What would it be like to not be well for twelve years? Some of you have some experience with this, some of you know those who have chronic illness and have good days and bad days. Some of you are there yourselves. What would it be like to be a woman in Jesus’ time and bleed for twelve years, without relief. She’d spent any money she had on physicians and she continued to grow worse. I imagine a body exhausted, listless, unable to really get up and do much of anything; and certainly unable to go far from home. What would that be like when you are a woman who has to take care of a household, as well as caring for children and most likely for your parents. Would everyone leave you? What would they do with you?
And added to the misery of exhaustion and the inability to really do anything, she is unclean. In order to preserve the holiness of God’s people, Jews in Palestine avoided contact with lepers, menstruating women, corpses, and Gentiles, among others. Such contact defiled a person for a period lasting from one to seven days, until purification, ritual washing, and enduring a waiting period. So on top of her exhaustion, she was prohibited from participation in festivals, certain meals, and Temple functions.
What was she doing there? She should not have been there. At the end of her hope, she must have sensed something about this man Jesus. Jesus was by the sea and a crowd of people had gathered around him. One of the leaders of the synagogue came to him and asked him to come and see his daughter who was near death. So Jesus went with him. This crowd followed him and pressed in on him. I’ve been in a crowd like that, these days I don’t much like crowds. Hot, sticky, people, craning their necks, looking for the rock star or the sports star, trying to get a glimpse of the hero. But she had nothing left to loose. All she had was a flicker, a glimmer, of hope. She was at the end of her rope, at the end of her life, at the end of his cloak. She touched it.
You know when your car battery is dead, and you jump it from another car, and it roars back into life? Or when lightning strikes right near you and you feel a jolt of energy? Or when you can’t get out of bed because you’ve got the worst sinus infection of your life, and you finally get the antibiotics you need and you feel like you could jump up and dance? She felt his power surge through her giving her new life. Jesus felt it too. It was as if they were the only two people alive in that crowd. Connected by an umbilical cord of life and power. Jesus moved on to Jairus’ house, and pronounced life for the little girl. “Little girl, get up!”
Jesus’ life and power is connected to us too, what about that jolt of faith?
Sometimes, when I am reading the newspaper, listening to the news, even talking with people, I hear hopelessness, faithlessness, despair, in our community, our country. I hear people wondering what is next? Where or what is the next way people are disrespected, mistreated, and distrusted? What is the next means of exclusion, violence, hatred? Why are we having so much trouble making space in our communities, our lives, our country, for people who are unlike us?
I think it may be because of the blood. This woman’s blood flowed out of her, through no fault of her own, making her unacceptable in the neighborhood in which she lived, and, they believed, unacceptable to God, yes, to God. These rules were to keep God’s people holy, and to keep God holy as well.
But Jesus changed those rules. Jesus said, the commandments now are, love God, love your neighbor, period, no exceptions. And yet we keep doing it. We keep people away, we put distance between us, we inflict animosity, because they are not like us. It is as if we need to keep ourselves unaffected, clean even, and it is as if we need to keep God in our box of holiness.
But we needn’t worry about God; God can take care of Godself, much better than we can. God is found in all sorts of objectionable places, places where hungry people live, places where homeless people live, places where boundaries are erected and walls are built. And yet, we see God in those places, in the faces of men, women, and children who are loved by God. We see God in those places, in the faces of the helpers, those who go running toward trouble, those who go running toward violence and sadness. We see God in the faces of those whose color, language, and culture is unlike our own.
You see, we are the Jesus movement. In Jesus’ life, and in Jesus’ journey to the cross, and in Jesus’ love on the cross, Jesus crossed boundaries. Jesus heals any who need healing, regardless of their status, regardless of who they are, regardless of who they even believe in. And on that cross, Jesus healed the one who hung next to him, who uttered the words, “remember me, when you come into your kingdom”, and who does the same for us, regardless of our status.
Jesus’ life and power is connected to us too, what about that jolt of faith? We are the Jesus movement. We are connected to love, we are connected to healing, we are connected to dignity by that same umbilical cord of life and power. We follow the one who makes people free, the one who unbinds, the one who heals. We follow Jesus who crosses boundaries, who redraws boundaries, who overcomes obstacles in the service of the kingdom of God. We are the Jesus movement, and we are followers who cross boundaries to proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth, and the mission is urgent, because the end of history, according to Mark, will come soon. I’m not so sure that Mark is wrong in his timing.
The good news is right here. Jesus crossed boundaries in his life to bring new life, to heal people, to make people whole. Jesus continues to cross boundaries to bring new life, to heal, to empower, through you, and me.
Just like that woman of so long ago, Jesus’ life and power is connected to us too, what about that jolt of faith? The good news is right here. Do you feel it? Can you feel it? “Little girl, get up!” Jesus says the same thing to us. Get up, be a part of the Jesus Movement. Stand up, be counted as one who is connected to Jesus; whose blood courses through our veins, whose body is broken for us. Stand up, be counted as one who is connected to Jesus. Stand up, be counted as one who loves God, loves others, and shows it.