Summary: Two stories of faith from different social strata showing how important it is to allow Jesus to touch us and we in turn to touch others
The Marcan Sandwich
Tom Wright the Bishop of Durham in his book “Mark for Everyone” describes this passage as a Marcan sandwich.
For into the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter, Mark interweaves the story of the healing of the woman with an issue of blood.
And as it turns out both stories are closely related.
There are similarities
Faith figures strongly in both stories.
Both Jairus and the unnamed woman have “an implicit trust in Jesus and the power he bore” (The Message of Mark Donald English p.114
Jairus shows his faith actively by falling down upon his knees.
Where his faith in Jesus comes from, we are not told.
Perhaps Jairus later became a Christian and this was his story which was recorded by the Early Church.
1.2 The Woman
The woman is too fearful to display her faith in Jesus publicly. So she sidles up to him hoping simply to touch the hem of his garment and when she does so she is healed
However Jesus recognises power leaving him when she in faith touches the hem of his garment.
Jesus asks his followers – “Who is it who touched me”– and they are as incredulous.
To them it is as ridiculous as someone asking “who touched me “ in the middle of a rugby scrum!
Jesus doesn’t ask the question to embarrass her – but to show a very simple equation
Her faith + his power = her healing.
Both Jairus and the unknown woman realised that the only solution to their problem was Jesus.
But while there are similarities to the stories there are differences too
There is the man/woman divide
In Jesus day, Jewish society was incredibly paternalistic.
Women were second class citizens in Jesus day.
So much so that a Pharisee would pray, "I thank God that I am not a woman, Gentile or Samaritan"
4 Different social backgrounds
The second difference is that Jairus and the woman from totally different social backgrounds.
Jairus was a pillar of Jewish society – the president of a local synagogue.
Jesus was becoming a well known personality as he moved from Nazareth to Caperaum and some of the local Jewish rabbis were unhappy with him.
His interpretation of the law was uncomfortable to them – and if the local ruler Herod Antipas got to hear of this new “Kingdom of God” movement there would be trouble.
So it take courage for Jairus to come and fall down on his knees before Jesus.
The woman on the other hand, was a social outcast.
Her problem put one outside of the community .
And I think the point Jesus is making is this – no one is too good or too bad for Jesus.
The kingdom of God is open to everyone. And faith in Jesus is the key.
And what does Jesus do to effect the healing.
He touches both the unclean woman and a corpse – that is Jairus’ daughter.
Two no no’s in Jewish society.
But what we consider unclean, Jesus is prepared to touch and make clean.
The woman loses her stigma of the issue of blood and the corpse, Jairus’ daughter is raised to new life.
Jesus is calling us to reach out and allow him to touch us and those around us with healing. And for us to reach out and touch others too
Story: Let me close with a poem I came across when I was preparing this sermon. It’s called Reaching for Rainbows by Anne Weems ( 1980, Westminster Press)
What is all this touching in church?
It used to be a person could come to church and
sit in the pew and not be bothered by all this
friendliness and certainly not by touching.
I used to come to church and leave untouched.
Now I have to be nervous about what’s expected of me.
I have to worry about responding to the person sitting next to me.
Oh, I wish it could be the way it used to be;
I could just ask the person next to me: How are you? And the person could answer: Oh, just fine,
And we’d both go home . . . strangers who have known each other for twenty years.
But now the minister asks us to look at each other.
I’m worried about that hurt look I saw in that woman’s eyes.
Now I’m concerned, because when the minister asks us to pass the peace, the man next to me held my hand so tightly that I wondered if he had been touched in years.
Now I’m upset because the lady next to me cried and then apologised
And said it was because I was so kind and that she needed a friend right now.