9 November 2018Mark 5:21-43
But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. (v. 33)
The kingdom, which Jesus comes to bring about, is not one which is bound by the structures of society either in 1st-century Palestine or now. It is a kingdom in which the healed lunatic is sent out in mission ahead of the apparently chosen ones. It is a kingdom in which the forces of nature are subdued, and the storms are stilled. It is a kingdom where the child is put in the midst, the unclean embraced and the dead restored to life. The kingdom that Jesus announces is a kingdom whose citizens are made whole and live life in fulness.
Today’s story begins with Jairus, the big man in town who demands respect, rules the synagogue, commands action. Yet, really, it is not a story about him; he is an incidental figure. The story is really about two women and it is about Jesus reaching over the boundaries of society to bring about their restoration.
We don’t know the names of either of these women, although we know that one is the daughter of Jairus and so of some standing and substance. The other woman, who remains unnamed and unidentified, is at the lowest end of the social scale, ritually unclean, unwelcome in the synagogue, unacknowledged in wider society and pushed to the edge of any crowd. In death, Jairus’ daughter finds herself in equal place to the unclean woman, for in death she too becomes an object of uncleanliness to be avoided.
Interacting with these two women, Jesus reaches over the boundaries of what is acceptable to 1st-century Palestinian society and renders himself ritually unclean. In the kingdom to which Jesus belongs, however, it is not he who becomes unclean but the women who are restored to health and wholeness and life in all its fulness. The society that would exclude them is challenged to be restored to health with them. In excluding those who are different, in pushing to the margins those deemed less acceptable, in turning away from those declared unclean, the society is itself impaired. In restoring those excluded into society, so society become something more demonstrative of the kingdom, something more of the glory of God. Health and wholeness is not only for the individual.
- What groups of people in our local area seem to be beyond the boundary and overlooked? What can the church do in this place to help them?
- 1st-century Palestinian culture kept women in a lowly place. The church continues to be challenged in the manner in which issues of race, gender, orientation and identity are concerned. Do you have experience of being discriminated against because you are the person that you are? How can you challenge the church to do better?