In his book “The Oath,” Frank Perretti describes this situation where people’s sins become a black, festering, smelly wound that grows on the body; seeps through their clothing; stains everything it comes into contact with. Can you imagine carrying around your sin like that? Can you imagine trying everything you can to get rid of it, or at least covering it up, only to be disappointed over and over again? Can you imagine how unclean you would feel? Would people avoid you? Even if they also had a festering, filthy, foul smelling wound of their own? And what if this wound just kept growing until you died from it? Now, that is scary stuff.
In Luke 8:40-56 Jesus comes into contact with two people who are feeling powerless; desperate. Jesus returns from the other side of the lake and is welcomed by a crowd, which had been anxiously awaiting his return. His popularity is growing and the crowds are thronging. Into this fray, enters a leader of the synagogue named Jairus. The name may mean “He (God?) will awaken.” Which fits into the story quite nicely. This is not to say, the name was contrived. Jair, or Jairus, was not an unknown name. A synagogue official would be the person responsible for the physicality of the synagogue; making sure it was clean and ready for use. He was an important Jewish official. But Jairus’ only daughter is dying. Being important cannot save his daughter. “Only” can mean that she is his only child, or it could mean she is his only daughter. Either way, take a moment to feel this man’s desperation. He has heard about Jesus and there is hope; desperate hope. At this juncture in his life, Jairus is probably not too concerned about the official Jewish reaction to Jesus. His daughter, who is twelve, who is approaching the age of marriage, is dying. All of his hopes and dreams are sick in bed.
In the middle of this story is the story of a woman who has had a bleeding problem for twelve years. First, stop and try to imagine how weak and frustrated she must have been. But it is more than the physical anemia. She is religiously unclean. As long as her menstrual flow is all wacky, she should really be keeping to herself. She certainly shouldn’t be squeezing herself through a thronging crowd. This is why she has this crazy desperate plan. Just touch his garment; be healed; sneak away. No one need know. She touches either one of his four tassels or the hem of his garment. Either way, the goal was most likely to touch his garment where he would be least likely to feel it. And . . . Success! Immediately the flow of blood is stopped. Her plan had worked. Well, sort of.
Jesus said, “Alright who touched me?” And in his words there is something significant. He doesn’t say, “Who touched my garment?” His clothes do not contain healing power. No, she had touched Jesus. I don’t think Jesus asked this because he didn’t know. I think he wanted the women to witness both her depth of need and her healing. I can imagine Peter saying, “What? Who touched you? I mean, the people are practically crushing us here.” Jesus is, of course, unperturbed. Someone touched him and power had been released. The woman’s plan of anonymity crumbled and she shook with fear and fell before Jesus and told this crowd of people how she had been unclean for twelve years; how one touch had healed her; how touching Jesus accomplished what she nor anyone else could have managed. Jesus calls her “daughter” and I think this is important. This is not merely an unclean woman. This is a daughter. Her faith healed her. Her faith led her to touch Jesus, the One who has power over the unclean things of this world.
Wait a minute! Do you remember Jairus and his dying daughter? Was he tugging on Jesus sleeve, begging him not to linger? Too late. Someone from his house comes and reports his greatest fear. His daughter is dead. There is no longer any need to trouble Jesus. Hope had died. But Jesus calls upon this grieving father to bolster a faith beyond reason. Can there still be hope? Jairus brings Jesus to his house, he does his thing and the girl is raised from the dead. Life leaps back into her. The mockers are silenced and the parents are blown away. The girl, well the girl is hungry. No ethereal existence here.
I cannot make myself clean. I cannot make anyone else clean. I cannot defeat death. I have no power over either death or uncleanness. Ah, but Jesus broke into our world and he overcame death. He spoke life and healing. Touching him is where true healing can be found. So, with faith driving you stretch out your hand and touch Jesus. The filthy stain of sin and death flees from this touch. Peace, Walter