The Preaching of the Word
First Presbyterian Church
116 South Loudoun Street, Winchester, Virginia 22601
Charles Marshall Webster, Transitional Pastor
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 31, 2016
“Reading the Bible in 3-D”
Psalter Reading: Psalm 30
Gospel Reading: Mark 5:21-43
I want today to look at Mark’s intertwined stories of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with hemorrhages. I want to show why it matters where we are when we are reading the Bible. I am going to look at three places where we might read these stories, and what they might mean when we read them there.
When we read the stories of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman in Church this is what we find. We realize that the number 12 is vital to both halves of this story. The young girl is 12 years old and the woman has been bleeding for 12 years. And the number 12 is a shorthand way of referring to Israel, because Israel was a nation of 12 tribes. This is a story about a clearly beloved daughter of God called Israel. This clearly beloved daughter is sick, indeed close to death. She is desperate. And those faithful people in Israel call on God to save her. Jesus comes into the story to save Israel, to restore her to health and relationship and well-being. And when Jesus appears he is surrounded by the crowd with the overwhelming breadth and depth of human need. Rather than see this as a distraction, he points out that the poor, the unclean and the outcast are at the very heart of God’s story, and that they are all the children of God. Then Jesus resumes his ministry to Israel, faces derision, misunderstanding and mockery from the bystanders, and raises Israel to life from the point of impurity and death.
The story of the young girl and the bleeding woman are intertwined with one another just as the story of the rich and the poor, of Israel and the Gentiles, of the righteous and the sinners, and of the pure and the outcast are wrapped up in one another. The synagogue leader comes to Jesus one way and the bleeding woman comes to him another way. This story tells us that we can never simply see the profound neediness of the world outside the context of God’s overall relationship with Israel and the Church, and one can never tell the story of God’s love for Israel and the Church without remembering that the poor and the outcast are at the heart of the story.
Reading the Bible challenges each of us to a three-dimensional faith – alone, with a group of friends, and in the Church, in devotion, in action, and in worship. “The stories of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman show us what it means to come to Jesus, front door or back door. They show us what it means to pray for ourselves and to pray for others. They show us that Jesus transforms both the rich and the poor. They revolutionize our understanding of purity, showing us that in Jesus it is holiness that is wildly contagious. They offer us the whole history of salvation, placing God’s love for the poor at the heart of God’s love for Israel and the Church.”