Then a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come home with him. His only daughter, who was about twelve years old, was dying. As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realised that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace. While he was still speaking to her, a messenger arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. He told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” But when Jesus heard what had happened, he said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.” When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone go in with him except Peter, John, James, and the little girl’s father and mother. The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him because they all knew she had died. Then Jesus took her by the hand and said in a loud voice, “My child, get up!” And at that moment her life returned, and she immediately stood up! Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were overwhelmed, but Jesus insisted that they not tell anyone what had happened.
My mother often told a story of having repeated tonsillitis bouts in her early teenage years. Without access to a National Health Service, she received no treatment until her parish priest, Fr Jenner, begged on her behalf. She told us that tale many, many times, extolling the virtues of the NHS and expressing how disgraceful it was that she only got her operation that way and I was reminded of it as I read this text.
Jairus, a synagogue leader – a man of position and presumably proud and upright, goes on his knees and begs Jesus to heal his daughter. It is not the only incident in the Gospels where folk kneel and beg for healing from leprosy, deafness, blindness or other illnesses. And it struck me suddenly how shocking that was, that people were so desperate that they had to literally beg for healing!
The unnamed woman with an isolating and debilitating illness is so shamed by it that she can’t even ask or beg publicly for it as she would probably be expelled by the ritual-cleanliness obsessives. So, effectively, she steals her healing from Jesus.
That she was reduced to this is probably even more shocking than the begging, but in both these incidents, and indeed in others, Jesus responds with grace, love and kindness, alongside the healing. He respects the need and delivers care.
The NHS has of course been there all my life. Indeed I was privileged to have 18 years in the NHS as a Registered Nurse, before moving on to Ministry. In all those years my experience of the NHS, at its best, has been of a system of similarly offering care, support, healing and treatment under the guiding principles of ‘free at the point of delivery’ and with respect and dignity assured.
I would argue that the National Health Service is based upon Christian principles and very much on the model of Jesus’ ministry and teachings.
Lord Jesus, we give you thanks that you give your healing presence daily, supporting us in our earthly challenges and health conditions. That you offer us respect, such we don’t need to beg, borrow or steal your love and understanding of all that bothers us and undermines our self-confidence – but graciously accept us just as we are, and lead us to where we can be. We give thanks that the NHS does likewise. Amen
The Rev’d Peter Clark, Retired Minister, Member of Bridport United Church