An interruption becomes an intertwining
Today’s gospel reading focuses on the story of a young girl, the daughter of a leader of the synagogue, whom Jesus is on his way to heal. (vv21-43) This story is intertwined with that of the healing of the haemorrhaging woman who reaches out to Jesus: (vv:21-24. 35-43) In both stories Jesus ignored the following cultural taboos:
- Bleeding made the woman ‘unclean’ (Lev 15:19- 30) and anyone who touched her became unclean;
- Children were not considered important and sons were considered better than daughters;
- Contact with a corpse caused a person to become ritually impure.
We are often encouraged not to put God in a box. But these stories tell us God doesn’t put people in boxes. There is no condition at all, which cuts us off from the mercy and love of God.’1
Both stories involve believing. ‘The woman’s condition is more than physical. She’s losing more than blood. She’s losing her life, its warmth, vitality and fruitfulness. Her story is our story. At times the outflow of our energy is greater than the inflow. Drained of life, we go through the motions, fearful that we will never have the life we want. Often we convince ourselves that once this or that happens everything will be better. We all have our “as soon as” scenarios. We don’t know what this woman heard about Jesus but it was enough to make her refuse to be identified with the circumstances of her life. “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” It was enough to touch his cloak. The connection was made and a relationship established. “My daughter,” Jesus said “your faith has restored you to health; go in peace.” Life no longer leaked out of her but flowed into her.’2
Jairus must have been worried and annoyed at this unplanned delay in returning to his daughter. His story is also our story. ‘There are experiences that seem to come as interruptions, stories that shoulder their way into the story we think we are living. Intent upon my individual tale, face turned toward the destination I am bent upon, I can resent the intrusions, the ways that other stories sometimes press upon, break through, waylay my own.’3 Every encounter, however unplanned, can have a positive effect. When Jairus witnessed the woman’s faith, did this give him hope and courage to believe that his daughter would also be restored to health, even when he later heard that she had died?
Was it his encounter with this woman that enabled him to surrender in trust to Jesus’ reassuring words, which are also spoken to each one of us, whatever our story : “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
Adapted:  Sylvia Collinson  Michael Marsh  Jan Richardson
Gospel : Mark 5:21-43
Shorter alternative in italics : Mark 5:21-24. 35-43
When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.
Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’
While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.