Winston Churchill was rather quotable, probably because he talked a lot, but also, because he was well spoken. One of my favorites came out from a radio broadcast in 1939 when he said, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Mark chapter five isn’t quite a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, but it does have has a story that is a double feature: a story told inside another story. The two stories capture a similar idea which is why, I believe, they are told together, perhaps so that one reiterates the other and helps us to see the bigger point.
The story starts off with Jairus a man on a mission. That mission is saving his daughter’s life since she has fallen ill—near to death—and the physicians can’t seem to figure out why. Jairus decides to try a last-ditch attempt to save her by seeking Jesus. Maybe the prophet from Galilee, the one who is known as a miracle worker, can work the miracle of saving his daughter. Jairus tracks down Jesus and begs his to save the girl, which Jesus agrees to, and the disciples along with a crowd follow. Within the crowd is the second story, one of equal desperation to the first. A woman is among the crowd whose last hope seems to be Jesus as well. She trails along behind the Galilean with one thing on her mind, “If I can just touch the fabric of his robe, just get close enough to brush against it, maybe I can be healed.”
While narrated as two different things, this is same story twice told. Both are stories of desperation, of last hope, of dreams that may never be. Jairus faces the loss of his daughter, a child whose life has not yet truly begun. Any parent can see how you would do anything or everything to save your child if you faced those circumstances. The woman within the crowd suffered from a hemorrhage, a constant physical suffering that led to emotional and social suffering. The bleeding she dealt with made her ‘unclean’ in the eyes of the Jewish community and therefore outside the community as one who many may have thought was being punished by God (look up retribution theology for a detailed explanation). In both cases, the desire to be healed drives the woman and Jairus to do whatever is necessary.
That makes me wonder. When it comes to our relationship with God how desperate are we? Are we desperate enough to seek healing from God for the emotional and spiritual damage of our lives? Are we desperate enough to put aside ego and pride to seek God no matter the cost? Are we willing to do the hard work of being attentive to the leading and teaching of the Spirit so that we can change to become more like Jesus, to step onto the Jesus Way in a fuller, more surrendered way? Are we willing to live the Way of Jesus no holds barred, no retreat, no regrets?
How much do we really want the Kingdom of God and how much do we want our own kingdoms?