Mark 5:21-43/Luke 17:1-6
So many stories in the gospels focus on faith. This past week in our church, we considered the story of Jesus’ dual healings of both Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the discharge of blood. Often, when we see a story injected into another story, as we do here, it is the injected story that holds the interpretive key – in this case, the story of the woman with the discharge of blood.
Among the striking components of these two interwoven stories are the aspects of both comparison and contrast.
By way of contrast, we can note that Jairus was a man, which, on its own, bore significant social distinctions in the ancient world. In addition, he was a man of status and importance – a ruler of the synagogue, and he Mark noted his name. He approached Jesus from the front and pled with him to save his daughter. The woman, by way of contrast, was just that – a woman. To further heighten the contrast, we must note that she, unlike Jairus, was nameless. Additionally, due to her condition, she was unclean, which meant, among other things, that she was ostracized by her community. She had no status, no clout, no influence, and no right even to be among the crowd that gathered around Jesus.
This nameless, ostracized, woman, approached Jesus from behind, unlike Jairus. She had heard the reports about Jesus and believed that he could save her. She believed this so much that she was convinced that even touching his garment would suffice to get it done. She had a strong faith. It was a faith of action – a risk-taking faith; and she was right, at least in part. The reports about Jesus were true and with merely a touch she was, in fact, healed.
Of course, Jesus wanted more. He wanted relationship with her, and he still does with us today. He wanted to add word to the deed. As such, he addressed her in the crowd. In doing so, he turned around and she fell before him and confessed to him the whole truth. Notice how this is compared to Jairus. She is now in front of Jesus; falling before him, just as Jairus did.
When Jesus does speak to her, one might expect that this good teacher (Mark 5:35) in the presence of a ruler of the synagogue, might chastise her for breaking the Mosaic law, but instead her does something entirely unique. He addresses this nameless and ostracized woman as His. He calls her daughter! And then he adds, that her faith has made her well.
But wait. Why doesn’t he gently correct her? Certainly, her healing came from Jesus and not from his garment. Shouldn’t we be concerned to purge this seemingly superstitious component from her faith? Maybe, but in the moment, Jesus doesn’t.
Her faith was a faith of action – a risk-taking faith.
In Luke 17, Jesus addresses his apostles with regard to the looming dangers of temptations to sin and the struggles and difficulties inherent in extending forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. How do they respond to this? With a simple request; a prayer in you will:
Increase our faith!
That is a good prayer, and one that I do not prayer enough. If we are to expect revival in our personal walks, in our churches, and in our nation, then we do well to begin with this simple, yet profound prayer. A prayer that demonstrates that faith is not a static element. A prayer that declares that faith is a gift from God, a gift that we must cultivate if it is to increase. A gift that we cultivate through the normative means of grace. And, lastly, a gift that if we do not cultivate through such means, will, most certainly, be suppressed, become dormant, and eventually die.
Lord, thank you for the gift of faith and thank you for these means, these tools that you give to us to cultivate our faith. May our growing faith in you, be to your glory!