Sunday Readings: Wisdom 1.13-15; 2.23-24; 2 Corinthians 8.7,9,13-15; Mark 5.21-4
Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth” – Mark 5.30-33
The two stories in Sunday’s gospel are about daughters. The child is a daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leaders. Jesus addresses the hemorrhaging woman as daughter after she tells the whole truth of her healing. She is a daughter of his new community — a believer.
Twelve is an important number in both stories. The child is 12 years old, an approximate age for menstruation to begin. The woman has suffered a flow of blood for 12 years and has for these years been excluded, according to the law of Moses, from the worship of her people in the temple.
Mark connects these two stories with Jesus’ own story. Mark calls the woman’s flow of blood a scourge. In Acts 22.24 and Hebrews 11.36 this word refers to floggings or scourgings. The word makes the woman’s suffering resonate with Jesus’ own in his passion and death. The woman’s lifeblood keeps hemorrhaging from her body just as Jesus’ lifeblood pours out in his suffering and death.
While the woman’s story emphasizes a long-time daily suffering, the child’s story emphasizes Jesus raising her up from near death. Jesus commands her, “Arise.” This is the same word that describes Jesus raising up Peter’s mother-in-law and his own rising from the dead. Together the stories of the two daughters echo in ordinary people’s lives Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.
This gospel is one of Mark’s literary sandwiches, a story with in a story. As in a sandwich, the meat is in the middle. The woman healed of hemorrhage hears about Jesus, touches his cloak from behind in a crowd, and is healed. She makes public witness in the crowd, telling he whole truth of what has happened to her. She is an anonymous one of us who testifies to her faith and builds up the community in her generation. Her witness is the model to which the gospel calls us.
From whom did you first heard about Jesus? How do you give witness to your faith in Jesus?