“When Healing Happens”Rev. Kirsten Hancock Mark 5:21-43 Year B – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.
I recently received a diagnosis after an x-ray and MRI of my left knee. Apparently, you can get arthritis in your knees at age 40, especially if you are overweight and your grandmother had arthritis. One can also walk through pain for a while before the pain becomes so bad, one goes to the doctor. I’m saying that one might do this. I went to the doctor who sent me for x-ray and MRI and learned I have a patellofemoral impingement, which is a fancy way of saying my knee isn’t working properly and I get to have a cortisone shot and go to physical therapy for a while. Big words make injuries sound so serious.
Last year, I fell down the stairs and I could blame the aggravation of this injury on the church youth group. We spent Spring Break doing things my body hasn’t done in 20 years or ever – like roller coasters, ropes courses, zip lines, shooting marshmallow arrows in the dark at one another, running and pushing red or green buttons as they light up on cones or playing a game called whirly ball. Whirly ball consists of a) riding in bumper cars while b) carrying a lacrosse stick while c) attempting to scoop up a lacrosse ball and tossing said lacrosse ball against basketball goals for points.
Anyway, my knee really has nothing to do with the youth group, but it has everything to do with being 43 and not 23 years old. I’m seeking medical attention to deal with it. I know from hospital chaplaincy and hospice ministry that people are in serious pain every day and seek healing from medical professionals. Sometimes the healing can come from a referral to an orthopedist and physical therapist. Sometimes the healing doesn’t come. I have heard some people say their loved ones heal once they die.
That certainly wasn’t how Jairus, the prominent Jewish leader felt when his daughter died in today’s Gospel story from Mark. The healing seemed to be too late for them. Jewish custom is that they bury their loved ones the day they die or the following day. Jesus came when He could and though He didn’t make it soon enough for them, He came right on time. We serve an on-time God. When Jesus finally raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead; all see the miracle.
By the time we get to the story of Jairus’ daughter and the woman hemorrhaging, we have seen Jesus handling physical storms by calming the water in Mark 4:35-41 and exorcising demons earlier in Mark 5 Healing was what the people of Mark’s time were seeking. “His readers probably were aware of that had happened in Rome under the Emperor Nero, Christians had been tortured and crucified, fed to lions and set on fire to serve as torches at night.” (Powell, 144)
The people of the Markan Gospel are no different than we are today. Humanity has sought healing since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. People sought as much healing then as they do now. Perhaps physical healing comes to mind first when we think of healing, but people everywhere need emotional, mental and spiritual healing. We can’t forget people are seeking these invisible ways of healing in addition to sickness and traumas that we see with our eyes.
Jesus is on his way to heal Jairus’ daughter when a woman’s faith heals her as Jesus travels along the road. Through the action of this woman, who has bled for 12 years, we see that her spiritual convictions heal her. There is healing amid healing. Healing received by the woman’s faith, and the father’s faith, both reaching out to God through pain and desperation. Healing received through fear of a suffering woman and fear of a suffering father of a dead girl. Faith is a factor in both. (Culpepper, 171)
Sometimes healing needed goes beyond physical and extended to personal healing. Though the woman wants physically relief, R. Alan Culpepper writes that verse 26 describes the futility of her efforts to find a cure: she had (2) suffered greatly under many physicians, (3) spent all she had (4) grew no better, but (5) became worse…No human power or skill could cure her.
(Introducing the New Testament, Mark Allan Powell, Baker Academic, 2009. Mark, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, R. Alan Culpepper, Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2007)
The bleeding woman could not, according to custom and culture, ask Jesus to touch her. She previously exhausted her efforts and that is how she came to Jesus. Touching Jesus was a last resort but a chance she had to take. In verse 33, Jesus calls her “daughter.” In every translation of this passage, Jesus calls her daughter after He feels the power leave Him and turns to find the person who has received healing without Him reaching out first. This is the only miracle Jesus performs with someone touching Him instead of Him reaching out to them first. She is no longer alone in her pain or hopeless but has family because of her faith because she initiates the contact with Jesus.
Sometimes we don’t find physical healing on this earth but in the churches, I’ve been a part of during my life, I have seen many people find spiritual and emotional healing through their community of faith. Allowing others to care for us can be a great source of healing when life or circumstances have exhausted our bodies & soul. We see in the woman a desperate person looking for a community to care for her and she finds that in Jesus when she reaches out to Him believing He can heal her. For twelve years, no community has rallied around her. She has been rejected, treated as an outcast. Then, along comes a Man who calls her daughter after He turns to see why Power has left His body and recognizes her faith.
This is a powerful moment because Jesus and this woman are not supposed to meet or engage with one another in any normal set of circumstances. Men certainly weren’t supposed to touch blessing women and bleeding women weren’t supposed to touch men.
Mark 5 shows us all the situations in which Jesus encounters humanity on His terms and not as the world expects. We see this “Great Reversal” in power structure throughout the Gospels time and again. Illustration after illustration in Mark has Jesus try to explain and show the disciples who he is as the Son of Man.
