Summary: A sermon for the Sundays after Pentecost, Year B, Lectionary 13
June 27, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Time is a relative phenomenon. As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. But there are other times when it slows waaaay down. I recall some one-hour calculus classes in college that felt more like three hours long!
How long is 12 years? The older I get, the shorter that time span seems to be. Two very significant events happened 12 years prior to our gospel reading. The impact of each event left an enormous effect on how the persons involved perceived the passage of time.
The first person we meet today is Jairus. He was the leader of his synagogue in Capernaum. Twelve years earlier, he and his wife welcomed their new-born daughter into the world. For them, the last 12 years were filled with the delight of parenthood. Those years must have flown by as they watched their child grow and blossom.
The other person we meet remains nameless. We learn that 12 years previous, she started to suffer from a gynecological matter. Because she was issuing blood, this became more than just a medical problem. It was also a religious predicament. Her blood flow rendered her ritually unclean. She wasn’t allowed to touch another person or they would also become unclean. She couldn’t worship with others. We have a small feeling of the isolation she faced with our pandemic experience over the past year when we weren’t able to gather for worship.
Cut off from others, she’s unable to experience human physical contact. On top of it, she spent everything she had on medical help, but to no avail. The 12 years proceeded very differently for her than it did for Jairus and his wife. The dozen years must have felt more like 30.
Jairus and the nameless woman are on opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways.
• Jairus was a man. His biological gender assignment gave him significant privilege in his world. He had power to act according to his will. He had the freedom to move about at liberty. But a woman living in that day experienced a very different reality. A woman lived tethered to a leash. She was dependent upon the men in her family. Without a man, a woman was adrift and extremely vulnerable.
• Jairus held a significant role in his religious community. People regarded him with high esteem. But the woman, due to her issue, was religiously outcast. She was spurned and avoided. At best she was pitied.
• We can assume, due to his role as synagogue leader, that Jairus was relatively well off. The woman, on the other hand, had spent all of her money on ineffective medical treatments. He lived in ease; she lived spartanly.
• It seems obvious, but we know Jairus’ name. We don’t know the woman’s name. That she remains nameless tells us a lot. She’s been cast to the margins of society. She’s been stripped of her name and her legitimacy.
Jairus and the ailing woman come from very different positions. But then something happens to Jairus’ beloved daughter. She becomes gravely ill. He fears for her life. Death has been called the great equalizer. Jairus’ world has flipped on its head. All of his power and prestige and privilege can do nothing to save his precious daughter. His world has come to an end.
And then Jesus arrives. Suddenly, Jairus sees a ray of hope. He’s heard about this rabbi’s ability to heal. Jesus is his only hope. He does what any desperate father would do. He seizes the opportunity.
Distinguished Jairus falls at Jesus’ feet and begs like a common pauper. “Please come,” he says, “My daughter is near death. Come and lay your hands on her.”
While they’re on their way to Jairus’ house, we meet the nameless woman. She’s introduced to us, but no one in the story has noticed her. She’s become expert at making herself invisible. Like Jairus, she’s heard about Jesus. She also understands there’s healing in Jesus’ touch. She edges up silently from behind and reaches out to touch him.
In Jesus, a great equalizing occurred. Jairus was emptied. He lost his dignity on his knees; he lost his religious credentials in approaching the radical new rabbi. The woman, she was already empty. She’d been emptied for years.
It’s in our emptiness, in our utter bankruptcy that we meet our neighbor. When we stand empty before God, there we discover our brother and sister.
Jairus and the woman were on very separate tracks. But their lives intersect in Jesus. They both yearn for Jesus’ touch. Would they have met had it not been for Jesus and their shared need? They may have known about each other, they may have recognized one another from a distance, but they wouldn’t ever have connected except in Jesus and their shared need.