The readings for this coming weekend also invite us to reflect on these questions. The passage from the Gospel of Mark presents two stories, one sandwiched within the other. The author wants us to be aware that the stories are related and that the whole lesson includes both stories. An important man in the community, a synagogue official, has a 12-year-old daughter who is “at the point of death.” As an equal on the social scale, he is free to approach Jesus. He falls at his feet, as a gesture of homage and petition. According to the social code, Jesus would be obligated to help him. That society taught that men of equal status are obligated to do what they can for each other. Even though Jesus’s last reported visit to the synagogue, when he healed on a Sabbath, had resulted in a plot to kill him, this official had faith that Jesus could heal his daughter, and he believed that he deserved this favor from Jesus.
In the middle of this action, an unimportant, nameless woman, who has lost everything, including her social status, due to a 12-year illness, makes the decision to sneak up in the crowd to touch Jesus. She too has faith that Jesus can heal her, but believes she does not deserve to approach Jesus directly to ask for help. Although she probably knows the religious and social ethics that make her an outcast, she also knows the rich wisdom tradition of her faith. She is convinced that the suffering she has endured is not God’s will. What she has heard about Jesus makes her suspect he would agree. She is healed when she touches Jesus, but curing her illness is not enough for Jesus. She deserves more. He seeks her out for a personal encounter so that she can be fully restored to community life.
By this time, after the interruption, the report comes that the official’s daughter has died; it’s too late for Jesus to do anything. The official, who sought the encounter with Jesus, is challenged to take his next step in his faith journey. He didn’t get what he thought he deserved, but Jesus believes he deserves more. His choice to seek help from Jesus will lead him to a deeper experience of God’s love, goodness, and healing power than he thought was possible.
Take your next step: Take some time to reflect on the following questions through journaling or quiet prayer: What choices have you made to seek God’s help in your life? What do you believe you deserve from God? What does God want from you?