After this dramatic event with the woman, the author of Mark brings us back to Jairus’ daughter. In verse 35, Jairus receives news no parent ever wants to receive—that his daughter has died. In chaplain work, as well as in church work, we see so many untimely deaths. Tragedies. These are places where we know God is present, but God could not possibly Will or cause. Deaths that result from accidents, sudden illnesses or when children die seems to weigh more. We don’t have time to anticipate the grief and the emotional torture is raw.
When parents have expectations of a child growing up and thriving as an adult, perhaps getting married or bearing children (or grandchildren) or having a successful career, the grief of expectations can be no greater than a parent who loses a child, whether in the womb or in the world. Parents who have lost children understand the pain Jairus feels. More importantly, Jesus understands our pain and loss in life.
The messenger doesn’t comprehend the pain or understanding at all. The messenger who advises Jairus not to trouble the teacher anymore. But a desperate parent who is scared to death of how to cope with such tragedy doesn’t run from God, but listens as Jesus says, ‘Do not fear, only believe” NRSV. New American Translation reads “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” New American Standard Bible says, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”
Jesus understands the situation. He is present. He has an answer for the heartbroken father. “Don’t be afraid. I’m with you.” I’ve got this, Jairus. I have seen too many tragedies in my life to believe God will raise dead children for every grieving parent. That is not the reality once Jesus ascended, but I do know Jesus left His Spirit to dwell among us and be present among us. God is always present and knows the pain of the heart even when physical healing or a miracle doesn’t happen.
I once ministered to a man who swore that he witnessed his wife’s legs growing back, even though the legs had been amputated weeks before. This man had started a house church a few years back and prayed for the healing of many. He had witnessed miraculous healing for other people and was sure God would do the same for his dying wife. This man could not reconcile that God was not physically healing his wife. For him, he was the one at fault for his wife’s predicament. God doesn’t want us to bear the blame or be afraid of death. Jesus told Jairus the same. Don’t be afraid. No matter what happens, Jesus says “I’ve got this.”
I have never been married. Maybe someday I will be married. There is something about living alone and being single that gives me a unique perspective on physical touch. One reason I love belonging to a church community is the physical touch I receive from people who want to hug (appropriately of course) or children who want to be loved and often give hugs freely. I love seeing friends on Sundays or Wednesdays or other times and receiving a hand shake or a hug or even a holy kiss. I crave this touch because I don’t receive it daily.
In the same way, Jesus touches Jairus’ daughter and speaks in Aramaic “Talitha koum.” Mark’s audience spoke Greek and would not have understood these Aramaic Words “Talitha koum” meaning “Little girl, get up.” (Culpepper 179) I imagine they were mystical words to witnesses of this miracle.
I would be remiss to leave out the part of this story where Jesus shows up through laughter and pain in verse 40. People are laughing at the notion Jesus could possibly do anything for Jairus or his daughter now that she died. They laughed at Jesus. I don’t think the situation was Jesus trying to get the last laugh, but rather, He wanted to silence the laughter so He could once again try to show people who He was. The Markan audience just didn’t get Jesus at all.
Ultimately, the question we walk away from this passage asking ourselves is an existential one. ‘The existential question, therefore, is not whether Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter but whether there will be life beyond the grave for you and me.” (Culpepper 183) The same question can be asked about the bleeding woman. What happens after the healing? What happens after the new life we receive through touching Jesus or Jesus touching us? What we do about the healing we receive is up to us. How we communicate the healing we have received from Jesus is up to us. The power we receive by touching Jesus’ garment is up to us to share with others.
We can believe that we are saved and have eternal life but if we do not share the story of Jesus’ healing, then what does our belief matter? Though Jesus asked witnesses and his disciples not to share his miracles, I think he asked them not to tell so they could reflect on how witnessing the miracles changed them from within. Likewise, God wants us to reflect on the healing we receive from within. Amen.
About the writer:
Reverend Kirsten L. Hancock serves as Interim Associate Pastor of Faith Formation. Woodlands Baptist Church, San Antonio, Texas. A native of Guymon, Oklahoma, who grew up in Abilene, Texas is a graduate of Baylor University. She worked on several political campaigns before obtaining her M.Ed. in Gifted Education from Hardin-Simmons University, while teaching 8th grade U.S. History in Abilene, Texas.
Kirsten was a political organizer with state legislators and taught in DC Public Schools. She earned her M.Div. from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC and completed 5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Baptist Health System in San Antonio, Texas. Kirsten is a sustaining member of the Junior League of San Antonio and VP for Events for San Antonio Zeta Tau Alpha Alumni Group. She is the youngest daughter of Dr. Omer & Mrs. Judy Hancock of Abilene, Texas.
Scripture and Music:
2 Samuel 1:1, 7-27
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
There is Balm in Gilead
Power in the Blood
It is Well with My Soul
I Will Sing the Wondrous Story
Come, Holy Spirit
For All That Is
At the Table of the Lord (Angerman)
The Plans I Have for You (Pote)
The Kind of Love Shepherd Is (Wilberg)
My Song in the Night (Wilberg)
Lord of the Small (Dan Forest)
Grace (Mark Ha