Mark 5:30

Jesus at once became aware of the power that had gone out from him, and, turning around in the crowd, he said,  “Who touched my clothes?”

power relinquished or taken
flows where otherwise constrained
by accreted acculturation
differing bases for judgment calls

this must be investigated
for all else derives from its mystery
in this in between state
uncertainty creates an active present

how did I come to be touched
while so firmly heading elsewhere
how did I miss a chance to touch
a firm foundation got in the way

a blessing is here revealed
belovedness is not mine alone
bidden or not we swim
and spawn in water together

in freedom from power
we engage the powerless
until the illusion of power
is revealed a subtle tempter of both

A very “euthys” power comes into view. It is helpful to read A Reordering of Power: A Socio-Political Reading of Mark’s Gospel, by Herman C. Waetjen.

In addition to social realities is simple story-telling. Even though the crowd-slowed procession has been slow going, it has been going. Now we come to a complete halt.

The intention and preparation of Jesus that has been oriented upon a nearing young girl has been hijacked. Jesus immediately stops. Turns. Demands accountability.

Seldom do we notice in the moment how we are changing the world. We get so focused on where we are headed that we lose track of where we are and those whose life is being changed simply because of our presence. Jesus has retreated enough and faced temptations enough to have reformulated this time-splitting we typically do.

Are we about to lose a young girl’s life because of this delay? Will it be because power to heal has been lost or just lost time? Is the life of a privileged man’s daughter worth more than a nameless, expendable, loser?

Power (δύναμιν, “dunamis”) in Mark can be viewed in three ways: (1) strength, ability to act, available resources 5:30, 9:1, 12:24, 13:26; (2) miracle, singular 6:5, 9:39, plural 6:2, 14; and (3) personalized moral, spiritual, presence, 13:25, 14:62. Which do you see here?

Mark 5:29

At once her bleeding stopped, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her affliction.

absorbent cloth and sphagnum moss
are known clotting agents
damming blood from outside in

soon a scab can be trusted
to crust over an open spigot
protecting connecting inward out

as long as these usual ways
work we will wait
sometimes pick mostly wait

sometimes life comes backward
without any idea at all
our bones know a new deal

down in those fountains of blood
to touch or be touched
is neither here nor there

our inside another’s outside
spark a connection
beyond intention

To paraphrase a song originally written in Spanish by María Grever, “What a difference a touch makes.” The song’s history and some notable recordings of it are available —

Parenthetically, a case can be made for every good love song (not-codependent or abusive) being a theological statement about the romance involved in the partnership of G*D and Humans. Remember the Song of Songs.

Years, twelve of them, had dragged on and on, each experienced as longer than the previous one(s), individually and cumulative.

Now, in an “euthys”, a difference, a BANG!.

What could have been a Raider’s of the Lost Ark face-melting scene turns out entirely different. “Instead of death, she found life. In the new Israel, where salvation [healing] reigns, no one is personally unclean.” [LaVerdiere, 1:138].

This shift in power is like a tidal bore forcing rivers to run backward. It is a picture of a reversal needed in today’s church that leads to engaging the poor honorably, enlarging their self-perception, and challenging the hard-heartedness of complacency by those doing a little better or much better. How would you name a church that intentionally chose this unnamed woman as their totem, their icon, their saint to ground their reason for being, their identity?

Mark 5:28

“If I can only touch his clothes,” she said, “I will get well!”

rules are forever rising
they are part of our strange captivity
here’s the way life should work
for fairness is always tilted forward
toward my satisfaction

if I just scrape together enough
the purchase of a lottery ticket
is bound to pay off this time
I’ll be able to step outside time
jump from not enough to too much

even though neither I nor my family
can afford an heroic intervention
a drive to survive drives my life
to the ground quicker than gravity
a painful hour years of anemia crave release

As long as I have breath
I’ll tell stories to myself
and any who are nearby
life is meant to be fair
make break rules as needed

In English a slight adjustment to the Greek is necessary to indicate that the woman was speaking to herself and not to someone else.

