Week 3: READ: Mark 5:21-43
Jesus and the disciples cross the sea one more time in chapters 4-5. The exact location along the shore of the Sea of Galilee is not given. They departed from the gentile dominated southeast side and were met immediately by a Jewish leader as they went ashore. This is a rare occurrence in the gospel where a synagogue leader is shown in a positive light in relation to Jesus.
Jairus fell at Jesus feet, a position of intercession. He was desperate. Jairus urgently repeated his request to have Jesus accompany him to his home so he could lay his hands and heal his daughter. She was at the point of death. God hears our prayers. Things change in the presence of God. Things change when we pray. At the very least, we change when we open ourselves to God in prayer. Even if the girl had died before Jesus and Jairus got to his home (and maybe she did but Jesus did say she was still only asleep) and she remained dead, Jairus would have changed because of his encounter with Jesus. God encourages us to pray but we are not responsible for the outcome from our prayer requests unless we are called to take action on our request. All this is to say that when we pray we empower God to action as only God determines.
We also learn in this story and others like the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1ff) that our words and our will coupled with persistence in prayer is how Jesus teaches us to pray. This teaching has been lost on many in the United States where independence is valued and asking for help is often looked down upon. Add to that, among middle to upper middle class and wealthier people, where basic needs have often been met, there is less need and opportunity to practice urgent and heartfelt prayer. It is as we longingly looking to God for guidance and help that our eyes are open and we see what God is doing.
In typical Mark fashion, another story is interjected in the middle of the narrative. The stories are linked together in several ways. First of all, they are both healing stories. Secondly, they both involve the number twelve: the girl was twelve years old and the woman with the hemorrhage had been bleeding for twelve years. Finally, Jesus was the last ditch solution for both: Jairus’ daughter was dying and the woman with the flow of blood had spent all of her money on doctors and had nowhere else to turn for help.
The woman made no request of Jesus. She had the faith to touch his garment and be healed. Her will and her action was her prayer. Jesus felt the power go out from him. There is power in healing. There was a crowd – so how could Jesus know about the woman and the healing when he was likely touched by many in the crowd? It can only be explained as a release of the power to heal. “Your faith has made you well,” Jesus said. Her disease was healed. Jesus connects the faith of the individual and the power of God to bring about healing in this story. This is true in the story of Jairus as well. Jesus tells him to ignore the words that have come from his household that it’s too late for his daughter to be healed, but rather, Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe,” (5:36).
Let me say it another way: both Jairus and the woman with an issue of blood had their eye on Jesus. He was their hope for healing. They put their trust in him. Jesus evoked faith in them. When Jesus says that their faith healed them he referred to their faith in him. While it is God who heals and not our faith, it requires faith in Jesus’ ability to heal in order for the healing to happen. This is further exemplified when Jesus instructs Jairus to push his fear away and trust him as they journey to the house together.
Nay-sayers come in all shapes and sizes. It only takes a few nay-sayers to steal our hope for healing, our vision for the future, or our dream about how God is calling me or may use me to make a difference in this world. “Who you?” they say. “Who do you think you are,” they say as nay-sayers slash our dream to pieces. It takes focus and imagination to see and dream what God has in mind for us. Ephesians 3:20 say: Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than you can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. The same Holy Spirit that empowered the church on Pentecost to prophesy, dream and envision (Acts 2:17) is at work in you and me.
Like Jesus, we must put the nay-sayers out of our line of vision. Jesus was not rude but courageous when he put them out of the house. He did this to create an open and receptive climate for healing. He put all the mourners and all the negativity outside. Instead he brought the parents and his three closest disciples with him as witnesses of what faith in the power of God can do. Speaking to the girl in Aramaic, her native language, he told her to get up as he took her by the hand. Her health was restored.
In the Western world we are so reliant on our five senses to guide our life and we have underdeveloped our intuition and our faith in God. As a result, many of us have trouble seeing what God is doing in our life and in our world. When we allow nay-sayers to influence us, it further inhibits our weaker senses of faith and intuition to develop. Many dreams have been stolen by a negative word someone said or did to you. It takes courage to remove this negative influence when they are your best friend, your boss or maybe your spouse. Let us dare to learn from Jesus’ example who himself needed to remove distraction so he could focus on the healing that lay before him.
