Some things defy rational thought. The composers of the lectionary taking a scalpel to Mark 5:22-43 is one of those things.
In a probable attempt to keep the Gospel lesson short, the story of the healing of the hemorrhaging woman is excised from the context of the story of Jairus’ daughter, which bookends it. These are two radically different stories of healing woven together into one single story, with one single proclamation.
Differences? Both women were quite obviously from different social classes and positions in society. The girl’s healing was sought after by her father, in a proper exchange, while the woman covertly took her healing without asking. Jesus healed the little girl by reaching out and touching her, and the woman in mirror image reached out and touched him. The girl was twelve years old suffering from a sudden and acute condition, and the woman was suffering from a chronic condition for as long as the girl had been alive. And while the woman was healed, the girl wasn’t technically healed. She died, and was brought back to life by Jesus: She was resuscitated.
So, obviously, these two stories are very, very different. Almost inverse images set next to each other. And yet, at their core — and at their most basic level — they are the very same story. They are in fact the stories of two people who when they came in contact with Jesus, were transformed from death to life.
This is pretty obvious in the case of the little girl, because she died. When Jesus went in to be with the corpse; he reached out to her, touched her, took her dead limp hand in his and told her to get up.
And she did.
The move from death to life is a little harder to see in the second story. Blood was such a sacred, precious, and dangerous force in Jewish belief and practice because it was what God said constituted the very life of a being. (Which of course showers meaning on Jesus’ words, “take, drink, this is my blood.”)
So … when you have a woman who has been hemorrhaging — bleeding for twelve long years — she has in the Jewish sense, been ‘losing her very life’ for those twelve years. Life has been oozing out of her — seeping out of her. Like a toothpaste tube being slowly rolled from the bottom, she has been leaking life for a long, long time.
In fact, you could quite rightly say, that for twelve long years this woman was … dying.
So when she saw Jesus walking along the road with his entourage, and she squeezed her way through the crowd reaching out to touch his cloak, she was healed and the blood stopped oozing out of her. Her life stopped its flow out of her body. This unnamed woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years quite amazingly touched Jesus, and was thereby brought from death to life.
Both Jairus and the woman entrusted themselves to Jesus by coming to him. They had faith. They moved beyond the known – illness and death – to reach into the unknown of new possibilities for life. Risking disappointment, they reached out to Jesus with confidence that he would respond.
All of us are dying, all of us are having the life drained out of us like a toothpaste tube being viciously squeezed. — Until! — Until we encounter Jesus. Until we are touched and we touch.
We must reach out and touch — an act of blind vulnerability to be sure — to receive Life. When we smile at the children even when we are bone tired or take an hour out of our day to visit the sick, we are dying to self. . When we graciously allow ourselves to be touched by other broken arms to be truly alive; when we surrender to Jesus, Jesus offers us life and in all this, we encounter the Lord of life.
Do we have faith to touch and be touched so that whatever is dead within us may be restored to life?