I’m still kind of stuck on Mark, but that’s ok. I see it as more of a theme than a rut, plus I keep making so many connections between things I have read in Mark and things that I see/hear about/witness at the hospital.
Mark 5:21-43 is really interesting because it is actually two stories in one, or rather one story, with a narratological digression in the middle; there is the story of Jesus on his way to heal the daughter of Jarius, and the story of Jesus healing the woman with the bleeding (some versions say “the woman with a problem” – nothing like a nice little euphemism for clarity). Here we go:
Everyone wants a piece of Jesus. All he did was heal a few people and suddenly there are guys tearing up his roof, crowds following him everywhere and general mayhem wherever he goes. The woman with the bleeding grabs his clothes as he walks by, and the crowd was so thick that he couldn’t even tell who it was that touched him. But it says in v. 30 that “Jesus realized that power had gone out from him” (NIV). This verse always makes me think of the power bar each fighter has in Mortal Kombat or Tekken, but that is neither here nor there. The point is, word got out that he could heal, and consequently Jesus was being mobbed everywhere he went. It is kind of like that at the hospital on Tuesdays. It is our consultation day, and people come from all over to see if we can bring them healing.
- Patient Care
Jesus didn’t have to stop for the woman. He could have easily kept on going, after all, he was very busy. He was on his way to help save the life of a little girl! You couldn’t think of a more noble task. He would have been completely justified in walking right past the woman with the bleeding and ignoring her, after all her “problem” wasn’t really life threatening, and she didn’t come through the proper channels like Jarius did, she didn’t ask for his help, she just reached out and touched him. But instead of walking past her, Jesus stopped, and took the time to acknowledge her, address her and empower her. He said to her, in v. 34, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (NIV). It is really easy to become jaded when you see so much suffering and misery day after day, but I am continually impressed with our hospital staff. They really take the time to give good care to everyone who comes to our hospital, even those that we cannot help.
If you look at the woman and her short story (it is only a few verses), it is very similar to the stories of many of our patients. She had this bleeding problem for 12 years, and in v. 26 we find out that “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (NIV). So many of the patients we have had lived with their conditions for years, and have often gone from doctor to doctor (and even witch doctor) in search of a cure. Many times the “cures” they have been given have made their conditions worse. When people in this situation arrive at our hospital they are on the brink of despair. Also, because of her particular “problem,” this woman would have been considered unclean, and would have been rejected, cast out of the community. Our patients with disabilities face similar persecution; people don’t usually want you around when you are considered to be cursed by God. They live on the periphery of society.
- Ups and downs
Jesus heals this woman in front of everyone, and there is great joy. But it only last for a second. Not even. In v. 35, it says that “While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jarius,” (NIV) bringing bad news. “Don’t even bother bringing him,” they said, pointing at Jesus. “Your daughter is dead.” This dynamic is also familiar to us at the hospital (and in life), we have ups and downs. Moments of great joy are followed by moments of terrible sadness, with barely a break in between them. Indeed, sometimes they occur at the same time.
Ultimately, however, we have a message of hope. Jesus went to see Jarius’ daughter anyway, told the mourners to leave, and pronounced the timeless words, “Talitha kumi!” The girl was brought back from the dead, and her family was given “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa. 61:3 NIV). We do not bring people back from the dead at our hospital, but we see this same transformation occur time and again.
I hate to ruin a good thing, but I did write a poem on this passage in Mark:
Do you look at the surface, or do you look underneath?
The sword stays sharp even when its’ in the sheath.
Grief or belief? Sleep or death?
I reach out my hand, but words die on my breath.
Cynical healers, with insect feelers,
Inject a cure and work for clinical dealers.
But strong currents of power ripple like an undertow,
Shot through to clot, and stop the blood flow.
I should not, but I can’t seem to fight the urge,
Even though its only cloth, black and ready for the dirge.
I never close my eyes and I never hold my breath,
I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.
She’s only sleeping, but voices rise to weep and wail,
Dreaming of choices to be made when she pulls back the veil.
Anguish leads to fear, I scoff and mock,
Clear eyes but stubborn, hard-headed like a rock.
Disguise your death as sleep, your fear as anger,
Push the crowd outside, now I’m alone with a stranger.
Somebody dies and I feel it flow through me,
Through cloth and through paper, “Arise Talitha Kumi.”