When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 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.” He went with him.
…But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”…
…He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about… (Read the whole passage)
Last week, Jesus crossed the sea of Galilee with his disciples. As a storm blew upon them, the frightened disciples worried about a sleeping Jesus in the boat. But Jesus woke up, calmed the storm and wondered what the fuss was all about.
Before returning across the lake to the point in the story we heard today, Jesus went to gentile territory. There Jesus found a demon possessed man loving with the pigs. Jesus conversed with the demon called Legion and Jesus exorcized the demon from the man. In the short trip Jesus crossed the boundaries of Gentile and Jew by crossing into Gentile territory, clean and unclean remembering that pigs are unclean animals to Jews, and of the normal and supernatural world by talking to a demon.
In just that quick trip across the lake, Jesus showed that the boundaries most people observe, don’t scare him.
And today, when Jesus lands back on the Jewish side of the sea of Galilee, the boundaries have been crossed and the rules broken. There is no going back now.
Today, it is first Jairus who eschews social norms to throw himself at the feet of Jesus to beg for healing. Jairus, an upstanding leader in the synagogue, begging a wandering preacher for mercy for his sick daughter.
And then the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years breaks nearly every rule imaginable to get access to Jesus.
As Jesus responds to these two very different requests for healing, it can feel like one story jammed into another. Jairus and his dying daughter, and the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. It can even feel disjointed and a bit like an interruption… in fact, Jesus starts to seem like a traveling medi-clinic. A place for the sick to go for healing, a source of power for those in need. But as we heard earlier in Mark, Jesus has not come to be miracle healer, but to preach the kingdom of God coming near.
So what are these two stories of healing all about, if Jesus claims to be in the business of preaching the kingdom? Well, this story inside a story is not really about healing. Or rather, the healings are only the first details of what Jesus is up to.
When Jesus arrives on the shore of Galilee, Jairus, a leader in the synagogue throws himself at Jesus’ feet and begs for help for his sick daughter. Jairus an important community leader, who would usually have a servant for errands like this, comes to Jesus directly. Jairus who should have considered Jesus an equal, if not subordinate, throws himself at Jesus’ feet. Jairus who should have requested, commanded, or ordered Jesus to help, begs. He begs immediately and without shame. In desperation, Jairus breaks the rules of what a man in his position should behave like.
And then there is the bleeding woman. The woman who had been poked and prodded by doctors to no avail. The woman who had been suffering for 12 years in an unclean and impure state. The woman who is not allowed to be in public, or to touch others, especially men. The woman who has no voice and no advocate. The woman who pushes into the crowd and the who steals a healing without even asking Jesus. In her desperation, this woman crosses the boundaries of what polite and proper people should be and do.
It is easy to gloss over these images of Jairus and the bleeding woman. It is easy to see no problem with a persons of prominence and authority throwing themselves at Jesus feet. No problem with the weak and powerless reaching for the fringe of Jesus cloak.
But would it seem normal for the pastor or council members to throw themselves at the feet of the next motivational Christian speaker to come through town? Would we think it was alright for a street person, dirty, smelly and covered in sores and oozing wounds to push her way through the communion line to receive a blessing first?
No, we would not be okay with these things. They don’t follow the right order of things. We live a world with rules and boundaries, we define ourselves by those boundaries.
We define each other by where we work, by what we drive, by the houses and homes we live in, by the clothes we wear, by the committees we serve on and the ways we involve ourselves in the community. We even know which pews belong to whom and where we like to sit week after week.
Our worlds make sense when we can define the boundaries, when we follow the rules. We like knowing where others belong, so that we can know where we belong. We like defining the order of our families, and of our communities. We know who is first and who is last, and we like that knowing this gives us security, power and control. Our world is much easier to manage when there are rules and boundaries to keep things orderly.
And yet we also know that the rules and boundaries don’t always serve us. We know that sometimes people end up places where the rules push them down and grind them into the ground. We know that the boundaries can become walls, keeping people out and in the darkness, isolated and alone.
The rules and the boundaries that we live by, that we hold onto so that we can feel safe and secure… can also hurt and exclude and we know it, because sometimes we are the ones being pushed down and we are the one stuck on the outside.
But Jesus has this habit of doing things and going places that we cannot. Calming storms and talking to demons.
Jesus crosses the boundaries and breaks the rules.
Jesus crosses the boundaries and breaks the rules because Jesus wants to bring God close, the Kingdom of God near.
As the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years crosses every social boundary imaginable and steals a miracle from Jesus, and as Jesus himself is not quite sure what has happened, Jesus’ demands to know who has touched him. We would expect that Jesus would have condemned and scolded this woman, but instead he stops to hear her story. And then he joins her. Joins her on the other side of the crossed boundary. She isn’t supposed to be out in public or touching people as a an unclean sinner… no one but family that is. And so Jesus steps out of the public space and into a familiar one… “Daughter” he calls the woman. Jesus makes her a member of his family, a person whom he can be close to even if she is unclean. “Your faith has made you well.” And then blesses her. By crossing the boundary, and breaking the rules, Jesus gives this woman the first bit of care and compassion, of healing and wholeness she has known in 12 years. And it wasn’t by healing her of her bleeding, but by joining her in her isolation.
And then Jesus continues on to Jairus’s home, and he enters despite the news of the little girl’s death. The waiting crowds tell him not to enter… they know the boundary that has come to this place.
And yet having just crossed boundaries to heal the woman bleeding for 12 years, perhaps Jesus is inspired to keep going. To keep crossing boundaries. He comes near to a sick person, a possibly dead person, and intrudes on a grieving family.
But Jesus knows that the little girl will rise.
Because Jesus is going to cross another boundary to join this little girl, this second daughter that he meets today.
Jesus crosses the uncrossable.
Jesus reaches across death and brings the little girl back to life.
Jesus crosses the boundary of death.
Jesus also crosses the boundary of resurrection and new life.
And we saw it coming all along, because we know that story already. We tell it every week.
For you see, for all of our rules as human beings, we keep telling the story of God in Christ who breaks the rules.
Christ who gives forgiveness even though it is undeserved.
Christ who washes in the waters of baptism even though we are unclean.
Christ who brings peace even though there is conflict.
Christ who makes us one even though we are many.
For you see, for all of the boundaries that hem us in, we keep telling the story of God in Christ who crosses the boundaries and joins us where we thought God should NOT come.
Christ joins us as the incarnate God, born into creation.
Christ comes to us in the Word of God, spoken through human voices and heard with human ears.
Christ becomes us in the bread and wine, and we become Christ in Body and Blood.
Christ gathers us together from every nation and tribe and corner of the earth.
Crossing boundaries and breaking the rules shouldn’t be a new or surprising thing for us, because almost from the very moment we gather until we are sent out, God is doing just that in, through and with us.
God is crossing boundaries and breaking rules in order to name us as daughters and sons, making us part of God’s family, bringing the kingdom near to us.
No matter how much we love rules and cling to boundaries, God will always be willing to break and cross them, in order to love us more.