Forming Faith Blog

Kingdom, Interrupted (Mark 5)

In these stories of two daughters, Jesus’ ministry for the kingdom of God is interrupted, with the best results possible.

Middle aged woman crying with tears
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on
The Power of the Kingdom

Last week, we started our products’ theme of “The Power of the Kingdom,” and we reflected on the story of Jesus healing a man tormented by a legion of demons. This week’s reading starts where that one leaves off, Jesus arriving on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee. The power of God’s kingdom, wielded by the Son of God himself has been on display.

Ministry, Interrupted

Jesus had interrupted his ministry in Galilee to cross the giant lake (in a storm) into “enemy” territory, seemingly just to heal one man. Now, he’s back. A great crowd has gathered to see this great miracle worker and rabbi, and presumably, Jesus is doing…something. The Gospel writer skips over those details to focus on what comes next. The leader of the local synagogue, Jairus, is desperate, and so he interrupts whatever Jesus is doing. Jairus’ beloved daughter is sick—dying, in fact. Will the miracle worker come and work a miracle? Jesus agrees and starts walking through the crowd to Jairus’ home.

(A Woman’s) Life, Interrupted

Within this crowd is a woman—known in some traditions as Veronica—who shouldn’t be there. According to the Levitical holiness laws, anyone who is bleeding (or has other types of “bodily discharge”) is ritually unclean, and anyone who touches them also becomes ritually unclean. Veronica, with her hemorrhages, would make anyone who bumps into her unclean.

But she is desperate. This bleeding has been going on for 12 years. Not only has her health been interrupted (I must imagine she would be fighting anemia due to blood loss at a minimum), but her family life has as well. We don’t know if she is unmarried, married, or estranged, living with her children, her parents, or on her own. We don’t know if her father, husband, or adult son is providing for her or if she has been impoverished. But it is certain that this condition has had a devastating impact on her life.

Travel, Interrupted

Jesus and Jairus are on their way to the synagogue leader’s home when Veronica, desperate, decides to take action for herself. She reaches out and touches Jesus’ clothes with the hope that she could take some of his excess kingdom-power. Even though that’s not how I understood such things to work, she succeeds. Even Jesus’ clothes are brimming with kingdom-power. Who knew? Well, apparently, she did.

Jesus noticed “that power had gone forth from him” (Mark 5:30), he asks who had touched him. So, at least in this story, Jesus’ kingdom-power is something separate from himself. Veronica confessed everything, and Jesus responded with gentleness and love, calling her “daughter.”

Conversation, Interrupted

Whether Jesus was finished speaking with Veronica or not, he was interrupted by people from Jairus’ house, announcing his daughter’s death. I can barely imagine the trauma Jairus was feeling upon hearing this. Whether it happened at this moment or would have come later, the anger stage of grief would have set him against the woman who had delayed Jesus, and possibly Jesus himself.

Death, Interrupted

But Jairus’ grief will quickly turn into confusion and then into relief and joy. Confusion, because Jesus keeps walking regardless of the interruption. Jesus insists on going in to see the girl, further insisting that she is not dead (even though he hasn’t seen the girl yet). He goes where the girl is lying, with her parents and three disciples. And Jesus does something (else) remarkable: he tells the girl to get up, and she does.

Aside: Was the girl dead? That’s not the easiest thing to know for certain. The people of Jairus’ household, who likely had encountered death before, certainly thought so. But Jesus contradicts them. Was Jesus being literal (perhaps the girl was almost dead but not quite), or was he exaggerating (possibly to minimize the miracle to go along with the “Don’t tell anyone” command at the end)? Even the Aramaic command he gives is for the girl to wake up. The Gospel writer doesn’t clarify. We all assume that the girl died, and since we know from elsewhere that Jesus can raise the dead, I think it’s a safe interpretation.

Faith Formation Connections

As with all Bible passages, there are many ways to approach this one. My reflection here looks at it as a series of interruptions, interruptions that lead to wonder-filled results. I have heard said by more than one pastor that “ministry is in the interruptions,” which is to say that our service to God and others is not just in the big, planned, or showy actions, but in the unexpected and inconvenient events, too.

You can see some of my suggestions on how to engage with this passage in my previous blog post “Which [Game] Mode?

In all of God’s blessings,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

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