In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 5:21-43), we hear of two people who go to Jesus – Jairus, a synagogue official with a dying daughter, and an unnamed woman suffering with haemorrhages. Two people… Two very different people, both in desperate need, both set for an encounter with Jesus.
I’m never really sure why these stories are placed, one inside the other like a set of Russian nesting dolls. But that’s how they are, and Mark invites us to look at both of them together. Mark challenges us to watch and see as these two people, both so different, both in desperate need, come to Jesus for help.
Jairus went to Jesus directly. He was sure of his place, and sure of his welcome. Jairus was one of those people who can march right up Main Street toward Jesus, and never turn away. He was one of those people who can say quite clearly, “Jesus, help me!” and trust that he will be welcomed,
The woman wasn’t quite so sure.
She didn’t believe that she could go to Jesus openly. She had no place, no position, no privilege, no power, and so she thought she would have no welcome. She was one of those people who sneak up beside Jesus in a crowd then silently slip away. The woman had no words, no assurance of welcome.
But Jesus, somehow, managed to see and hear both of them. Jesus saw them both!
But what motivated those two people to seek out Jesus? Was it faith? Was it a desire for a miracle? Was it the reports they had heard about the healing power of Jesus? Was it the fear of death? Was it a father’s love for his child?
Certainly it could have been any of those things. But there was another reason and perhaps it was the main reason. They went to Jesus out of desperation.
Jairus had to be desperate to go to Jesus. Jairus was a synagogue official, a respected member of the religious establishment whose members were already voicing concerns about the rabbi from Nazareth. The Pharisees and the Herodians were talking about putting him to death (Mark 3:6), and the scribes from Jerusalem claimed Jesus was “possessed by Beelzebul.” (Mark 3:22)
Desperate to save his dying daughter, Jairus risks criticism and ridicule from his fellow religious leaders, and even a possible “No” from Jesus, when he comes to plead for help. “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” A desperate parent will do anything to save a child.
The woman who had been suffering with haemorrhages for twelve years was certainly desperate. “She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.” She was at the end of her rope. She had tried everything else, why not try Jesus?
In both cases, Jesus responded to the needs of these desperate people. A daughter was raised from her deathbed before her distraught father. And for the first time in twelve years, a woman “felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.”
Sunday’s Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus did not question the motivation of those who came seeking his help. It made no difference if they were led by faith, by love, by concern, by hunger, by pain, by fear, or by desperation. Jesus responded to their needs. The response of Jesus was based not on what was in their hearts, but rather on what was in his.
The same remains true today. Jesus stands ready to receive people with mercy and love even if they come to him only out of desperation. As his Church, we have to do the same!