Scripture Readings for February 1, 2022
It’s pretty common for us to think of God in terms of a parent and we as God’s children. The most obvious example of this is the nearly universal prayer, “Our Father …” Today’s readings give us three striking examples of the kind of deep parental love God has for us.
The background to the reading from Samuel is that the various tribes of Israel are in conflict. There is a power struggle and some have taken up arms against their King, David. This includes David’s son Absalom. David sends out his forces to do battle and as we see Absalom is killed in a humiliating way. David’s army has been successful but David has lost his son. Is David pleased that his army has been successful? Are their mixed feelings because his son was against him and has lost his life in the process? No, David totally ignores the army’s victory and the lives it cost to save his rule. For David there is only one reality, his son is dead. He would rather have died himself than have his son, the one who led a contingent of the opposition, die. Maybe that should inform our understanding of how God feels when we make poor choices. In New Testament terms, better he die on a cross than we should be lost.
This same kind of love gets told twice in Mark’s Gospel. First, Jairus a synagogue official, comes to Jesus because his daughter is close to death and he believes Jesus can heal her. Jesus without hesitation goes with him and when he arrives at the family’s home ignores what everyone is saying about the girl having died. He reassures Jairus that he doesn’t need to be afraid, just have faith. Faith, by the way, in this instance and all others should not be thought of as holding to a set of beliefs but rather as trust. Trust in another. It’s a relationship word, to have faith in God is to say, we trust God. That’s what’s going on here. Jairus must trust Jesus and he does. So Jesus takes mom, dad and his closest friends in to save Jairus’ daughter from death.
However, what is really important here is that Mark has split the story into two parts and sandwiched another story of faith in the middle, another story of trust. When Mark does that it’s a signal that the story in the middle is the most important because it conveys the deeper meaning for both events.
Now a woman who has sought healing for 12 years comes up behind Jesus, secretly touches his cloak and is healed. Jesus hasn’t said a word to her, didn’t do any of the things usually associated with healing like laying on of hands, and, in fact, didn’t even know she was there. Yet as Mark says, “Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,” now wants to know who has been healed. He asks, “Who has touched my clothes?” He’s in a crowd, the Apostles can’t imagine how many people must have touched him. But the woman knows what he means. She is frightened because to touch someone in her condition is to make that person ritually unclean just as she has been for 12 long years. But she comes forward and tells the truth. She has trusted that just a touch, the slightest contact with Jesus would be healing, so she says, “It was me.” And Jesus acting just like a loving father confirms her trust, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.”
Here is the heart of the story. We don’t need special attention from God. We can be cast out from our loved ones, alone and frightened for years on end but if we trust that God, love and kindness, can heal us then we just need to step forward, reach out and tell the truth. God’s love goes beyond our injuries, failures and even opposition, to heal whatever is broken if we simply trust enough to reach out for help.