Mark 5:21-43 From Death to Life
Some things defy rational thought.
In Mark 5:22-43 we have the story of the healing of the haemorrhaging woman in the middle of of the story of Jairus' daughter. These are two radically different stories of healing woven together into one single story, with one single proclamation.
There are several obvious differences? Both women were from different social classes and positions in society. The girl's healing was sought after by her father, in a proper exchange, while the woman took her healing without asking. Jesus healed the little girl by reaching out and touching her, and the woman in mirror image reached out and touched him. The girl was twelve years old suffering from a sudden life-threatening condition, and the woman was suffering from a chronic condition for as long as the girl had been alive. And while the woman was healed, the girl wasn't technically healed. She died, and was brought back to life by Jesus: She was resurrected.
So, obviously, these two stories are very, very different. Almost inverse images set next to each other. And yet, at their core - at their most basic level - they are the very same story. They are in fact the stories of two people who when they came in contact with Jesus, were transformed from death to life.
This is pretty obvious in the case of the little girl, because she died. When Jesus went in to be with the corpse; he reached out to her, touched her, took her dead limp hand in his and told her to get up.
And she did.
The move from death to life is a little harder to see in the second story, but can be uncovered with a little help from Leviticus 17:1-11, which reads: "If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement."
Blood was such a sacred, precious, and dangerous force in Jewish belief and practice because it was what God said constituted the very life of a being. (Which of course brings even greater meaning to Jesus' words, "take, drink, this is my blood.")
So ... when you have a woman who has been haemorrhaging - bleeding for twelve long years - she has in the Jewish sense, been 'losing her very life' for those twelve years. Life has been oozing out of her - seeping out of her. Like a toothpaste tube being slowly rolled from the bottom, she has been leaking life for a long, long time.
In fact, you could quite rightly say, in the technical Old Testament sense, that for twelve long years this woman was ... dying.
So when she saw Jesus walking along the road with his disciples, and she squeezed her way through the crowd reaching out to touch his cloak, she was healed and the blood stopped oozing out of her. The blood stopped seeping out of her. Her life stopped its flow out of her body. This unnamed woman who had been haemorrhaging for twelve years quite amazingly touched Jesus, and was thereby brought from death to life.
This story says something very important and very profound to us, the readers, that goes far beyond the resurrection of a twelve year old girl and the healing of a chronic illness. I believe that these miracles are God's way of saying that the little twelve year old daughter of Jairus, who died - is us. And the woman who had the very life draining out of her for twelve years, and who was, in a biblical manner of speaking, dying - is you and me.
What the end of the fifth chapter of Mark says is that all of us are left for dead, all of us are dying, all of us are having the life drained out of us like a toothpaste tube being squeezed. All of us are limp, dead corpses waiting to be carried off - Until! - Until we encounter Jesus. Until we are touched and we touch.
These two intertwined stories point to the heart of the Christian life: Christ with his arms outstretched reaching to us, and our arms outstretched reaching right back. Christ touching us, and us touching Christ. In that embrace we discover our identity as beloved, redeemed, and holy children of God.
Where we so often go wrong is the belief that our reach needs to be 'heavenward,' and God's reach is 'downward.' Since the beginning God has directed His people's embrace outward, though not always vertically. The children of Israel were asked in Deuteronomy (and throughout the Hebrew Scriptures) to reach all in need with liberal and ungrudging generosity and love. The churches of Macedonia reached out even beyond their means to touch those who desperately needed the touch of God. They knew God's loving embrace through their own outstretched, crucified, and broken arms, and those wounded arms of others who cared for them, and who they broke bread with.
Living as islands unto ourselves - building walls to keep ourselves 'pure' and the 'infidels' out - working tirelessly for the status-quo or our own survival is the posture of fear and death, for it reaches selfishly inward to build up our ego and selfish desire for control, power and ease of mind.
We must reach out and touch to receive Life. We must graciously allow ourselves to be touched by other broken arms to be truly alive, and stop the haemorrhage.
Only then will we hear that welcome command: get up! And, then in that posture with souls outstretched, and fearful guards let down, we as individuals, as communities, and as a Communion, may be brought from death to life by Christ himself.
Some things do defy rational thought. And some of those things thereby defy death, despair, division and the present darkness.