A part of Mark’s work are little surprises like this that come along to explain an action. This is a buffer to highlight the next conversation between the woman and Jesus. This thinking that drove her action is effectively a place where “palin” could have been used to have us remember all the previous ways in which Jesus has healed. Touch is indeed an important modality for Jesus’ healing and, if it can be true for those previously healed, there is no reason this woman can’t get a piece of the action.

Reflect on Myers’ reflection:

By healing first the poor woman, he beckons the entire people toward healing the deadly disease of social inequity….

If we are to put the last first today, we must deepen our understanding of the social diseases that marginalize the “least” today. The fact that the center of this story is a woman pushed into insignificance and suffering in part by the patriarchy of her context calls us to acknowledge male privilege as one of the social diseases from which healing is needed.

Mark 5:27

heard about Jesus, came behind in the crowd, and touched his cloak.

outcasts develop sneaky ways
being straight-forward
time and again leads to worse

light footed and light fingered
we quarter in from the rear
nonchalantly gazing downward

hoping not to be quickly noticed
we might get enough of a taste
to hold us until tomorrow

it has been a long time since a last feast
Thanksgiving was it or a funeral
we hunger for health like a comfort food
and are resigned to what we can get

things get so tough we reverse think
of course waving trees cause wind
even simple tag gets turned around
not tag you’re it but tag I snagged mine

Myers reminds us:

The woman’s approach to Jesus is in stark contrast to that of Jairus. His approach was frontal and proprietary: He acknowledged Jesus’ honor (lowering himself before him) in order to make a request. She, on the other hand, reaches out anonymously from behind in the crowd, seeking to touch Jesus covertly and somehow effect a magical cure. Jairus addresses Jesus directly, as would befit male equals, while the woman talks only to herself (5:28). Jairus is the “head” of both his family (speaking on behalf of his daughter) and his social group (the synagogue); the woman is nameless and alone. In other words, Mark is portraying two characters who represent the opposite ends of the social spectrum.

This interleaved or sandwiched telling of two stories asks us to compare them that we might have a larger picture of the revolution in relationships/partnerships being asked by Jesus in his teachings, healings, and other ways of modeling partnership with G*D.

Those who used the Serendipity Group Bible Studies in the 1980s and 90s might use questions like their, “What is the most miraculous healing you have ever experienced?” Include a reflection on your place in Bible stories, and vice versa, in your response.

Another of their questions: “What can you do this week to spend time alone with God and tell him (sic) the truth about an area in your life you have kept hidden?” Can you make this touching story your own as well as a winsome confession of what you don’t yet know?

Mark 5:26

and undergone much at the hands of many doctors, (spending all she had without obtaining any relief, but, on the contrary, growing worse),

a standard therapy generations ago
letting blood proved ineffective
often counterproductive
a cure more problematic than the cause

not having many tools available
leads to their misapplication
many a screw stripped by a wrong bit
and a bit ruined when used too often

as with limited diagnoses and remedies
our relationships find themselves limited
we use the same questionable strategies
until everyone is plumb wore out

it takes strength to not be worn down
flexibility persistence hope
are important messenger qualities
and are found in surprising people

The first clause can be translated in two different ways:

1) She suffered much while treated by many doctors;

2) Many doctors who treated her caused her to suffer much.

Even under the rubric of “first do no harm” we find suffering to still be a basic universal experience. The very attempt to resolve an issue brings it into focus, heightening our senses about the negatives still so very present.

We still run into difficulties with the best diagnosticians not having access to materials and techniques to assess a situation. No matter what the diagnosis, a lack of trust in therapies and prescriptions can often subvert the trying of or follow through on them.

Mann [285] notes Marie-Henri Lagrange, O.P, founder of the École Biblique in Jerusalem, as identifying a custom in the “East” (meaning everywhere) to consult as many physicians as possible. This led to multiple prescriptions and their probable negative interactions with each other. No double-blind study means sorting out the helpful from the hurtful is nearly impossible.

The main take away is that she got worse. This builds on the Geresene whose every episode made things worse for himself and those around him.

In worsening conditions many choose to up the ante and try more and more, riskier and riskier procedures. When worse hits, shame is no longer a controller of behavior. This unnamed woman acts on behalf of each of us in our worst times. An inarticulate reach.

