In today’s reading, we see the power of Jesus on display. He commands a storm to be stilled, showing his control over the chaotic elements of nature. He casts out a demon named Legion (as dictionary.com tells us, a legion was “a division in the Roman army, usually comprising 3000-6000 soldiers), thereby showing his power over the demonic. Jesus heals the woman with a bleeding issue, displaying his power over sickness. And he raises a little girl from the dead, showing power even over death. In these actions Jesus gives a foretaste of the kingdom. Revelation 21:1-5 describes an amazing scene in which there is no more chaos, mourning, crying, pain, or death. In the end, God will have the last word, and he will banish all of these negative things from the new heaven and new earth! We see the beginnings of this movement in Jesus and wait expectantly for him to return, bringing the kingdom in perfection.
As usual, all of these stories cry out for further comment. Today, I’ll focus on the stories of Jairus and the woman with the bleeding issue. Here we once again see a “Markan Sandwich,” in which one story is interrupted by another. In this case, the healing of Jairus’ daughter is interrupted by the healing of the woman, and the two stories should be viewed together. David Garland astutely observes that the characters of Jairus and the woman are opposites. He explains, “Jairus is a male, a leader of the synagogue. As a man of distinction he has a name. Jairus has honor … By contrast the woman is nameless, and her complaint renders her ritually unclean. She is walking pollution … She has no honor …” (Garland, Mark: NIV Application Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], p. 225) These characters are very different, indeed. And yet they are united in on thing: their faith in Jesus. Both come in faith seeking help. In this, we see a leveling of the playing field. Jesus does not play favorites based on who has greater status. He doesn’t ignore the woman because she has “no honor,” as Garland puts it. Instead, Jesus responds to the faith of both. Faith unites us as we come to Jesus regardless of our differences. It binds us together in mutual need and belief. And it overshadows both our honor and dishonor, neither of which is determinative of our relationship to God. As Paul says so beautifully in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Whether we identify more with Jairus or the woman, let us remember that it is by faith that we approach Jesus and receive his blessing.