27 June 2020

This morning's New Testament reading was Mark 5:21-43 - the story of Jairus' daughter who died and the woman healed of a haemorrhage. What has always fascinated me about this story, or rather, these stories, is the fact that the first is interrupted by the second. Of course these are both healing stories, but there's a different sort of healing here too. What made the author of this gospel break into the first story with a second? The reason, surely, is to make a point about social discrimination. Jairus was a leading member of the synagogue, therefore well-known by the local community. For someone so important, folk might have expected Jesus to go to Jairus' house as quickly as possible.

But the author interrupts this story with another, in which a woman with a haemorrhage could barely summon her courage sufficiently to touch Jesus' robe. But Jesus takes the time to hear her story, and only when he has finished talking with her does he resume his journey to Jairus' house.

This is much more than just a story of two healings. Jairus, we assume, had status within the synagogue and within the town. He was someone of note. But the woman had a condition which barred her from mixing with her neighbours. She was ritually unclean and had been excluded for twelve years. Socially, she was at the very bottom of the social ladder and quite unable to climb up.

But her need came first. The rich can wait - the poor cannot. Apart from the emphasis on healing the sick and restoring the (apparently) dead, these two stories together make a political point about acceptance and compassion coming before status - the needs of the poor before the comfort of the rich. Jesus continually offered a challenge to those in the top echelons of power and prestige who subjugated the poor, demanding that they treat all people with love and care, regardless of their social standing. He had no truck with "one rule for the rich and another for the poor" - real love knows no such boundaries. It's a message for our time as well. Modern society is in much need of healing and responsibility lies with those who have the power to effect change.

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