Mark 5:25

Meanwhile a woman who for twelve years had suffered from hemorrhage,

one terrible moment
can feel decades long
twelve years of terror
might as well be two lifetimes

one three four seven
are of symbolic and numerical value
ten and eleven
extend this dual use

is all of Israel thus bleeding
is this the feeling of the apostles
is this the number of doors open
to pick healing leaves

a symbolic twelve carries
extra added value
found in a baker’s dozen
beyond baskets of bread

We all know there is never only one storyline running through our life. A part of being alive is having to deal with multiple realities all meeting at the same time and place. Our work has to do with sorting them out. Even in the simplest of times, this is never an easy task.

Our trusted director, Mark, makes a fast cut from a milling, thronging, jostling crowd to a single person. In this case an unnamed woman. Status-carrying Jairus is being upstaged by a veritable nobody.

With the magic number 12 (twelve) this single person becomes more than a crowd. She is Israel being bled dry for the umpteenth time—this time by the Romans, Herodians, and more. Lots of smaller players such as Sadducees, Toll Collectors, and more play roles that prop up the colonizers from the inside.

We become disoriented with shifting perspectives.

Is this not Jairus’ story even though he tries to fake us out with his appeal on behalf of his daughter? Is it still the unnamed daughter’s story? Has it shifted and is now a story about a unnamed bleeding woman? Sorting Mark out is never as straight forward as finding a proposed structure to Mark’s story (see Appendix).

Can you see the disciples trying to take notes on what they think they are to be learning in the midst of this hub-bub? It would be good practice to pause for a moment to jot your own sense of where we are in a narrative flow. A direct benefit would be in evaluating the several decisions that have come together in your life, each calling out its claim of preference, privilege, and power.

In analyzing this scene we practice opening our own life.

Mark 5:24

So Jesus went with him. A great number of people followed Jesus, and kept pressing around him.

one story invades another
before a denouement is reached in one
a crowd of life stories begin to be revealed
every diagnosis reveals unknown examples
within lives of near-at-hand friends
if only we had paid attention

juggling stories is what we do
we catch and hold one
only to park it above
while catching and holding another
just long enough
for another to cycle through

from time to time an old story
can be taken from our rotation
in as surprising a fashion
a new story is tossed in
each suspension and surprise
roughens our routine

multiple story circles sort themselves
some taking up daily hourly slots
some have longer rhythms
adjusting to marshmallows axes apples
torches and intentionally-empty stories
intersect as we go stop detour go again

Again we have verification trouble. The first part of the verse is about Jairus and the second part is prelude to a next story. “Swarmed” can attest to the importance of Jairus or to the condition under which the next part of Mark’s story will take place.

= = = = = = =

Jesus seems to generally operate on a basis similar to Brownian Movement — seemingly random. With a sense of urgency pushing the action, Jesus follows Jairus as we would follow a GPS.

There is probably a bit of “recalculating” that went on as a large crowd tries to anticipate and follow along through narrow streets.

Jostling and pushing are part of the expectation as the haste of the journey and the delay of a crowd interact with one another. We could even expect a moment of road-rage as Jairus is not making good time on a very time sensitive mission.

It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how a longer travel time leads to an edginess in Jairus, Jesus, and the crowd pushing them closer together, forward, and ever slower. We have seen how traffic can back up of its own accord and even come to a complete stop.

What was supposed to be a quick little aside after a stressful episode with stampeding pigs on the other side of the Sea/Lake, is turning out to have its own stress and we wonder where the breaking point is going be revealed. Will Jairus claim his status and start pushing people out of the way? Will Jesus zing out an intercessory healing from afar? Will the crowd bring things to a halt, aborting a healing?

Mark 5:23

and begged him repeatedly, 23saying, “My little daughter is at death’s door. Please come and place your hands on her so that she may recover and live.”

pre-resurrectional healing
   calms us
between birth and death
   is our venue
this we can get our minds around
ordinarily this is what we aspire to

death cuts off healing
   emptying hope
our if-only’s linger
   brief and ever
in a moment we surpass our depth
it is now or never to gather resources

once we would travel
   to seek a reward
now we beckon to us
   a deserved wage
whatever it takes to meet our expectation
we will finally smile or grimace through

there we did it
   a necessary deed
it could have been easier
   a last resort
invested with great energy to have great effect
post-request time is just as difficult

“Healed”, σῴζω (sōzō), and “live”, ζάω (zaō) can be seen in parallel—either a redundancy meaning the same thing or as words that play off one another.

