A tale of two daughters

Greg Aikins on September 22, 2020

Jarius: “My little daughter is dying.”

Jesus to the woman healed from her hemorrhaging:  “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Jesus to Jairus’ daughter:  “’Talitha koum!’ . . . Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old).”  – Mark 5:22ff.

              It may seem strange that the story of the woman who was bleeding and the raising of Jairus’ daughter are intertwined.  But Mark sees them as connected and not simply because they happen to intersect at the same point in time of Jesus’ life.  It is almost as if the story of the synagogue ruler bookends the woman’s.  What might the Gospel writer be trying to say to us?

              Let’s think about the status of each.  Jairus is a man, an important man, a member of the ruling class, probably wealthy.  On the other hand the woman is not even named, an outcast, no position and, having spent all she had on doctors, poor.  Jairus comes toward Jesus and facing forward he falls at Jesus feet, showing appropriate respect.  The woman on the other hand, comes up behind Jesus. She’s aware of her lowly position.  Her disease make her “unclean” as well.  It would be inappropriate for her to face Jesus. 

              However both were desperate.  One had an acute problem – Jairus’ daughter was dying – Jesus must come right away.  The woman who touched Jesus’ cloak was also dying, only her bleeding to death was slow and inexorable.  A chronic life threatening issue.

              One might think he would make a priority out of an important man like Jairus.  But Jesus stops, sets him aside, humbles him and makes him wait.  He chooses to focus on a woman who had hoped to go unnoticed.  Jesus noticed her, heals her first and calls attention to her faith as exemplary.

              He hasn’t forgotten Jairus of course.  But Jesus’ delay seems to have had tragic results for the synagogue ruler and his family.  Because Jesus stops to recognize this nameless woman the little girl dies.  Yet, the delay does not mean the request is denied.  Jesus, to the astonishment of everyone, raises the little girl to life.

              I notice that Jesus calls the woman who was hemorrhaging “daughter”.  She is precious to Jesus, every bit as precious as Jairus’ daughter was to him.  The number “twelve” is significant here.  The synagogue ruler’s daughter was twelve years old, and the woman had been suffering her affliction for twelve years.  One “daughter” had been dying for as long as the other “daughter” had been alive. 

              Both “daughters” are healed physically, but there is more.  Perhaps Mark is pointing to a deeper healing as well.  Healing for the outcast woman also included restoration to her community, being recognized as a person of dignity, and honored for her faith.  At the same time, healing for Jairus’ and his wife, people used to privilege, meant humility and waiting.  It was an opportunity for them to see that there are other “daughters”, even those seen as outcasts, who are just as important to Jesus as a religious leader’s little girl.

              I have three daughters for whom I would do just about anything.  I can understand Jairus’ desperation.  But am I, privileged as I am, willing to be humbled and forced to wait, while Jesus seems to care more about answering the prayers and meeting the needs of others?  Perhaps I also need the Lord to stop me in my moments of impatience with unanswered prayer to think about those who may go unnoticed and who may be reaching out from behind to just touch the hem of his garment.  Holy Spirit, open my eyes, and give me compassion for your unnoticed “daughters” and “sons” around me!