Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lenten Reading Mark 5: 21-43

Mark 5: 21-43

I don’t know about you, but ever since I became a dad, almost eight years ago, I’ve become more sensitive to children’s suffering. Some say that when you become a parent, you become a parent to all children everywhere. I know that's true for me. Whenever S or N get a fever, I worry. Whenever I see pictures of young children hungry or abused, I get angry.

So, I think I know why Jesus was like a man on a mission when he heard a little girl from the local synagogue was sick and dying at home. And why he dropped everything and ran to find her.

Along the way, a woman who’d been bleeding for 12 years – 12 years! – grabs his cloak, hoping, believing, praying, that she could be healed without any attention being drawn to her. After all, if anyone knew her condition, she could get in a lot of trouble.

She wasn’t supposed to be in public, let alone touch any one. The bible was crystal clear. Women with her condition were “unclean.” Those she touched were then “unclean.” And if she was caught making others unclean, there would be consequences. Terrible consequences. The book of Leviticus was unambiguous.

So, she reached through the crowd and touched his cloak. Good News: she’s healed. Bad news: Jesus stopped cold. She knew that he knew that she touched him. Now, she was in big, BIG trouble.

“WHO. TOUCHED. ME!?” Jesus roars.

Silence. All eyes descended on this newly healed, terrified woman, cowering at Jesus’ feet.

She hoped that her death would be quick and painless. But they would probably bury her to the waist, and then throw rocks at her until she was dead. Her fear gripped her so hard she could barely breathe.

Here was a great teacher who knew the bible inside and out, so he knew that she broke God’s law.

But instead, he looked in her eyes, and with gentle love and calm compassion said, “Daughter, you faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

He knew who she was and what she had done. So did everyone else. Some grumbled about how he completely disregarded clear biblical teaching. But others saw his compassion and love was really what bible teaching was all about. Still others saw that in her willingness to claim God’s love for herself, she taught them all a bigger vision of God’s justice and how God wants to gather all people. There were two teachers there.

Meanwhile, back at the house, the news was not good. This was every parent’s worst nightmare. The child was dead.

“Thank you, Jesus, but your services are no longer required.”

“She’s not dead, she’s just sleeping,” Jesus says.

Some preachers just don’t know when to shut up, do they?

“At least let me see the girl,” Jesus says.

Taking with him her parents and his inner-circle, Jesus took her hand and said, “Talitha cum,” or “Little girl, get up.”

Her eyes opened, and she got up out of bed.

It’s a wonderful story, I think. It says that people were amazed by his ability to heal and raise the dead. To anyone’s eyes, these were deeds of tremendous power.

But to God’s eyes, these were acts of love, not all that different from the dad asking Jesus’ help or the woman grabbing Jesus’ cloak. Jesus talked about faith being the great healer. But I wonder if faith is less about strong belief and more an act of desperation.

The dad hunted the city looking for Jesus and the woman fought her way through the crowd, their faith was the result of being at the end of their ropes, of wanting something – anything – to happen. There was nothing else they could do. Jesus saw their hurt, and he responded with love.

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