God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 29
April 3, 2017
Monday, April 3 – Mark 5:21-43
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 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.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 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?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 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. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Points of Interest:
- Many of the most interesting stories Jesus’ biographers tell happen while he’s travelling around with his apprentices, and someone interesting comes his way. I don’t know if he was looking for these interruptions or if they came looking for him, but Jesus seems unusually present and prepared for these situations. In this case, when Jairus, the synagogue leader, finds Jesus and makes his desperate pleas for help, we simply read, “So he went with him.”
- It’s striking to see the leader of the synagogue begging at Jesus’ feet, much like the leper from last week. Unlike the leper, this wouldn’t be a familiar posture for this community pillar. His trust in Jesus’ capacity to help is high, and Jesus goes with him.
- Meanwhile, Mark focuses our attention on a single unnamed woman in the crowd. For twelve years, she’s had increasingly constant menstrual bleeding, something that can be caused by a number of medical conditions, none of which were treatable by first century physicians. Apart from the decidedly difficult health and sanitation problems this woman would have dealt with, her condition would also have stigmatized her as ceremonially unclean in her religious culture – not fit for full acceptance in the worshipping community.
- While many of us find crowds challenging, I can see why crowds would have been particularly stressful for this woman, wondering when she would face embarrassment or have someone remind her of her ostracized state. You’d think Jesus would find the crowd stressful too, given that he’s the center of attention and has somewhere to go, in a hurry. Jesus, though, is present and aware, so much so that he notices a single touch of his clothing from a stranger, and something that happens in his spirit when this occurs.
- Jesus’ attention to this moment is strange to his disciples and frightening to the woman. Afraid of exposure or rejection, she’s instead called Jesus’ daughter, told that her faith has made her well, and that she can enjoy being healed in peace. She is physically, spiritually, and socially restored by Jesus.
- Mark, always loving a rapid pace of action, doesn’t pause to let us enjoy this moment, but turns our attention from this healed daughter back to the dying one. As Jesus is speaking, messengers from Jairus’ house arrive with the worst news a parent can receive – his daughter is dead.
- In this moment, Jesus says the craziest thing: “Do not fear, only believe.” Later, when they arrive at Jairus’ house, Jesus insists again that there isn’t a problem. People should settle down, the girl is only asleep. Is Jairus’ doctor incompetent? Is Jesus out of touch with reality? Both are possible, but unlikely. Rather, it seems that Jesus is reframing the whole situation. He has capacity to see settled calm even in an uproarious tragedy.
- By dismissing the crowd, Jesus creates an inside/out faith situation that’s common in Mark’s writing. The people that trust Jesus – his three closest apprentices, Jairus and his wife, see Jesus raise this daughter from the dead. The dismissive crowd misses that and assumes they misdiagnosed her death. Trust in Jesus opens up experience that grows further trust, while disinterest becomes self-confirming.
- Cheesy but true story: this passage was my one favorite Bible story as a kid, because I heard a record of a 1970s folks singer dramatize it. For your listening pleasure, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VknKAoxDiI
Prayer for our six – Pray that God would bring physical and spiritual help into the lives of any of your six who are chronically ill, or whose loved ones are sick or suffering. Pray that God would also protect them from isolation or despair.
Spiritual Exercise – This week our spiritual exercise will be a modified version of a spiritual practice called Immanuel Prayer. One of Jesus’ nicknames, or titles, is Immanuel – Hebrew for “God with us.” Immanuel prayer is a mode of praying in which we invite Jesus to help us perceive Jesus as with us in all things. Take a moment today to call to mind a place in your life where you are experiencing stress – either a recent stressful encounter, or something coming up in your day today that causes you stress. Call this situation to mind for a moment, thinking of what about it causes you stress. Then thank Jesus for being present and available in stressful situations. Ask Jesus to help you to perceive how Jesus is with you now in your stress. What does he bring to the scene that can help you “not fear, only believe”?