LIFE-CHANGING ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS
Wis. 1:13-15, 2:23-24; 2Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43
It has been said that desperate times demand desperate measures. People who are desperate will do all kinds of things which they might not do in ordinary circumstances. For instance, people who have terminal diseases may spend every dime they have to travel all over the world in the hope of finding that one treatment that might bring a cure. Today’s readings assure us that human desperation is not part of God’s plan for us. We have a God who is compassionate and always caring.
1. TWO DESPERATE CASES
Today’s gospel narrates the story of two desperate people. One is a man; the other is a woman. One is respected, highly-placed in society; the other is shunned. Their lives cross one day as both of them come to Jesus for help in their desperation.
a) A man in anguish: When Jesus returned to the Judean area of Galilee after restoring the demoniac to sanity on the east coast of the Sea of Galilee, he was greeted by a large crowd. Everywhere Jesus went there were large crowds of people. From out of the crowd the leader of the local synagogue worked his way forward and fell at the feet of Jesus. Everyone could detect that this man was desperate.
He told Jesus about his twelve-year old daughter. She was his only daughter and she was close to death. No parent can read these words and not sense a little of this man’s anguish. Every parent would gladly trade his/her life for the life of the child. Where was the mom? You and I both know where she would be: she was certainly with her daughter. Moms give comfort; dads need to try to do something further. Jairus went to see the miracle-working Rabbi named Jesus. Mark records the man’s request, “Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” (Mark 5:23) It is clear what the man is asking. There is no further discussion. It is apparent that Jesus immediately set off toward the home of this man.
b) A woman in torment: We are told, while they were on the way, “a great crowds followed him and pressed upon him” (Mk 5:24). Literally, the crowd, thronged and crushed about him so much that it was tough to even breathe. They could only move forward by inches and only with great effort. Everyone in the crowd wanted something and did not want Jesus to get away until they could make their request.
We are told there was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (likely a constant menstrual bleeding), who was in this crowd. Imagine her situation. She must have been in some pain and weak. Such an illness was also socially devastating. In Leviticus 15 the law stated that a woman who was bleeding became ceremonially unclean. If she was constantly bleeding, then she was constantly unclean. This means she could not go to worship; she could not offer sacrifices. She probably felt distant from God. If she had been married, she may now be divorced. She likely had few, if any, friends and felt much like a leper. St. Mark tells us that the woman had been to many Doctors. She had spent all her money but was no closer to a cure than she was before. This woman was desperate.
By even joining the crowd she was taking a risk. People would resent being in such proximity to one who was unclean. When she got to Jesus she reached out and likely grabbed one of the tassels on his garment. She believed that all she needed to do was touch Jesus and she would be healed. Maybe she did not want to risk rejection from Jesus if she made a request to him. We are told that as soon as she touched Jesus she knew she had been healed! Imagine that the pain and cramps she had lived with for over a decade were suddenly gone!
The woman had started to make her way away from the crowd when Jesus called out: “Who touched me?” Jesus’ disciples reminded him that lots of people had been touching him. Yet, Jesus knew that someone who truly believed had touched him (He probably even knew who touched him). That person’s touch was different from the others. Luke tells us that Jesus said “He felt power go out of him” (Lk 8:46). Our Lord was so much in tune with the power of God within him that he immediately knew when that power was tapped by sincere faith. Why does Jesus call the woman to identify herself? There are several possibilities:
It could be that the woman needed to give testimony to her healing so God would be glorified.
Perhaps she needed to give testimony to reinforce her faith.
Maybe she needed to give testimony so people would see that this woman who had been unclean was now clean.
Maybe it was Jairus who needed to hear the testimony.
Or, maybe this was so in order that Jesus could go beyond healing her physically to also healing her spiritually.
