Lectionary Reflection: Mark 5: 21-43: Personal, not Private

            Once again we have two passages from Mark, and again it is important to see the connections that Mark saw in these stories.  You might think it is one story with the interruption as part of that story, since the synagogue ruler comes to Jesus before the woman touches his cloak, and that gives the people back home to come and say the little girl is dead – but really it is more like a second, separate story is inserted into the first story.  But there is a connection.  And what is that connection?  The Confession, the confession of faith; that and the fact that sometimes God works in plain sight (in public) and sometimes God works behind closed doors (in private).

            The synagogue ruler, Jairus made his public profession of faith in front of the large crowd of people.  He came to Jesus.  There was no way he was going to be able to say later he did not, even if Jesus failed to help him.  He clearly believed Jesus was at the very least graced by God as a teacher and healer.

            On a side note, did you ever notice that in Mark Jesus is always being followed by a large crowd of people.  He fed 5,000 in that remote place.  That is a pretty big crowd for a time without microphones.  He went across the lake a couple of times because the large crowd would not give him breathing room.  And here again, there is a large crowd pressing in on him, so much that the disciples scoffed.  “Look at the crowd and you ask, “Who touched you?”

            Now, I imagine Jesus knew full well who touched him.  Calling her out was not from lack of knowledge.  It was to give her a chance to confess her faith in front of that large crowd.  And she did.  And only after that did he say “Your faith has healed you.”

            You see, it isn’t really faith, or maybe not real faith until it is confessed, out loud, in public.  As has often been said about the Christian faith, it is supremely personal, but never private.  And we see how personal it can get in these stories, but we also see that it is not to be kept private.

            The woman was desperate, but Jesus made her declare her faith to the masses.  She might have had stage fright.  She might have been a real wallflower.  She might have hated public speaking.  We don’t know.  But we do know she was not permitted to leave until she confessed.

            Meanwhile, with Jairus, his confession put everything at risk.  We know the Jewish authorities were already making noises about Jesus being disapproved.  Lawyers were trying to trap him in his words.  The scribes and Pharisees had it out for him.  We are told elsewhere that they could not do anything (directly) because of the people.  It’s those large crowds again, and clearly some thought they were likely to riot if they tried anything direct.

            But Jairus knew this.  He risked being stripped of his position.  He risked his family being ostracized by everyone who was someone.  He risked the scorn, the gossip and more.  But he went anyway.  He might not have known who this Jesus was, exactly, but he believed in the grace of God, and that it was all over Jesus – his words and actions – and with this Jesus, Jairus felt his daughter had a chance.  So he risked everything on one roll of the dice.   He fell at the feet of the master and pleaded earnestly with him.

            The curious thing is when they arrived at Jairus’ house, Jesus put everyone out but Peter, James, John and (we assume) the parents.  Why?  Because as he said at the end, this is not about the healing.  The healing is not the point.  He healed hundreds – thousands while he walked, but not everybody.  He did not eradicate disease from the planet.  He did not make it so little girls would never die.  It was not time for that.  He came instead so we could know him, trust him, believe in him and confess our faith.

            I feel the last thing Jesus wanted was to get his name spread all over the internet.  Behold!  Another Miracle!  He did not want that kind of hype.  That kind of thing ends up separating celebrities from ordinary people.  Instead, he wasted to stay in touch, literally, with us common folks.  He could not do that if the pedestal got too big.

            To this day, God works oftentimes in private.  We are the ones who need to go public, but not public in hype, public in our faith.  Jesus did not come to give temporary fixes here and there as he confronted individual problems.  He came instead to die, so that we might all have access to the ultimate and eternal fix.  He did not come for us to be awed by him.  He came that we might believe in him and trust in him and believe the good news and give glory to God.

            The thing that binds these two stories together is out of supremely personal needs, Jesus heard two very public confessions of faith and the beginning of the witness to who Jesus is.  He expects no less from us.  I am sorry, but there is no acceptable reason for keeping our mouths shut.  I understand you feel your faith is very personal, and it is personal, but it is never private; not if it is genuine faith. 

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