As she made her way through the crowds, we might have seen it in her eyes. That is to say, we would, had we been paying attention to her, and not the two men walking and talking at the centre of the crowd. If we had cared to see, we might have noticed hope, then uncertainty, anticipation, excitement and fear flash across her face in rapid succession as she dared enter the circle. As she dared to creep from the margins of the crowd, the margins of society towards the centre – with just one unspoken wish.
And I suppose, had we been paying attention, that we too would have felt the electricity of the moment, the crackling atmosphere as she inched closer and closer to the two powerful, prominent men whose names were on everyone’s lips.
But no-one knew her name. Another faceless outsider. Another statistic. One of society’s countless rejects. No one of consequence at all.
We were in that crowd that day knowing that something important was happening as Jesus walked with Jairus towards his home. Jairus, as I said, was a prominent figure, a leader of the synagogue with a well-appointed flat in the good part of town. A man of power and influence, the head of his social group, and the head of his family. In short, a man deserving of great honour and respect.
And there he was with Jesus, that captivating, itinerant teacher who had already garnered quite the reputation. Who was he? Everyone wanted to know. John the Baptist? Elijah? One of the prophets?
The story still causes me wonder to this day. The woman approaches Jesus as hope, then uncertainty, anticipation, excitement, and fear flash across her face in rapid succession. At last she is close enough. At last she reaches out. At last she touches the hem of his cloak. This is the electric moment. This is moment that everything changes.
In this moment, Jesus cuts off his conversation with Jairus to ask, “who touched my clothes?”
Jesus stops, disrupting the flow of conversation, traffic, and forward moving storyline. This is unexpected. Improper. Disrespectful, not to mention highly unorthodox. Jesus stops, disrupting the flow of blood from the one whose hemorrhages had not ceased to flow for 12 long years.
Twelve years of suffering healed in an instant. And yet, there’s more healing to be done.
The disciples try to put everything back on track, sweeping aside Jesus’ ridiculous line of questioning:
Jesus! Do you see the crowd pressing in on you? Do you know how crazy this is? Who touched your clothes? Everybody. Everybody has touched your clothes. Come on! Let’s get on with it!
I hear that same voice inside me sometimes as I fly around the city from A to B. You don’t have to do much to explain the disciples’ motives. Those motives are my own. What could be more important to the movement than the healing of a prominent official’s daughter? What could be more important than that? Strategic opportunity. A chance to be seen, known, respected.
And yet, Jesus remains still, feet firmly rooted in the ground. Our eyes alternate between Jesus and Jairus at the centre of the crowd. What will happen next?
Jesus scans the crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of the one who had reached out in an act of bold and audacious faith. Time stands still. The crowd parts, spitting her out before him. She staggers forward, falling on her face, trembling at his feet in fear. Fear she will once again be caught out. Fear she will once again be shamed.
Her fear is real, deserved. She comes by it honestly. She’s been caught out at the centre of the crowd with Jesus. There’s nowhere left to run. Not only Jesus, but also Jairus. Jairus who holds the power of the religious establishment, the power to remind her of her shame and punishment.
How could she forget? She’d been cast out for as long as she’d been sick. Cast out, cast aside, permanently segregated from the community, and forced to eek out the remains of an existence on the trash heap left to all of society’s lepers.
She cannot meet Jairus’ eyes. She casts her gaze to the ground as the camera pans to expose the intensity of this wordless throwdown between the one worthy of honour, and the one bearing all shame.
Jesus speaks from the centre of the circle, disrupting the silence. “Daughter,” he says, meeting her astonished gaze with his own look of great love. “Daughter,” he repeats, welcoming her into his family, enfolding her in his own honour, with Jairus and the crowds as his witness. When he calls her by name once more, he’s making certain we know what is happening here. “Daughter,” Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
It’s God’s amazing grace bursting forth.
And as I think about, I find myself convinced that those final words weren’t only meant for her. Of course, those words were meant for Jesus’ newfound daughter. But they are also meant for Jairus, the crowds, and for us.
“Go in peace,” Jesus says for all to hear. “Be healed of your disease.”
But health is more than physical and mental well-being. Holistic well-being is found in the relationships of a community. It’s not enough to be healed of an ailment only to remain shackled by the brokenness that forces us apart.
Today’s gospel cannot be reduced to the story of a miraculous biomedical event. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an absolutely incredible work of God – but it’s not the whole story.
What I find most challenging is the way in which Jesus collapses the binaries of class and gender, in a culture of honour and shame.
This is a story in which Christ reconciles all members of the body to one another across each and every dividing line. It’s a story in which Jesus enfolds the one society most wants to shame in the honour afforded him. And Jesus is inviting us to live the same way.
“Go in peace,” Jesus says for us to hear. “Be healed of your disease.”
Live as though Black Lives Matter
Live as though Indigenous Lives Matter
“Go in peace,” Jesus says, even as this week we celebrate that Gay Lives Matter, that Gay people can marry in Canada and now all 50 United States. And then Jesus calls upon this community, this church
To Live as though Trans* Lives Matter too.
We need each other. All of us. We need each other more than anything else. And we ought to live that way. That’s what I hear Jesus saying to Jairus, the crowds, and to us today.
And yet, there’s more healing to be done.
Such healing comes as God continues to work a fundamental reorientation of our hearts. It comes as God, through Christ calls us, as we’ve heard in this story, to turn from a posture of exclusion to one of embrace. Such a turn is not for the sake of inclusiveness itself, but comes in response to Jesus’ invitation for each and every one to join him on the discipleship journey.
Calling us daughters. Calling us by name.
Transfixed by the weight of what Jesus has done in this moment, it comes as another shock when emissaries from Jairus’ house happen on this scene to announce his daughter’s death. Call it all off, they say. It’s too late. “Don’t trouble the teacher any more.” There’s nothing left to do.
When there’s nothing left to do, that’s when Jesus gets to work. Resuming his course, Jesus now prepares to offer to Jairus’ daughter the same gift he offered his own. Health. Healing. And the honour of membership in this new discipleship community.
To Jairus, in his moment of welling grief, Jesus offers reassurance: “Do not fear, only believe.” The truth is simply this. You too are invited to be part of this new way where the dead receive life. You too are invited to be part of this new way of being. The Kingdom of God has drawn near. It’s within your grasp, within your embrace.
Leaving the crowds behind, Jesus takes Peter, James and John into Jairus’ house. The weeping and mourning may have already begun, but Jesus is not fazed. Taking Jairus’ daughter by the hand, he says to her, “Little girl, get up!” As she rises again to new life, we all stand there amazed.
And then Jesus invites us all to his table.