At the Tuesday Bible study at the Infant School, each week we look at the readings for the coming Sunday. This Sunday, we have a story with two healings. Jesus is on his way to the house of Jairus to see his sick daughter, when a woman with a haemorrhage touches the edge of his cloak. After speaking to her, he continues to the house where the child has already died.
On reading through I was reminded of using this passage on retreat a couple of years ago. While praying with this passage I was struck by several things.
The cultural context of this is important. Any woman who was bleeding, during her period or in this case with a clinical condition, was considered unclean by Jewish Law. 12 years of illness would have meant constant tiredness from blood loss. It would also have meant 12 years of being on the edge of society, unable to be involved in basic aspects of community life. She had ‘suffered’ under many doctors and spent all her money doing so.
This woman acts out of desperation, doing something that she knows she should not do. Yet Jesus reacts to her with such generosity and gentleness. He refers to her as “My daughter.” Jesus draws her into this loving relationship. She, who has been on the outside of society, is now called ‘my daughter’, treated like a loved one by this man. As I prayed with this passage on my retreat I felt the love Christ had for this woman and her response of wonder. Her act of desperation and faith draws her into a loving relationship with her God. Here she is accepted, loved and cherished as a daughter. Christ leaves her with the gift of his peace. This is so much more than just a physical healing; more even than a woman being brought back into society from which she has been shunned. This is the start of faith, of love and awareness of God. The gift here is one of being drawn into God’s family. It is over-whelming.
As this is happening, news comes to Jairus, the kind of news no parent wants to hear. “Your daughter is dead.” I imagine that the accompanying question “Why bother the Master?” was not heard by Jairus. She was dead, what did anything matter any more? Yet Jesus speaks quickly. “Do not be afraid; only have faith.”
On arriving at the house, he gets rid of all but Jairus and his wife and his disciples. In the midst of all the crying and commotion, Jesus creates this intimate space, just those who are needed. Again, his response is one of gentleness. He takes the child by the hand and calls her ‘Little Girl’. Then he makes sure she has some food. His call to Jairus has its proof here. “Do not fear; only have faith” He restores their daughter to them – an act of great compassion following a call to faith.
In the film the Miracle Maker, Jairus, his wife and daughter become some of those disciples who follow Jesus around. There is no proof for this bit of artistic licence in scripture. However, what other response could they give to Christ’s actions? Not just what he did but how he did it.
In both these incidents there is a dance between people who risk faith and Christ himself. Their risk brings about love, compassion and gentleness in Christ’s response. The risk of faith brings them into relationship with their God, a close, loving relationship. The desperate action becomes a response of awe and wonder, that leads to discipleship.