Is there Enough to go Around?

The text is Mark 5:21-43

Is there enough to go around?

“A great crowd gathered around Jesus.” Somebody once counted as many as five thousand (not including women and children). The crowd followed him “like sheep without a shepherd” and “pressed in on him.” Obviously, there was no way for him to minister to so many people. Faces blurred together. Names would be forgotten. Obviously, someone’s needs were bound to be overlooked in the mix.

Is there enough to go around?

Time was short and running out quickly. Jesus had to move fast. The word “immediately” appears no less than 41 times in Mark’s gospel; 3 of those times are in today’s reading alone. Jesus is always in a hurry. No one could expect one man to be “All things to all people.” Obviously, some people would have to wait until Jesus came back through town next time… except that there wouldn’t be a next time (either for Jesus or for some of the people in the crowd).

Is there enough to go around?

In the midst of these (apparently) limited resources and (apparently) unlimited need, cuts would have to be made. Obviously, Jesus would have to play favorites with those who were in his “club” and leave the rest to fend for themselves.

Is there enough to go around?

That was the question on Jairus’ mind as he pushed his way through an ocean of broken humanity: people who were poor, diseased, wounded, and outcast. These people (if one could even call them that) were the refuse of decent society. Jairus would not normally approve of an upstanding, religious citizen like himself wandering into such a seedy part of town. Who knows what kind of germs he was picking up in this hellish garbage dump? He would be washing his hands and clothes for weeks to come.

Worse yet: the stain on his reputation would almost certainly never wash out. People talk in this town. The village gossips would surely know where he went and what he did when he got there. His business would surely suffer. He would probably be asked to step down from the board of the synagogue. The neighbors might not speak to him or his wife ever again.

But that didn’t matter. Jairus was out of options. The only thing that mattered to him was a little girl whose name would be forgotten by history. She didn’t matter to the world. She had the misfortune of being born female, which was a liability in a culture that prizes maleness as an asset. She was terminally ill in a time when few children survived to adulthood and tiny coffins were the rule, rather than the exception. If this waif died, the neighbors would donate their time for the obligatory mourning period, but few would miss her.

But Jairus would miss her. She may have been just a footnote to history, but she was his footnote. That’s why he was fighting his way through the hordes of the walking dead… he was hunting for the one man who might be able to do something, to help.

Is there enough to go around?

Jesus was shorter than Jairus expected. The stories people told about him made it sound like Jesus was ten feet tall, with skin like bronze, robes glowing white, and eyes of burning fire. What Jairus found instead was a homeless man, wearing clothes tattered by life on the road, with bags under his eyes. At first, Jesus seemed indistinguishable from the crowd of rejects around him. The only thing that made him different is that he was the one for whom everyone else was reaching out. A hundred conversations were happening at once, all around him. Everyone wanted a piece of this guy.

Is there enough to go around?

Jairus had to shout his name more than once to get his attention. Then he threw himself on the ground to block Jesus’ way. That must have been a pathetic sight: the synagogue president pleading with Jesus to come and heal his daughter. From the outside, it must have looked like a suburban soccer-mom driving her SUV to the ghetto to beg a homeless man for crystal meth.

In response, Jesus nodded his head and motioned for Jairus to lead the way home. Now, if only this old hag would get out of the way…

Is there enough to go around?

She had been knocked to the ground as the synagogue president pushed his way past her. No matter. It wasn’t the first time she had been knocked over. Big shots like this guy were always forcing their way to the front of the line. This woman, on the other hand, had slowly made her way through the crowd that day, hoping against hope that, on the off-chance, she might get a moment of Jesus’ time.

But she was an old woman. Her money was gone, having been spent on doctors who had no clue how to treat her worsening condition. Her family was gone too. Those who hadn’t died before her had now abandoned her: they wouldn’t dare come around, for fear of catching whatever it was that made her so sick for so long. The only respectable thing left for her to do was hobble off to some back alley to die alone. But, she figured, if dying alone was her last resort, then there was no harm in making one last attempt with this itinerant healer who was passing through.

Is there enough to go around?

She had almost made her way to Jesus when Jairus shoved her aside. She was indignant, of course. But then she saw something she didn’t expect: a local dignitary in his good clothes, groveling at Jesus’ feet in the filthy street where passing animals did their business and people’s feet spread it around. She wondered what could possibly make him so desperate… she could just barely make out his words above the noise of the crowd and in between his sobs. Something about his daughter… twelve years old… very sick… about to die.

She remembered what it was like to have somebody who cared enough to plead for her like this man was pleading for his daughter.

How old was she, again? Twelve years old? That would mean this little girl was born about same time the old woman got sick. One life began as another was slowly ending… except that now, it seemed like this new life was about end as well, before it even had a chance to really get going.

Is there enough to go around?

Maybe not. But this little girl deserves a chance to live. Maybe she could still have the life that was denied to this old woman on account of her illness. She should have that. As the crowd got moving again, toward Jairus’ house this time, the old woman stepped aside and said a silent prayer for the little girl.

Still, it would have been nice if…

She reached out a tentative hand as Jesus brushed by. She didn’t want to keep him from helping the girl, but maybe if she just touched his clothes quickly…

When her fingers made contact, she felt something: like an electric shock, but not painful. And she felt different… the painful cramps, the hemorrhaging: they had stopped. She couldn’t believe it! After all this time!

