A Different Kind of Healing
This is the story of the healing of two daughters. The story is powerful no matter how you read it: simply for the surface meaning implications of the healing of two women. But Jesus’s healings in Mark always point to something beyond what lies on the surface. One key in this story is to understand how daughters functioned in ancient Jewish religious imagination. In a male-centric religious culture, women stood for the “other” – for the one who was outside, but also as beloved. Women were valued for the life they brought into the world, and our wombs were considered the source. Women were the life-bringers, and life was precious. A loss of the ability to bring forth life – a loss of a daughter who ensured the future of your community – was a sign of great loss.
Women were also the image of a community in relation to God. The People of God – whether you were male or female – were referred to as “daughter”, as in “daughter of Zion.” The people were loved as a father loves a daughter, invested in as the ones who would bring life – to their land, to each other, to the world. Prophets in the Hebrew scriptures had prophesied because of a lack of faith, that the daughter of Zion would suffer – often because the people were suffering – but that a Savior would come to deliver them.
The healing of both of these daughters involves twelve years – the number of completeness – implying that in them something is complete, that the time is right.
If these two women are more than just arbitrary women, if they stand for entire communities struggling for life, one on the inside of the faith culture, one on the outside, what kind of healing is Jesus doing here in Mark? What kind of faith is called for from these communities? Imagine with me as we experience the story of Jesus healing two daughters in Galilee.
21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”
24So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.” This is Word of God for the People of God…
In a week when we have heard so much about the need for healing, for healing children, whether the children of Flint, Michigan who have been subjected to lead poisoning or the children or the babies near Recife, Brazil whose mothers worry about what will come from their microcephaly, it’s easy to want this passage to be about miraculous healing for all kinds of children. In a week when I am willing to bet we all know someone whose illness has impaired their quality of life, when some of you are praying for friends to heal from metastatic cancer and others of you are caring for or living with someone in chronic pain, it’s tempting to wish for someone whose shirttails or dress you could reach out and touch and be made better.
Pain, illness, inability to move or function; not being able to go where you want or eat what you want or see those you’re used to seeing; being ill can give us a profound sense of the separation we experience from God, from others, from our very own selves. This passage reminds us that this state of feeling isolated, in pain, is not God’s ultimate intent for any of us.
But here, based on how Mark tells stories that assume his hearers will make particular associations, Jesus’s healing is so much more. I’m not discounting physical healing, but inviting you to see what’s happening as a physical act that represents who Jesus is, not just for individuals, but for entire communities of people. In the healing of a woman who has been excluded, who has tried everything to no avail, Jesus demonstrates that his healing for all kinds of folks who have been excluded from the faith community – and from the culture. In healing a girl – a daughter of religious faith – Jesus shows that he has come with healing for an entire community centered around a particular tradition. And these two stories go together. And in healing daughters, he is healing women with the ability to procreate, suggesting that they can now create life for the sake of a larger community. [This is not how I see the ultimate role of women, but this is how daughters were considered in this culture.] And he’s suggesting that life is still possible for this faith that many thought was dead.
Jesus’s call was for an entire struggling community to get up, to live based on the faith it already had, to know that life was possible again. Perhaps because of isolation, perhaps because of the burden of being thrown off the land, relegated to the bottom of the food chain, Galileeans displaced from the center of faith in Jerusalem. The faith community had to learn that they were not dead, that their story had something to do with others who were suffering.
Western is being called to get up once again, too. Not that you’ve been perceived as dead, but I’ve sensed a struggle to find energy, to discover vision.
A lot of what I’ve learned about getting up I’ve learned from yoga; in fact, yoga has taught me much about faith. At the end of any yoga class – no matter what kind of yoga – you do savasana pose. One of my friends says savasana is his favorite, because all you do is lie there; another one of my friends says savasana is her least favorite, because all you do is lie there, on the floor, as if you are dead. Savasana means corpse pose. If you walk in on a room of people in savasana and don’t know what they’re doing, you could get a little worried.
In savasana, your body is resting from all of the strengthening, balancing, inverting, flexing you’ve just done in your practice. The rest your body needs is built in. In savasana, the only thing you need to think about – if think is even the right word – is breathing, experiencing your breath.
The other thing about savasana is how you get up after it. [Kathy, would you ever ask someone to jump straight up? What would happen?] A good yoga teacher never brings you straight out, lights up, on your feet. Getting up begins with moving your fingers and toes – gently waking them up. Once you’re moving a little bit, you can begin to stretch, and only then roll over to your side – in fetal position, the first position of life you ever experienced, and then gently roll yourself up to a seated posture. You cannot go through a yoga class without embodying, practicing, the positions of healing in some way.
I share this about savasana with you because in some ways this waking up is where Western is as a church. Not from death – the little girl wasn’t dead after all – and in many ways not even from dormancy. Based on what you’ve shared with me, based on your responses to the assessment tool many of you responded to on-line, your energy is hovering right now. For us to respond to Jesus’s call to get up, we’re going to need to know that while we are focused on life, on a full practice, right now we are getting up from savasana. Like the girl waking up, like the people who called themselves daughter of Zion, we are being awakened for the sake of creating life – life for our community, for the world all around us. But it doesn’t – it shouldn’t – happen immediately. It takes time, and sometimes the time is great and sometimes it’s not. But they way to get there is to take baby steps – to start with small movements – to stop and recognize that you are being reborn – for the sake of something larger.
It’s this case for any kind of getting up, but for our church it will take beginning with small movements that may have a larger impact in terms of waking us up: Dinner Church; getting ready to host Heeding God’s Call; joining the group of women on Tuesday night; coming to our annual meeting next week! Alkso
You may identify more with the community around the hemorrhaging woman. You feel, for one reason or another, that you are an outsider, that you have tried this, that and the other remedy, and that nothing has worked to change your situation. That’s ok – that’s why she is in the story. Jesus’s healing is for you no matter which character you identify with.
The beautiful thing about both of these healings is that the women were restored to fullness of life. Not just for themselves, though. Their healing symbolizes the restoring of community for the sake of God’s purposes. They are not just women, but daughters, given an identity that is not just theirs, but shows that they are part of a larger family, with a particular calling.
No matter where you find yourself, whether you are male or female, you are called to be part of the daughter community- the community prized for the life it gives, to itself as it creates life beyond itself. You are called to have faith, not just for yourself, but on behalf of a world in need of healing.
We are healed for the sake of being healers, to being part of what God is doing, bringing life to us and to all people. Invitation to stop and ask if we are being called to support efforts in Flint or Recife, to be a friend to someone in pain. We can be confident that the isolation, pain, discrimination are not ultimately God’s will, that we are part of God’s plan for healing wherever it is needed. May it be so.