Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (June 30, 2024)

Gospel: Mark 5:21-43

As I’ve mentioned in past sermons, Mark is a Gospel of haste. Things move quickly. We’re barely able to finish taking in one scene before being cast almost immediately into another one. There’s that word: immediately – in Greek, eutheos. Depending on the translation used it’s found 87 times in the New Testament, 42 of them in Mark alone.[1]

To read Mark through from beginning to end, it seems the author is trying to convey a sense of urgency in the story. There’s breathlessness in the narrative. Even in last week’s reading, before Jesus silences the wind and the seas, you can sense that urgency in the panic and fear of those traveling across the storm-tossed lake.

Let’s consider for a moment what’s taking place in today’s passage – and perhaps how quickly it’s taking place. Jesus and his disciples have crossed the lake accompanied by other boats of followers. Crowds had gathered around him on the far shore, and now as he lands another crowd gathers – and right on the heels of that, Jairus appears.

It’s noted that Jairus is one of the leaders of the synagogue (with other translations of that title being “president” or “ruler”). As a holder of that position he wasn’t a religious leader, one of the rabbis leading congregational worship. Instead, his role would have been something equivalent – in the Episcopal Church – to a warden or vestry person, someone tasked with care of the property and financial oversight.[2]

Here he is, a leader in his community, rushing to Jesus … falling at his feet … begging him to come and save his dying daughter. Come quickly; come immediately! And without hesitation, Jesus goes. Instead of being the one who others follow, he’s now the one following … following someone gripped by fear and uncertainty. You’ll note as well that since arriving back on the shore he’s not said a single word. Last week Jesus raised his voice above the wind and waves and cries of those in the boats to silence them all, but in this moment – a scene whose soundtrack is made up of what were assuredly the loud pleas of the father and the noise of the gathered crowd – he is the one who is silent.

At the same time, someone else is rushing. Someone else is trying to get to Jesus immediately. A woman who’s been suffering for 12 years; a woman who’s spent everything she had on doctors who couldn’t help her; a woman who because of her hemorrhages is under the ritual law of her time considered unclean and is thus isolated from the world around her; a woman who should have lost all hope.

But she hasn’t.

If I can get to him before he’s gone, I’ll be healed. He doesn’t need to talk to me. He doesn’t need to look at me. If I can simply get close enough to touch the hem of his robe, this all goes away. She fights her way through the crowd … and approaches him … and touches the cloth. And without being told, without worrying about somehow finding the money to talk to yet another doctor, without Jesus even speaking a word to her, she knows she is healed.

It’s at this moment that something I find remarkable takes place. Amid the rushing and immediacy and swiftness of everything taking place – her immediate healing and Jesus immediately feeling a bit of his power going out – he stops. The rush to Jairus’ house ceases. Jesus pauses and questions who it was that had touched him; this woman, once again afraid, comes forward. It was me; I touched you.

And then we have the phrase “told him the whole truth.” This wasn’t I think a moment of her simply telling the whole truth about having approached from behind and touched the hem of his garment. This was a time where she told him the entirety of her truth: the truth of her 12 years of suffering; the truth of her exhausting all her resources and going through all of the doctors seeking a cure; the truth of being considered unclean and thus cut off from those around her; the truth of her fear. Jesus listens to all of this and then offers a new truth: her faith had healed her.

Look at that verse again, though: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”[3] Your faith has made you well; go … and be healed. I don’t think this is a single healing; this is a two-part event. Her hemorrhaging has stopped and there has been physical healing, but there’s also been healing of her spirit. Her body has been cured, and her dis-ease – the absence of inner peace – has been stripped away. She has a new body and new hope.

Now I’m not going to go any further into this passage. Yes, there’s more to come with the raising of Jairus’ daughter and Jesus encountering everyone there. And yes, I know that by not going to the end some may feel like the story is incomplete. But it’s this point – this encounter between this unnamed woman and Jesus – on which I invite you to dwell and in particular two things I’d like you to remember.

First, despite whatever else is going on in the world or in the lives of others, there will always be room for you and your story. Regardless of the myriad things being lifted to God by communities, families, and individuals – whether they be shouts of celebration or cries of lament – there will always be space for you and your story. Jesus stopped on his journey to save a dying girl to listen to a desperate woman, who suddenly found herself healed, share her entire truth – her entire story. Your troubles and your requests will always be given space and will always be heard.

Second, regardless of how impossible things may seem in any given moment, think about how situations change when we recognize the presence of Jesus. Think about how the impossible becomes possible. Last week it was disciples and followers facing the impossible odds of crossing a lake in weather that could have cost them their lives, and with a word survival became possible. Today it’s a woman who faced the impossibility of finding a cure for her 12-year illness, and by a simple touch of a piece of cloth healing became possible. And even though I didn’t go to the end, a family faced the impossibility of ever seeing their daughter again – a daughter who had died – and yet with an invitation resurrection became possible.

In closing, I offer this. Healing doesn’t always come in the way in which we hope. An illness we pray will depart instead lingers. A cure for which we may pray may not be found. But look for healing in other ways. Look for healing as a new sense of calm that comes amid chaos. Look for healing as a new sense of acceptance and awareness that while things aren’t where we want them to be, God always is. And look for healing through the recognition that while not all prayers are answered in the way we’d like, prayer – in the words of Michael Lindvall – always allows us “to edge into deeper relationship with God. God’s mind may not be changed, but I – my mind and heart – may be.”[4]

Amen.


[1] Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., “Why does Mark use the term immediately so many times?” Retrieved from the Thirdmill website, https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/50443.

[2] John R. Donahue, S.J. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. The Gospel of Mark, p. 173.

[3] Mark 5:34 (NRSVUE).

[4] Michael L. Lindvall, “Mark 5:21-43 – Pastoral Perspective.” Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 3, p. 190.