Stories of healing and hope, a glimpse of eternity here and now, and the work of Jesus to secure eternity, well, forever:
A father, Jairus, longing for his daughter to be made well, comes to beg the help of Jesus. A woman, believing that she will be made whole, touches the hem of Jesus’ robe.
These two stories in today’s gospel are sandwiched together, one interrupting the other in a writing style that is a favorite for Mark, and which has the effect of tossing together the stories being shared in a way that amplifies the narrative – the good drama. Jesus, surrounded by the crowds who have come to see this kingdom-has-drawn-near-living-presence-of-God-in-him; Jesus can’t even finish tending to one healing request before someone else desperate for healing is literally at his heel, reaching out in their desperation and hope to touch Jesus’ robe.
Imagine the urgency for that woman in need of healing; suffering from hemorrhages for twelve long years, longing to have her suffering end. “Oh,” she might have thought, “oh, if the kingdom of God has come near in this Jesus, then all I need to do is get close enough and heaven will roll on in to me and make me whole.”
Imagine the urgency of Jairus, the religious official and father, oh so worried about his daughter. Hearing that Jesus is traveling in the vicinity, he perhaps steps away from his duties as a Jewish religious official, hoping that the rumors of this Jesus being able to heal might be true for the sake of his child lying ailing at home.
We can imagine, oh we can imagine what it must have been like for these people longing for healing! For likely we have all at some or more points longed for healing ourselves or known others longing for healing. Of body, mind, heart, and soul. Individually, collectively.
There is a lot being written and said these days about the need to collectively heal as we come through and beyond the pandemic. One psychologist noted that the collective grieving and healing process for all that has been lost and changed forever in life and livelihood is just beginning. Oh, how we long for healing.
It has been said that the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead – for we hear that she did die before Jesus got there to heal her; it has been said that this raising of Jairus’ daughter is a prefiguring of Jesus being raised from the dead himself, just as when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Foretastes of the full resurrection work that is to come, even as the bread we receive in Holy Communion is a foretaste of the Eternal Feast that is to come.
No, indeed, Jesus doesn’t raise all the dead while he walks this earth, just as Jesus does not heal every person while he walks this earth - for God’s purpose in coming down to earth as the Christ is for a more complete healing. We don’t necessarily understand this. We might wish it were otherwise, but the work of God through Jesus in this present age heals only a part and only in part. The foretaste that may leave us with a longing for more is like a winding path that nevertheless marches resolutely to bring us to the cross where our lives will not be partly, but completely claimed. Not only for now and this life but for all time in a redemptive promise made complete by Jesus Christ.
You can almost imagine, if you try; you can almost imagine the laughter of the professional mourners who were gathered around the girl who had died. There are many who laugh at what they deem to be the preposterous redemption promise of God who became flesh, and walked among us. We, too, might find our hearts scoffing at times, disbelieving and struggling. Yet I bet that we can also imagine, if we try; we can also imagine what it must have been like to hear the laughter of those people change to astonished gasps as Jesus steps through their ranks and invites the girl who had died to awake from her slumber. “Talitha cum,” Jesus says.
Jesus steps through our ranks as well. Steps through our doubts and invites us to believe – not in life made whole as we want it on our terms for a little while, but in the promise and the certainty and the completeness of God’s work through Christ on our behalf and on behalf of this world for eternity.
While we might understandably get caught up in the questions and drama of asking where is Christ when we and others and this world need healing, and why doesn’t that healing come the way we as humans think that it should; yet to fixate on what is broken might make us miss the way that Jesus’ healing work is manifesting in our lives and this world. Not as we always wish, but there in the prisoner made whole and helping others to stay out of prison; there in the folks struggling with mental health who get connected with solid therapists; there in vaccines developed and people in deep need helped by government social safety nets and on the ground neighbor to neighbor assistance.
If we can but have eyes to see the healing of Jesus where it is happening, then we, too, will know that the kingdom of God has come near. We, too, will have touched the garment and know the power of Christ as it meets our longing and our need. Our disbelief and even, let’s be honest, disbelieving laughter, can be turned to astonished silence as the Christ bids those sleeping to awake. To be resurrected.
To know life where once there was death. To know hope where once there was only fear and loneliness and desperation. And to go forward as witnesses to healing and for the sake of living this healing for ourselves and others. For these stories of healing and hope are OUR stories, too. Now in part, and in the fullness of time, for forever. Amen.