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Lesson 5: Healer

The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.

– Soren Kierkegaarde

Devotion: Read Mark 5:21-43. Everybody wants a piece of Jesus, but not everyone has a good reason. Some see Jesus as an attraction, a source of entertainment. Jairus and the bleeding woman are different. They desperately seek God’s healing. Each must overcome community expectations to reach out to Jesus. As a synagogue leader, Jairus is accustomed to privilege and respect, but he humbly falls at Jesus’ feet. The same purity regulations that label the woman “unclean” for 12 years now forbid her from touching Jesus. Both risk rejection by the community to find healing. When Jesus stops the world to honor her faith, it is a sign God is doing a new thing, placing the well-being of people over traditions and regulations. What do you need to risk or release to seek God? What community expectations hold us back?

The connection between faith and healing is elusive. Sometimes Jesus says faith is the reason a person is healed, such as the bleeding woman. But it is Jairus’ faith that brings healing to his daughter, not her own faith. Sometimes nobody expresses faith (Mk 5:1-13)! Scripture does not offer a consistent formula for healing that the faithful are called to follow. Sadly, those who read these passages looking for a manual to use in performing healings miss the larger point: Jesus heals so people will listen to his teaching and submit to God’s presence now. Is the desire to obtain step-by-step directions which result in healing a temptation to sin or a faithful desire?

Personal Worship Option: Pray the “Serenity Prayer: ”God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Amen. Meditate on what this means for you today.

Dig A Little Deeper:

5:21 Those who ask why the modern Church does not experience physical healing as it is found in scripture overlook that people are astounded by Jesus’ healing power.

5:25 Read Leviticus 15:19-30 for a complete list of legal requirements for bleeding women.

5:27 Compare this to Mark 5:27. Jesus’ cloak is not magic, but faith drives people to touch him. Read Acts 19:11-12. A few believe this Acts passage represents an early church legend Luke incorporates into his writing. Others think this represents the tradition of supplying people with cloths that have been prayed over by the community as a reminder they are not alone.

5:30 Notice how Luke converts Mark’s description into a Jesus’ saying (Lk 8:45-46).

5:36 Jesus compassionately encourages Jairus to maintain faith in the face of death. Under God’s reign, death is an inconvenient, painful reality, but it does not have the final word.

5:39 Christian tradition sees two possibilities in this text. First, the little girl is dead, and this is a resuscitation story (not technically a “resurrection” since the person will die again). Second, the writer is building excitement regarding Jesus’ power by reporting a simple healing early in the narrative (1:29-31), a near-death healing here (5:39), and then the conquering of death in Jesus’ own resurrection (16:1-8).

5:40 The laughter expresses scorn, preparing the reader for 15:16-20, 31-32 (Acts 17:32).

5:41 The theme of purity regulations continues since touching a dead body makes Jesus unclean (Num 19:11).

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