Third Sunday After Pentecost

by Crossings

God’s Timely Touch
Mark 5:21-43
Proper 8 (Third Sunday after Pentecost)
Analysis by Carolyn Schneider

21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and 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.” 24So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And 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. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

DIAGNOSIS: Sick and abandoned

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Afflicted, grieving and disturbed
The two scenes of this passage are set around the sicknesses of two, a young woman and an older one. Both of these women are severely afflicted. The 12-year old is dying; the older woman has been losing blood for the same twelve years. We have here the story of a long illness and a short life. The background is full of other sufferers, crowding Jesus for healing in one scene, and wailing in grief in the other scene.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Alone in silence
In the society where these two live, they suffer social “death” as well. In the religious law of that time, both are untouchable. By the very nature of her sickness, like a menstrual flow of blood with no end, the adult woman is unclean, as Leviticus 15:25-30 makes clear. Anything she touches is unclean. Therefore, you can imagine, she is quite alone, as we see her here, thinking and planning and acting secretly. Once the young girl has died, her corpse, too, is an unclean thing, and those who handle it in grief become unclean. Her loving family was willing to take on this uncleanness, but they could not accompany her in her dying; she did that alone.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Has the Lord imposed it?
The sick woman and the family of the dead girl are desperate. Nothing has helped. It is too late. The woman has no more money for the medical treatment, and the girl has no more life. There is nothing left. Why does God not heal? The lack of action by God has caused grief. “You hid your face, and I was filled with fear.” (Psalm 30:8)

PROGNOSIS: Touched and healed

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: O Lord, be my helper.
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34) Their situation is echoed by Jesus on the cross as he is bleeding and dying, and becoming unclean. It is not even the first time that he has become unclean. He was frequently touching the unclean ones, including our two friends is this passage. His touch made them clean, for, as he said in his central message: “The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God has come near.” (Mark 1:15) Just as frequently, his action was met with the challenge: Who has given you the authority to do what you do? How do we know that what you are about is God’s business? “Watch,” Jesus says, just before his arrest. (Mark 13:37) Then God does to him exactly what he has been doing to others: “You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead,” was his song. (Psalm 30:3) The healing that he did was God’s program. Yet, healing only means something to those who are sick, and resurrection only means something to those who are dead.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Great is your faithfulness.
The woman in our story and the girl’s father, a leader of the synagogue, were not among those who challenged Jesus’ authority (at least not at the moment we see them here). When they heard about Jesus, they went to him, sure that he could heal and that this was God’s delight to do. Even though she is shaking, the woman in the crowd tells her embarrassing story to Jesus publicly, trusting that he will not get angry with her and shame her for communicating her uncleanness to him. She is right. He is not offended, but praises her faith, calls her “daughter,” and tells her to go in peace. The girl’s parents, too, are not dissuaded by the laughter of their friends; by their faith they receive their daughter back.

Step 6-Final Prognosis: I will hope in the Lord.
“I believe in … the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” The twelve years marked the end of sickness and the beginning of new life for these two women. The number twelve represents the full year of months, the fullness of time. The “time is fulfilled,” Jesus had said. When? By faith this begins now because it is faith that holds on to Jesus, who “became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) When the night will be over only God knows, but we know that “joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:6) In the meantime, the Holy Spirit is making us the means by which God’s concern for the needs of the body may come near to others as well, “in order that there may be a fair balance,” as Paul puts it. (2 Corinthians 8:14)


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