Stretched beyond what we expect in order to receive more than we could ever dream, Jesus defies expectations, per usual, in Mark chapter five. Inspired by the Sunday morning message at my local church, James River Church, and stretched as a result of additional life group discussion regarding the same message, I feel inspired to expand upon the themes introduced in the message.
In keeping with the overall theme of Mark, Jesus as servant, and giving readers a glimpse into the kingdom values of inclusion, inversion, and dramatic faith-building timing, Jesus emphasizes the personal nature of his kingdom.
As John Lindell emphasized and readers can observe, Mark 5:21-43 is a study of similarities and contrast. It is a story within a story that draws out both parallel and contrasting elements. Jairus, one of the local synagogue rulers, is a man of wealth, a man of influence, and a recognized local leader. He is contrasted with a woman who has an ongoing medical issue with a discharge of blood. She, as a result of her medical issue, is considered unclean. She is unable to attend the synagogue, unable to be with her husband, unable to have children, and she is socially ostracized. She has spent all her money trying to find a cure, she has become an outcast, and she is at the end of her rope. Ironically, both characters are at the ends of their respective ropes. Within this passage we observe two people, a man and a woman, from opposite and widely divergent social situations reach out – in desperate faith – to Jesus as their last ditch, desperate and clawing answer to what seems like a hopeless situation. Both people, one exalted by society and one outcast by society, have nothing and no one left to turn to. Both individuals have thrown pride by the wayside and cast their hope and faith upon the person and and ministry of Jesus. And Jesus, illustrating his kingdom value of inclusion, responds equally to both personal demonstrations of faith.
By accepting Jairus and the outcast woman equally, and addressing both people’s crisis personally and miraculously, Jesus, via the writing of Mark, lets people know that his kingdom operates in a seemingly inverse fashion to the kingdoms of the secular world. In Jesus kingdom the lowly are treated the same as the exalted. Furthermore, at least in this instance, the exalted one, Jairus, was forced to wait on the lowly outcast woman. Still, both people have their faith challenged and stretched, and both people receive more than they bargain for.
The outcast woman, already desperate and at the end of her rope, is required by Jesus to identify herself. Will she be willing, once again, to risk public humiliation, shame, and possible rejection by identifying herself as the one who reached out in faith to receive a miracle (raise your hand or stand in response to Jesus’ call). When she stepped up her faith in response to Jesus challenge, not only did she receive her healing, but she received a new life. She was no longer an outcast. She became accepted in Jesus kingdom as well as able to regain acceptance by her husband and the local community.
Jairus, who approached Jesus openly, received a different challenge. Jairus was eager for Jesus to heal his daughter of a fever, but he is forced to wait upon Jesus who doesn’t rush to his rescue with ministerial blinders on. While on his way to Jairus’ house to heal his daughter, Jesus retains awareness of the desperate needs around him. Jesus is willing, even in course of a specific ministerial mission, to stop and address the desperate faith of an outcast woman. He illustrates, by example, the need to accept and address all people and all needs, not just the social elite. Furthermore, Jesus is desirous of stretching Jairus beyond fever-curing faith. Jesus wants Jairus to experience life-raising and life-altering faith. Jesus pushes Jairus to ignore the distractions of circumstance, messengers, and doomsayers. Jesus takes Jairus and his wife, along with three disciples, into a private place with Jairus’ daughter. For both Jairus’ family and the outcast woman, Jesus’ miracles are personal in nature. The results are individually life changing.
While both miracles performed by Jesus are individually life changing, and even though Jesus requests Jairus to not tell anyone what happened, the effects of both miracles inevitably ripple out to the community. A woman once outcast is physically healed and regains an enhanced community identity. A man with a daughter, known to have died, emerges with a daughter filled with new life. When Jesus touches the lives of people, even without those people shouting his praise to the rooftops, his impact and presence will be and should be felt by the surrounding community.
Just as Jesus pushed Jairus and the outcast woman in the development of their faith, how is your faith being stretched? Remember, as per pastor John Lindell’s message – when you go to Jesus you will give to him and receive from him more than you expected.