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MK 5: 21-43
3rd S. after Pentecost

From a preacher's point of view I welcome being back to Mk's straightforward style (yes, I do think of MK as 'straightforward', despite those who would complicate him) after the abstractions of JN, & despite this passage being a story within a story. 'Abstractions' have their place, but preaching them takes special gifts. So, what have we here?

Today's episode follows straight on from the 'Legion' affair. The latter is an expression of Jesus' compassion for the outsider, the excluded. I guess it's omitted from the Lectionary because it crops up in LK next year, but the context of care continues in what follows. How about we begin by giving both women a name & a face. Let's call Jairus' daughter 'Rachel' & the older woman, 'Judith'. Both present faces of our human predicament - sickness & death. Judith & her blood flow presents as an additional female predicament. Jesus isn't afraid of females as Church has often been, & still is in some quarters that see their mission as maintaining a patriarchal dominance! And their Rachels & Judiths let them get away with it!

Mental illness or disorder (Legion), bloodiness (Judith) & being dead (Rachel) or in many of our cases living as dead are powerful marginalising forces.

Two key issues raised by the three stories in ch.5 are: (1) How much power do we allow God to exercise? And, (2) What price compassion?

I'm a simple soul when it comes to (1). If God is God, then we must let God be God. But it must always be the God who shows us a Human Face / the Human Face in Jesus. The power of that God is always LOVE, bringing us in from our margins. Those who distort God's Face distort the power of love, too, & show us an ugly god made in their own image. Who wants that? Unfortunately, some do. Let it not be me! In Legion, Judith, & Rachel, we see the unmistakeable face and hand of God. (Do we ever see God's face without feeling the touch of God's compassion at the same time, & vice versa?)

So far as (2) is concerned, the cost of compassion for the marginalised will likely mean uncleanness, exclusion, for the one who exercises it. In all the accounts of Legion, the locals beg Jesus to go away & leave them as they were. Jesus becomes unclean  In the case of Jesus' raising of Rachel, those who frequent Jairus' synagogue will take some convincing that things happened as he tells them, & some purification ritual is likely to be involved, & is likely to overshadow the rejoicing at her raising.  Even Rachel back among them won't prove anything to those who don't want to believe anything, any more than having today's Legions, Judith's, & Rachels back among us will.