Get Up
Mark 5:21-43

by | Jul 2, 2024

PRAYER:  God of healing, open our hearts and minds to the possibilities that exist when we turn to you.  Bring us the strength and the wisdom to feel your hand guiding us, moving us toward blessings that we may not even know that we need.  Be among us today, and empower us to get up and turn away from our fear.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, my rock and my redeemer.

In the gospel of Mark, there are several instances of what has become known as a Mark Sandwich.  This is a method in which a story that Mark is telling becomes sandwiched by another.  There are, I believe nine different examples of this in Mark’s gospel.  In today’s reading, we have the story of the woman hemorrhaging for 12 years sandwiched by the story of Jesus healing Jairus’ daughter.

There is a lot of symbolism packed into the two stories which, if they were both told separately, might get lost.  But the fact that they are told together tells us that we should probably sit up and take notice.

In both stories, the person needing healing is a woman.  In both stories, there is the number 12.  And in both stories, the healing that comes doesn’t necessarily look like what was expected.

In the case of the little girl, her father is a prominent man in the synagogue.  This story contains one of the very few examples of someone who is named – Jairus.  Most other stories contain just a generalized description.  So Jairus must be someone of importance for Mark to actually record his name.  And he goes through the proper steps to get Jesus to come.  He falls at Jesus’ feet and pleads with Jesus to come quickly and heal his daughter.  It’s probably safe to assume that once Jesus agreed to go to Jairus’ house, Jairus had an expectation about what was going to happen: Jesus was going to drop everything and come to the house immediately.

So, you can imagine the man of privilege having a bit of anxiety when Jesus stops to talk to this woman.  If watches had been invented, he would surely be checking his.  “Let’s go Jesus; there’s no time for this chit chat.  That woman has been bleeding for 12 years, my 12 year-old daughter is dying now.”

And here’s the thing about that woman.  I imagine her in that crowd, trying to get Jesus’ attention.  It says that there were a lot of people, probably pushing and shoving against one another.  Like so many others, she probably had heard about Jesus’ healing powers, and how she needed those healing powers.  Maybe she was just hoping to get his attention, maybe she was hoping she could make eye contact with him and she thought he might take pity on her.  But then Jairus, the synagogue official shows up.  He says something to Jesus and all of a sudden, Jesus starts to leave.

Her opportunity is slipping away.  Another day, another disappointment.  Another day stuck with this horrid dis-ease.  Do you hear the word?  Dis-ease.  Dis-ease is the accumulation of stress, of trauma, the presence of sadness or depression puts a tremendous toll on our bodies.  And the longer we are exposed to all of that stress, the greater the toll, the more energy and emotion is sapped from us.  We are at dis-ease.  For that woman, twelve long years.

And I can tell you that God does not desire for us to live in that state.  But this woman, this poor woman who had been endured much under many physicians and had spent all that she had, and she was no better but rather grew worse.  For 12 years, she lived illness, and with dis-ease, and now this man came and took Jesus, her last hope, to his house… how much longer?  How can she ever catch a break?

“Maybe”, she thought, “just maybe, if I just reach out and touch him… maybe…” She tried to push her way through, tried to get into position… she reached out and her finger just… out of reach…  One more time.  One.  Last.  Time… she reached out and… her finger grazed the hem of his cloak.

And everything changed.

The bleeding stopped.  Was she imagining it?  Did what she thought just happened really happen?  And then Jesus stopped.  He turned around.  Does he know?  Is he going to take it back?

Jesus was on his way to help that young girl.  Jairus was trying to lead him to his house, but he had to stop.  He had to ask who touched his cloak.  But the question wasn’t accusatory; it was… inviting somehow.  His gaze pierced her, and trembling, she came forward.  Jesus was on his way to help a young girl, but he stopped and asked this woman to tell him her story.  In all the years she’d been trying to find comfort, I don’t imagine anyone ever asked her for her story.  No one ever saw her as anything but a drain on resources… as disease.  People were uncomfortable around her.  But Jesus stopped.  Jesus saw her.

Jairus was pulling his arm, but Jesus wouldn’t budge.  He listened to this woman’s story, and then told her that her faith had made her well.  She wasn’t just healed.  She was seen.  He called her “Daughter” – a term of affection, of love.  She was validated.  Jesus saw her vulnerability and he blessed her.  He wanted to know her story.  He wanted to know about the healing and to celebrate with her.  And he is quick to point out that it wasn’t he that healed her; it was her own faith.

Still, Jairus tugged but then came the people from the house.  It was too late.  Perhaps if Jesus hadn’t stopped to listen to the woman, he might have gotten there in time to save her.  But it wasn’t too late, Jesus insisted.  She’s not dead; she’s merely sleeping.  “Do not fear, only believe,” he said.  You have to wonder if Jairus had seen what just transpired with the woman.  Do not fear, only believe.

