Musing on Mark 5, we to the end

Shame overcome = faith?

As a trustee of Thame Foodbank I’ve learnt that the main obstacle that people in need have to overcome in order to ask for help is shame – shame that they have failed to provide for their family, shame that they have to admit to it to strangers, shame that they have to admit to it to their children. Shame is a powerful force affecting our behaviour in society and it’s shame that the two people in our reading have to overcome to ask Jesus for help.

Jairus was the leader of a synagogue, a public position of great honour and social standing. Synagogues we’re not necessarily buildings but could be just the village meeting place. Here people would discuss both scripture and village life – the blessings and difficulties of both. Social and religious life was inseparable. The leader of the synagogue would supervise public works, local laws,  the schooling of children, the reading and debating of scripture and religious ceremonies – but not worship, that was for the Temple alone ( at the time Rabiis were not part of the synagogue but had their own disciple ‘academies’).

But when Jairus 12 yr old daughter, on the brink of womanhood, became very ill the urgency of the situation mean he couldn’t wait for Jesus to be on his own, so he set dignity, pride, shame aside and approached Jesus in the midst of the crowds.

At the same time a woman who had borne the shame of being known as ‘impure’ for 12 years approached Jesus (see Lev. 15,25-30). Note the parallels between the woman and the girl – in years and in the fact that one has been bleeding for 12 years and the other about to start her monthly periods of impurity. The woman reaches out and touches the fringes  (tassels – tzatitz ) on Jesus clothes. Faith or desperation? (Jewish men sewed tassels with blue thread to the sort of poncho they wore as a reminder to ‘remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them, and not follow the lust of your heart and your eyes ’(see Numbers 15,39)

The woman is healed but the daughter dies. Jairus must have been crushed – but the story doesn’t end there. Jesus goes to his house with just 3 of his disciples, pushes through the wailing mourners (begging for a response from the silent lips), with their torn garments and hair, and the funeral flute players (at least 2 required) and raises the girl back to life.

Jesus then instructs them to do the impossible –‘don’t tell anyone’! But the whole village will know won’t they? Perhaps they will heed the instructions from Jairus to keep it quiet. Jesus is still keeping things as low key as his miracles will allow to keep the authorities guessing as to who he is and postpone their reaction when they realise that who he is challenges their very existence.

Did the woman and Jairus both find faith through their desperation? Is that ‘true faith’?

It seems that Jesus thinks so. Anyone who comes to him, even as a last resort and for whatever reason, has ‘faith’ in him. They have turned to him and he delights in welcoming them into the kingdom and gives them what they need – resurrection. By their faith Jairus daughter is literally resurrected and the woman resurrected back into the community after 12 years isolation. And by their faith they will also now be part of the Jesus family resurrected into new life when the time comes (though I doubt they had any idea of that at the time).

Is this why God allows us to go through dark times of pain and anguish?