After an astonished moment, she looked up and suddenly realized that the bleeding wasn’t the only thing that had stopped… Jesus had stopped too.

He was looking around frantically, asking over and over, “Who touched me? Who touched me?”

His disciples were shrugging their shoulders and looking generally exasperated at the question. The father of the little girl was looking very anxious. Peter was rubbing his temples from stress of the moment. He said, “Come on, Jesus! Really?!! I mean, there must be about a hundred people touching you right now. What are you so worked up about?”

So much was happening all at once. The woman wanted to tell Jesus to just get going and help that little girl, but Jesus was adamant that he wasn’t going anywhere until he knew who it was that had drawn this healing power out of him.

Why was that so important to him? Didn’t Jesus know that she didn’t matter? She was just another sick old woman. Being cured was more than enough for her. She would be forever grateful to Jesus for that. But other people need him too.

So, in the interest of moving things along, she decided to come clean: “Okay Jesus,” she said, “It was me. Here’s what happened…” and she told him everything. She didn’t know how he would react. Had she stolen this healing power from him? Would he be angry with her? Would he take this power back, somehow?

Jesus let her finish. When she finally took a breath, he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Daughter? It had been a long time since anyone called her that. Her father had been dead for many years. Most of all, she was certainly old enough to be Jesus’ mother, so it certainly made no sense for him to call her “daughter.”

But then she thought about that sick little girl and the father loved his daughter enough to humiliate himself in front of Jesus. This old woman had no one left to speak up for her well-being in that way. But then again… there was Jesus himself: a man young enough to be her son, but had spoken up for her like that father had for his daughter. He healed her. And even after that, he loved her too much to simply let her slip away into the crowd, unnoticed. Jesus wanted to look her in the eye and let her know that she does matter, and she is loved.

Is there enough to go around?

Jairus was chomping at the bit. His daughter’s breathing had become dreadfully shallow before he left the house. If Jesus didn’t get there soon…

Jesus had agreed to help his daughter, so why was he now stopping to deal with this other old woman? If Jesus did this for every needy person in the crowd, there was no way he would get to the little girl in time.

While Jesus was still talking to the old woman, Jairus felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see several of his neighbors standing there. Before they even said a word, the look on their faces told him everything he needed to know. It was too late. She was gone.

For the second time, Jairus collapsed into the street. There wasn’t enough to go around. His neighbors tried in vain to lift his sobbing, heaving body up from the ground, hoping to save what little dignity he had left, not wanting him to make a bigger fool of himself than he already had by coming to this godforsaken end of town in search of some miracle cure. But Jairus wouldn’t budge. It was over. He didn’t care if they just left him there to die.

After a while, he wiped the tears and snot from his face and realized that he wasn’t alone. He looked over to see Jesus crouching next to him on the ground. All he said was, “Don’t be afraid.” Then he reached out a hand to help Jairus up and walk him home.

Jairus had no clue what Jesus was up to. What was the point? Someone else had got to Jesus first. There was nothing left for him or his daughter… his late daughter. There simply wasn’t enough to go around.

When they reached the house, the mourning ceremonies had already begun, but Jesus interrupted and asked everyone to leave. He said, “The child is not dead but sleeping.” Suddenly, the weeping turned into laughing, but not a joyful laughter: a dark, cynical sarcasm. “Sleeping… riiight.”

Jesus pointed toward the door and told everybody to get out. Somebody mumbled, “Idiot” under his breath on the way out the door. Jairus took his wife and started to leave as well. “Not you,” Jesus said, “I want you to see this.”

They went together to where the girl was laying very still and cold on the bed. And Jairus felt something else welling up inside, something like lead in his chest: it was Anger. He thought to himself, “This is what hopelessness looks like. This is despair. This is reality setting in. There is simply not enough to go around in this world. And the fact of the matter is that some people really just don’t matter. In the face of one little girl’s suffering and death, the universe is indifferent. And all of us, sooner or later, will end up exactly like that tiny corpse. Lost to life and forgotten by history. None of this matters. There isn’t enough to go around.”

And Jesus quietly reached out his hand again. He reached down, down, down… down past all the grief, the rage, and the lead weight in Jairus’ heart, down past the darkness of despair, down past the facts of an indifferent universe, down into death itself and took hold of a little girl’s hand.

And he whispered to her, “Talitha cum… Little girl, get up.” And all of a sudden, death itself started to unravel. The girl took a breath and opened her eyes. Jairus opened his eyes. The old, hemorrhaging woman opened her eyes. The disciples opened their eyes. And we the readers of this story open our eyes to the truth that there is a hope beyond hopelessness, that there is a light that shines in the darkness “and the darkness has not overcome it,” and that there is a relentless heartbeat at the center of this universe, hidden deep within every atom, that pulses to the rhythm of a Love that is stronger than death.

Someone once said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but Jesus used this child to raise a village… from death, from despair, from the false belief that nothing matters and there is not enough to go around.

Because Jesus shows us today that there is enough to go around, more than we can possibly imagine. Trust that promise today. Believe in it. Take comfort and hear Jesus saying to you this morning as he said to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”

2 responses to “Is there Enough to go Around?

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