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Sunday 28th June, 2015 Pentecost 5 A touch that gives life

Lismore Anglican Parish Bulletin Insert – Sunday 28th June 2015, Pentecost 5

A touch that gives life 2 Samuel 1:1,17-27, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43

 

The combination of the account of the healing of the woman with the flow of blood and the raising of the daughter of Jairus is an example of a storytelling technique often found in the Gospel of Mark where one story is used to ‘frame’ another in as much as they are to be interpreted in light of their relationship.

What, then, is the feature which links these stories? Both Jairus and the woman show their faith and trust in the power of Jesus. But there is another feature which must be counted for; they are both about Jesus’ being touched by, and touching, women. Such an act was unacceptable for any Jewish male, and this was even more the case when that man was a religious leader.

For Jesus to accept that he was touched by a woman with a flow of blood, a woman who was perpetually in a state of ritual uncleanliness, was outrageous. This is the point of the story of the woman with the flow of blood who believes: ‘If I can touch even his clothes I shall be well again.’ The disciples show a great deal of common sense as, in the midst of the pressing crowd Jesus asks: ‘Who touched my clothes?’ They point to the pressing crowd and ask how Jesus can possibly ask: ‘who touched me?’

Unmasked, the woman comes forth full of faith and fear, and is no longer simply ‘a woman.’ Her womanliness had excluded her from the Chosen People. Her believing touch and Jesus’ acceptance of her touch transformed the woman. She becomes a child of God. She rises into a new life as Jesus declares: ‘My daughter, your faith has restored you to health.’

As Jesus moves on to respond to the request of Jairus, he meets the false lamentations of professional mourners who are, nevertheless, fulfilling what is required of them. He enters the room and again commits a serious act of impurity. He touches a girl who is either dead, or alive and twelve years old. It was not permissible to touch either a dead body or a marriageable girl. Through the touch of Jesus and his affectionate word ‘Talitha’: my dearest little one,’ another woman rises into life.

Today’s Gospel continues a theme which has been present throughout much of the earlier sections of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus has broken through all the barriers. He burst through the barriers of illness, of prejudice and of death itself. Women rise to the fullness of life which their own religious tradition would never allow for them.

Although the combined stories of the woman with the flow of blood and the daughter of Jairus are seldom used in contemporary discussions of the dignity of women in the Christian tradition, this powerful memory from the life of Jesus should stir us all. The dignity of being a woman has been aggressively affirmed by Jesus as he touches and gives life to two women. Jesus will not allow the culture or customs of his time prevent the fullness of life for these women. If this was Jesus’ way with women, why is it that Christian tradition has so easily capitulated to the cultures and the customs which ‘keep women in their place?’           (Adapted from This is the Gospel of the Lord – Year B, by Francis J. Moloney, p 160-61).

Mark 5:21-43 21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.