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13th Sunday OT B ~ "Twelve" ~ Susan McGurgan

For the past twelve years,

she stood on the outside,

hoping to come in.

For the past twelve years,

she stood among the captives,

longing to be free.

For twelve years,

she lived life on the fringes--

avoiding people,

avoiding contact,

avoiding crowds,

avoiding everything, actually,

except for shame.

Her friends disappeared

a long time ago.

They were lost,

along with her money

and her pride.

For twelve years

a flow of blood

made her unclean.

And for twelve years,

she was the last one at the well,

the last one at the marketplace,

the last to be noticed,

and the first to turn away.

For twelve years,

her life was lived

along the edges of the path

among the brambles and the weeds.

By the time she met Jesus

she had been twelve years

without a hug;

twelve years

without the prayers of the synagogue;

twelve years

filled with loneliness and fear.

If she had anything--

anything at all left,

she would have given it up

just to be healed.

She was almost invisible.

In fact,

unless you had some

peripheral vision—

some special intuition—

a heart for those on the margins--

you probably wouldn’t notice her

at all.

Although we never even know her name,

women like her are all around us.

She is downtown,

walking silently down an alley,

or sitting alone in Washington Park.

She’s the one

whose eyes are on the ground;

whose shoulders are hunched against the cold and wind,

even when the day is mild.

She's the one you might notice--

just for a moment--

out of the corner of your eye,

before she slips around the corner.

She’s the last one in line,

the last one to board the bus,

and the first to turn away.

She's the one who lives her life

along the edge of the curb,

among the empty wrappers

and the discarded cans.

We don't usually look at women like her,

mostly because we are afraid.

Afraid if we get too near,

if we look too closely,

some of the crazy,

or the lost-ness,

or the loneliness

might rub off on us.

Unless we have some peripheral vision,

we never


see her at all.

Jairus, on the other hand,

was a man who lived life

right in the center of it all.


who was anyone knew him.


who was anyone

wanted to be his friend.

For the past twelve years,

he had been surrounded

by servants and family

and people who cared.

He was always the first

to be invited,

the first to be served,

and the last to leave.

For the past twelve years,

he had walked

right down the middle of the path

where everything is swept clean and smooth.

By the time he met Jesus,

Jairus was a man to be noticed;

a man to be reckoned with;

an important man;

an influential man;

a man to be seen.

And yet,

he would have been willing

to give it all up,

in order for his daughter to be healed.

Men like Jairus are all around us—

You know him.

He's the guy who is first in line,

the first to know,

the first to have,

the first to shake your hand.

He’s the guy who lives his entire life

like it’s opening night

and he has the reserved box with the velvet rope--

orchestra center.

You couldn’t miss him if you tried.

Two people…

Two very different people,

both in desperate need,

both set for an encounter with Jesus.

I’m never really sure why these stories are placed,

one inside the other

like a set of Russian nesting dolls.

But that’s how they are,

and Mark invites us to

look at both of them together.

Mark challenges us

to watch and see

as these two people,

both so different,

both so desperate,

come to Jesus for help.

Jairus went to Jesus directly.

He was sure of his place,

and sure of his welcome.

Jairus was one of those people

who can march right up

Main Street toward Jesus,

and never turn away.

He was one of those people

who can say quite clearly,

“Jesus, help me!”

and trust that he will be welcomed,

and heard.

His love for his daughter pushed him on

and in desperation and hope,

he reached out to touch Jesus.

The woman wasn’t quite so sure.

She didn’t believe that she could go to Jesus


She had no place,

no position,

no privilege,

no power.

She thought she would have no welcome.

She was one of those people

who sneak up beside Jesus in a crowd

then silently slip away.

Her need pushed her on,

and in a shocking move,

she reached out to Jesus,

knowing in that touch,

she transferred her contagion to him.

And somehow,

in the midst of the crowd pressing all around him,

Jesus saw them both.

Jesus saw them both!

Jesus never allows the person

standing directly in front of him

to block his view

of the one hidden in back.

His eyes are never so focused

on the obvious

that he misses any of the people

who live along the margins.

His gaze is never so high

or so distant

that he overlooks those who

who stumble and fall.

Jesus uses his peripheral vision

to see what others




Maybe that’s why

we are invited to read these stories

one inside the other.

Maybe we’re not supposed to wonder

whose need was greater,

or whose faith was stronger,

or the significance of the number 12,

or the laws of contagion in first century Judea,

or the role of women in the Bible,

or why Jesus stopped to talk

when a little girl

needed him so desperately.

Maybe it’s enough for us to know

that Jesus sees them both!

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