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Friday, May 3, 2013
Today’s Reading | Luke 8:40–56
Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.
As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened. (NRSV)
We can barely imagine how desperately the woman who’d been bleeding for twelve years hoped for healing. Her chronic physical condition was far more than a nuisance. It no doubt exhausted her, but even worse, it meant she lived day and night, year after year, as an outcast, ostracized from others, seen as disgusting. In her day, while a female was bleeding from menstruation and for a week afterwards, she was considered unclean, was quarantined, was barred from places of worship, and was not to “contaminate” others by touching them. According to Leviticus, women were also considered unclean for seven days after giving birth to a boy and fourteen days after giving birth to a girl, with extended periods of purification then required (twice as long if the child were female than male). Plus, the priest had to make a “sin offering” before she could reenter an area of worship.
The “good” Jewish male would be expected to say to such a woman as this, “Begone, you filthy woman!” Thus this woman showed incredible courage and faith to dare to touch Jesus’ clothing. When Jesus calls forth whoever touched him, she comes in fear and trembling, expecting rejection. Jesus’ response was shocking. His healing was an act of justice; his affirmation of her faith and declaring her whole was a strong, public contradiction of viewing women as unclean. Thankfully we don’t have such overt blood taboos. But there is still fear and shame around sexuality. Women still are excluded from certain roles; many “obediently” hold themselves back.
We all need to be audacious enough to claim the power Jesus gives us for healing: healing that embraces all people in society, and healing that makes us personally whole.
Loving Christ, embolden me to touch you in ways that release your liberating power. Amen.
Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission
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