Jesus, According to Mark - Week 5 - "Two Stories of Faith"

It's the Sixth Sunday of Pentecost, a season that allows us to reflect on what it means that the Spirit of Christ is at work in the Church.  

What kind of power does the Spirit of Christ bring to us?

Our sermon series for June is entitled Jesus, According to Mark.

Mark's Gospel is usually sparse in details, except when it isn't. So when the details emerge, we need to pay attention because there's a reason for them.  

Faith Healers, Christian Shaming, & Wrong Interpretations

Why do people flock to faith healers?  What’s the draw?

Even when they’ve been proven to be frauds, people come.  They do it out of a sense of desperation. Or because of what they've been taught about having enough faith to be healed.  

And when all is said and done, if the person isn’t healed, they have a fallback.  They simply say, "You didn't have enough faith." 

How can we come to view Jesus' healing stories differently without dismissing the possibility of the miraculous?  

How do we reconcile ourselves with the idea that our ideas of what constitutes healing might be completely different from what Jesus was doing, which was more about restoration than healing?  


Mark 5:21-43

This is the story of two women who were restored by Jesus. 

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

The "other side" - had been on the pagan side of the lake, returns to the Jewish side. 

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

It's unknown precisely what the woman suffered from, but she was at the end of her rope. 

Ritual impurity, infertility, and shame. 

"If I  just touch his clothes, I will be healed." 

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

This is a problematic translation that has caused no end of terrible theology.  

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Faith is not a prerequisite for restoration.  

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

What are some of the details of this story that lead us to understand? 

The symbolism of the woman touching Jesus' garments is powerful.  

One is penniless, an outcast, and the other has means and status. 

There is more desperation than faith in both of these stories. 

Jesus' power is stronger than death, figurative and literal.

In this story, no one clearly declares Jesus' status; it is only the trust that he can help and the hope that he will.  

What Does This Story Teach Us?

1. Both Jairus and the woman heard from others about Jesus.  (How are we participating in Jesus' ministry of restoration?)

2. Healing is secondary to restoration in both these stories.  (Jesus' actions demonstrated his power over the systems that shame and marginalize)

3. Whether or not we have faith, encountering Jesus is powerful.  

A few words on the "theodicy" issues---why does healing seem so arbitrary? 

I have a friend whose husband died of a brain tumor.  Then she got breast cancer.  Her question has been since then, "Why did my husband die, and I live?"

I don't have a good answer for this.  It troubles me just as much as anyone.  And yet, I have a sense that God was present in both of these instances.  God doesn't cause all things but is present in all things. 



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