JULY 1ST, 2018: THIRTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.
Brothers and sisters:
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?"
But his disciples said to Jesus,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'"
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.
I can’t stress enough the importance of today’s Wisdom reading. It contains a biblical smoking gun, something for which scholars searched for centuries.
The idea of an afterlife didn’t come into Jewish theology until a century before Jesus’ birth. Before then, this present life was the only life we could expect. Everything had to happen between our physical birth and death. Then, almost out of nowhere, Pharisees begin to teach that, if we keep our noses clean, we can live eternally with Yahweh. Though most Jews eventually accepted some form of that belief, the big question was, “Where did they get such a faith-changing insight?” Yahweh doesn’t seem to have simply appeared to someone and let them in on the secret.
Originally most scholars reasoned these particular Pharisees must have somehow come in contact with Greek thinkers who believed we have an immaterial soul, a part of us than never decays. It’ll live on forever, even after our physical deaths. The only problem with that explanation was that no one could find an actual contact between Jews and Greeks. There was no smoking gun.
Then, about thirty years ago, some experts, like the late Roland Murphy, began to realize the weapon is right in front of us, in Wisdom 1:15: “For justice is undying.”
Since justice is the biblical way of referring to the proper relationships we have with God and those around us, it appears the Pharisees figured because Yahweh is immortal, anyone in a just relationship with Yahweh will also be immortal. If God wants to keep their relationship going after death, they’ll live forever.
Certainly more meaningful to root immortality in a union with God instead of an “accident” of nature. That also seems why the prophets and Jesus of Nazareth so frequently stress our tie-in with God and the people around us. Those relations guarantee eternity.
Paul is deeply convinced that interacting with the people we encounter in our lives is how we work out our salvation, but only if we do so in a giving relationship. He reminds his Corinthian community that we’re simply to imitate Jesus’ oneness with ourselves. “Though he was rich,” the Apostle writes, “for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” By giving life to others, we gain eternal life.
Mark’s Jesus does precisely that in today’s gospel pericope, resuscitating Jairus’ daughter and healing the woman with the uterine bleeding. Notice in doing the latter, the evangelist remarks Jesus was “. . . aware that power had gone out of him.” Often we imagine the historical Jesus simply snapped his fingers and good things happened. We don’t realize those good things drained Jesus. He was weakened every time he helped someone.
Perhaps that’s why one of the elements joining both the afflicted woman and Jairus is their faith. Dozens of people touch Jesus on the way to Jairus’ house. But only one touches him with faith. When Jairus is informed his quest to get Jesus to heal is daughter is futile - she’s died – Jesus simply says, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.”
Life-giving relationships are always faith relationships. Just like eternity is beyond our present understanding, so the actions that guarantee us eternity are also beyond our present understanding. On face value they don’t always seem to be worth the effort and draining they demand.
Since in Romans 1 Paul seems to believe Jesus only becomes God at his death and resurrection, in his theology Jesus gains his own eternal life by relating in a giving way with people like the woman along the road and Jairus’ daughter. If it’s good enough for Jesus . . . .