Thursday, 18 June 2015

Mark: Faith Power Action

Healing In His Wings
by Debra K. Gaines
What a dreadful woman! Unclean, forbidden from touching anybody, there she is in the middle of a jostling crowd around the Rabbi, the holy man. And she dares to touch him! Will God strike her down?

Mark sometimes uses a kind of 'sandwich' technique: half way through one story he suddenly interrupts with another before completing the first. The idea, presumably, is that the two stories illuminate one another.

In the second half of chapter 5 of Mark he does this with two healing accounts. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, an important man, comes to Jesus for help as his daughter is dying. As Jesus is on his way, the story is interrupted by a woman "who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years."

In religious terms she was 'unclean' and excluded from society whilst the haemorrhage went on - twelve years! No wonder she was desperate.

Two intertwined stories: one of a desperate man, who would be considered an acceptably holy man by 'decent society'; one of a desperate woman, who would not. How would Jesus treat the two of them?

In both cases he responds to their need. Jesus was quite capable, when the situation called for it, of being decidedly caustic with religious leaders; in this case Jairus was a father desperate about his daughter before he was a religious leader (I do highly recommend the film The Miracle Maker, which highlights this conflict). The unnamed woman was just desperate.

Jesus met both needs. But with the woman he went deeper. After twelve years of frustration and exclusion her need went deeper. He speaks to her, he gets her to acknowledge her need in words, and he tells her "your faith has healed you." After twelve years seemingly cursed by God, she is told she has faith which can bring healing: she is an important person before God. Now she can go in peace, freed from her suffering.

There is an oddity here: the woman is told her faith has healed her, yet the account also says that Jesus felt the healing power going out from him. There seems to be a link between faith and power.

'Faith' in the New Testament, it should be remembered, always means something more along the lines of 'active trust' than 'propositional belief'. If we have faith in Jesus it means that we trust our lives to him, not so much that we believe intellectually that there was a guy called Jesus in the Middle East two thousand years ago (although in this case that might be considered something of a prerequisite). Similarly, the word usually translated 'belief' is a related word which most often refers to believing in a person, not to believing some sort of abstract truth statement.

Jesus power is set free in our lives when we live out our trust in him.

So Jesus sends out his disciples, in pairs, to tell people about God's Kingdom and to heal them, It strikes me that this is very early in their discipleship. It seems going out together to tell people about Jesus and his message is a basic part of following Jesus, not just something for his most advanced students. It also strikes me that they were sent out in pairs: sharing freedom and healing in Jesus isn't just an individual ministry, it is something we are called to do together; proclaiming God's Kingdom is a joint task ... so I wonder why church preachers stand alone?

In Mark the pace is brisk: while the disciples are doing their stuff, John the Baptist is beheaded - there can be a heavy cost to doing God's will and speaking God's truth. They are no sooner back and looking forward to a quiet debrief than crowds gather, five thousand are fed, and they are missing the point again.

The calling of all who would follow Jesus is to step out in faith and power and to take action. If we get it wrong, that is part of the walk, part of the growing. If we don't do anything, don't trust him enough to step out at all, that is a problem.

To finish, a verse from a poem I came across this morning on Paquita7's poetry blog, which struck a chord:-

Pause before you act but act
Fast flows the life that's purpose packed
Turn wistful dreams to concrete fact
Think before you act but act.

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