What is it like to put all your hope in one place? The crowds were everywhere. They heard about this teacher, this healer: Jesus. Some of them just wanted to watch and see what happened. Others were desperate.
Jairus was one of those—desperate for healing for his sick daughter. He was a leader in the local synagogue; he could have sent anyone else to call for Jesus, but Jairus went himself, in person, on behalf of his young daughter.
The woman with the flow of blood was also desperate for healing. Somehow Jesus got her whole story and missed her name, but we know she suffered for twelve years with this flow of blood, she had spent everything she had on doctors and supposed cures, and nothing helped.
Because of the blood, she might not have been able to gather with other faithful believers or approach God through prayer in the temple, but that didn’t necessarily make her an outcast within her religion—Amy-Jill Levine, a New Testament scholar who is Jewish, would caution us that neither Judaism nor the law are the enemy. The important thing here is that the nameless bleeding woman had not given up on God—if she could catch Jesus, perhaps she could grab onto the healing she so desired.
But who are these couple of people in a huge crowd? There’s probably no end to the crowds needing help. How did Jesus decide where to focus his energy? Were the disciples taught to triage the needs of the people who came before Jesus, deciding who got to see him? Did the disciples think that was their job? (Probably sometimes they wanted to think that, it’s a fun power trip.)
What’s interesting about the way Mark writes this story down in the Gospel is that these two healing stories are going on at the same time. There’s the young girl who is sick but whose father Jairus—he gets a name!—is a community leader, and these are the kind of people you’d want to help if you want your movement to endure. Strategic, right? But there’s also this older woman who has already spent all the money she has—what does she have left to give the world? We don’t actually know her age, just that she’s been bleeding for 12 years. She could be in her mid-20s or in her 30s, maybe still of an age where she’s able to bear children—would that make her worthy of healing?
In this story, Jesus finds out first about the little girl and heads that direction, but before Jesus can get to Jairus’s house, the crowd is still following, pressed together, and this hemorrhaging woman comes up and touches Jesus’s clothes—and she is healed, and somehow she immediately knows it. This is where Jesus could have ignored her and kept on walking, or maybe just silently acknowledged her, or maybe Jesus could have felt pressured from the disciples—“What do you mean, who touched you? Look around. Who DIDN’T touch you?!” Maybe this woman was poor or not well-regarded in her community. Maybe she wasn’t important. Why look around? Why talk to her? Why listen to her whole story while an important person is waiting?
There’s a resurrection story about to happen—Peter and James and John are all witnesses of the little girl who is raised to life, an interesting moment to reflect on when later on they’ll be witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus himself. But I wonder if there’s also a resurrection going on here with the hemorrhaging woman: a commitment to listening to her story, giving her some time even while a young girl lays dying. The woman’s healing could have gone unnoticed or easily unwritten, but everyone watched Jesus stop and speak with her: she told him the whole truth. And he listened.
The woman was healed of her bleeding, but what about the rest of the community who witnessed this? Was the woman restored to her community? Did they all learn something about how to listen to people who are hurting? Could there also be a resurrection of compassion?
What healing might happen if we listen to one another’s truth? What healing is being missed in our lives and in our communities because we’re missing the chance to hear one another, to bring our problems before Jesus, trusting in his power to heal, and show up to participate in the healing?
You may have noticed that we’re not all the way out of a pandemic. Maybe you can remember where you were when things shut down in March of last year—it all happened remarkably quickly. And I remember thinking it wouldn’t be that long, and things would return to normal. But that didn’t happen, and we’re not quite back to everything being as it was.
The pandemic revealed disparities in our culture—some communities, especially communities of color, have been much harder hit with sickness and job losses. Many have had to find different lines of work, some have been able to work from home, some students have done better with virtual schooling and want to continue, some workers have powered through this time and burned out and are quitting their jobs now. These upsets and pains are all in addition to the people who have died, or who caught long Covid and still suffer with its effects.
There is a lot of healing that still needs to happen. The collective trauma of the past year will be with us for a while into the future—we’d be foolish to disregard the pain. We’d be foolish to pretend it will go away on its own. Healing takes time, and all of it is important. If we can notice that Jesus spends time to hear the story of a woman who was healed, can we listen to others and let compassion be part of the healing process? Who is calling out to you for your attention and your compassion? Ask God and pray about this.
Because of course in this story there’s a resurrection of a girl who has died—Jesus is told that the girl is dead, but he goes to her anyway, with the story that she’s alive. People laugh at him, but that doesn’t stop him. A young girl is worth his time, and she is the future of this story: for the rest of her life, she’ll be telling people about Jesus who gave her life.
In all of this healing, Jesus isn’t accomplishing healing in secret, utterly mysterious in a hidden place. He’s doing this publicly, and he’s bringing disciples along: not just to show off his skills but to teach them what they’ll be doing in the future. Always training disciples for mission. Take note. We’re learning as we go.
The reign of God is a reign of healing. We’re watching how Jesus heals, and we’re learning how we can be part of it too.