Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Caring Hope

I've been hearing/reading a particular Bible story a lot lately, and I've learned that if a Scripture passage or theme keeps popping up, then I'd better pay attention.  The story I've repeatedly read/heard is about a man named Jairus, a twelve year old dead girl, a woman who has been sick for twelve years, and a Healer.

This story appears in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but the story is the same:

As Jesus was being welcomed by a large crowd, a desperate man named Jairus, an official in the synagogue, came to Jesus, falling at his feet, begging him to come to his home.  His only daughter was dying, and he believed Jesus could heal her.  Jesus went with him, but the crowds followed, pressing around Him. 

In the midst of the crowd was a desperate woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.  She reached out and touched the edge of Jesus' robe, believing that would heal her.  And she was healed.

Jesus stopped and asked of the crowd, "Who touched me?"  His disciples didn't understand, and they replied, "The crowd is pressing against you."  Jesus said, "Someone touched me.  I felt the power go out of me."  The woman confessed, falling at Jesus' feet, explaining why she'd touched him, proclaiming that she had indeed been healed.  Jesus said, "Daughter.  Your faith has made you well.  Go in peace."

Before Jesus even finished speaking, someone from Jarius' house came and said, "Your daughter is dead.  Don't trouble the Teacher anymore."

But...  (I love the "buts" of the Bible...they usually mean grace is coming)

Jesus said, "Don't be afraid.  Just believe."

When they came to Jairus' house, there were people weeping and wailing.  Jesus said, "Why are you weeping?  The child is not dead, but asleep."  The people laughed at him.  Jesus sent them out, taking only James, John, Peter, Jairus and the child's mother into the room with the girl.  He took the child's hand and said, "Talitha kum.  I say to you, little girl.  Get up!"  She rose and began walking.  Jesus told her parents to give her something to eat.

I'm not sure why I've heard this story so much lately.  I've heard it so many times throughout my life, heard so much said on it, yet I believe I'm meant to say more. 

Twelve years.  For the "main characters" of this story, those twelve years were significant.  It was a whole lifetime to the girl, the happy/stressful/wonderful years of being a father to Jairus, the years of suffering for the woman, and probably not much more than the shadow of a vaporous breath to Jesus, God in the flesh.  Yet He was also human, also limited within the bonds of time.  He knew that within these suits of skin we wear, twelve years can seem a really long time.  He knew what twelve years meant to all of these people.  He knew their experiences weren't something trivial, nor were they trivial.

And yet this story has several "minor characters" who didn't see things as Jesus did.  I see one attitude repeated in this story, once by the disciples, and once by a group of mourners. 

When the woman touched Jesus, he knew it, and he knew her.  In fact, I'm not so sure that he didn't just ask "Who touched me?" for the sake of those around him, and for the sake of us who would be reading about it later (us).  He might have already known exactly who she was, and why she had done it.  But when he asked "Who touched me?" the disciples response is interesting.  I can imagine Peter pulling Jesus aside saying, "Um, Jesus...we're kind of in a crowd here.  Who hasn't been touching you?  By the way, with all these people touching you, you might want to take a bath next chance you get."  It's an attitude that shows that the disciples simply weren't on the same wavelength as Jesus.  They were seeing the crowd as a crowd, a group of people that didn't really matter. 

But Jesus knew every face in that crowd.  He knew each person in that crowd, in every crowd he ever encountered, more intimately than they could imagine.  And when that woman reached out in her desperate hope and touched him, he felt it.  He knew it wasn't just another hand grasping at him in the pressing crowd.  He knew that this touch was something important, and it came from a person He deemed important.  And he called out to her, wanting her to show herself, wanting her to tell what had happened to her.  When she finally did, he blessed her.  He called her daughter, his child. 

I can't imagine being as desperate as this woman.  I've never been sick for more than a few weeks (and that was just once when I was seven and had third degree sunburn all over my back).  I can't imagine being sick for twelve years.  We don't know how old this woman was or what her station in life was.  She might have been old and widowed, or she might have been younger.  Her illness might have prevented her from marrying, from having the life she had dreamed of.  At the very least, she was probably in a great deal of pain and weakness, and she was poor (having spent all her money on doctors who couldn't help her).  She was quite probably an outcast, considered unclean due to her consistent bleeding. 