Jesus went to the house and the first thing he did was to kick out the nay-sayers.  It was the woman’s faith that healed her.  It’s so much harder to have faith when we are surrounded by people who try to convince us that our faith is pointless.  They may have faith someday, but right now… they need to go outside.  If they’re not helping, they’re hurting.  Jesus is only interested in those who are willing to hope, believe and enter into relationship with him and one another.  He said to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”  He went to the bedside of the little 12-year-old girl and said, “Talitha koum” which means, “Little girl, get up!”

The girl got up.  Do not fear, only believe.

In this Markan Sandwich of a story, Jesus is shown to be an equal opportunity healer.  Our faith – not our wealth, not our authority, not the eloquence of our words – our faith is how we find healing of our dis-ease; it is our faith that brings comfort.  It is our faith that brings us hope.  It is our faith that enables us to get up.  Both of these stories demonstrate that things that may seem to have no hope whatsoever actually do because Jesus is present.

Both the woman and the little girl were healed.  And we should take note of the fact that neither necessarily received the healing that they counted on.  The hemorrhaging woman suffered for 12 long years.  She discovers that the healing did not just stop her bleeding.  The healing came with the realization that she is loved, that she is seen by God.

Jairus was looking for his daughter to be healed on his timeframe, but he doesn’t get to avoid the agony, the weight of death.  Grace comes to him after his daughter dies.  Nobody in this story gets healed the way they expect.

Healing doesn’t happen on our timeline.  Healing isn’t always what we think we need.  We often pigeonhole that word ‘healing’ and have a finite definition of it.  We want healing on our terms; we want healing to be simple.  But our faith allows us to dig deeper, to go further to find the healing that God knows we need.

In the mid-1990s, Anna and I were looking to buy a house.  We each had an idea of where we wanted to buy.  I wanted to look in Somerset County where we both grew up, while Anna wanted to look in Middlesex County for reasons I could not understand.  And one day in 1994, she found the house that she wanted… in Middlesex.  I didn’t want to live in Middlesex County; I didn’t want to buy that house.  But that ended up being the house we bought.  115 Lee Drive would be our home for the next 22 years.

About 3 or 4 years after we bought our home, we started the process of becoming foster parents.  Being foster parents was something we had talked about for a long time.  Adoption was always the goal; it was something that was very important to us, so we began the process.  We became foster parents with the intention of hopefully adopting a child.

The foster parent program in the state is typically county specific.  While there are exceptions, children in Middlesex County are not fostered in Hunterdon County.  Children in Somerset County are not fostered in Sussex County, and so on.  We became foster parents in Middlesex County where we lived, and as a result, in 1998, we had an infant foster child who was born in Middlesex County placed in our home.  That little girl is still in our home all these years later – our daughter Jackie.  I did not want to live in Middlesex County; I wanted to live in Somerset County.  If I had gotten my way, we would never have had the opportunity to have our lives blessed by the presence of that remarkable human being.

The hemorrhaging woman and Jairus received blessings that day, but neither received the blessing they originally sought.  They received more.  The woman’s dis-ease was settled.  Jairus found the grace of new life, the possibilities that exist when we do not fear, but only believe.

We are invited to take a wider view of what it means to find healing.  When we live in fear, we put our heads down, we might react badly to situations, or react not-at-all, and we might close ourselves off from the rest of the world.  Jesus stopped and saw the hemorrhaging woman; he heard her story, he saw the humanity within her soul.  He stopped and listened to her, and he gave her life plot twist that brought her value and self-worth.

Jesus told the little girl, “Talitha koum” which means, “Little girl, get up!”  He pushed away the nay-sayers and he offered the parents new life beyond grief.  Jesus offers us all new life.  Jesus offers us all resurrection life, free of fear, free of hopelessness.

Our calling, as people of faith, is to do everything that we can to offer life, to offer hope to those who face hopelessness.  It doesn’t mean that we can bring healing on our own terms; we cannot necessarily turn cancer around, as much as I’d like to.  But we can still offer hope.  We can still see the humanity in others.  We can’t end Alzheimer’s Disease, but we can still offer life.  We can still see the humanity in others that Jesus saw… that Jesus sees.

Our calling as people of faith is to get up from our fear, to get up from our loss, to get up and turn around the naysaying.  Our calling as people of faith is to get up and do that which Jesus would have us do: to bring a spirit of love, of compassion, of mercy into those situations where fear and hopelessness are thriving.

We need not live in fear.  Jesus teaches us that we need not let fear break us down.  We have it within us to get up, to break free of fear, to turn the page, to end the dis-ease, and to offer new life… resurrection life.

To God be the glory.