In the main story we have the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus. She was at the point of death and her father came to ask for Jesus’ help. “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live,” he told him. He believed that there was power in Jesus’ touch. He knew that Jesus could restore life, as it was fading away. Unfortunately, some people came to let Jairus know that his daughter had just died. Upon hearing this, Jesus simply told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Do not be afraid – a phrase we so often encounter in the bible, in particular when people are faced with life-threatening situations. We remember last Sunday Jesus scolding his disciples for being overtaken by fear when they found themselves in the middle of the storm. Today’s first reading reminds us that our God is a God of the living, not of the dead. Ultimately that was Jesus’ mission on earth. He himself had told us “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
In the other episode we find the woman who had been suffering from loss of blood for twelve years. She had tried everything for a cure, all to no avail. Like the young girl in the other story, she was slowly approaching death. For the Jewish mind, blood means life, and the loss of blood therefore implied life being lost. Now she saw Jesus passing, and she instinctively knew that he was her last and only hope. She knew that, because of her bleeding, she was deemed impure by their religious standards. Socially, she was already as good as dead, since she was not able to touch or hug anyone. Anyone who touched her would automatically become so himself too, and purification would require a whole complex ritual. Trying her best to keep a low profile, she decided to approach the Master, and reached out to touch the hem of his garment. “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed,” she reasoned. What faith! Given the circumstances, approaching him to ask for help, like Jairus did, was out of the question.
Through this narrative Mark would like to give us some important messages. First of all, there is the problem of suffering. It is part of everybody’s life. The woman had suffered for twelve whole years. That’s a lifetime, in biblical terms, as twelve is one of the perfect numbers in the bible (think of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles). God is not indifferent to our pain. He feels with us, suffers with us, but is nor overcome by it. Eventually the story of Jesus would tell us that he himself had to go through suffering, but then overcame it through his resurrection. Restoring life to both women was a great sign of what was to come.
The story also tells us something about what is important in the law. Whenever he was asked about the law, Jesus always insisted that the greatest law is the law of love. All other laws are there to help us live love. No wonder he had no problem in disregarding the sacred law of the Sabbath when he had to heal someone on that day. In today’s gospel Jesus makes sure that this message comes across very clearly. He publicly calls out the woman who touched him, to make sure people knew that there was physical contact. Then, he took the girl “by the hand” in order to wake her up, knowing quite well that touching a dead body would render him ritually impure. This is something we should keep in mind whenever we speak about our various legislations dealing with life (such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, dealing with migrants, etc).
Jesus’ wish is that we have life, and have it in its fulness. In those moments when we feel that life is being drained out of us, let us remember the faith of Jairus and of the other suffering woman. Jesus, the Lord of life, will never let us down.