Easter without Hindsight: The People’s View: Jairus and the Bleeding Woman
We’ve seen this week how the crowds flocked around Jeshua hoping he would offer healing and restoration. Some of them were after physical and spiritual healing; others were after the political restoration of Israel as a nation state. We’ll look in weeks to come at how the political story developed. Today we’ll look at two individual restorations worked and see how Jeshua was able to engage with people from opposite ends of the social scale.
While Jeshau had been in Galilee (Mark 5:21-43) a community leader called Jairus had visited him because his daughter was dying. Jairus’ leadership suggests he was seen as conforming to the rules of torah. He, like many, may have grown up seeing the sick and disabled as cursed. His lifestyle was probably healthy, wealthy and blameless, in local eyes at least.
Jeshua, though, was a contrast. Hebrew culture viewed a good wife and children as the ultimate in blessings from God, Jeshua was over thirty and single. His closest companions were men: some were still teenagers; others had left family and businesses to follow him. When Jeshua’s own father died, instead of taking over the family building business, Jeshua had abandoned his family. Early on (Mark 3: 30-21) when they heard about his public life, even his own family thought he was mad.
Despite Jeshua’s reputation something tells Jairus that this strange rabbi can help. It doesn’t say how many miles he had to travel to see Jeshua but, culturally, he had to travel a huge distance to beg him to heal his little girl. He seems to have judged right, though, Jeshua agrees to go home with him. The girl is dead when they arrive but Jeshua raises her anyway. Think how his reputation would spread after that. More crowds….
On the way home they (and the crowds) pass a woman. While Jairus is named by the gospel writers she has remained nameless, which says much for her status, not least probably because she is a woman. She had bled for twelve years despite spending all her money on medics. In a world where women were literally owned by their fathers or their husbands (just like his cattle and his furniture) where did she get her own money? Having bled for years she was ritually unclean. Who would have married her anyway? Did she get thrown out by her father to avoid shaming the family? If she was now in the underclass she probably had only one way to earn money.
In the story she reaches out to touch Jeshua. Being permanently ‘unclean’ all her memory would have been of being ignored, avoided, or abused by the men she met. Her self-esteem maybe is so low she doesn’t dare even to talk to Jeshua. “Even if I just touch his hem I will be healed,” she tells herself hopefully. What if she touched him and her hopes were dashed yet again? How much courage did she need to risk yet more years of rejection by reaching out now to another man? Despite the crush of crowds around them she touches him.
We don’t really do ‘ritual purity’ as literally as they did then. In healing the bleeding woman and raising Jairus’ little girl Jeshua became ritually ‘unclean’ himself. Jeshua clearly doesn’t see himself defiled by blood or body. Jeshua, instead, heals and restores broken things, making the ‘unclean’ pure and whole again.