Mark 5 – A Woman and A Girl
On his way through a town, Jesus is confronted by a man whose daughter is dying. This man pleads with him to heal his daughter, and Jesus agrees. As he is making his way through dense crowds who are pressing in on him from all sides, a woman who has been bleeding for years finds her way through the crowd. She has been ceremonially unclean under Jewish law, separated from society because her condition, but in this moment pushes her way through the town to touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak, hoping beyond hope that healing could be hers. And her hopes are fulfilled.
Jesus notices that healing power comes out of him, seeks out the one who has touched him, and, upon hearing the woman’s explanation of the moment, blesses her, saying, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go and be freed from your suffering.” (V34)
As he turns to continue to the sick little girl, he and the girl’s father are informed that the girl has died. When he hears this he responds, “Don’t be afraid; just believe,” (V36) and continues towards the home where the girl’s body lies.
When he arrives, he shoos out the mourners, who laugh at his faith in the girl’s ability to be awoken from death. He takes the dead girl by the hand and says, “‘Talitha Koum!’ (Which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up.’)” And she immediately stands, raised to life by the encouragement of Jesus to get up.
Jesus breaks a host of societal norms in order to love these two, the woman and the girl:
1. The woman who was bleeding was ceremonially unclean, meaning that nobody wanted to be near her nor touch her, for then they too would become unclean if they made contact with her. Not only did Jesus interact with her, he allowed her to touch him and be healed by their contact, with no reaction as to what their contact would mean for his cleanliness. He cared not.
2. Jesus went in to the room where the little girl was and raised her to life. He does so by taking her hand, and touching a dead body would also make him unclean in traditional Jewish law.
3. He goes in to heal a child. Children were not valued highly in the Ancient Jewish custom, and even the disciples attempted to shoo them away from Jesus on at least one occasion (Luke 18:15-17). Sure children were loved and cared for in the home, but they became important when they started contributing the livelihood of the family through their labor.
4. This is the most important piece for our discussion today. Both the woman who touched his cloak and the little girl have something very important in common: they are women. Like children, women were not valued like men were in ancient societies and were thought to be inferior to their male counterparts, and this included Jewish culture. For Jesus to heal them both meant a major breaking of societal norms.
These two intertwined interactions show the heart of God in an incredibly important way: God is not as concerned with our societal norms or religious cleanliness as he is with our love. Jesus did not come to sit in the temple and lecture. He did not come to eat and drink with his people, Jewish people, only. He did not come to continue the norms in culture that keep people oppressed, marginalized, downtrodden, or devoid of power. He came to march directly to the places of pain and need and raise up the weak, humble the strong, and create a people who would go anywhere at anytime to love anyone.
And I mean that, anywhere, anytime, anyone. God didn’t imagine his people would avoid bars and casinos because they were filled with debaucherous people. He would never want them to avoid genuine friendship and love with another human because of their race, nationality, religion, or sexual or gender associations, fearing what those interactions might mean for their social standing. He didn’t consider that they might stay within church walls in order to avoid the sins of the world. He never intended for his people to be “us” and for the rest of the world to become “them.” And the reason he never thought this way was because he never lived this way on earth. Jesus ate and drank and lived his life with the despised, the rejected, the loathed, the lame, the poor, the confused, the self-righteous, the successful, the liars, the cheats, the lustful, the greedy, the proud, the outsiders, the oppressed, the screw ups, and everyone in between. Christ came to love EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, and in EVERY PLACE, and to show them a God who loved and valued them all equally.
So today, as feet are marching and voices are raised around the country to speak for women and all those who need a voice, I encourage us to remember that in all of his life, not in just one vignette in the book of Mark, we see Jesus marching into every sector of society and breaking down its norms by intentionally doing what others would not, practically loving those others would not, and insodoing giving voice and power to those in greatest need. He let the impure touch him, the outcast find healing, the dead find life, the children find empowerment, and women know value from God that far surpassed any they had ever experienced from the society around them. Let us do the same.
“Go and be freed from your suffering…”