February 26, 2018
“Healing a Girl”
Saturday, Jesus was over on the Gerasene shore, boarding the boat to go back over to the ‘other side’ – I envision it as going back to the northwest part of Galilee, where he had been drawing big crowds and teaching in parables. Sure enough, he returns to clamour.
Jairus, leader in a local synagogue, begs to heal his daughter, by coming to lay hands on her. Jesus acquiesces and sets out. This is the top slice of a ‘Markan sandwich’ – we will see it again, where a story is interrupted for another, then resumed.
The middle story, the filling of the sandwich, is about a woman with a vaginal flow of blood for 12 years. She suffered from physicians’ help, and paid for it. She trusts that touching Jesus’ clothes will heal her, and does so, with immediate effect that she feels.
Jesus feels it too, some energy flowing out through him, and asks who touched him. The disciples protest that lots in the crowd were bumping into him – but he looks and she confesses in fear and trembling. Jesus credits her trust/faith for healing her.
He tells her to ‘go in peace’. Compare Jesus’ instructions to others exorcised or healed: ‘go to the priests’, or ‘don’t tell anybody’, or ‘don’t go home’, or ‘you can’t come along’. Is a change or progression, or simply showing a range and variety in Jesus’ work?
How does Jesus’ healing power work: by his intention, as when he said to the leper he chose to heal him; or like a lightning rod, without his intent or even his consent, as here with the bleeding woman? Is her trusting disposition necessary, or a cause for her healing?
Ex opere operato is a Latin expression meaning "by the work worked." It refers to the fact that the sacraments confer grace when the sign is validly effected, not as the result of activity on the part of the recipent but by the power and promise of God. Do you buy it?
Now we are back to the story of Jairus’ daughter – a ‘Markan sandwich’ you’ll see a lot, starting a story, cutting in another one, and returning to the original – have you ever seen this in a movie? What’s the effect of this literary or cinematic device?
People report that Jairus’ daughter is dead – why bother now? Jesus says ‘do not fear, only believe’. I won’t tell you that in the face of your bereavements! Does he have supernatural knowledge? How can he diagnose without empirical evidence?
Jesus takes 3 disciples, prime in the pecking order, and kicks everybody out but her parents and these 3. Why the movement to private from public? Jesus says ‘Talitha cum’ in Aramaic, not Greek or Hebrew. Why not translate this phrase with all the others?
Then, as so often, he tells them not to tell, the ‘Messianic Secret’ as scholars name it. Was this a resurrection, or a healing, even if you surrender science and accept the pre-modern worldview and diction?
In any event, what is the risk of revealing the miracle and its worker?
Today ends on a mundane note, ‘get her something to eat’. It reminds me of resurrection appearances in Luke, where a risen Jesus eats to show he’s not just a ghost walking through walls. I am a pragmatic pastor myself, knowing ‘eat and rest’ are key to healing.
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side,
a great crowd gathered round him;
and he was by the lake.
Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came
and, when he saw him, fell at his feet
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.’
So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.
Now there was a woman
who had been suffering from bleeding for twelve years.
She had endured much under many physicians,
and had spent all that she had;
and she was no better, but rather grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus,
and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak,
for she said,
‘If I but touch his clothes,
I will be made well.’
Immediately her bleeding stopped;
and she felt in her body
that she was healed of her disease.
Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him,
Jesus turned about in the crowd
and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’
And his disciples said to him,
‘You see the crowd pressing in on you;
how can you say, “Who touched me?”
He looked all round to see who had done it.
But the woman, knowing what had happened to her,
came in fear and trembling,
fell down before him,
and told him the whole truth.
He said to her,
‘Daughter, your faith has made you well;
go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
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?’
But overhearing what they said,
Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue,
‘Do not fear, only believe.’
He allowed no one to follow him
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue,
he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
When he had entered, he said to them,
‘Why do you make a commotion and weep?
The child is not dead but sleeping.’
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.
He took her by the hand and said to her,
‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’
And immediately the girl got up
and began to walk about
(she was twelve years of age).
At this they were overcome with amazement.
He strictly ordered them that no one should know this,
and told them to give her something to eat.