Matthew 9:18-22 and Luke 8:40-48
“…a ruler came and knelt before him (Jesus) and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.‘ Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
Just then, a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.”
That was me. Oh, that day. I think my life began that day.
That was the day that Jesus raised that man’s little girl from the dead – it was a day that everyone in our town talked about for months. She was dead! She had been ill for a while and she got worse and worse and then she passed away. I didn’t know them well but word spreads quickly and that morning as I lurked by the roadside waiting for him to pass by I heard that she had finally died. Nobody told me, but I overheard. Of course, nobody would come and talk to me. Not for a long time. Far too much hassle to talk with or touch someone like me. Unclean and had been for ages. If you spent time with me you had to go and be purified afterwards.
I think they thought that I deserved it, though nobody came out and said that. At first people had been sympathetic but then it just went on and on and nothing changed and here was I, the woman who couldn’t be purified. Surely I’d done something to deserve this outcast label. It was my comeuppance for some crime. Some act, some words that condemned me to constant, draining illness. That’s what they thought, I’m sure. And if they associated with me too much, it might be catching.
I thought it would kill me, to be honest. You can’t bleed incessantly for so long, can you, and still live? I felt so ill. Always weak, no energy. Even fetching water was a struggle and there were days when I could barely function, but I had to keep going. It was a half-life, physically and emotionally. I longed for company and acceptance and affection just as much as I longed for health.
Maybe I had done something wrong. I’d tried everything but nothing helped. Night after night I went to bed hoping that maybe the morning would not come for me, but it did.
And then I heard rumours of this man, who was doing amazing things. Things that made people marvel and wonder. The stories arrived in our village way before he did and that’s why the road was busy that morning. Everyone wanted to see him, this miracle worker.
The women were talking about the little girl who had died. Far away in the crowd someone was wailing and the word was that the girl’s father was too late; the healer was busy with the living. I saw his face, this grieving daddy, and it was set with determination. He had pain in his eyes but not despair. He believed in this man, Jesus. He thought that it wasn’t too late at all.
I was amazed. I couldn’t take my eyes from him. He followed the slow progress of Jesus through the throng. Jesus wasn’t coming quickly enough, and the man pushed through. A few people knew who he was and stood back to let him past, while a few others pulled at him and told him not to be so stupid – it was too late for his daughter; he teacher had better things to do; but he was not having it.
He fell in front of Jesus and opened his arms wide. Looking up at him, the father laid it out.
‘My daughter is dead, but I know that you can still help. Touch her, and bring her back to life?’
A hush fell as the crowd waited to see what the healer would say. He looked into the man’s eyes for a moment and smiled. He turned to go with the man, who rose to his feet.
In that moment I knew. I knew that the little girl would be fine, I knew that her daddy would be celebrating this afternoon. I knew that the stories were true. I knew that I needed Jesus to help me too.
I don’t think I really had any idea what I was going to do, at that pivotal moment in my life. I just lurched into the crowd towards the healer. Me, the one who is unclean, supposed to keep my distance for everyone’s protection – I pushed my way through the throng. I used my elbows and my shoulders and with my head down, I weaved my way towards Jesus before he disappeared.
There he was. He was saying something to the man whose little girl lay dead. It’s a good job the crowd was so thick that they made slow progress, for I was so weak that I could not have kept up my pursuit for long. I reached out. I reached for him, and my fingers closed around a corner of his cloak as it fell in folds over his shoulder. I didn’t mean to pull at him, I wouldn’t have dared. I just needed to touch him. I just needed to be near. If he could raise a child from the dead then he could give my life back to me too.
The moment I grasped the rough fabric, he stopped. I let go immediately and shrank back. It wasn’t difficult to disappear as the crowd was a living thing that swelled around the healer and straight away I was consumed. He turned.
Jesus turned and looked around him. His friends were close by and he asked them, ‘Who touched me?‘
The big guy with the beard laughed. He gestured to the crowd.
‘You’ve got to be kidding. They all touched you!’
But Jesus knew something. I don’t know if he felt something, or sensed something, or he just felt the little brush of my fingers against his clothes. I stood, frozen.
‘I know someone touched me. Who touched me?’
The crowd slowed and quieted. The teacher was doing something else. People shook their heads and looked around. Nobody deliberately touched him. What did he mean?
Oh no. Oh no. It was me. What on earth should I do? At that moment my head was full of noise. What would this man think when he found out who had touched him? I shouldn’t even have been there, let alone in the middle of a crowd. Let alone brazen enough to touch this man that they were calling holy.
Not me, approach the holy one?
My knees gave way and I fell down. The couple in front of me stepped aside and there he was, standing by me. The tears came, then. They started to fall and I couldn’t stop them. I covered my face with my hands in shame and humiliation and I sobbed. There was nothing else I could do.
I told him who I was and what was happening to me. Ill for so many years, ostracised and shunned by family and friends and people at the synagogue. Pushed away, weak and lonely and unwanted. I told him that I’d seen him and known that he was my only hope. I confessed that I’d pushed my way through the crowd because I selfishly wanted to touch him. I told him that I was sorry, that I was undeserving. It all came out; the hopelessness, the shame. My nose was running and I could barely speak for sobs. I was aware of the gaze of the people around me. A few recognised me and I saw disapproval in their eyes.
I finally raised my anguished face to the healer. He was gentleness. He looked intensely into my eyes, and I knew at that moment, I knew. I’m not sure what I knew, but it all seemed to come together; it was alright. Time stopped. I held my breath. For a second it was as if he and I were the only people in the world. I saw honesty and compassion and pain in his eyes. There was recognition – he knew me; he saw me. He knew what I’d been through and he felt for me. He understood me, he forgave me, he loved me…
He had healed me.
I felt something, or the lack of something. My hand flew to my stomach and my eyes widened as I stared at the One who had made me whole again. Suddenly there was no ache, no dragging, no burning – no pain. I felt a surge of strength and hope. I knew that it was over, after all this time; that life could perhaps be worth living after all.
‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’
I will remember those words all my life. I treasure them. I will never forget his low, clear voice. The intimacy of that moment. I can remember the kindness of his eyes as they crinkled at the corners with his smile. He gave hope to a hopeless woman.
You know that peace? The peace in his blessing? It never went away. I have it still.
I looked into his face and I knew who he was. I will tell my story to anyone who will listen. I will never stop praising the One who healed me.
That day he healed me; he saved me.
Jesus. My Saviour.
‘Heal me and I will be healed. Save me and I will be saved, for you are the One I praise.’