The Naked Man – pt. 42


Adina pressed Mark. “Why would Jesus say that? That’s, that’s…cruel. The man’s just been told his daughter has died, and Jesus’ response is, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.’? What kind of faith?!” “Perhaps,” Miryam responded gently, “the same kind of faith the woman had just shown. That G_d’s healing power was available in the presence of Jesus.” She paused. “I’ve often wondered if Jairus looked from Jesus to the woman and back again. And if he felt any kind of hope as he did so.” Adina’s brow furrowed and she shook her head. “What possible hope could he have? Did Jesus say anything else to him?”

Mark picked up the story. “Capernaum is a small village, and it wasn’t far to Jairus’ home. Without saying anything further, Jesus strode off with Jairus, allowing no one to follow him except Peter, James and his brother John. And they came to the house of the synagogue official, where he saw a commotion, people loudly weeping and wailing. And entering the courtyard, he said to them, ‘Why make such a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.’ The professional mourners began laughing at him. Who was this man to walk in and make such a ridiculous claim?”

“A man who tells stories about seeds that sleep in the soil while the farmer goes about his business until the day they rise from the ground.” Attention shifted to Simeon as he spoke these words. “A man who talks about great reversals: the first becoming the last; the greatest becoming the least; losing one’s life in order to live.”

“But she was dead,” insisted Adina. “That’s why the mourners had been called.” “Indeed she was,” responded Mark. “Jesus threw out the mourners, then took the child’s father and mother and his own companions and entered the room where the child was. When Peter told me this story, he said the room already smelled of death when they entered. Jesus knelt at the girl’s side, took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha kum!’ – ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’” Mark turned to his mother, whose eyes had that twinkle in them again. He smiled, turned back to Adina and said, “And immediately the girl rose and walked.”

Adina’s jaw dropped. She turned from Mark to Miryam, looking for some sign that this was just some kind of joke. They held her gaze until she blurted out, “You’re serious. You’re saying Jesus raised this girl from her death bed. I…I…” Her voice tailed off and she fell silent. Yiftach’s voice broke the silence. “How is it I’ve never heard this story before? That’s the kind of story that wouldn’t be forgotten in the hills of Galilee.”

Mark replied, “Of course – those present were completely astounded. But Peter told me that Jesus gave them strict instructions that no one should know about this; and then Jesus told them they should give the girl something to eat.” Ya’el looked over at Yiftach and said, “But why wouldn’t Jesus want people to know he’d done that? I mean, who but a great prophet of G_d could do something like that?” Those gathered looked from Yiftach to Mark and back again, waiting for a response from one of them.

Yiftach stroked his beard as he began to speak slowly, thinking through the implications of what had been said. “I think I see the wisdom of keeping it quiet. Our small band of insurrectionists had to hide from the Romans and Herod’s troops in the hills of Galilee. If we were perceived as a threat, what would someone like Jesus have seemed like to Herod? Someone leading a kingdom of G_d movement with this kind of power? Herod would have had him hunted down and killed as soon as he heard about it.”

Mark nodded at these words. “I think that’s right, Yiftach. Jesus will confront the power of Herod, and Rome and the Temple – the very systems that oppress women like the one who reached out for healing – but not with an army following a man who could raise people from the dead. No – Jesus will confront the powers – and Death itself – by submitting himself to their power. And those of us who followed him would need to remember this story when that happened. Because just as the announcement “your daughter has died” seemingly brought an end to Jairus’ hopes, when Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross, we would need to remember Jesus’ words to Jairus: ‘Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.’”

As Mark’s words echoed across the courtyard, Miryam pushed herself up from her seat. “We may think this story is about Jairus, but it is really a tale of two women. One has lived a life of privilege for 12 years as the daughter of one of the leaders of the synagogue: the other has been excluded from the community for those same 12 years. Yet Jesus heals them both. For the revolution of G_d is not to bring down oppressors and merely replace them with the oppressed. It is to bring an entirely new social order with equal status for all.”

Miryam saw the looks of confusion on the faces of Rachel’s friends, and offered them a reassuring smile. “I know: this is a lot to take in on your first time to be with us. But I hope you will keep coming back to break bread with us – and to hear more.” Adina shook her head as she said, “You’re right. I don’t know what to think about all this. Nothing has prepared me to hear something like this.”

Mark moved to his mother’s side and placed his arm around her shoulders. “Then you’re in good company, Adina. Because those who knew Jesus best didn’t know what to make of all this either. As we will hear when we gather tomorrow evening…”

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