A famous British theologian is often approached Americans asking him to fit into their theological labels. He tells this story “There is an old story about a gang of youths in Belfast stopping an Indian gentleman on the street. “Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?” they demand. “I’m a Hindu!” he answers. “Okay,” they say, “but are you a Catholic Hindu or a Protestant Hindu?” He tells the story to highlight how sometimes questions come from your background and where you live and goes on to say ?So, am I a fundamentalist creationist or an atheistic scientist? Answer: I’m a Brit.”
Remember this story, because today we’re looking at the Bible, but also at something unique about New Zealand that connects with the good news of Jesus.
So far in Mark we’ve seen that Jesus has done a bunch of miracles, each one seems to illustrate his power.
- Power over Nature (Calming the Storm)
- Power over Spirits (Casting them out)
- Power over Sickness (We’ll read that today)
- Power over Death (again we read that today)
In The gospels Jesus’ walking does the talking. Leaving us wondering Who is this guy ?
Today’s reading has two stories deliberately sandwiched together. In the middle of one story, another is inserted. Some writers call this a Markan sandwich. Because of this it’s worth comparing the two stories. What is the same and what is different. If you’re reading this in a small group, start a list for each (Jairus & the woman).
Some Background : Jairus is most probably rich and certainly respected. He si the president of the local synagogue (and most probably the president of the synagogue that Jesus spoke at in Mark 3). In our world, he might be a city councillor or the president of the local Lions club. He does however approach Jesus with humility
The woman on the other hand is constantly bleeding, and therefore ritually unclean. She’s not welcome in the the synagogue. Anyone who touches her becomes unclean. She is effectively a leper. She’s become poor as she has spent all her money on health care.
Read the stories in Mark 5:21-43
In each case Jesus makes time for the person. Wanting to do things face-to-face. While we know that Jesus can heal without being present, he seems to regard being present and face to face as being important.
He makes time with the woman, to simply heal isn’t enough. He has to to hear her ‘whole story’. The woman tells the “whole truth”.
While it’s good she is healed, By spending time with her, Jesus gets to say “Go in peace” concerned with more than simply the healing.
There’s no magic in the words “Tabitha Koum”. It simply “Get up little girl”.
Most probably being given something to eat, is a proof that she is not a ghost as the jews of that time believed in ghosts.
Each of these situations was hopeless. But when Jesus is near, life is different.
Is Jesus near to us ? Hint he proclaimed the kingdom of God is ….(look it up)
Think back on last week. What was your most challenging/Hopeless moment
Try this prayer on for size
“You are near Lord Jesus –
How do you want to make life different?”
Now for Kiwi’s. One of the striking things about this passage is the way the two people of different classes are compared. This links to New Zealands History.
America was founded at the time of the French revolution when there was a lot of talk about freedom and Liberty. The ‘land of the free’ seems to have been formed around the idea of personal freedom. When the first Bush ran for president an election button read simply “Freedom, Liberty Bush”.
New Zealand was founded a couple of hundred years later at a time when there was a big upsurge in writing about fairness. Many immigrants came to New Zealand to escape a strong class system. Robert Muldoon’s election slogan “A fair crack for the ordinary Bloke”. This the roots of ACC, universal Health care, and what used to be a free education system. As a people we have a tendency to care about the underdog.
The gospel value that is deeply written in New Zealand society is a lack of respect for class, riches, and status. We, of all people, should be good at knowing that God’s love is for everyone. Our nation has been historically concerned with fairness.
Now more thought. If America’s history has made it focused on freedom, and most of our Christian writing comes from American Christians? Has that made us focused on a gospel that is overly interested in ‘freedom’ ? What would a gospel that was equally interested in ‘fairness’ look like ?
(Remember -while the good news of forgiveness is unfair in that it is rooted in grace (not earnt). It is available for all, with no respect given for status).