Our stories are more connected than you think.

Our scripture today tells two very different, but intertwined stories: a parent desperately trying to save his daughter, and an unnamed woman desperately trying to save herself.

First, we have Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, who comes to Jesus, literally begging for Jesus to help him.  Jairus is a man of great privilege: respected, well-off, a religious leader in the community.  But his position and status in the community does not exempt Jairus from pain, or from fear.  Despite all his privilege, he’s unable to help his 12- year-old daughter, his baby girl.  In the end, Jairus is just like every other parent who has begged God to help their child.

The crowds that are pressed in around Jesus make way for Jairus to pass through. “My little daughter is at her end,” Jairus says, “Help. Save her.”  Jairus is the only religious leader in the gospels that seems to really see and accept who Jesus is: Jairus bows before Jesus, he asks for salvation, he has faith.  It’s amazing what desperation can do.  Without a word of response, Jesus goes with Jairus.  There’s not a moment to lose, but the crowd surrounds them, making it difficult to move quickly.  They don’t have time for this.  And then…

Jesus stops in his tracks. “Who just touched me?”  A strange question to ask as he fights his way through a crowd.  He’s being touched at every moment – “pressed in upon,” according to the Gospel writer, Mark.  “Come on, Jesus, we’re in a hurry here!” Jairus must be thinking.  But this was no ordinary touch – something happened with this touch – power went out from Jesus, without him intending for it to happen.  Jesus refuses to go on.  He seeks out the one whose need causes her to reach out to him.

The Border of His Garment, Mayim Chayim

And there she is – the woman comes forward, falls at Jesus’ feet, and tells him the whole truth: She had been sick for 12 years, with a constant flow of blood.  She’d seen all the doctors, done all the treatments, to no avail.  This woman has suffered for over a decade.  And on top of her physical suffering, this particular ailment, had ostracized her from her community.  According to the purity codes of the Jewish Law, women experiencing such things were unclean, and sent into isolation. 

This woman was not just isolated and deemed unclean once a month, but for 12 years straight.  A woman with this kind of ailment was considered perpetually unclean, quarantined, a threat to anyone in her proximity.  Jairus must have thought, “How dare she push her way to the front. Why didn’t she just get in line like everyone else?”

This woman is bold, she’s disobedient, she’s at her wits end.  So, she risks everything, including perhaps the comfort and status of those around her, for one last chance.  “If I can just touch his clothes, I will be saved.”  She touches his garment, and she feels in her body that her bleeding has stopped.  She feels in her body that she has been healed.

And everything stops.  Can you imagine how Jairus feels?  “Let’s go, Jesus, we’re wasting time!  She’s a selfish, line-cutting, nobody.  Focus on me!  I did things right!  Focus on my little, innocent daughter!”  But Jesus stops.  He finds the bold woman.  He connects with her.  He calls her daughter.  He speaks words of peace and healing and salvation over her.  And just as she experiences healing and restoration, Jairus gets the devastating news that his daughter has died.  Jesus doesn’t stop for pastoral words, but barges into the house, past the mourners, and takes the dead girl’s hand: “Little girl, get up!”  And she rises.  Not even death is strong enough to stop Jesus’ saving power.

Jairus and the bold woman in our story today could not be more different:

  • He is a parent. 
  • Her illness has likely prevented her from that role.
  • He is a man of privilege – with name and title given. 
  • She is a nobody by comparison.
  • He is a religious leader. 
  • She has been cast out by her religion.

  • He is wealthy. 
  • She’s spent everything she had on failed attempts at cures.
  • He approaches Jesus with a formal request. 
  • She pushes her way forward and doesn’t ask permission.

Nevertheless, they are connected.  Their stories depend on each other. The woman has been suffering for 12 years – the entire length of time of Jairus’ 12 year-old daughter’s life.  

Both, in very different ways, express incredible faith.  

Both fall at Jesus’ feet.  

Both experience God’s salvation, God’s healing, through Jesus.  

The woman and the little girl were both unclean (because of bleeding or because of death), and in both cases, Jesus blows past the religious rules, breaking the law to help them.  Jesus calls them both, daughter.  Their healing, their salvation, is not in competition.  It is not at odds.  It is inextricably connected.  And so is ours.

Our stories are connected.  As different as we are, as different as the ways we come to Jesus are, whether with dignity or without, with privilege or without, we all come to Jesus in our desperation, we all fall at his feet, we find God’s salvation in him.  Jesus looks into the face of each one of us, and everyone who is different than us, and calls us all daughter, son, beloved child.

May today’s Gospel story cause us each to look around at all God’s children, at all the world’s desperation, at all the ways people are reaching out for help; and with hearts filled with the empathy and compassion of Christ, recognize that our stories are all tied together too. 

At any given time in our life, we are all Jairus, we are all the women in this story, and we are all a child in need of saving.  

May we, like Jesus, speak words of peace and healing.  

May we, like Jesus, lift each other up. 

One more word … well, several words … but one more last thought.  Perhaps it is here, in this church (/in this chapel garden), where we can best live this connection best.  Certainly, there are other places where this connection exists, predominantly in the family itself; but I propose that it is here in the church where we can best live out Jesus’s example of empathy, compassion, and lovingkindness to others.  Perhaps it is often here, in these pews (/ in these chairs) where many people, like Jairus, his daughter, and the women convulsed with a hemorrhage for 12 years come to seek healing, restoration, life itself.

Our stories, our very lives, are more connected than we may originally think.

May we, like Jesus, speak words of peace and healing.  

May we, like Jesus, lift each other up.

Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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