Mark 5:32

But Jesus looked about to see who had done it.

who hadn’t I seen
who am I seeing
who is still to see
who will I never see

breaking a to-do list
sets us on edge
something will be left undone
kept at bay worry sneaks back in

without an agenda or habit
how can I see what’s going on
too many crying too many dying
love never seems large enough

who doesn’t know my limits
who doesn’t know their place
who doesn’t know about boundaries
who doesn’t see us face-to-face

The disciples have not convinced Jesus to dismiss his experience of lost power or someone’s equivalent healing gain. He stops. He looks around.

What to the disciples was an interruption on the way to the synagogue leader’s house (bringing honor on Jesus and, particularly, of course, them) was an opportunity to engage, face-to-face, with a present healing, not just a potential healing.

Myers puts it, “Jesus…seeks to know the human face of the poor.”

The interrelationship between poverty and illness has been known for a long time. The closeness of connection makes every denial of service to the poor a choice that some should suffer more illness. It is not much of a jump to note that a basic choice in every health care debate is a decision about the financial health of some (the richest individuals and corporations) in contrast to the physical health of others (the poorest and sickest). If those in the health industries, including insurance and pharmaceutical companies, are to make the most for their investors, costs must be kept the lowest. In manufacturing this means reducing labor costs and here it means reducing patient services.

It is a significant act that Jesus pauses on a journey to a privileged man’s house to see someone who is probably considered in the culture to be a liability, a no-body. This willingness to pause can be attributed to the amount of time Jesus spends in the wilderness. He knows the temptation of privilege and power. He knows the importance of small wrinkles in time and energy.

In stopping and looking, Jesus has a moment of non-verbal teaching for those who have eyes to look, with Jesus, for the “poor”.

Mark 5:31

“You see the people pressing around you,” exclaimed his disciples, “and yet you say  ‘Who touched me?’”

a starry night bridge scream
paint flung screaming warhorse
Mr. Natural detailed lily
touched my eye drawing me in

warm oatmeal with cinnamon
melted aged brick on toast
any newly opened bag of dark chocolate
touched my nose tempting me in

fresh sweet corn steamed green beans
chunky garlic mashed potatoes
Italian sausage in marinara sauce
touched my tongue slowing me down

mysterious mountain hobo’s lullaby
Coreaed Mozart Smithered Dylan
abiyoyo waly waly olly olly oxen free
touched my ear soothing me center

beloved’s hug pat on the back
quilt of remembrance funeral home fan
wide-enough shoes broken-in hat
touched my skin calling me out

who touched me who didn’t
where did my power go what power
how can I continue why stop
what can this mean what what

Disciples get snarkier as they begin to catch on to the predictable foibles of their teacher.

Touch is one of the ways Jesus’ healing takes place. Here is a “palin” place for a look back to 3:10: “Jesus had healed so many people that everyone who was sick pushed forward so that they could touch him.”

This dismissal of another’s report about their experience continues down to this day. In one way or another we say to one another, “Come on, get real, you didn’t just experience what you claim you did.”

This nearly instant dismissal of another’s experience keeps us from having to keep up with identity changes. Think back on all the different ways the Woman’s Movement, the Black Experience, and various expressions of Human Sexuality have shifted over the years.

If we are going to honor the identity of people we need to listen to how they describe themselves and follow where they lead. If we demand a right to name them, we are as snarky as the disciples—today we call this “gaslighting” which dismisses any independent thinking, leading people to question their sanity.

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.