Hurry up, Jesus
Believing isn't difficult. Waiting is the hard part. As believers we're taught to consider the injustices of our world. We try to do our part to help relieve human suffering (do we ever do enough?). Tired of things "the way they are," we want God to "put the world to rights," to use N.T. Wright's favorite expression. But, what happens when it's our world that is out of joint? What happens when we're the one looking for help, feeling the injustice, setting our face against the winds of resistance? It's one thing to contend with the God of the heavens, trying to get him to reverse the curse and bring help and hope to our friend or neighbor. It's quite something else to shake the heavens with our prayers for our own family. Who cares about the principle of the matter? I'm not arguing theology. This time, injustice is personal. This time, evil hurts. This time, we want God to favor us regardless. I'm not thinking about others right now.
I'm drawn to this story because of what it doesn't say. I've always been intrigued by Mark's weaving of these two stories together--the woman with female problems and Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:21-43). For both, the number 12 is significant--the woman suffered from her condition for 12 years, the little girl who died was 12 years old. Uncleanness runs throughout both stories: the woman's constant period rendered her perpetually unclean; the little girl was dead (the epitome of uncleanness). And, I've always appreciated how Jesus "reversed the curse" in both stories. The Pharisees taught the touch of unclean persons made the clean unclean. In these stories, in dramatic fashion, Mark shows how Jesus reversed the polarity of clean and unclean: this time, it's the clean touch of a holy man who makes the unclean clean. Making a big deal about "who touched me" and ordering the parents to give the once-dead-but-now-alive girl something to eat (unclean!!!) proves Jesus' point very well. And yet, there are things that didn't happen that should have happened that make me consider the faith of one person--the man who appears in both stories.
Jairus had been waiting for Jesus for quite some time. To Jewish eyes, I'm sure, Jesus had been "wasting time" in Gentile country before coming back across the Sea to Jewish territory. Desperate, Jairus falls on his knees and begs for Jesus to come and "lay hands" on his daughter because he believed she was "close to death." Much to his delight, Jesus decides to follow the man to his house. This was the time to make haste. The girl was about to die. But, Jesus didn't make very good time for two reasons: the huge crowd prevented an expeditious trip, and there was some commotion about touching Jesus and an unclean woman begging for forgiveness. If I were the man, the snail pace of Jesus pushing through the crowds would have made me desperately angry. "Get out of the way! Get out of the way! Move! Move! Hurray. We've got to go. Would you numbskulls get OUT OF THE WAY!" I would have been screaming my head off. Then, inexplicably, Jesus stops in the middle of this mad scene, the masses pressing in against him, with signs of paranoia, "Who touched me? Who touched me?" Even the disciples were incredulous, "What do you mean, 'Who touched you?' Do you see the crowd? Who isn't touching you?" But Jesus wouldn't budge. He wouldn't take another step until he got his answer. At this point, my desperation would have turned to exhaustion. "Who cares? Who cares? We'll find out later. Let's go, for heaven's sake. MY DAUGHTER IS DYING."
But, he didn't say a word. Patiently waiting his turn, he gets word that it's too late. His little girl is dead. But, Jesus knows it's never too late--especially when a holy man says he's coming to your house to take care of business.
Oh Lord. Please come to my house and take care of your business . . . whenever you get the time.