I've been preparing for a sermon on Mark 5:21-43 this coming weekend and it sparked off quite a few thoughts.
Jairus, the synagogue ruler, was willing to look ridiculous by falling at Jesus' feet and pleading with him because he had the faith that Jesus could help. He exercised his faith on behalf of someone else. Jesus agreed to go with him, despite the fact that the religious authorities were already beginning to oppose him and so it could have been awkward to say the least.
The unnamed woman - perhaps not named to illustrate that in everyone else's eyes she was a nobody - was a social and religious outcast. Her bleeding meant that she was unclean and would make other things and people unclean if she touched them. She had tried all she could to solve the problem but with no success. Yet, she hears about Jesus and believes not only that he can do something but that something will happen if she can only touch him. It would seem from Jesus' reaction as Mark records it (if we can put aside all theological "Jesus surely would have known...." ideas for a moment) that this power went out from Jesus without him deliberately doing anything - it was seemingly automatic depending solely on her faith. Jesus' subsequent praising of her for her faith shows that she is indeed a model of faith to all those who were religiously "ok" despite being an outsider. Yes, the outsider shows the "insiders" how it is done...
But there are also other characters - what about the crowd? Are there people there who just watch and don't approach Jesus? What about the members of Jairus' household who arrive and tell them not to bother coming as the girl is dead? It would seem that their faith has given up - there is nothing that Jesus can do now. There is even a contrast in this passage between these two (Jairus a member of the religious authorities and the unclean woman) and the disciples. In chapter 4 they are berated for their fear and lack of faith. Here, faith is shown in abundance, by the woman especially.
I wonder which character in the story we feel like today? Maybe you wish you could have the faith of the woman. Can you? What stops us - is it fear? Perhaps such faith is in some respects a choice?
Jesus responds to and welcomes all kinds of people - once again the misfits seem to see that most clearly. Those of us who feel a bit on the edge can get real hope from this that we too can have confidence to approach Jesus. Perhaps a greater level of expectation is good for us. There can be an easy tendency to believe that Jesus can do things, but less readiness to believe that he actually will. Maybe this story challenges us to have higher hopes and expectations. No, God doesn't heal everyone or answer all prayers as we would like, but perhaps we should ask at least be expecting some kind of response and have an assurance that he loves us, rather than risk going through the motions of prayer with a mindset that says, "I'll ask... but of course he won't..."