Time implies duration, but eternity excludes time. — Chrysologus, Bishop of Ravenna (5th cent.)
Last week we crossed the lake in a storm. Today, we have returned from the other side and Jesus is immediately surrounded by petitioners who seek healing. Jairus, a leader in the synagogue that Jesus has entered pleas for help with a dying daughter. An unknown woman is also healed on the way. Yet, before there is a healing our text leaves out. Over on the other side, Jesus has met Legion, the Gerasene demoniac.
So, there are three stories of healing told here. In the first, there was no talk of faith. The man was mad and the demons spoke for him. Yet, they knew who Jesus was and they knew they had every reason to be afraid. The Gerasenes share the demons’ disposition. They are afraid of Jesus’ presence and ask him to depart.
After an uneventful crossing of the lake we are now on the way to Jairus’ house. A woman who has been ill for a long time has gotten it into her head that if she could just touch his garment, she would be well and indeed, it is made so. Only after her healing she draws close, in fear, as it was with the Gerasenes, and told Jesus that she has “snatched,” as it were, a healing from him.
Word comes in the middle of this interruption that Jairus’ daughter has died. “Why bother the teacher any longer,” is the word from the household. Jesus answers not the messengers but Jairus: “Do not be afraid, only believe,” and he uses “believe,” not “have faith.”
Fear is all around it would seem. On the lake, Jesus had accused his disciples of cowardice. (Mk 4:40) Then there is the fear of a power greater than the Geresenes were comfortable with. Fear that partaking of the providence of God will bring judgement. She has “taken” her healing from Jesus and he had been adamant that he needed to find out who had taken healing power from him. Jairus' fear that he has acted too late? The fear that there are supplications, needs and desires of our heart that even God cannot supply?
Through their fears the woman and Jairus will learn about the character of God in Jesus, as did the disciples on the lake in the storm. (Mk 4:40) It may not be their fears but the resolution of the fears that actually teaches the lesson. Is this true for the Gerasenes as well? They have asked him to leave. Who will fend for them?
As we listen to this part of the story it might be wise to take stock of the fears we harbor. Will our faith be enough to overcome? Are some fears Holy Fears, in the sense of Awe? The woman somehow does model for us an attitude that will bow deeply before Jesus and accept what he might say next. His response to her might guide our living: Deeds done in Faith are never judged but instead lead to healing, perhaps even the healing of fear.
He will need us to relinquish our fear. It is written that the women who discover the empty tomb and the young man in white run away and in fear say nothing to anyone. (Mk 16) A resurrection unobserved and untold will change little. A resurrection proclaimed and believed will change much but also raise many fears. To us and all says Jesus: “Don’t be afraid, Believe.”
What are your fears telling you?