The Generosity of Jesus

The two stories in today’s Gospel reading provide an example of Mark’s “sandwich” technique. The story of the woman with the flow of blood interrupts and is sandwiched in between the two parts of the account of Jairus and his daughter. The stories have several common features. One woman is 12 years old, and the other has suffered for 12 years. Both are called “daughter,” and both are in need of physical healing. The girl’s father is encouraged to have faith, and the older woman is praised for her faith. The two stories illustrate Jesus’ power over both chronic illness and death. The reading from the Book of Wisdom assures us that “God did not make death” but rather death entered human existence through “the envy of the devil” (see Genesis 3).

In both narratives an inadequate understanding of Jesus’ power leads to a dramatic manifestation of his generosity. In both cases Jesus far exceeds the expectations of his suppliants and exhibits marvelous generosity by giving them life and salvation in addition to physical healing.

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Jairus approaches Jesus in the hope that Jesus might heal his daughter. Neither Jairus nor anyone else imagined that Jesus could do anything for the girl once she was dead. The miracle here is not merely physical healing. It is restoration to life after death. The woman with the flow of blood approaches Jesus in the hope that he might heal her even after many physicians had failed. Her understanding of Jesus’ healing power is almost magical. She says to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Here Jesus is able not only to give her physical healing but also assurance that “your faith has saved you.” The woman comes to appreciate that Jesus’ power to heal had more to do with his person and her faith than with magic.

The generosity of Jesus is also a theme in today’s selection from 2 Corinthians 8. Here Paul describes Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This statement is part of the first Christian fundraising letter, preserved in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. This collection was intended for the poor in the Christian community in Jerusalem, the mother church of all Christian communities. Paul conceived this collection as a visible sign of the spiritual unity existing between the Gentile churches that he founded and the Jewish Christian community at Jerusalem.

Fundraising is necessary for almost all Christian institutions today. Those who raise funds for churches and related institutions can learn much from reading the whole of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. There they will find that Paul appeals to justice, Scripture, personal and corporate honor, church unity, and so on. But his most striking appeal is to the “gracious act” of Jesus in becoming human and undergoing the shame of the cross. By his personal generosity Christ became poor so that we might become rich and find peace with and access to God.

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