bible blog 1327

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

GERRY ADAMS ACCUSED OF ORDERING MURDER OF WOMAN WHO HELPED WOUNDED U.K. SOLDIER  Gerry Adams

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.

Jesus heals in response to faith

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.

If you read yesterday’s blog, you’ll not be surprised to hear that I don’t believe Jesus could raise dead people to life. The author of this passage, Luke, did believe it, however, so we have to explore what exactly he wanted his readers to get from it.

He found the story in one of his sources, the Gospel of Mark, and lifted it with minor changes into his own Gospel. Mark’s style is rougher and more vivid. He invented the idea of nesting the story of the woman with the bleeding into the story of the dying girl. He probably did so because a) both stories involved women and b) both women were in states that were taboo for men-namely menstruation and death. No man should have had any contact with them. So Mark depicts Jesus going into socially forbidden areas to rescue women, although in one case it’s the adult woman who first does the transgressive action of touching Jesus. Probably Luke felt that both women were suffering from their reproductive function- in the case of the young woman, collapse and even coma from the onset of periods was known in ancient societies. Luke presents no diagnosis but he links the two women with the number 12.

Luke and Mark are telling their readers that Jesus’ love and concern extended to women who were generally regarded as not equal to men. He was happy to break through traditional nonsense that imprisoned women. The bleeding woman would have been designated “perpetually unclean” by Jewish law and would have been untouchable. The girl in a coma would have been pronounced dead and given into the care of female mourners. Jesus recognises that the woman who has been bold enough to touch his cloak has shown bold faith; out of her faith and his public approval she is healed. In the case of the apparently dead girl, Jesus enters the place of death to wake her up. Mark and Luke both would have seen this as foreshadowing Jesus’ crucifixion, where he also entered death to bring the wake-up call of resurrection to all people. His crucial action is taking the girl’s hand in his own. If you touched a dead person without being authorised to do so, it was believed that you might bring a curse on yourself or your family.

Both incidents show Jesus putting his own body in socially transgressive and potentially damaging situations to bring God’s goodness to needy people. Jesus put his own body on the line to help others. The implication for disciples of Jesus is clear.

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