Look at this:
Once again Jesus got into the boat and crossed Lake Galilee.[d] Then as he stood on the shore, a large crowd gathered around him. 22 The person in charge of the Jewish meeting place was also there. His name was Jairus, and when he saw Jesus, he went over to him. He knelt at Jesus’ feet 23 and started begging him for help. He said, “My daughter is about to die! Please come and touch her, so she will get well and live.” 24 Jesus went with Jairus. Many people followed along and kept crowding around.
25 In the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had gone to many doctors, and they had not done anything except cause her a lot of pain. She had paid them all the money she had. But instead of getting better, she only got worse.
27 The woman had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him in the crowd and barely touched his clothes. 28 She had said to herself, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will get well.” 29 As soon as she touched them, her bleeding stopped, and she knew she was well.
30 At that moment Jesus felt power go out from him. He turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 His disciples said to him, “Look at all these people crowding around you! How can you ask who touched you?” 32 But Jesus turned to see who had touched him.
33 The woman knew what had happened to her. She came shaking with fear and knelt down in front of Jesus. Then she told him the whole story.
34 Jesus said to the woman, “You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain.”
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from Jairus’ home and said, “Your daughter has died! Why bother the teacher anymore?”
36 Jesus heard[e] what they said, and he said to Jairus, “Don’t worry. Just have faith!”
37 Jesus did not let anyone go with him except Peter and the two brothers, James and John. 38 They went home with Jairus and saw the people crying and making a lot of noise.[f] 39 Then Jesus went inside and said to them, “Why are you crying and carrying on like this? The child isn’t dead. She is just asleep.” 40 But the people laughed at him.
After Jesus had sent them all out of the house, he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples and went to where she was. 41-42 He took the twelve-year-old girl by the hand and said, “Talitha, koum!”[g] which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got right up and started walking around.
Everyone was greatly surprised. 43 But Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. Then he said, “Give her something to eat.”
Yes, it’s another story about Jesus, from the Gospel of Mark in this instance. We may feel it’s just another fairy tale about miracles. But perhaps we need to imagine the gospel writer and his original readers. We don’t know much more than that he/ she wrote in common Greek sometime around 70 CE, somewhere in the Roman Empire, for one or more communities of people who trusted in Jesus as a source of God’s goodness. In his story, Jesus appears from nowhere, is baptised by John, preaches the arrival of God’s rule in the world, calls disciples, heals the sick and eats with the outcast. He is presented as an explosion of life in a society and religion that has made an accomodation with death.
Here he deals with a woman who is an outcast because she is unclean due to her bleeding. Men have categorised menstrual blood as taboo/ unclean/ sacred, that is as anything except natural. Menstrual ailments therefore, were especially unclean. Now this woman who has heard about Jesus and trusts him, commits a double offence: as a woman she touches a man who is not her family and as an unclean person she touches another person, transmitting her uncleanness. The laws she breaks are ways of separating the woman from community and God, but her rash behaviour works: she knows she is cured. Jesus however will not let her remain anonymous and pushes her into a public acknowledgement of her daring. Then he acknowledges her and gives her dignity by publicly praising her faith. The taboos of society and religion should not stand between a person and new life.
Then Jesus is about to continue on his visit to a sick girl, but messengers tell the father that she has died. Jesus refuses to back off in the face of death, and asks for trust. The death is signalled by ritual wailing, which is part of the social/ religious separation of death and dead people from life and the living. No man should approach a woman who is not of his family, and no one but family should approach a dead body. Jesus deliberately breaks through these barriers insisting that the girl is not dead. With a few disciples and her parents he visits the girl, breaks the taboo and touches her hand, and says to her, “ Time to get up, little dove,” and she does. A girl on the threshold of womanhood has been rescued from death.
Notice what Mark has noticed: Jesus has dared to enter the place of death to rescue a living person, claiming that it’s time to get up. The incident is in itself a model of Jesus whole ministry, his fight against the powers of death, which include religious powers, to give life to people who are excluded, in this case women, locked out of life by social prejudice and religious taboo. Mark intends his readers to listen to Jesus saying to them that it’s time to get up, leaving behind everything that diminishes life. He means them to hear both the urgency and the tenderness of Jesus’ words and to apply them to their own lives, noting as Mark has noted, that Jesus paid a price for his disregard of religious rules, ultimately being consigned to the place of death.
The delicacy of this story doubtless owes something to a memory of Jesus’ dealings with women, but it it also owes its power to Mark’s perception of it, and of the contemporary needs of his community of faith. He enables them to know Jesus coming to find them in the place of death, and to hear him say to their souls, “Time to get up, little dove.”
This is what we reclaim when we reclaim Jesus. We are encouraged firstly to see all the ways in which we have compromised with or aided the powers that diminish life, as individuals, communities, societies and nations, and especially to see the victims of those powers.
Let’s just take as an example from Scotland the appalling lack of care for mental illness. Firstly let’s see clearly how this puts people into the power of death. We have to get rid of the lazy thinking that sees the suicides of mentally ill people, and the deaths they cause, as simply terrible events: they are caused by our abandoning ill people to the power of death. Why do we do this? Because we refuse to pay for a proper heath service. But more than that, because we are content to compromse with the powers that diminish life. Surely we’ve done enough! That’s when we can hear Jesus telling us, “Time to get up!” We can hear this voice as members of a community that listens to this ancient story as if it were today’s news, because the Jesus who speaks in it speaks now as the living God. He has gone into the places of death to ask us to live in the power of resurrection. If we reclaim him and his way, we can live in the time of no compromise; we can become the ones who say to the victims of mental ilness, “time to get up, little dove.”