Suffering, tragedy, and illness do not discriminate. They're not afraid to reach out and touch everyone, whether young or old, male or female, gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor, homeless or executive, believer or other.
We notice this indiscriminate nature of suffering when we read of two healings in Mark 5. On the one hand we have Jairus, a powerful somebody. When he spoke, people listened. A leader in the synagogue, an educated person, a homeowner with multiple servants, he was a mover and shaker in his town -- a model citizen. Yet he, a religious leader, couldn't keep his daughter from being close to death.
Sandwiched into the story of his life, we find a nameless woman without introduction or fancy résumé. The only thing we know of her is that she bled nonstop for 12 years, which in those days meant she was considered unclean, defiled, best kept in isolation. Jairus and this woman couldn’t have been more different from each other.
And yet they held in common suffering, illness, and tragedy. Hoping that I will not be misunderstood, I want to suggest that there is a strange gift in this -- that the nondiscriminating nature of suffering can sometimes help us to get over our discriminating nature.
Note the behavior of Jairus. A synagogue leader, he must have been meticulous in keeping the purity code, the rules of separation between that which was considered clean and unclean. And yet, we see him kneeling and begging Jesus to return home with him to attend his nearly dead daughter -- even though Jesus had just returned from Gentile territory, and would therefore be considered unclean. A self-respecting synagogue leader would never in a million years ask someone who’s just returned from Gentile territory to even come into his home, let alone touch his daughter with those unclean hands. Yet, as Jairus carries the pain of a parent watching his child edge towards death, he couldn't care less about clean or unclean anymore.