July 1, 2018

6th Week after Pentecost Year B

Jesus is returning from the Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee having just delivered the Gerasene demoniac from a group of demons who named themselves after a Roman military force called Legion. Somehow word has preceded Jesus trek back across the water and there is a great crowd waiting for him, just like the one he had left a few days earlier, probably many of the same people wanting Jesus to heal them or their loved ones.

Such is the case with our Gospel reading this morning, where two such individuals seek out Jesus for help – one publicly and one in secret, yet they both have at least one characteristic in common – they have both chosen to be vulnerable with Jesus, to expose themselves and their need in hopes that Jesus will do for them what they have heard and seen him do for others.

The first is a leader of the local synagogue, the Jewish version of Grace Church – you might call him a member of the Vestry, a man named Jairus. While many of the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem, the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees were actively antagonistic toward Jesus, seeing him as a threat to their authority, Jairus sought out Jesus for help with his daughter who was near death.

Jairus made himself vulnerable, falling at Jesus feet and begging him repeatedly, the reading tells us, and explaining his daughter’s grave condition while at the same time affirming his faith in Jesus - “come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be well, and live.” The word “well” can also be translated as “whole,” “so that she may be made whole, and live.”  So that same crowd that had met Jesus and his disciples at the shore went with Jesus and Jairus to see what Jesus would do with this sick girl.

But a strange thing happened to Jesus on the way to help Jairus’ daughter. With the crowds pressing all around, Jesus noticed that something had happened to him, the reading puts it this way, “Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’” The disciples see what you and I see, a crowd of people pushing and pulling like they are in a mosh pit at a Dave Matthews concert trying to get the best view of the band, and everyone is touching everyone else. There is no personal space. The disciples are not sure what Jesus is talking about. But Jesus is insistent, and he looks around “to see who had done it.”

So a particular woman, who had touched Jesus cloak, believing that if she did she would be “well,” there is that same word again, that can be translated “whole.” And the reading tells us that, “immediately, … she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” Notice the distinction between her body being healed of her disease and whether she was made whole, because she had been bleeding continuously for twelve years, she was considered to be unclean - an outcast from society, so that no one was allowed to have contact with, let alone touch her. That was why she was so sneaky to touch Jesus, because she knew he wasn’t allowed to touch her!

In addition, she had spent all of her money on medical care and was destitute, probably homeless, living off the generosity of those who would toss her some crumbs. She had no position in society, no meaningful relationships, she was alone in the world and her condition was getting worse. This may be her only chance, so she trusted that if she could get close enough to Jesus to simply touch his clothes she could be made whole. But Jesus felt that someone had touched him, not incidentally, but with purpose, and power had gone out of him.

“But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.” Just like the leader of the synagogue, this woman came to Jesus in total vulnerability, and fell down before Jesus. The exact same description of what Jairus had just done. And Jesus responds to this woman’s vulnerability by calling her his daughter. Jesus has reinstated this woman, who had been cast out of her family and faith because of this disease, to be family again, and not only that, but he has pronounced her not simply healed, buy made whole, not just in her body, but in her soul and in her relationships.

While Jesus had stopped to help this woman, some people had come from the synagogue leader’s house to tell him that he and Jesus are too late, Jairus’ daughter has died. But Jesus directs Jairus not give into his fear, but trust in God. This is a theme for Jesus’ ministry – don’t give into your fear, trust in God, just like Jesus had done with his own disciples in the storm at sea.

And so Jesus takes with him his closest disciples and the parents of the girl. He takes the girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, get up.” And immediately, the same word used for healing the woman earlier, immediately, the little girl got up. Mark includes a parenthetical note that this little girl was twelve years old, the same length of years that the other woman had endured her illness. Both of these daughters had been brought back to life in different ways and had been reunited with their families and made whole.

And it all started with vulnerability. Brene’ Brown says,

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

And as David Lose sums up this passage:

I am vulnerable, because like Jairus, I have been faced with the realization that no matter how much I know, I really know little.  I am like the woman with the bleeding, because many times I have been on the "fringes" and made to feel ostracized and insignificant.  And I am the young girl, because I depend on others to speak up for me when I cannot or will not do it for myself.  In the end, vulnerability is both a frightening and wonderful thing, for it is here where I am at my lowest and where my defenses are down.  This is where God can get into my heart easily for there is no resistance on my part. Here is the true measure of my faith.  Here is the full measure of God's grace.                             

Amen.