Ashes 13: Quality of life...

It isn't enough to simply live... you have to want to thrive...

Mark 5:21-43 21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" 31 And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

My second semester of seminary, I took Intro to New Testament with a woman I still adore, Renée. Kind and gentle and incredibly pastoral, Renée had a passion for Scripture that, at least for me, was contagious. It was during this semester that I challenged myself more than ever before by writing my final exegetical paper on Romans 1, the passage used most frequently to assert the "immorality" of same-sex intimacy (or more broadly, homosexuality in general).

But before I had nailed down my topic, the class read an article on the first section of this passage in Mark — the hemorrhaging woman. This particular article approached the text from a rather feminist perspective, talking about the androgynous nature of Jesus and how radical he was for showing such a lack of concern for purity laws. Here comes a woman who isn't even trying to talk to Jesus. As far as she's concerned, it would be enough simply to touch his clothes — not even his skin. Here's a woman who, for nearly two decades, has been considered "unclean" because of something she can't even control. She's been excluded from worship in the temple and can't even experience physical affection from those closest to her without them having to be purified themselves. She's been isolated, and all she wants is some form of freedom. Sure, she's been alive, but at what cost?!

... so that she may be made well, and live

The miracle doesn't stop with the woman of faith. If anything, she was an aside, sandwiched between two parts of another story, one about a little girl whose father wants her to not simply live, but to be made well. it isn't just about being alive. Here we have two stories that reiterate the necessity for a good quality of life. Jesus himself said, "I came that they may have life, and may have it to the fullest (or abundantly)."

This should tell us something about Jesus' intent for most if not all of his encounters with people. It's not just about living. It's about thriving. It's about being a part of community, about having a place to call home. Often, after Jesus healed someone in scripture, that person would ask to follow Jesus, would show a desire to be a part of the work he was doing. More often than not, Jesus' response was, "No. Go home. Go back to where you belong." It wasn't that Jesus' didn't want the company or the friendship. It was that his healing a person was always more than just a physical act. It was holistic, encompassing the whole of a person's life.

What about you? Are you just living right now, or are you thriving? What would it look like for you to experience abundant life? What parts of you need to be made whole before that can happen? Finally, what's stopping you?