Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48
I was surprised to see her.
We were down by the lake, a big group of us. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and with a breeze coming over the water, and we were waiting for Jesus. He had gone to the other side of the lake, and now he was coming back.
We could see the boat getting nearer and nearer, bouncing a little on the waves. By the time it reached shore an enormous crowd had gathered, men and women and children, so many that Jesus could barely get out of the boat. Everybody wanted to talk to him; everybody wanted to say they’d met him.
I was hoping he’d do a miracle right there in front of us. Someone farther along the shore was cooking fish — I could smell it, the wood smoke and the salt — and it was making me hungry. Maybe Jesus would conjure up some dinner for us all.
But that didn’t happen. Before Jesus could do anything interesting, Jairus showed up. Jairus was the synagogue ruler, an important man, so important that the huge crowd parted and let him through.
When Jairus reached Jesus, he knelt down on the ground and clasped his hands together. “Master,” he said, “my little daughter is very sick. My only child. Please, will you go with me to my house and heal her?”
A sick child. The synagogue ruler. Of course Jesus went.
Jesus walked off with Jairus, and the rest of us sort of followed along, because what else were we going to do? We wanted to see what would happen. We wished we were as important as Jairus, so we could get our own personal miracles too.
Somehow, in all the pushing and shoving of the crowd, I ended up close to Jesus, and I thought well, at least I’ll get a good clear look at him.
Right about then, Jesus stopped walking. “Who touched me?” he said.
His disciples looked at each other, and then they looked at him. I could tell they didn’t want to be smart-alecky, not to the man who could cast out demons and make the sea give up its fish, but finally one of them said, “Um, Jesus? Look around. Everybody’s touching you.”
But Jesus shook his head. “No,” he said. “I felt power go out of me. Somebody touched me.”
That made us all go quiet. Such a big crowd, noisy, with crying babies and kids roughhousing, but every last one of us fell silent. Jesus had that much power? He could heal people without even trying?
To be honest, it was a little scary. It made us a little afraid of him. So we stepped all back — it was like a stone dropping into a pool of water, rippling out — and Jesus was left standing alone in this open space in the middle of the crowd.
“Someone touched me,” he said. “Who was it?”
I could see his face, and I got this strange feeling that Jesus knew exactly who had touched him in some particular way. He knew, but he was going to stand right there in that spot until the person confessed.
I could see Jairus, too, fidgeting, looking worried. His little twelve-year-old daughter was sick, and he was in a hurry, and one of us had screwed things up. One of us had distracted Jesus, and now Jesus was standing there as if he had all the time in the world. Waiting. As if he would wait forever.
Then she stepped out of the crowd.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. She had touched Jesus? She wasn’t supposed to be touching anyone. She was unclean. Anyone she touched became unclean. People who are unclean are supposed to stay away from the Temple and the synagogue. They’re supposed to stay away from anything Holy.
And she had touched Jesus.
Jesus, a man so holy that the synagogue ruler bowed down to him. Jesus, a man so holy he healed people accidentally.
She looked terrified by what she’d done; I could see her trembling. She knelt down at Jesus’s feet, like Jairus had done, and all in a rush she said,
I’m sorry. It was me. I touched you. I shouldn’t have done it, but I was so desperate — I’ve been bleeding for twelve years. It’s like I’m having a period, but it never stops. I’ve been to doctors, lots of doctors, and they all had advice, they all had treatments, and I did exactly as they said, but I never got any better, and then I ran out of money, and I was so very tired.
But I wasn’t going to impose on you. I didn’t mean to slow you down. I thought if I could just get close enough to stretch out my hand and touch the edge of your cloak, that I’d be healed.
And I am. It worked.
I could tell by looking at her that it was true. She didn’t look pale and exhausted anymore. She looked strong. She looked healthy. Terrified, but healthy.
And I held my breath, waiting to see what Jesus would say. Would he reprimand her? Would he punish her for stealing power from him? Would he take back the gift of healing, make her start bleeding again? Some people thought he would. Some people thought he ought to.
But I saw how he was looking at her. It almost made me wish that I were in her place.
“You healed me,” she said.
And Jesus reached down a hand and lifted her to her feet, and he said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.”
Now, obviously, Jesus was the one who had healed her. He was the one with the power. But I knew what he meant. She had come to him.
She had risked public humiliation and scorn. She had pushed her way through that crowd, keeping her head down, hoping no one would recognize her. She had interfered with the plans of important people. She had broken the rules.
And Jesus was saying that was good.
He could have let her slip away secretly. He knew he’d already healed her, and he could have let her go. But instead, he called her out in front of all those people to make sure she understood: It was good that she had come to him. It was good that she had touched him.
He wanted her to know that.
He wanted us to know it too. He looked around the crowd, making eye contact, making sure we understood. Making sure we had heard him call her daughter.
Go in Peace
Then he said to her, “Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering.”
That was when I really wished I were in her place.
I didn’t need healing. I didn’t even need a miraculous meal of loaves and fishes, though that would have been fun. But peace? I needed that.
“Go in peace,” Jesus told her, a blessing for the entire rest of her life — whatever she faced, whatever came up, in all the years to follow. Illness, bereavement, conflict, death. Go in peace.
And she did.
She didn’t leave peace behind her. Not where I stood. Because while she was talking to Jesus,
Jairus’s servant showed up.
“It’s too late,” he said to Jairus. “Your daughter is dead. Stop bothering Jesus. It’s too late.”
Jairus looked stricken, and the rest of us felt stricken too. That woman had gotten her miracle — but she had gotten it by stealing it from a little girl.
Jesus didn’t look at all concerned. He put a hand on Jairus’s shoulder, and he said, “Don’t listen to them, and don’t be afraid. Trust me.”
He wouldn’t let the rest of us go with him then, but news gets around. We all heard, later, what he did next. He went to Jairus’s house, and he brought that little dead girl back to life.
Then I finally understood.
Jesus doesn’t have to pick and choose. He doesn’t have to decide who to heal, who to bless. He has plenty of power to heal all the hurts of this dark world.
And he has plenty of time. He’s never too late. If he doesn’t heal us today, he’ll raise us from the dead tomorrow.
All we have to do is go to him, and kneel at his feet.