21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 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 round 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.’
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?’ 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.
In our Gospel reading from Mark we encounter two healings. One of an unnamed woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years, the other one the raising of the daughter of Jairus.
There is much going on in these stories that are woven into each other, and they occur in a chapter where Jesus first crosses social boundaries from Jewish into Gentile territory where he performs an exorcism.
It is helpful to keep this boundary crossing in mind even though Jesus has now returned to Judean territory.
While the synagogue leader Jairus approaches Jesus first, Jesus’ attention is diverted by the faith and action of an unnamed woman. This woman had lived in the shame of illness for 12 years and reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.
Her faith has made her well and Jesus could simply keep on walking to Jairus’ house as time is of the essence. However, Jesus stops, calls for her, and has her tell her story.
We have two petitioners, one is a man with standing in the community, the other is an ostracized woman who does not even dare to address Jesus.
Jesus pays much attention to her. Jesus encourages her to speak and to tell her story. Jesus does more than heal her, Jesus gives her all his attention.
And while it seems that Jesus has wasted time and therefor no longer needs to attend to Jairus’ daughter for she has died, he attends her as well and raises her from death. Jairus is a man of privilege but Jesus answers his call also.
In a thoughtful piece about a present cultural shift, Abigail Favale, writes about her experience as a university teacher. She observes that what is developing among us is a culture of victimhood in which only victims have the authority to speak and interpret reality. She contrasts this with the Christian understanding of universal human dignity given to us by being created in God’s image.
She names how viewing the world through the lens of victimhood is problematic.
A fundamental problem with … victimhood moral culture(s) is that moral worth is relative, dependent upon something external. A dignity culture, in contrast, asserts an inherent moral worth that “cannot be destroyed.”
Being aware of the poor and underprivileged, and awarding them a special status, is a very Christian idea. But being overly concerned with whether you are the poor, and seeking that status, is not.1
She ends her reflection with this story,
“(Six) years ago, a young white supremacist, Dylann Roof, walked into a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. He killed nine people. In Roof’s first court appearance, family members of the victims were able to confront the murderer for the first time. One by one, they addressed him—mothers of dead sons, daughters of dead mothers, sisters of dead brothers. Each in turn, voices thick with pain, they extended forgiveness to Dylann Roof, and prayed that God would have mercy on him.
This shooting was a horrific and lethal act of racially-motivated violence. The people who died, and the ones who survived them, were cruelly victimized. And yet, from a spiritual perspective, the straightforward victimhood narrative breaks down. Christianity’s preferential option for the poor concerns both material and spiritual forms of poverty—there is starvation of the body, but also privation of the soul. In this dimension, Roof is entirely bereft, utterly destitute. And the family members who forgave him are spiritually rich—and from their abundance, they extended grace to their enemy, to the man who hates them and has murdered those they love. This is dignity culture—and Christian love—at its apex.”2
46b I love the Magnificat, Mary’s Song of Praise.
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Jesus elevated the woman with the hemorrhage but he did not dismiss the leader of the synagogue.
It is my prayer that in the difficult conversations we need to have in our country and our society that we may do the same and not disregard the dignity and value of a single person.