Luke 8: 40-56
A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed
Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.
As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’
While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ When Jesus heard this, he replied, ‘Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.’ When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
In this instance, Luke has kept Mark’s form – it is a story within a story, a “sandwich”. You will remember that Mark used this form frequently, but this is the first time we have encountered it in Luke. We will focus today on the interruption, then return to the story that sandwiches it, and then think about how they belong together.
Jesus has started to Jairus’ house, but the crowds are pressing in on every side making progress difficult. There is a woman in the crowd who has been ill with bleeding for 12 years. She had been to various physicians but no one could heal her. Keep in mind that bleeding of any sort meant that a person was considered unclean; her illness had not only affected her health, but also separated her from her community. As an “unclean” person (like the untouchables in India), she was being excessively bold in venturing to touch Jesus. But somehow, she knew that if she could only touch the fringe of his garment, she could be healed. Hebrew men, especially a rabbi, wore a fringed garment to remind them to pray to God. (Orthodox Jews still wear such a garment.) Each knot in the fringe had a specific meaning, a prayer. Thus, when the woman touched the fringe, she is, in essence, initiating a prayer. She seems to have thought that Jesus would not even notice, in such a crowd, that she could touch his garment and be healed without his even being aware. But Jesus is always aware of our prayers. And in this instance, he felt the power going from him to heal the woman. He stopped, and asked, “Who touched me?” The disciples point out that people are bumping him all around, but Jesus insists this is different; he had felt it.
And the woman, realizing that she had been found out, was frightened. But she came, trembling, and knelt before Jesus, and in front of all the people admitted what she had done, and why she had done it. Not only did she confess that she had touched Jesus, but she told all those around that she had been immediately healed. Jesus addressed her as “daughter”, although she was likely older – in God’s family, she too was a daughter. And he said, “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” It was faith that gave her the courage to go to Jesus, to touch him against all social barriers. Her faith in Jesus had brought about her healing; she could resume her life in peace. Think about how much this changed her life! She could rejoin community; she could rebuild her strength; she could participate in her grandchildren’s lives. All because she somehow knew that this wandering Rabbi named Jesus was really more than a teacher – that he had the power to change her life. And she not only had faith that Jesus had the power; she acted on that faith, and went to him, and reached out and touched him.