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The Healing of Jarius’ Daughter - Mark 5: 21-42

I have recently been reading part of a series of lectures on Shakespearean tragedy by a professor of poetry from Oxford, the second of which explores the construction of these plays.  It is more obvious in a work of fiction that form is important but sometimes, as is the case today, it is important in the Gospels.  The beginning of the story catches our attention.  There is a “great crowd gathered around him” and if we had been reading Mark’s Gospel as a novel (you may remember that I suggested this in a letter in the magazine) then our anticipation would be quickened because we would recognise this motif as a prelude to a special event.

Then one of the leaders of the synagogue came and fell at his feet.

Some translations call this man a ruler, others a president, but in any case this would have been an elected position and therefore someone of esteem in the Jewish community.  He was well known, powerful and important; yet he falls at Jesus’ feet, in front of everyone and begs him to come and heal his daughter who is dying.

But something happens as they set off on the way and this story of Jarius’ daughter gets wrapped around another one; the story of the woman with haemorrhages, Notice that she comes from the back of the crowd, her accustomed place since her illness has given rise to a ritually defiling bleeding.  She was not only defiled herself but she defiled anything and everything that she touched and so she was left personally, socially and spiritually cut off.  Oh yes, the well known, important Mr Jarius could publicly fall at Jesus’ feet but she, she had to come from behind, nervously, secretly touching only the very edge of his garment, maybe simply a single tassel on the fringe of the hem.

Interestingly, Jarius as an elder of the synagogue would be one of those responsible for enforcing the woman’s exclusion and so we begin to discover the idea that these wrapped together stories are of extremes.  He is from the top of Jewish society.  She is from the very bottom; the untouchables if you like.  As Mark writes it, we can see that he means the two to be wrapped together; the woman has suffered for twelve years; the girl is twelve years’ old and so there is a clear connection.  The one is very likely at the end of her childbearing years and the other at the beginning; both though are in extremis.  The woman has endured much under many physicians (and in today’s world we can so easily relate to that).  She had spent all she had and was no better.  Both have deep faith:

“Come lay your hands on her that she may be well and live” begs Jarius

“If I but touch his clothes I will be made well” thinks the woman

And, as we heard, both the daughter and the woman are cured.

So, the very shape of Mark’s story is important.  The enfolding of them reminds us and almost physically illustrates for us that God’s love is for everyone, no matter if you are high or low, no matter that you feel ultimately unworthy, no matter how you come, from the front or from the back but if you come to Him with faith from whatever point of need or desperation, you will be embraced as these accounts embrace one another and so we will be enfolded, wrapped and welcomed into God’s saving and healing grace.

Amen.

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