The Naked Man – pt. 41

Woman with the issue of blood - Angela Johnson

From his place beside his mother, Mark surveyed the gathering. He was pleased to see that Adina, Devorah and Ya’el appeared to be comfortable in their new surroundings, although all three cast sideways glances from time to time. He smiled – how many times had he sat at table with Jesus, or Peter, or Paul, and seen newcomers to the table act in the same way? It took time to become accustomed to sharing table fellowship with those one would not normally dine with. He rose to his feet, and began the story Miryam had suggested.

“When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered about him; and he stayed by the seashore. And one of the synagogue officials there in Capernaum, a man named Jairus came up, and upon seeing Jesus, fell at his feet. He begged him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay your hands on her, that she may get well and live.’”

“That’s hard to imagine,” said Yiftach. “Indeed,” responded Mark. “Many in the Capernaum synagogue feared that word of this new kingdom of G_d movement would reach the ears of Herod Antipas, knowing his lack of tolerance for anything that even remotely challenged his power. I’m sure they kept their distance from Jesus as much as possible. But when people heard that Jairus had approached Jesus as an equal, even prostrating himself at Jesus’ feet, well, what would they make of that?”

“I’m sure all that went through Jairus’ mind that morning,” Miryam said. “But sometimes a father’s love is stronger than his fear of reprisal from the powers-that-be. Stronger than any concern for the whispers that would no doubt greet his entry at the synagogue the following sabbath.” Mark nodded and continued. “Jesus went off with him; and a great multitude was following him and pressing in on him. Now, there was a woman in the crowd who had suffered from continual bleeding for twelve years. She had endured much at the hands of many physicians and had spent all that she had. But they had not helped her at all, but rather, had made things worse.”

Angry mutters from a few of those gathered greeted these words. Most knew what it was to squander limited resources on medical care that did not help. Ya’el spoke up, tentatively. “That poor woman. To suffer in that way for so long. To be so isolated because of her impurity.” “And how brave,” interjected Devorah, “to risk exposure by joining the crowd around Jesus.” She turned to Mark. “But what could she possibly hope for? Jesus was acting on behalf of an official of the synagogue – he wouldn’t stop for a request for help from one such as this woman.”

Mark smiled. “That thought may well have been foremost in her mind, which perhaps makes her all the braver. After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind him and reached out to touch his garments. For she thought, If I just touch his garments, I shall get well. And immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.” Immediately Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see the multitude pressing in on you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’

“If she had hoped to slip away unnoticed, that was now impossible. Ignoring his disciples, who were trying to move him along, Jesus looked around to see the person who had done this. His eyes scanned the crowd quickly, until the woman, with fear and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.”

Ya’el spoke up. “I can just picture Jairus. Wringing his hands, hopping from foot to foot. Any delay must have been torture for him. How long did they stand there? What did Jesus say to the woman?” Miryam continued the story. “Jesus said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.’ ‘Daughter.’ How beautiful! I wonder what Jairus thought when he heard that word. For there he was, advocating for his own daughter who was at death’s door, only for Jesus to stop and call this woman ‘daughter,’ a woman who it seems no one had advocated for over the previous twelve years.”

Adina, eyes locked on Miryam, asked the question many were thinking. “What did Jesus mean, ‘Your faith has made you well’? What kind of faith?” “Yes,” chimed in a member of the ecclesia, “She didn’t ask Jesus to heal her. She just touched his garments. What kind of faith is that?” Miryam looked thoughtful as she responded. “Clearly faith that Jesus could heal her. And faith that healing was available to her without asking for it. Power went forth from him, which Jesus knew instantly. It must have surprised him! And as the disciples pointed out, he could not possibly have felt her touch on his garments, the crowds pressing in on him as they were. But he knew someone had touched them. Someone had faith that touching his garments would give them access to his healing power.”

“But how? Why?” Ya’el pressed. Miryam gestured towards Yiftach. “Yiftach, would you please stand for a moment?” Yiftach pushed himself to his feet, curiosity on his face. “Thank you,” said Miryam. “Now, Ya’el, you see the tzitziyot – the tassals – on Yiftach’s outer garment?” “Yes,” she responded. “I believe this woman reached out for the tzitziyot of Jesus’ garment, because she believed Jesus was messiah, and because the prophet Malachi has written that when messiah comes there will be “healing in his wings,” referring to the feathers at the edge of a bird’s wing. Or, perhaps, the tzitziyot at the edge of a man’s garment.”

As people chewed over Miryam’s response to Ya’el’s question, Adina spoke up. “So did Jairus start tugging on Jesus’ arm? I’m sure he was desperate to get home!” Mark responded this time. “While Jesus was still speaking, people came from the house of the synagogue official and said, ‘Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher anymore?’” A gasp escaped Adina’s lips. “Oh no! That poor man. Whatever did Jesus say when he heard them?” Mark responded, “As Jairus turned towards Jesus, his shoulders slumped and an agonized look spreading across his face, Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid, only believe.’”

“What?!” exclaimed Adina…

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