I went back to University when my children were young. Because I had the time, my husband worked there, the course offerings were interesting, and because I love the kind of external validation that comes with graded papers.
When time got short, and my energy was waning, there were three little words that caused my heart to leap for joy when they appeared on any list of possible assignment topics: compare and contrast. Compare and contrast is fun! and easy! I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. “One of these things is not like the other; one of these things doesn’t belong”.
This week’s pair of stories from the Gospel of Mark beg to be compared and contrasted.
She is female, poor, powerless, bleeding. Jairus is male, affluent, powerful, a temple leader. Jairus gets a name.
The woman has had 12 long years of dying. The girl has had only 12 short years of life.
He begs for a healing. She takes it, silently.
The disciples question (and mock?). The mourners laugh.
And everyone is touching; falling on feet, touching robes, taking hands.
But over and over again, in these stories, in the ones that come before, in the ones that come after: abundant life matters to Jesus.
Abundant life for a woman with nothing left to lose, and for a frightened father about to lose everything. Abundant life for the one whose name is known, and for the ones whose names don’t matter. Abundant life for the one who wakes up hungry, and for the one who will finally sleep soundly. Abundant life for the one who asked, and for the one who took, and for the one who could do nothing for herself.
I have more questions than answers about how to deal with this text in a culture that systemically and in deeply ingrained ways, compares and contrasts and deems some lives worthy of abundance, and others not.