“In a Tight Space” Monday Meditation. 6/8/20. Alan Neale.
Trinity Church, Newport, RI

Mark 5 21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Mark 5: 21-43 is just a really exciting passage describing the loving ministry of Jesus, the different ways we approach Him for aid, and the ongoing cluelessness of the disciples. Today I reflect on the first part of the story, tomorrow the second and final part.

As I read the passage I was immediately (there you go, the quintessential Marcan word!), I was struck by the ways in which the ministry, the days of Jesus were constantly beset by demands, with crowds pushing and shoving him, as often he found himself hemmed in. V.21 he is constricted by the great crowd around him and the sea behind him; v. 24 the large crowd is following him and “pressing in on him”. We too can feel and experience the same constriction of space, of mind, of heart. The iconic, potent last words of George Floyd (“I can’t breathe”) are resonating profoundly in the hearts of millions.

For us, feeling bound, pressed in, the Psalmist speaks these words, “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place”
(Psalm 31:8) and again “Praise be to the LORD, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege” (Psalm 31-21).
Jesus so kept in communion with the Father (through prayer, through reading Scripture, through conversation, through service) that no matter how beset with demands within or without, he had in his deepest core a sense of spaciousness. We need that now, we really need that now!.

The suppliant Jairus and the unnamed woman make their approach to Jesus from different positions and conditions, and in different mode.

The leader of the synagogue is ready to move beyond his place of comfort and reaches out to this peripatetic Jewish teacher; he stands not on his dignity and the prestige of his position but rather “takes the knee” and begs importunately and repeatedly. The woman, on the contrary, comes from a point of vulnerability, of desolation, of hopelessness and, given her illness, of isolation from the community. But all she does… is reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’s cloak. Such faith though poignantly coming from such self-abasement.

Friends, prayer remains for me a mystery and yet there is nothing that will stop me praying. It occurs in many forms, phrases and positions. When you look at Jairus consider primarily their wisdom in seeking the Lord’s help, only secondarily the manner and mode in which they approach Him. It is the acknowledgement of our need, it is the turning to God in prayer that will lead to rescue and wholeness.

Let it but be briefly noted that the disciples again show themselves truly to be “learners” in this whole business of discipleship and understanding Jesus; but be warned that those who minister with authenticity must for their health’s sake seek renewal and re-creation. I imagine the look on the disciples’ faces as their Master turns to the crowd and remarkably asks, “Who touched me?”. But, of course, Jesus does not remonstrate or castigate.

This part of the story ends as Jesus speaks words of encompassing and empowering grace to the woman, “Daughter – here he establishes the new relationship with Him… Your faith – here is affirms her worth… Peace and Wholeness – and here he renews her connection with the community and far beyond.

New relationships with the divine, the affirmation of the individual, and the restoration/re-creation of connection – for this Lord, we pray, for ourselves, our families and churches and for our nation. AMEN