The woman knew she had been discovered and so she came before Jesus. She may have thought she was going to be rebuked. Maybe she thought the healing would be cancelled. However, in her faith she testified to what she had done (Think about it; wouldn’t you have been tempted to keep quiet and hope you could “get away with the healing?”). When she told her story Jesus announced, ““Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mk 5:34).
c) Jairus and his little daughter: We turn back to Jairus. Notwithstanding the powerful, moving and joyful story of the woman, for Jairus it was a delay that was threatening the life of his daughter. At the moment, Jairus had only one objective: to bring the healer home to touch his daughter. He must have felt like someone with an emergency situation stuck in a traffic jam. To make matters worse, while Jesus was talking to the woman a messenger came from Jairus’ home with the devastating news that his daughter had already died. The messenger (who we hope delivered the message with more tact than we see in the text) told Jairus that it was foolish to bother Jesus any more. But before Jairus could despair, Jesus assures him, “Don’t be afraid, just have faith” (Mk 5:36). Jairus is evidently caught in the middle of conflicting messages: “It is over.” “It is not over.” “She is dead.” “She will be OK.”
Every parent would want to cling to hope in this moment. Jairus dared to believe and brought Jesus the rest of the way to his home. When they arrived at his home the professional mourners were already there. This means there would have been very loud wailing. Surely everyone had heard of the girl’s sickness. Since Jairus was the synagogue leader everyone would have been waiting for news and when they heard it they would have dropped everything to share in his grief.
The first thing Jesus did was tell the mourners to be quiet because “she is not dead but asleep.” The people thought Jesus was crazy (and probably some thought he was cruel for giving the family “false” hope). Some of these people in attendance were professional mourners, who certainly knew a dead body when they saw one. However, in Luke’s version of this story we are told, “Her spirit returned.” (Lk 9:55) which would seem to mean that her spirit had actually departed. Jesus was looking at the girl from an eternal perspective. He realized that death is temporary. It is like a siesta. Note: in 1 Thessalonians, St. Paul looks at death the same way. He addresses the matter of those who have “gone to sleep” (i.e. who have died). He points to the time of the second coming of Christ when the dead would be raised.
Jesus took his companions (Luke names them as Peter, James and John) and the parents into the house with him. Imagine the father holding back sobs as he first sees the lifeless body of his daughter! He must have struggled to keep believing that Jesus might be able to help even now. Jesus walked over to her cold body, took her hand and said, in Aramaic: “Talitha koum” – ““Little girl, I say to you, arise!” Luke tells us what happens next, “Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.” Her revival was not just some sleepy semi-consciousness. She stood right up and Jesus said, “You better get her something to eat!” (Only real persons eat; ghosts, phantoms do not.) Everyone was speechless. They were beside themselves. Something strange happens next. Jesus told those who were in the room “not to tell anyone what had happened.” Really? Do you not think that people are going to figure out what happened as soon as the door opens and the girl walks out, munching something with keen appetite?
2. JESUS, A LIFE-CHANGER
The encounter of Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman with Jesus was an incredible transformation! No one truly encounters Jesus and goes away the same. In Jairus, a highly placed official in society humbles himself before Jesus. In all humility, Jairus empties his heart; he empties himself of himself, so that God may have a place in him and in his family. He, a noble Jew, stoops so low to beg for a favour from an itinerant preacher, who was scorned and derided by the Pharisees and the Scribes! That his daughter was restored to life, shall remain an unforgettable event his Jairus’ life. Out of nowhere, those who laughed at Jesus’ seeming stupidity were overcome with astonishment. That is what a true meeting with Jesus entails.
In the bleeding woman, the change is most evident. Society’s outcast was made a citizen of Heaven! The woman who was physically depleted found health, energy and new life! One woman in a large crowd dared to trust God and her life was changed forever! One can picture the woman with eyes overflowing with tears and a posture of gratitude that was unmistakable. As she departed, one can see her dancing on the way home.
