Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Two miracles

Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore.  Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. 

When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him.  A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.  She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.  She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.  For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”  Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But he kept on looking around to see who had done it.  Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done.  And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”  

While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”  

Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James).  When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing.  He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying.  Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed.  Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 5:21-43 (NLT)

This is one of the stories of Jesus that touches my heart in a special way because of the details.  It is so personal.  I like the version out of Mark.  Even though Mark is usually in a rush to tell his story, he provides us with a surprisingly long account here.  I also like it in The New Living Translation, because it just comes to life.

At the beginning, we meet Jairus, a synagogue leader.  Synagogues were small establishments interspersed throughout the land wherever there were enough Jews to meet together and study God's Word.  They were institutions of learning, and traveling teachers (rabbis) came through to teach at regular intervals.  Jairus, the synagogue leader, would have arranged the schedule of teachers. He had probably arranged for Jesus to teach in his synagogue recently.  Synagogues differed from the Temple in that they were all over, while there was only one temple, in Jerusalem.  Synagogues were also different because they centered on education and learning, while the Temple was a center of worship, where priests performed sacrifices.  There were neither priests nor sacrifices in synagogues.

Jairus came to Jesus pleading for help for his "little daughter."  This initially makes me picture a toddler or preschooler.  At the end of the story, when we learn that the girl is twelve years, old -- on the cusp of adolescence -- we understand even more about Jairus' heart as a father.  This is his baby, regardless of how old she is, and he loves her dearly.  He is so like us, loving our own children, struggling through life full of uncertainty and need, needing Jesus.

Along the way, another event captured Jesus' attention for awhile.  Jairus must have felt impatient at the delay, but I suppose it also encouraged him to see Jesus display both power and compassion for this hapless woman plagued with feminine complaints. 

Leviticus 15:19-30 describes the lot of a bleeding woman.  She was not much better off than a leper.  She was unclean, and everything she touched was unclean, and anyone who touched her was unclean.  This particular woman had been unclean and an outcast from society for twelve years.  She was weak, tired, frightened and desperate.  Despite her unclean state, she joined the throng and made her way to Jesus, whose hem she reached out and touched, believing that it was her only hope.

Jesus could have been angry with her.  No doubt a priest or a pharisee would have condemned her for such an act.  She had hoped she could slip by unnoticed, but Jesus was immediately aware that healing power had gone out of Him, and He did not let it lie.

"Who touched me?" He asked, and his disciples laughed.  The whole crowd was jostling against and around Him.  What did He mean... "Who touched me?"  But He knew there was someone who needed Him, who had received healing, but who needed more than that.

He called her out.  She came trembling, fell at His feet and confessed what she had done.  Perhaps she expected to be punished for touching the Teacher in her unclean state, but Jesus had compassion on her.   

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over,”  He told her, gently.  

He forgave her. He validated her.  He let her know that He healed her gladly, and she no longer had to be ashamed.  He knew that she would have been tormented by the thought of "stealing" her healing from Him, so He lavished grace on her before He let her go.

Then Jesus continued on to the home where Jairus' daughter lay.  Healing the woman had caused a delay.  Messengers came now to inform them that it was no use, the girl had died.

Jesus reassured Jairus.  "Don't be afraid, " He said, "Just have faith."  He was so gentle, so thoughtful and reassuring.  

They arrived at the house, and in a private moment, Jesus took only a small, intimate group of people: Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John.  In their presence, He lifted the girl's hand (don't you love these graspable details?) and raised her from the dead.

And then, then Jesus said, "Get her something to eat."  He was aware of her human need, sympathetic to her physical condition.  He was not distracted by the spiritual realities, although we should understand that they would have been the most significant to Him.  However, Jesus was completely conscious of the earthliness of it all; He understood the human condition in a fallen world.  This girl had just received His miraculous gift of life, but she still required plain old food to keep her going.  Maybe they gave her a piece of pita dipped in olive oil.  Can you imagine how it would have tasted?

There is so much here: healing, love, compassion, sensitivity, kindness.  Jesus allowed people to touch Him, and He touched them, took their hands in His own.  Twelve years of bleeding, He stopped.  Twelve years of a girl's life, He extended.  Jesus even demonstrated respect and care for women, who were not always valued in those times.  We see Jesus' perfect understanding and perfect use of power.

This is Jesus, who came to pour out His life for the salvation of all who will put their faith in Him. 

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