In most other settings sōzō is associated with salvation from sin and in previous healings Jesus has variously chosen to bring a healing in a variety of ways: forgiveness of sins, just getting up, or a touch of one sort or another.

The mechanisms of revival are many. In today’s medical model it is important to note specific genetic markers. Some therapies are known to be ineffective in certain genetic variants and their use would only delay getting to a treatment plan that would have a stronger likelihood of success.

For those interested in learning to engage at tender moments in a person’s life, knowing the range of responses is important as well as having data and experience that can help choose between them.

In this particular it appears that some form of touch is going to be part of this story. Off we go—hands at the ready to shush infirmity and beckon well-being’s return.

Mark 5:22

One of the leaders of the synagogue, whose name was Jairus, came and, as soon as he saw Jesus, threw himself at his feet

actions are multivalent
carrying a number of intentions
stimulating as many interpretations

acts make different differences
whether it was then or is now
how relationships relate

to kneel may be supplication
irony cannot be ruled out
identity of status is also in the mix

shaking hands and standing firm
a hug or upraised fists
all carry their threat and fun

in the midst of ambiguity
we can jump to a projected conclusion
more fruitfully we await further clarity

Crowds are a culture condensed. There is always a pecking order and in the midst of the milling about a privileged one makes it to the eye of the crowd. Jairus is recognized and all eyes refocus from Jesus to Jairus.

Here is the leader of the local synagogue. His very name means, “he who enlightens or sheds light”.

Jairus is here to help focus the roiling energy of the crowd. Perhaps there will even be a battle of enlightenment.

Expectations are raised about the significance of this moment.

What is the crowd to think when Jairus does the unexpected and reverses roles? Jairus, the brightest of us all, on his knees? What is this about?

We might not be as surprised if we were reading this in the Greek as there is an awkward introduction of Jairus. There is already something awkward at work. The original language does not refer to Jairus as one of several synagogue leaders but simply a person with a particular function therein. This sentence is often reordered to make up for the unusual separation of Jairus from his identifier, “one”.

We expected a clarification of the story and found ourselves thrown off kilter. Jesus is back—Hooray! Jairus is on his knees—What!

With eager ears, we are straining to hear what Jairus is going to say. It must be something of great import to have brought him forth and to begin so dramatically and yet quietly. Perhaps he doesn’t really want to be out here with the synagogue disrupter.

Mark 5:21

By the time Jesus had recrossed in the boat to the opposite shore, a great number of people had gathered to meet him, and were standing by the sea.

crossing water
crossing desert
crossing plain
crossing glacier
crossing borders
crossing cultures
crossing crossings

is all as one
some travel better
through one than another
call and gifts may not align
it matters little
each holds its opportunity
in journey’s beginning middle end

head directly north or east
southward or westerly
spiral in or out
every pattern contains beauty
released along its way
reconnecting knowledge with life
to heal our wilderness

head where you will
resistance is futile
the heat of our revenge
will find shade
teaching what we already know
mercy repentance healing forgiveness
are worth sharing everywhere/when

“Again!” Remember that this sets up a parallelism which is a key element in Hebraic poetry. Try writing the previous story as one stanza and the coming story as a next stanza. What word plays and images would begin pairing to set off deepening echoes of one other?

A large crowd has just implored Jesus and his retinue to leave their place. A large crowd gathers to welcome Jesus and his boatload of learners to their place.

The welcomers were earlier left pondering teachings about seeds. They may well expect that teaching to continue, but an occasion of mercy happened which was as surprising as mercies of belovedness and learning from temptations. There is no simple return to continue yesterday. Today is different.

So we find the yin and yang of a river of life, the same and different when next we put in. It is at points of blockages and releases of qi, at the vulnerable place of outcast and death, where mercy becomes more recognizable.

When life is able to adjust to various levels of injustice and hold on to current privileges, no matter how small, we are too distracted to attend well to mercy’s quiet flow. Don’t be distracted by the crowds, present as a Greek chorus, the propelling action is more particular.