Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost:

When I heard that the Teacher had come to our town, I felt something that I had not felt in a very long time.


For twelve years, I had been sick, the life slowly draining out of me.  At first, we had hope, my husband and I.  We hired the best doctors, had special sacrifices offered at the Temple. 

Then my husband died and hope began to hide from me.  A new marriage was out of the questions – even my late husband’s wealth could not entice a man to take on a sick wife.  So I continued seeing doctors, trying every treatment they could think of while my hope dwindled as fast as the doctor’s fees consumed everything my husband had left me.  Soon, I had nothing left – no money, no dignity, no hope.

The morning’s news that the Teacher was here roused a tiny bit of hope I didn’t even know I had.  He was a great healer, restoring sight to the blind, healing lepers, even casting out demons.  Surely, he could heal my illness.

I started out to look for the Teacher.

He wasn’t hard to find.  There was a crowd gathered not far from the seaside where his boat was anchored.  Everyone in town must have come out to see him.  I could see his disciples talking to the people closest to him and then taking first one, and then another to the Teacher. 

I kept my eye on him as I moved through the crowd, trying to get closer.  There were just a few people ahead of me when suddenly I heard a rough, “Woman, move away!  Let the Leader come through.”  I stepped to the side as Jarius passed me.  He hurried to the Teacher and then – amazingly – fell at his feet.

Jarius, the leader of the synagogue, kneeling at the feet of a traveling rabbi?  Maybe there was more to this man than I knew.  Then I heard Jarius’ plea and I knew that it was not honor that drove him to the feet of the Teacher.  It was desperation.  His little daughter was very sick, near death in fact. 

Raising Jarius to his feet, the Teacher started toward Jarius’ house.  And the crowd followed them.  I moved with the crowd.  My healing would have to wait until the Teacher had seen this sick little girl. 

As I walked, I noticed that there were only a few people between the Teacher and myself.  Again hope began to rise.  I would be close, maybe one of the first right after he had healed the little girl. 

Then a thought occurred. I was almost close enough to touch him.  Did I dare?  Surely if I just – just touched -- the hem of his robe -- that would be enough.  The Teacher wouldn’t have to waste his time on me.  He could keep on his way to that poor little girl and I, I would be healed.

Did I dare?  Touch a strange man?  Especially a man of God like the Teacher?  He’d never notice a quick touch on his hem.  Not with all the crowds around him bumping and jostling him.  What’s one more touch.

There was my chance.  The Teacher was passing right next to me.  I reached out and…

Touched his hem, and…

I just knew!

I was healed!  I could feel it in my very bones.  After all those years of feeling life draining from me, the health flowing through my body stopped me in my tracks.  A quick prayer of thanksgiving to God and I turned to go home.

At that moment the Teacher stopped, looked around, looked RIGHT at me and said, “Who touched me?”

I shrank into the crowd.  Maybe he didn’t see me.  Maybe God wasn’t whispering in his ear, pointing him right to me. 

His disciples tugged on his arm, “Probably everyone in this crowd has bumped or jostled you.  What do you mean “who touched you?” Let’s go.  Jarius is waiting!”

But the Teacher kept looking at the crowd, looking at me. 

What had I done?  It was a little thing, touching him.  Would he punish me?  Could he take back my healing, cursing me to another twelve years of sickness?

I fell at his feet, trembling, afraid to even speak.  He knelt down and gently lifted my head.  He looked into my eyes and I saw, not anger, but great compassion.  Suddenly I began to blurt out everything!

“I touched you.  I didn’t know what else to do.  I knew if I only touched your robe, I would be made well.  And you were close enough to touch and I just couldn’t wait any longer.

“I’ve been sick for so long – 12 years.  I’ve seen doctors, endured their prodding, choked down vile potions, blistered my skin with strange poultices – nothing ever helped.  In fact, despite their treatments I got worse.  Sometimes the treatments made me feel sicker than my disease.  There are days when the pain keeps me in bed, when the pain grips me so hard that nausea rolls over me.  There are days when the pain releases, but I am so tired.  It’s like the life is being drained from me.  I get weaker and weaker.

“My world has closed in on me.  My family and friends have tried to comfort me, to help me.  But my sickness has worn them down too.  They don’t have the energy to care for their own families and me too.  Most days, I am by myself, sick, desperate, abandoned. 

“Sometimes I wonder why God is so angry with me.  Why God is punishing me…”

Tears streamed down my face and as I poured out all my hurt and resentment and fear and anger at this disease, the people around me, and…at God.

The Teacher brushed my tears away.  “Daughter….

Daughter – he called me daughter!  How good to hear someone claim me as family again!  I belonged again. 

As the Teacher was speaking to me, two of Jaruis’ servants came to him and whispered in his ear.  I saw him stagger and his servants steadied him.  Had I delayed the Teacher long enough to cost his daughter her life?

 The servants said, louder this time, “Your daughter has died.  Don’t bother the Teacher anymore.”  I could tell by the way they eyed me, that it wasn’t Jarius that they thought was bothering the teacher.

The Teacher ignored them.  Looking at me he continued speaking…

“Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace and be healed.”

Taking my hand, he raised me to my feet. Before he let me go, he reached one hand out to Jarius and said, “Do not fear,” and turning Jarius to face me, he said to him, “only have faith.”

The Teacher clasped my hand again and turned to go with Jarius to his house. I never saw the Teacher again, but later that day, I heard that Jarius’ daughter was not dead, that the Teacher had healed her too. 

I’ve thought a lot about his final words to me – “go in peace and be healed.”

Hadn’t I already been cured by touching his robe?  What more was needed?  Why did he take the time to hear my story, to look in my eyes, to touch my hand?  Was there more to healing than curing the body?   

He told me to ‘be healed’ not ‘you are healed.’  Is healing something that happens a little bit every day?

"Go in peace and be healed."  Those just might be the most beautiful words on earth.

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