Pentecost 5 – A Tale of Three Healings – June 27, 2021

A Tale of Three Healings

Healing is a hallmark of Jesus’ early ministry in Mark.   Today’s gospel includes two healing stories that are interwoven.   That sandwiching is a narrative device this author uses several times, and here to great effect.  It invites us to compare and contrast the lives of the unnamed females whom Jesus heals.

#WomanTouchingJesusOn Jesus’ return to the Galilee from a journey across the lake, the crowd that greets him includes a leader of the synagogue.   The man, called Jairus, fervently pleads for Jesus’ help in saving his young daughter from a deathly illness.    As they go, in the crowds that follow is a woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years.  Unsuccessful treatments for her affliction have brought her to financial ruin and desperation.  So sure is she of Jesus’ power that she simply touches the hem of his garment and is healed.   Jesus is aware that power has flowed out from him and looks for the recipient.   When the woman admits it is she, he affirms her faith and blesses her.  Though word comes that Jairus’ daughter has now died, Jesus continues to the girl’s bedside and raises the twelve-year-old, restoring her to life.

How different the two cases are!  On the one hand, there’s a social outsider: a single and solitary woman, whose affliction–a flow of blood–has made her ritually unclean, excluded from community; only by hiding in the crowd does she dare furtively to approach Jesus.   In contrast, there’s the ultimate insider: a leader of the community, who openly seeks out Jesus to help his beloved daughter being cared for at home.

What links the two–apart from the fact that Jesus healed them–is the striking repetition of the number 12: the woman has suffered for twelve years; twelve years is the entire life span of the girl.    The resonance with the twelve tribes of Israel is unmistakable.  Despite their many differences, both are daughters of Israel.

Third Healing

#JesusRaisingJairusDaughterThe girl’s healing is actually the third and final in a series that fills the fifth chapter of Mark.  The chapter begins with one of most dramatic stories in all the gospels: the healing of the demoniac living in the land of the Gerasenes, a Gentile people across the Sea of Galilee.   You recall that the man was a tragic, terrifying figure: possessed, living in the tombs, howling and hurting himself.   A total outcast from human society, he had been repeatedly chained like an animal and he repeatedly broke those bonds.   Jesus drove the demons from the man, sending them into a flock of swine who, in turn, plunged into the sea.


Taken together, these three stories, told in rapid succession, illustrate the vast expanse of Jesus’ healing ministry.  It extends from a Gentile man in a foreign land who is possessed by demons, to a Jewish woman, marginalized by an illness, to the deceased child of a Jewish leader.  Healing them, Jesus defies the boundaries of geography, religion, gender, purity–even life and death–that should have separated him from them.

Psalm 30: 2-3   “O Lord, my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health.  You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.”

While Jesus restored the girl’s life in the most literal, physical sense, he did the same existentially for the woman and the Gerasene.  Each of them was isolated from society because of their illness.   Healing them, Jesus restored them to their lives in community.   And in both cases, he made the bridge from the physical cure to the societal one himself.

Return to Community

HealingDemoniacRather than allowing the Gerasene man to join his followers, Jesus told him to return to his community, instead, to share the good news of what God has done for him.

As for the woman, Jesus’ called her “daughter”, letting the surrounding crowd of his admirers know that she belonged.

The clear message in these and in many other healing stories is that true health includes being part of a community.

As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to promote healing in every way we can.   At Emmanuel, a large number of the members are doctors and nurses, using their God-given skills in the healing professions.   Some of us take part in healing prayer.   Our ministry to the MLK Community Center, delivering non-perishable foods and fresh vegetable is healing, too; these gifts not only provide nutrition for the body, they also honor the dignity of those who are served.    We also nourish and honor our guests at Soup’s On–the long-time ministry soon resuming after the Covid hiatus.

What else?   What other gifts has God given us that we can use for healing in the broadest sense?     In July, Posy Jackson will be leading follow-up conversations about the Spiritual Gifts that you all identified last fall.   God has brought us together to share those gifts with one another and with our neighbors.

A loving community is a force for healing.

One thing I know, from my own experience: this community has the true gift of hospitality, warmly welcoming friend and stranger alike.   Like all of our deepest gifts, we take this one for granted.   Instead, I think we should celebrate and build upon it.

The writer Frederick Buechner famously wrote

Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” —

Hospitality is one of our greatest joys and gifts at Emmanuel.   It is a big part of our vocation.

Loneliness and social isolation have long been great needs in this society.   That only deepened during the pandemic.   I know I suffered from being separated from you all, not gathering for worship, for discussions, studies, and social activities.

How many of our family, friends, and neighbors would be blessed to be with us but don’t know how to engage?   It’s up to us to reach out, to invite, accompany and include all manner of people to join with us, to grow in discipleship and ministry to all of God’s children, to share the healing love of this community.