As I listened with one ear to the radio, one ear to some other task I was working on, I heard the first announcement, CNN is reporting that the Supreme Court has struck down the Affordable Care Act! Half of the crowd outside the Court went up with a loud cheer, and began their celebration. And, that’s all I heard, before I had to turn off the news and go to my next appointment. I didn’t hear anything else about it till the 10:00 news, and was stunned that it was actually just the opposite.
CNN, wanting so bad to break the story first, had come to a premature conclusion, based on reading only the first page of the lengthy document released by the Court.
Actually, the legislation President Obama had signed, 2.5 years ago now, was upheld. The crowds, I learned some 12 hours later, had totally reversed their initial cheering and sulking reactions, while the implications of the decision were still being debated in the media by every commentator from the Redwood Forest to the New York Island.
When Jesus, the disciples, and the other boats who were with them, came back across the Sea of Galilee from the other, foreign side, sailing smoothly this time into familiar home fishing ports, his fame preceded him, and now, a great crowd was assembled awaiting him. Those who opposed his healing Gentiles on the other side, were there, protesting his mission outreach. And those who were attracted by his fearless style of engaging everyone who had faith, be they rich or poor, Hebrew or Syrian, male or female, were also gathered on the shores. The docile crowds Jesus left there, some time ago, had grown now to, a great crowd, pressing in on him, louder and more polarized.
Jesus wasn’t a politician, or a supreme court justice, but he was a kind of Affordable Health Care Act all by himself, and he walked in the midst of the crowds, full of charisma and the Spirit’s healing power. One of the leaders of the synagogue – one who apparently didn’t oppose Jesus, whose name was Jairus – came with all the political and social clout he had at his disposal, and followed the proper protocol when approaching Jesus by falling at his feet, a sign of honor and respect. He pleaded for his daughter, who, not having any social standing, was dependent on her father to ask such a favor. My little daughter is on her death bed. But I know if you come and lay hands on her, she will be made well. Jesus goes, no questions asked.
But there is no limo to take them, no secret service to protect Jesus. There are no police to separate Jesus and Jairus from the great crowd who were pressing in on him. Jesus walks in the midst of the great crowd. And just then, Mark, suddenly introduces a new character, a nameless woman, because she too has no standing to be doing what she’s doing, standing out there in the marketplace! She may have had some money at one time, and been more well-off than most, but she has spent all that she had on doctors in hopes of a cure for her blood flow which was uncontrollable, her hemorrhaging, and to no avail. And so she too is nearing the point of death, the health care delivery system not set up to meet her catastrophic needs, she waits for the Affordable Care Act, to take effect for her.
To touch others in her condition, heck, even to be in the marketplace with the crowd, was forbidden, an old world taboo that marginalized half the population. So, what is she doing there? Why is she risking everything? Then again, what does she have to loose?! She is destitute, now, without “a Jairus” to protect her honor. But she has one thing Jesus is interested in, faith and fortitude. If I but touch the clothes of Jesus, just the fringe of his seamless robe, I will be made well, she is convinced. The crowds are great and pressing in on him, and she too presses in. ‘Who will even know, if I touch the hem of his garment?’
And, as soon as she does, she felt in her body that she was healed. But before she could secretly shout, hallelujah, Jesus stops dead in his tracks, because he too felt a power had gone forth from him. Who touched my robe, Jesus calls out to a hushed crowd? His disciples thought he must be crazy! How in the world could anyone distinguish which one of hundreds or thousands pressing in on him, had brushed up against him? But undeterred, Jesus surveyed the crowd until the woman, just like Jairus, falls at Jesus’ feet and tells him, as Mark says, the whole truth. The crowd waits breathless for Jesus. Must he punish her? “Daughter,” he addresses her compassionately, your faith has made you well; go in peace. More than medical healing, she has her life restored. She is dismissed, not in shame, but with a blessing from God, through Jesus. She is a daughter of the most high! She is named now, for her faithfulness.
But this delay brings bad news with it. Jairus’ daughter has reportedly died in the mean time. Again, Jesus seems to have crossed over to the other side, violated proper rituals, not respecting the hierarchy of rich and poor, privileged and the socially inconsequential. But Jesus, with the power of health care for all, is undeterred. He steps up the pace, taking only 3 disciples and Jairus with him. Do not fear, only believe he tells them. At the house of Jairus, the crowd has already begun their weeping and wailing for the little girl’s passing. They do not recognize Jesus as the source of life and healer of the world. Jesus tells them the little girl is only sleeping, and they can’t help but laugh at him. But, taking her by the hand he said to her, Little girl, get up! And immediately she got up.
We learn now that she is 12 years old, the age of bar/bath mitzvah, when she is about to become a woman. The age too when she can be transferred as, property of Jairus, her father, to a husband, who will likely be 5 or 10 years older than she. But Jesus has intervened, restoring her to a new life, to join the way of discipleship.
12 years! This daughter has been alive exactly as long as the unnamed woman has had the hemorrhaging condition. Jesus has stopped the harmful flow of blood for the un-named woman, and restored her to the community, while raising the little girl from her sickbed, so she can go on with her life and begin her flow of blood that will produce life. And it can be no coincidence that the number 12 is used, a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus, in these healings, is making a new way forward for all the people, male and female, transforming what wasn’t working anymore, into the possibility of new life.
Both daughters were made whole, and, in relationship with Jesus – the healer of the world, the bringer of life to all the faithful – whether insider or outsider, approved or looked down upon – they had been transformed, raised up, as new people. They were “set apart” from the great crowds who gathered around Jesus, as examples of being restored and made whole, both medically, and socially, beyond the crowd politics of polarizing and demonizing.
Jesus, as a part of his ministry, brings healing and wholeness to all, free of charge, a basic right for all the un-named of the great crowds who pressed in on him. We all come from the crowd – but we are not of the crowd. In Christ, we are called out, and set apart by faith, to live in wholeness for the sake of God’s world.