3. WE HAVE A GOD WHO IS COMPASSIONATE, SENSITIVE AND CARING
Today’s readings reveal to us the true nature of our God. The first reading, coming from the Book of Wisdom, tells us about God good intention and plan for the human race. “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being” (Wis 1:13-14). These two desperate cases of the Gospel tell us, through Jesus’ action, that God is NOT INDIFFERENT to the plight of the world that he has created. In fact, he is compassionate, sensitive and caring. He has time for each one of us – for ‘big time people’ like Jairus and ‘small time people’ like the unnamed woman. This an important revelation about God as seen through the patience and kindness of Jesus.
Jesus had scarcely begun instructing a group of listeners when Jairus, the synagogue official, interrupted him with an intense appeal to come down and cure his critically ill daughter. Then Jesus, without a word of complaint, willingly and patiently begins to accompany Jairus to his home. But just when Jesus is about to follow Jairus, he feels someone touched him. It is the desperate woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years and for whom the doctors could offer no relief. Instead of brushing the woman away as if to say, “Don’t bother me. Can’t you see, this important man wants me to save his daughter from death?”, Jesus takes time and gently says: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction” (Mk 5:34). The woman is afraid that Jesus would get angry with her. But Jesus is not. What he wants to say to us is, “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” Jesus’ response reveals a God filled with compassion and mercy for men, women and children.
The big question here is: are we also patient, compassionate and caring towards other people – children, spouse, friends, work colleagues, the offensive neighbour, etc.? Quite often, “we are so very busy” to be able to attend to the basic needs and worries of others.
4. CERTAIN LESSONS TO BE LEARNT FROM THESE EPISODES
We can learn much from these testimonies about the work of Jesus in the lives of these two people:
a) Once again, we see evidence that Jesus is God. Jesus possesses supernatural power. He has the power to bring the dead back to life! He is unique among men. This shows that he is who he said he is: THE SON, SENT FROM THE FATHER. Over the past Sundays, we have seen him cast out demons; calm the raging sea; cure a woman whom the doctors could not help; and raise a little girl from the dead. No one else can do what he did. He alone is qualified to be our Saviour. Following Jesus, requires a step of faith on our part. It requires that we, like these two desperate people, should dare to reach out and to put all our trust and confidence in Christ. True faith requires that we step out in obedience and trust.
b) We learn that Jesus is sufficient for life’s greatest problems. These two stories deal with people who were desperate. They were out of options. They were at the point where most people give up. Jesus showed that no matter what the problem, he is able to help. Not only is he ABLE TO HELP, he is also WILLING TO HELP. This is the man who defended widows, helped the lepers, loved the children. He had dinner with a tax-collector, crossed a lake to help a gentile who was terrorized by demons, put up with the slow learners, forgave the friend who denied him three times in one night, and showed mercy to a thief. He is willing to help you also. Are you facing a desperate situation?
A physical problem that threatens to steal your life?
A relationship that has you tied up in knots?
A financial stress that seems overwhelming?
A legal problem that seems hopeless?
A spiritual torment that makes you feel cast off by God?
A paralyzing sin that seems to have you in its grip?
A hurt that is so deep that you cannot escape its stranglehold?
Jesus may not do what we expect, but he will do what is best. Trust him as the one who alone can meet our deepest need.
c) We learn that faith and patience must go together. The woman waited 12 years for healing. The synagogue ruler had to wait while Jesus stopped to help others. The lesson for us is that faith means trusting God’s timing as well as his power. There are times when God delays because there are lessons that need to be learned or character traits that need to be developed. God may wait until a heart is truly ready. He may delay because something better is just around the corner. Faith and patience work hand in hand. Sometimes we will see the purpose in God’s timing. At other times we will not see fully until we get to heaven. One thing we should be confident of is that: God’s track record (his deeds down the history of salvation) is not only good; it is perfect!
CONCLUSION: Jesus, who transformed the lives of Jairus and the unnamed woman is still with us today. There are many, today, who would testify that Jesus has transformed their lives as well. Jesus has not finished. He invites each and every one of us to turn to him with a self-surrendering faith. God is never late; we are just impatient!