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.

Mark 5:20

So the man went, and began to proclaim in the district of the Ten Towns all that Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

one by one
if need be
two by two

we go forth
ever adding texture
to suspect trinity

surprise never ends
when experience blesses
with new options

with unknown depth
we dare death
with mercy’s touch

never left behind
advance toward health
mine and yours

every encounter widens
limits on forgiveness
until Paradise returns

seventy times seventy
times and places
I go forth

Amazement is one starting point for making a heart change. This state of surprise, that a personal story introduced into a social setting where little is expected to change, pushes back a curtain fate tries to draw over our lives so we glimpse where we might engage to make a difference.

If unrepentant madness is not an immovable state, we can look around for levers and fulcra to see about occupiers and other inequities where a few are sacrificed on an altar of, “Too bad for them, we have always done it this way”.

This possibility of making a change is not all sweetness and light. A part of the amazement is that this person who is responsible for the dead pigs does not try to work his way into the good graces of family and friends by blaming those Jews from across the lake or their G*D. The difficulties that eventuated from his having been treated mercifully are still real economic losses. Any difficulties with the authorities, still remain.

A focus on mercy sets our usual resentments and fears into a larger perspective. This is worth practicing.

As we leave this part of Mark’s story with Jesus’ boat leaving through bobbing pig bodies and a story of an ambassador of mercy, store this story for it sets a stage for additional healings in Chapter 7 during Jesus’ next swing through the Decapolis.

Mark 5:19

But Jesus refused.  “Go back to your home, to your own people,” he said,  “and tell them of all that the Lord has done for you, and how he took pity on you.”

you do know don’t you
mercy is never a degree earned
after which authority is granted

an experience of mercy
is a never-ending reservoir
with which to practice mercy

like Scarecrow’s brain Tinman’s heart
Lion’s courage and Dorothy’s home
once recognized always available

as a mercified person
compassion will float to the top
simply skim it and anoint with it

as a new person
the oldest place is also new
be not timid for I am with you

you are already aboard
HMS Mercy
raise sail adventure forth

It seems true enough that experience is worth more than a certifying authority. With or without a Doctor of Ministry degree, pastoral and missional care is extended.

Do note the lack of notice regarding required and tested knowledge of church history or ecclesiology. There is no systematic theology statement asked for. Even the practical matter of institutional management or clinical pastoral education is set to the side.

What we hear is something that can be done anytime, anywhere.

First, be among those with whom you have common language.

Second, tell your experience.

Third, set the context of your experience in a larger setting. In this case “mercy”.

This mercy is at once a completed reality (“tell what has been done”) and a never-ending beginning (“tell what continues in you”). It is here that more work needs doing as our tendency is to turn a living-mercy into a ritualistic framework in an attempt to re-capture it. Eyes to see the on-going echoes of an original mercy are what keep things alive. More merciful experiences are intended to follow every mercy.

Telling about Jesus is one part of a missional equation. But without showing how our experience of mercy continues to grow, it is but an old story that eventually loses its cachet, unable to renew hearts.

Mark 5:18

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the possessed man begged him to let him stay with him.

I know this happened within me
but have no clue about the how
I once was simply against
and now desire to be with again
this land lover is willing
to sail a stormy sea
to learn to open a larger way
through any angry wilderness
to a green pasture

with bended knee I implore
with raised fist I demand
a privilege and right
to come and learn
I have hitched my star
to your moveable feast
that together we might feed
the insatiable hungers
misleading satisfaction’s lair

here among familiar desires
I don’t stand a chance
the smashing of piggy banks
excuse owners blacklisting my labor
there is nothing left
but voluntary deportation
and so my appeal
to your revealed goodness
add me to your crew

Here it is helpful to bring to mind the scene in Saigon, Vietnam as the last American helicopter is evacuating those who are being forced away. This is emotional effect of, “pleaded with to leave”.

Focus in on those pleading to be on that last opportunity to escape. When the protagonist protector is gone, there will be no quarter given to those who aided destruction of the culture or economy, and a realpolitik of who is in charge would put them at risk.

The one once left roaming the cemeteries and is the source of bloated pigs floating on the sea sets a question to Jesus similar to those of his disciples in the face of hungry crowds, “Who will feed me?”

How will this Gentile continue to deepen his journey begun with his healing if he is not able to join the Jewish band of brothers?

Whether looking at this through the eyes of our usual understanding of retribution and the danger the former wild-man is in if left behind or the loss of a deepening of discipleship unasked by those previously healed—this person’s future is awaiting a sorting out. The Christian Community Bible has a note that Jesus “values one man more than many pigs”. This is a wonderful creedal statement that feels different this far removed from the drama of a moment.

Mark 5:17

so they began to beg Jesus to leave their region.

native folk are shunted
from reservation to reservation
as one more valuable resource
justifies one more exploitation

commercial considerations trump
one life or many or all
your bleeding heart threatens
my provisional possessions

in such an unequal contest
birds in hand and traps for more
dare not be put at risk
for less than even more

call out state police and militia
call forth religious prosperity
demand do-gooders return to fishing
remand small-ball healers to exile

invisible native women and children
lead inevitably to an explosion
with no canary warning
mammon’s hollowness implodes

Antecedents are tricky at the best of times. In stressful situations, their vagueness, can add to the confusions. “They” does not refer back to the immediate eye-witnesses, but to all those who came out to see about the report of a mass pig suicide.

The considered judgment rendered here is that the economic, political, military considerations are worth more than one person. In John’s Gospel, Caiaphas’ memorable phrase will reflect this ancient and very contemporary communal sentiment as a choice between one Person and a whole Nation/Empire.

Given the Roman counter-insurgency actions during this time and the ever-present threat of one power or another that will further disadvantage us in the present, this is one of those decisions we will do our best to explain, normalize, categorize, and forget. Having experienced the trampling might of empire makes this an understandable response.

The seeds of cognitive dissonance sown by this choice are still present and are enough to haunt for generations. When we see ourselves as the one being given up, it can change the calculus of response. It is this question of communal value that Jesus is listening for, whether 2,000 years ago or earlier today. Questions of the intersections of our identity continually bubble to the top. How many dismissals of another person or group will I witness before I see our common good at risk and expand my responses?