unday, June 27, 2021
I think that we all are familiar with--or we have experienced ourselves--those moments in life where we avoid something dangerous or even life-threatening by just a second. You know those experiences. A moment earlier and we might have been hit. A minute sooner and everything in life would have been different. In no time, and we might not even be here. It’s a sobering thought. All of the changes and chances of life, the reality of life’s fragility and our powerlessness, coalescing in one moment to hammer home what we know deep in our hearts but prefer to push into the outer recesses of our consciousness. In a moment. In a flash. In the twinkling of an eye. It’s crazy how life works.
Which may be precisely the place to start when considering the gospel story for today. It’s crazy how life works. The three main characters in our story--Jairus, Jairus’ daughter, and the hemorrhaging woman--are all acutely aware of the fragility of life and our powerlessness in the face of reality. Jairus knows the painful helplessness of a parent whose child is sick, and there is nothing that can be done. He throws himself at Jesus’ feet as a last ditch effort to save the one he loves. Jairus’ daughter embodies the infirmity that comes with illness as well as the fear that such conditions create. And the hemorrhaging woman not only has borne the curse of her illness for 12 years, she has also struggled with the consequences of such a disease: marginalization, ostracization, exclusion. She, more than the other two, feels the multiplying effect of illness. Not only is the body compromised but life--in all its manifestations--is jeopardized. Indeed, it’s crazy how life works.
Thus, this story within a story, this healing within a healing offers a reframing for us of what can happen in a moment, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. Indeed, things are not only reframed but reversed. Instead of a catastrophe averted, these are stories of life renewed. To begin, the hemorrhaging woman is in the right place at the right time. She touches Jesus’ cloak and instantly is healed. Yet, in the time that it takes for the woman to come forward after Jesus realizes something has happened and for Jesus to engage the woman, Jairus’ daughter dies. As the story goes, this only heightens the encounter that we know takes place when Jesus arrives at Jairus’ home.
However, we should also appreciate that the healing of the hemorrhaging woman would have perplexed the most generous in Jesus’ day and outraged the rest. For what we are dealing with in this instance is the role of class and gender and illness in the first century. The hemorrhaging woman strikes out on all three. She has no position in society. As a woman, she possesses no power. And as someone who is sick, she is living proof of God’s punishment for who knows what, but punishment nonetheless. To most, there would be no reason to help her, let alone heal her. Therefore, it is no small thing that she not only is healed but that Jesus engages her after the healing. Indeed, the curiosity of her healing and Jairus’ daughter is that neither of them do anything to effect the healing. They simply are healed. In the moment, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, they are in the place where grace happens. Healing occurs. They are, literally, saved.
Yet, the time that Jesus takes to address the woman leaves precious little time left for the struggling daughter of Jairus. Indeed, the story notes that after the healing of the hemorrhaging woman, people come to report that Jairus’ daughter has died. Though, here we have a powerful reminder of God’s healing presence embodied in Jesus. The intimacy of the scene can be felt. Amidst the mourners, Jesus takes the little girl’s hand, speaks the famous Aramaic phrase, “Talitha cum,” or little girl, get up, and in so doing, he speaks her back to life. It is no coincidence that the girl’s age is noted in the story. She is twelve. Alive as long as the hemorrhaging woman was sick. The two are intertwined in this tale of healing, unmerited grace, and the gift of the moment.
The fixation of many with this story and the other healing stories of Jesus is to seek replication within our own time. What are the miracles that happen where the laws of nature are suspended or transcended? What are the supernatural phenomena that move us to sit up and take notice? What are those marvels that surprise us and change the trajectory of life? Which, of course, is natural. Who among us would not want to experience instantaneous healing if we were sick? However, when we focus solely on the external of healing, we miss the other critical elements that are a part of this story. We miss how Jesus moves into places that are considered taboo or beyond the norms of respectable society to bring healing and life to those who reside there. It forces us to consider what we think of as forbidden, prohibited, or unthinkable. No longer is it a hemorrhaging woman or a little girl. Who are those on the margins--immigrants, transgender individuals, the poor--that are welcomed in by Jesus? We are asked to expand our sense of the community of God here and now. Though far from onerous work, this is a reminder that we too are those for whom Jesus comes, especially when we find ourselves in those places on the periphery.
We miss how the healing that takes place in life is not warranted or effected by anything that people do. Rather, these stories are reminders that we can’t bring about healing on our own. Healing happens. It is a gift. Grace. Thus, it is not a litmus test for faithfulness. That is, if you believe strongly enough, you will be healed. Or, conversely, your failure to heal is a result of your unbelief. Healing is grace, and it happens in the mystery of the divine calculus of life. Not a cause-and-effect ratio that we can use to trace and show who is worthy or unworthy, who is deserving or undeserving. Rather, healing is about the intimacy of God entering into life, so that when healing happens we may give thanks and when it does not happen, we may still know that we are not alone. For whether we experience a miracle or not, the reality is that Jesus continues to reach out to us, to take our hand, and to repeat to us his words to the little girl, “Talitha cum.” Little girl, little boy, old man, older woman, whoever you are, wherever you are, whenever you are, get up. Get up and live. Get up and be who you are created to be. Get up and recognize the gift of the moment. Get up. In this moment. In a flash. In the twinkling of an eye. Keep seeing that this is the time and you are loved forever and always.