Monday, July 02, 2012
July 1, Proper 8: Jesus Touched (for Corinna's baptism)
Psalm 30, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43
The daughter of Jairus was twelve years old, and for those same twelve years the woman was sick, and the story of the one is sandwiched in the middle of the story of the other, which is a favorite device in the Gospel of Mark. Also, Jesus calls the woman “daughter” too.
These daughters are both “unclean”, but for different reasons. The woman is unclean from her disease, according to Leviticus 15:25-27, and so, untouchable. She contaminates anyone who touches her, so she cannot worship in the synagogue. If the crowd around her knew her secret they would be enraged, for in the press she has made them all unclean. And their legal uncleanness is not cancelled by her having been healed, so it’s no wonder she still keeps hiding even after her healing.
The daughter of Jairus was unclean because she was dead, a corpse, and according to Numbers 19:11-13, whoever touches her corpse becomes unclean. Jesus touches her and gets unclean. But he’s already been contaminated by the woman, and he hasn’t washed or changed his clothes. So Jesus connects their uncleanness. He accepts it, he takes their uncleanness upon himself.
Some of their connections are opposites. The father is named, Jairus, but the woman is unnamed. The father is the ruler of a synagogue, the woman was an outcast from the synagogue (maybe by Jairus himself!). The one is an insider, the other an outsider. The one is a model of uprightness, the other is traif, dirty, and she must bind her legs in rags beneath her skirts. The one was blessed for twelve years, the other was cursed for twelve years. The one comes to Jesus publicly, with the support and interest of the crowd. The other comes shamefully, hiding from the crowd in the crowd.
Both of them are driven by that combination of fear and faith of which I spoke last week: like two blades of a propeller, fear and faith, driving them to seek the help of Jesus. Their faith is similar, but their fears are different. What Jairus fears is the death of a child. It is the fear of losing someone you love, the loss of something good and sweet. This kind of fear you can be public about, you can share it with other people, and sharing it can comfort you.
But the woman’s fear she cannot share, it is the fear of shame and guilt, of loneliness and rejection. When you’re out in public you hide the truth about yourself, and by living your lie you compound daily your guilt and shame (Heidelberg Q&A 13), but what choice do you have? The fear of discovery and humiliation may be worse than the fear of losing what you love. Jairus doesn’t know the half of it.
The woman’s fear was deep in her body. And then as soon as she touched the robe of Jesus, “she felt in her body that she was healed of the disease.” Jesus also felt it in his body. Both of them felt it in their bodies. This is unique in the gospels. What did Jesus feel in his body? The “power of the resurrection”? The energy of the new creation? We are not told; it seems to have taken Jesus by surprise as well. But after all her years of quiet desperation, it might have felt to her like maybe rising from the dead. Her healing was less amazing than raising up a dead girl, but it was no less powerful in her life and no less wonderful for her.
Jesus says to her, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” I’ll bet his saying that surprised her. She did not know that it was faith she had. It felt to her like desperation. If she’d thought she had faith, she would have approached him openly, as Jairus did. She had touched his robe in desperation. Yet Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you.”
The point of faith is not that it is strong; the point of faith is where you put it, and maybe you have no other place to go to but to God. That’s what my faith often is. Sometimes my faith is only this: “I believe in you because there’s no alternative; if it’s not you, then there’s nothing.” The faith the woman had was the faith of desperation, and that was fine with Jesus.
Jesus does the healing, that’s Jesus’ part in the exchange. We do the believing. That’s our part in the
exchange. God does the saving, you do the believing. God uses your believing as the conduit for God’s action. Your faith is the extension cord, and God is the giver of the energy. Your faith is how you touch God, so that God’s energy can flow into you, and Jesus can say, “Your faith has saved you,” even when your faith feels like nothing more than desperation.
Don’t misunderstand him here. Don’t believe it when you hear that if you don’t get healed, it’s because you didn’t have enough faith. Jairus’ daughter got resurrected, and she had no faith—she was dead. Who gets healed and who doesn’t does not depend on how much faith you have. If God does a healing, it’s because of what God wants to show the world. And in these miracles Jesus us shows us God’s attitude toward sickness and death. Our deaths and our suffering are not God’s desire for us. But more than that, our guilt and shame are not God’s will for us.
There is wisdom in this story. The best thing Jesus does for this woman was not the healing of her sickness. The best thing he does for her is to call her out of her shame and hiding. Yes, her body is healed, she can feel it, but she tries to run off, she’s still afraid. She fears his face. She fears further contact with him. And she fears the crowd, who will consider themselves still contaminated. The grip of her shame is still upon her. Jesus has to deal with that as well.
He calls her to reveal herself. He calls it out, “Who touched me?” Now her guilt overwhelms her, she comes to him and falls at his feet. You cannot separate her faith from her fear. She begs for mercy. She dare not hide from him, she gives him the whole truth. He gives to her his peace. Shalom. Wholeness. Completeness. Openness. Acceptance. No more hiding anything, no more shame within the crowd.
And lest the crowd now not accept what he has done for her, he pronounces it publically. “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” In other words, “I have restored you back to Israel, I have restored you to the synagogue.” At long last she can go back to worship, openly, publically, in the midst of the congregation. He has made her a human being again, she is now able “to glorify God and enjoy God forever.”
You see what Jesus offers us, to heal our souls today and in the end to resurrect our bodies and our souls. That we can be his daughters forever.
Today we give the miracle of baptism to a little girl. I call it a miracle, because it’s a sign and because of the power of God within it. We give it to Corinna, the daughter of Steve and Susanna. The miracle is given to their faith, which is like the faith of Jairus. Doesn’t this story express what we desire when we baptize our children? Steve and Susanna, as you bring up Corinna in the Christian faith, let her know that this particular Bible story is her own story in a special way. “Little girl, get up.”
And if Corinna has the role of Jairus’ daughter, and Steve and Susanna have the role of Jairus, then the rest of us play the role today of the unnamed woman. When we look upon this baptism, we will see again the sign of the cleansing of our guilt and the covering of our shame, the weekly miracle of God’s grace, which is no less a miracle than the raising of the dead. (Canons of Dort, III/IV:12)
One last thing: this power that goes out from Jesus’ body, the power that goes out through his hand when he touches the little girl, the power that he exerts by his will and by his purpose, the power that fills his body so fully that it electrifies his clothing—this power is not just raw power. It is called by St. Paul the power of the resurrection. It’s called by St. Mark the power of the Kingdom of God, and it’s called by St. John the power of God’s Spirit and God’s love. This is Love that fills his body here and which electrifies his robe, this is Love who holds the little girl and speaks to her.
You cannot ever separate the power of God from the love of God. I invite you seek the power of God within your life by seeking the love of God. You can know that desire of God for you is a loving desire, no matter what your shame or guilt, your deadness or your desperation. It’s always Love. From this God, the God whom we see revealed Jesus, it’s always Love.
Copyright © 2012, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.