Year B (2011-2012)
Bible Book: Mark / Markus
Chapter: 5
Verse: 21
Verse (to): 43

Text: Mark 5:21-43

The problem of diagnosing TB in children and people living with HIV provides a compelling context for the interpretation of Mark 5:21-43.

TB can be treated, and it can be cured, even while it sometimes cannot be definitively diagnosed. Testing for TB is neither reliable, nor timely, particularly for people living with HIV and young children.

Let’s begin with today’s context, where the following scenario is all too common.

A person who is exhibiting symptoms of TB illness seeks a diagnosis.

“If only I could be diagnosed with TB, then I could be made well.”

             Weight loss.
                                 Crowded clinics.
                                                  Submit sputum sample.
                                                  Submit another sputum sample.
                                                  Submit another sputum sample.
                                                  Wait for results
                                                            Negative test result for TB.
                                                                                                          Condition worsening.
                                                                                                                                                  Now what?

“If only I could be diagnosed with TB, then I could be made well.”

Crucially, the woman, in our Gospel story, persisted in her pursuit of good health, despite many unsuccessful attempts. Persistent, relentless health seeking is crucial in order to receive effective treatment for TB.

“Immediately knowing in himself that power had gone out of him”

The power which went out of Jesus was the power to heal. However, there are different forms of power at work in the world of health care.

The in-conclusiveness of regular TB diagnosis can be a delicate subject for discussion. Some may feel disempowered with the knowledge that the process of diagnosing TB is time-consuming and uncertain. This dis-empowerment is due to a disappointment in the quality of the tools available for the task at hand – i.e. timely and accurate diagnosis of TB, or whatever is causing the coughing, pain, weight loss, etc.

Others may feel that “power goes out of them” if it becomes common knowledge that the results of scientific tests, such as a chest X-ray or a microscopic examination of sputum are not conclusive. Negative test results don’t provide access to medications which can cure TB, nor do they confirm that a person is not succumbing to TB. Such uncertainty might undermine people’s faith in scientific medical processes.

Jesus’ healing power was supported by the testimony and faith of the woman seeking healing.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

Jesus affirmed the faith of the woman in her own healing. I also want to affirm her courage and persistence in seeking good health.

Having affirmed the faith of this woman, Jesus moved on to a different health-seeking episode. Jesus pushed past the lack of faith of Jairus to enable a girl child to live, though she had been give up as dead.

To think about:

“He commanded them that nobody should know, and said that something should be given her to eat.”

Jesus thought that there are some things people should be told, and some things people shouldn’t be told. What wisdom does Mark 5:21-43 offer us for discerning what should be told to people and what should not be told?


Author: Manning G (Mr)
Language: English