When it comes to your body and health, prevention and attention are two important words. Prevention has everything to do with avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking and establishing healthy habits of eating good and nutritious food, regular exercise and getting adequate sleep. Paying attention to your body and how it works and feels can identify a problem before it becomes too significant.
Over fifteen years ago, Gloria noticed a lump in her breast. While she immediately called and got a doctor’s appointment several weeks away she expected it would turn out to be nothing but it is always better to error on the side of caution than hide your head in the sand. Her nurse practitioner affirmed that she was young and 97% of the time it is nothing but it is better to get an ultrasound. When the results come back the medical staff decided it best to take a needle biopsy because there was something there.
Gloria’s family history was on her side because the only person in her family tree with cancer was her mom’s aunt. Life was full for Gloria who had just turned forty. Together with her husband, they were doing life and raising her son. Then it happened. The next day OSF cancer care center called and said to come in and then broke the news using that bad “C” word: “I want you to know, it is cancer.” Like a fast moving thunderstorm, Gloria said, “I burst into tears for thirty seconds, then I wiped away the tears and said, ‘now what?’”
This strategic response to the problem is not all that surprising when you consider that Gloria’s dad was a high school coach for a number of sports. Like a point guard on the basketball team stepping into the huddle after the coach called a time out, Gloria looked to the doctor to take the clip board and draw up a play and get back in the game. First, the doctor told her the brutal fact that she had invasive ductile carcinoma. Next, the doctor detailed an action plan and scheduled a lumpectomy three weeks later. Not every play a coach draws up goes exactly as planned. Gloria went home and said, “I swelled up like an alien!” It was back to surgery.
With clean margins and having her lymph nodes removed on one side, it was decision time about treatment. Knowing that reoccurrence is toxic, Gloria asked the doctor for his advice on treatment. She asked point blank, “What would you tell your wife to do if she was in my shoes?” As a result, Gloria underwent six weeks of radiation and six rounds of chemotherapy followed by seven years of drug therapy.
When a coach like Gloria’s dad works the team hard in practice, going over both offensive and defensive plays, occasionally players break team rules and make poor choices. One player’s choice can make the whole team suffer. In the midst of Gloria’s treatments and the fight of her life, her husband found the road too challenging for him and left the marriage. It is next to impossible for anyone to face a major illness alone. Thankfully, Gloria drew upon her support system at Lutheran Schools and at Grace Church. She received the support, prayers and encouragement she needed. Her bills were met and insurance coverage was a wonderful blessing.
Gloria recognizes that she is blessed and that many people do not survive cancer. Why has Gloria survived and others have died? No one knows. What is clear is that every day is a gift. When asked what she has learned through her cancer, she said this:
- “My battle with cancer taught me to be in the moment and not thinking about what is next. It can change in an instant. Do what you need to do now.”
- “I never turn down prayer. I could feel the prayers of the people. I sensed their prayers and it gave me strength.”
- “I tried to never let my head space get negative. I worked hard at keeping my mental, physical and emotions fixed on the positive.”
- “Stephen gave me a focus beyond myself because I knew I wanted to be there for him. I prayed for the strength to go through this but I did not ask for this to be taken from me.”
Finally, Gloria said, “You just never know in life what is coming next.” She believes that her life has been changed for good as a result of her cancer. As a result, Gloria makes herself available for cancer patients and their families. It is God who heals but Gloria offers prayers, support and encouragement where she is able. “It is easy to lose hope in God if your outcome is negative,” Gloria added. Yet we need God’s comfort in death as much as we seek God’s healing while dealing with a disease like cancer.
- What new discovery came to you as you read this story?
- Have you experienced the power of negativity to smother your dream? If so, what did you do or will you do about it?
- How would you describe a nay-sayer? What impact have you seen them have on others? Has there been a time where someone may have described you as a nay-sayer? What might be a better way to raise a concern without stealing a dream?
- Like Gloria, people who are ill do not need sympathy but support. What do you see to be the difference? What do you think about the teaching of Jesus to speak the word, engage your will and persistent with your heart in your prayers?