This morning’s scriptures included one of my favourite gospel stories as recored in Mark 5:21-43. It is the story of Jesus being asked by Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue to come and heal his daughter. On the way he is touched by a woman who had suffered for many years from constant bleeding. He stops and takes time to make sure she is identified and that everyone know she has been healed. She is poor, she is ostracized and she is obviously afraid, because according to the Jewish tradition of the time she should have been part of that crowd. She was unclean and certainly unfit to touch the hem of Jesus garment. But Jesus welcomes her, heals and tells her “Your faith has made you well, go in peace (shalom) your suffering is over.” (Mark 5:34)
In the meantime Jairus’s daughter dies. I can just imagine the angry mutterings in the crowd when this is announced. Why did he wait? Why did he bother about this nobody when he had the chance to heal an important leader’s daughter? Some I am sure wanted to blame the woman for wasting Jesus time. Instead of healing her and ending her suffering, they wanted to add to it.
Jesus response to the crowd contrasts their lack of faith to that which the woman has just shown. “Don’t be afraid” he says, “just have faith.” And of course he goes on to the leader’s house and heals his daughter once more embracing and including the unclean and breaking the Jewish traditions. This time he touches a dead body and no matter how important this child’s parent’s may have been, that was just something you were not meant to do.
This story is so profound at so many levels and it never ceases to touch my heart. The way that Jesus reaches out to the rich and the poor in a single sweeping expression of his ability to heal is awe inspiring. And the fact that both are women makes it even more profound. We are never told the names of either the woman or the child, but we are aware that in this moment they are sisters embraced and welcomed together into the family of God.
This story always fills me with hope. Jesus notices the most insignificant and seemly rejected of our society. But he also reaches out to the rich and the powerful. All are included in his embrace. He does not just heal and restore them but welcomes them into the same family together. That is truly an expression of shalom.