I don't understand the kind of desperation it would take to reach out to Jesus in a crowd, daring to believe in the one last hope that could make her well....

When the man came to tell Jairus that his daughter was dead, we don't see Jairus' response.  We see Jesus' response.  "Don't be afraid.  Just believe."  I'm not 100% sure on this, but if I had been Jairus, and if I had just witnessed Jesus' healing of that desperate woman, it might have been a lot easier to stop being afraid.  It might have been a lot easier to just believe. 

Because Jairus was desperate, too.  When Jairus came to Jesus, Jesus went with him.  He could have turned to the crowds and said, "Ya'll go home now.  Jairus is an important synagogue official, and I must go and heal his daughter.  You aren't as important as he is, so leave me alone."  Jesus didn't say that.  He didn't send the crowds away--if he had, that desperate woman might have never found her hope and healing...but he deemed her twelve years as important as Jairus' twelve years, and his daughter's twelve years.  The woman was HIS daughter, every bit as valuable as Jairus' daughter.  Jesus did go with Jairus, because Jairus was important to him--just not more important than the others in that crowd.  Jesus went with Jairus because, like the woman, Jairus was desperate.

But when they came to Jairus' house, they were met by this group of mourners, of wailers and weepers.  Yet their grief was a facade.  They were probably just professional mourners, and there was no depth to their sorrow.  For when Jesus said, "The child isn't dead, but asleep," they laughed easily enough.  They laughed because they weren't on the same wavelength as Jesus.  They saw the world as they understood it.  Dead people were dead, which called for some loud wailing.  Sleeping people, on the other hand, don't typically want to be wailed at.  And Jesus, they assumed, was a mad man and/or a fool.  Jairus?  His wife?  His daughter?  Yeah, it was sad that she had just died, but the mourners didn't really care.  They were just people.  People died every day, and one couldn't be expected to really care about them ALL.

But Jesus did.

And Jesus does.

And Jesus told that little twelve year old girl to get up, and not even death could keep her from obeying.

I don't understand Jairus' desperation.  I haven't had a child.  I haven't had to face the fact that my only child was dying. 

I'm not sure how to word this, but I think there's this point of desperation that both Jairus and the sick woman had reached.  It was a desperation so great that they couldn't help but believe.  They placed all their hopes on Jesus, knowing that he was the only one who could help them.  And their belief led to the fulfillment of their hope.  The woman was given her healing, her life back, and so was the little girl.

And I don't understand their desperation, but I understand a few things.  I do know what it's like to be desperate, to have great need.  I know what it's like to be dying in my sin, hopeless on my own, and I know what it's like to reach out in wild desperation for the One Hope that can save me.  And I know what it's like to believe in all the things that One Hope has promised, and I know what it's like to be called His daughter, and I know what it's like to receive peace.

And I believe that I'm sadly ignorant to the world of others.  Far too often, I am not on the same wavelength as Jesus.  I see people as faceless, nameless, and therefore...when you really get down to it, trivial.  Worthless.  I get so wrapped up in my own life, my own circle of friends, my own agenda.  And in the end, I'm missing out.

I've got great Hope, and I claim to want to share that Hope with others.  The thing is, I can't give Hope to someone without caring for them.  Superficial caring doesn't work; weeping and wailing can't be in the same breath as laughter.  Seeing everyone as just an extra in the cast of life isn't going to cut it.  People matter, and I miss opportunities because I miss them.  I miss the people. 

If you've actually read all this, please leave me a comment, if you're able to do so.  I want to hear your story, your struggles.  I want to know more about you.  And I want to encourage you, as I am also encouraged, to look beyond ourselves.  Twelve years, twelve months, twelve weeks, twelve days, twelve hours, twelve minutes, twelve seconds...the things that have happened in these expanses of time matter to someone. 

People out there have stories that need to be heard...and maybe we're the ones who are meant to hear them.

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