A Beloved Child of God
Pentecost 6 (B) – July 1, 2018
[RCL]: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43
Jesus sees beyond the outward appearance to the heart, revealing the very heart of God. A crowd presses in on Jesus, clamouring to see the miracle worker some were claiming to be the Messiah.
As he makes his way to Jairus’ home, he is interrupted by an encounter with a woman who would have seemed destined to die unknown and unremembered — but her great faith was trusting that all she needed to do was reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Nothing more was required, but nothing less would do. Clearly, she had heard of Jesus’ reputation as a healer.
As we learn from Mark’s Gospel, for twelve years, “She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.”
The Jewish response would have been to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem, seeking healing by offering sacrifices. But just like the lepers Jesus made whole, this woman would have been declared unclean. Because of her haemorrhaging, she was no longer allowed to be in the Temple—not even in the Court of the Women.
I am sure she would have tried every available remedy. There were herbs and creams and ointments available, and over the years, this woman of means had spent it all trying to find a cure. Worse yet, her culture had assumed that her affliction was God’s punishment for sin, so she was increasingly cut off from her own community.
We still have diseases that come with a stigma. Fighting cancer is seen as heroic, but less so mental illness, chronic pain, or addiction. As soon as anyone found out that she had been bleeding for five years, seven years, ten years—whatever it was by that point—judgment would follow.
Through her faith that she just needed to touch the hem of his garment, we see how much she invested in this one last hope of healing. Some people spoke of Jesus’ teaching with great authority. Others speculated he was Elijah or one of the other prophets returned. Many hoped Jesus would overthrow the Romans so that Jews could once more rule Israel on their own.
But for the real sufferers, cut off from others because of disease, there would have been only one tidbit about Jesus that mattered. His reputation was clear. Wherever Jesus went, he cast demons out of the possessed. Jesus touched people who were blind, deaf, and lame, making them see, hear, and walk.
Not only did her bleeding make her ritually unclean, and so unable to worship in the Temple; the religious law of her time mandated that anyone she touched would also become unclean. A touch from Jesus might bring her healing, but it would have made him ritually unclean as well. Just reaching Jesus meant pushing against much pressure from her own people.
He would have been difficult to find in those days anyway, as he was always crossing back and forth around the Sea of Galilee and then travelling down to Jerusalem for the festivals. Then she found him that day on the seashore. She gathered with a large crowd of others, all wanting to hear Jesus, many wanting healing as well. An important religious leader named Jairus came to implore Jesus to heal his daughter.
As Jesus started toward Jairus’ house, the woman knelt down, reaching out for the barest edge of his robe and grabbing hold as if touching the very throne of God, as life and healing from the one God flowed through it. The bleeding stopped. Her body was finally healed after twelve years of suffering.
Jesus stopped. He stopped everyone. The whole crowd. Jesus cried out wanting to know who touched him. His disciples couldn’t believe the question; with such a great crowd rushing around, a lot of people had been bumping into Jesus. Jesus kept looking because he too felt the miracle.
There is much power in this moment. As the woman, everyone came to ignore became the centre of attention, in fear and trembling she fell down before Jesus. How could she not be terrified? In so many ways, everyone told her she was unworthy, cursed by God. And now this—once more, she would be humiliated. She throws herself at Jesus’ feet and recounts her whole story. Twelve years of suffering. Trembling, she tells Jesus the whole truth down to the hem of his garment.
After so many people had cast her down, Jesus lifts her up, looks into her eyes and says the words which make her healing complete. With the eyes of love on her, he said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
“Daughter.” Not an outcast. Not a woman alone in a society that treated you in connection to the men in your life. She was a beloved child of God. In Jesus naming as a daughter the woman afflicted with suffering for twelve years, we see the very heart of God. Others may have judged her harshly, but God never forgot her, always loved her and wanted to welcome her home.
“Your faith has made you well.” Jesus knew what great faith she had come to have that even the very hem of his robe could heal. His disciples were often clueless. The crowds were fickle. But this woman’s faith knew no bounds.
“Go in peace,” he said. Shalom means so much more than a lack of war. This peace is the health, well-being, and wholeness. Her body healed, but Jesus was so much more interested in healing her mind and soul—he was interested in complete healing and setting her free from the prison of suffering.
The sickness that defined her was gone, and Jesus set her free to be a daughter of God. She wanted, needed, the bleeding to stop, but what she needed more—and Jesus knew it—was to be accepted once again. To have God look into her eyes and call her “daughter.”
I think that what we must take away today is that until all of God’s children, the whole human family, are welcome at the table, we will be falling short of the kingdom of God. For those of us with a seat at the table, we can pray for the grace to see the world as God sees it and the courage to act.
If you are one whom others have seen as unworthy and judged as lacking, know that God loves you as you are and wants better for you as well. This is something we can all experience every time we gather for The Lord’s Table, Holy Communion. Let’s ponder this in our hearts, and be ready to do that next Sunday morning. Amen.