money on doctors, sees her chance to touch Jesus and be healed. This is double un-kosher!. First of all, a woman would never touch a man in public in the first century. Never. Not ever. It just wasn't done. Plus, this woman is bleeding (“an issue of blood” older translations said) and blood is unclean in Jewish law and thought. For a bleeding woman to touch a Jewish man would be anathema if not worse!
But she does touch him. And she is healed.
You know that old saying, “seeing is believing”? Well, I read another saying written by, of all people Saul Alinsky. Alinsky said, “we will see it when we believe it....” That describes the desperate measures of Jarius and the woman. They believed in Jesus, trusted in his power, and so they saw their solutions to their problems.
Oddly enough, Jesus feels his power leave him and says, “who touched me?”
The disciples are incredulous. “The crowds are everywhere,” they tell him, “who could tell who all touched you?”
The woman comes forward and confesses that it was her, again kneeling at his feet. Jesus is moved and tells her that 'her faith has made her whole'.
Then messengers from Jarius' home arrive, telling him his daughter is already dead and not to trouble Jesus any more. They are probably trying to avoid the scandal of a suspect rabbi showing up at the leader of the synagogue's house.
But Jesus tells him, “Fear not, only believe” and they continue on.
There is a beautiful poem by Patrick Overton called “The Leaning Tree”. Part of it goes like this:
When we walk on the edge
of all the light we have
and step off into the unknown,
we must believe that one
of two things will happen:
there will be something solid
for us to stand on
we will be taught to fly.
That's where Jarius and the woman with the hemorrhaging find themselves in their desperate situations. They have stepped off into the unknown, believing that either they will find firm footing or learn to fly.
When they arrive at the house, they are met with weeping people, mourning deeply. Jesus tells them not to make such a scene, that the girl is merely sleeping. And they laugh at him!
Perhaps they were professional mourners as were common since they could go from despair to laughter so easily. But Jesus takes the mother and father and his three closest disciples into the room where the girl is. He takes her hand and says those beautiful Aramaic words, “Talitha, cum” ('little girl, get up). And the girl is alive again. And he tells them to give her something to eat. Death makes you hunger, I suppose.
What we are called to do, in our lives, day by day, is precisely what Jarius and the woman did. We are called to 'walk on the edge of all the light we have and step off into the unknown'. We are called to take the risk of trust and belief. And we are called to know that either 'there will be something solid for us to stand on or we shall be taught to fly.'
God will give us safe footing or teach us, beyond all imagining, to fly, to soar....
God will be with us in all the unknown moments of our lives.