bible blog 1031

This blog provides a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:

Force-feeding at Guantanamo increases pressure on Obama to shut it

Guantanamo: The walls of fear

Guantanamo: The walls of fear

Luke 8:40-56

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

40 On Jesus’ return, the crowd welcomed him back, for they had all been looking for him.

41-42 Then up came Jairus (who was president of the synagogue), and fell at Jesus’ feet, begging him to come into his house, for his daughter, an only child about twelve years old, was dying.

43-44 But as he went, the crowds nearly suffocated him. Among them was a woman, who had a haemorrhage for twelve years and who had derived no benefit from anybody’s treatment. She came up behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak, with the result that her haemorrhage stopped at once.

45 “Who was that who touched me?” said Jesus. And when everybody denied it, Peter remonstrated, “Master, the crowds are all round you and are pressing you on all sides ….”

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched me, for I felt the power went out from me.”

47 When the woman realised that she had not escaped notice she came forward trembling, and fell at his feet and admitted before everybody why she had to touch him, and how she had been instantaneously cured.

48 “Daughter,” said Jesus, “It is your faith that has healed you—go in peace.”

49 While he was still speaking, somebody came from the synagogue president’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead—there is no need to trouble the master any further.”

50 But when Jesus heard this, he said to him, “Now don’t be afraid, go on believing and she will be all right.”

51-52 Then when he came to the house, he would not allow anyone to go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s parents. All those already there were weeping and wailing over her, but he said, “Stop crying! She is not dead, she is fast asleep.”

53-54 This drew a scornful laugh from them, for they were quite certain that she had died. But he turned them all out, took the little girl’s hand and called out to her, “Wake up, my child!”

55-56 And her spirit came back and she got to her feet at once, and Jesus ordered food to be given to her. Her parents were nearly out of their minds with joy, but Jesus told them not to tell anyone what had happened.

bleedingwomanIn this passage Luke follows his main source Mark very closely, especially in the cunning with which one story, that of the haemorrhaging woman, is nested within the other, that of the dying child. There is a subterranean connection between the two: both are women, the elder has a problem which is connected with her fertility; the other, on the cusp of fertility is dying. The story focuses on the taboo area of female fertility and the threats to it, which are also threats to the lives of human beings who happen to be women. Jesus’ authority to defeat the sources of chaos and death (evident in the two preceding stories, the storm on the lake and the demon-possessed Gersasene) is depicted here as restoring the springs of life in two women by treating them as people and not as beings isolated by their social role.

Jesus cuts through the taboos imposed on femaleness to reach ill people who need help. He insists that the woman who has touched him identifies herself, so that she, a person with faith, can be blessed. He addresses the apparently dead girl as a person, telling her gently that it’s time to get up. Indeed, Luke’s narrative suggests that it’s time for everyone to hear the wake-up call of God’s life-giving love in Jesus.

Luke wants the reader to see how social fear of women’s fertility and of death has led to the construction of no-go areas within which real people can be trapped. The woman would have been avoided as perpetually unclean due to her bleeding, the girl treated as dead and untouchable except by the appropriate women, as soon as certain vital signs were not evident. Jesus’ healing actions as depicted here are in no way supernatural; in fact they seem resolutely common-sense and therapeutic as opposed to the superstitions that perpetuate illness and unnecessary death. People trust him because he shows that he nourishes life.

time to get up

time to get up

The story encourages the Christian believers for whom Luke is writing to continue this calm and restorative ministry of Jesus in the ministry of their church communities. The detection, criticism and dismantling of destructive  social customs is an authentically Christian ministry in all times and places.

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