Do you ever feel depleted of compassion? I think that if someone poor old geezer keels over in front of me today, all I’ll do is sigh and step over him. My left leg doesn’t like hurdles so if he’s a fat old geezer I’ll walk around him. I was thinking about this ‘enough already!’ attitude of mine (you’re far too kind to know what I’m talking about, I’m sure) and wondering where it’s come from… I’m hardly Mother Theresa so I haven’t run out of caring because I’ve been drawing from a deep deep well until it’s gone dry … and that got me thinking, of course , about Jesus.
You know when the woman came up through the crowd and touched the hem of his robe? Jesus said ‘Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me.’ I’ve read that many times but I’ve never examined His words… what did He mean about the power leaving Him? The old King James version translates it as ‘virtue is gone out of me’. So, think of the scene; Jesus and his raggle taggle band of gypsies is walking from town to village to town, meandering in the dust and heat. Along with him are a right weird lot of outrageous women – women who had been cured of evil spirits (mentally ill? physically ill? Disruptive? Anti-Social? Ostracised by respectable society?) including a female servant of Herod, puppet of the Romans. These disreputable women (WOMEN!) were helping to support Jesus and his followers. That’s not how things were done in that society. Fit young men supported by women of poor reputation and standing? Crazy.
It was a wild and exciting time for the Jesus followers – crowds ran to meet him, to listen to Him, heady exhausting days for all of them, and for Jesus too, wholly God and also wholly man. Crowds so demanding that He set out in a boat to escape them, only to be woken in a storm. Crowds so demanding that His own mother couldn’t get through them to speak to Him. So many needy people clamouring for His attention – a mad naked man running through a graveyard to scream at him, a religious leader begging for his dying daughter to be healed, and then as Jesus walked on his way ‘the crowds almost crushed Him’ and a woman struggled through the mass of bodies to fall in His shadow, His wake. And she touched the hem of His garment. The nearest she could get, the closest she could dare to be.
Who was this woman? She was an outcast because she was menstruating, and had been for 12 years, years of discomfort, maybe pain, rags (no feminine hygiene products), and anaemia. But more, much more than this, twelve years of being considered unclean by her Jewish religion. Unclean, unacceptable, untouchable. She couldn’t go to the synagogue, offer a sacrifice, she couldn’t eat with others, when she looked at her hands however often she washed them she saw only her own filth and shame… I think she was a picture of many of us. Maybe most of us. Think of how rejected she was: when Isaiah prayed “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” the translation is ‘filthy rags’ but the original metaphor was ‘menstrual rags’ (Isaiah 64:6). Isaiah was making a point – this was the filthiest thing in Jewish society. You couldn’t get filthier. And yet, this outcast touched His garment, terrified that even this was too presumptuous, but with the faith that His goodness would indeed reach even her.
And Jesus, our hemmed-in, tired, pestered Jesus, felt power go out from Him. That’s such a lesson to me today. Jesus is so good, so giving, that to touch Him or to be touched by Him is all we need.
Bother. That’s not what I’m trying to say. Let me try again… OK. Gear up and think, Luce.
What this story says to me is that even when Jesus, the man, desired only to escape, to get a break, a rest from the cacophony of need and pleading, when His human heart sank that yet more and more was required of Him, when He felt His energy sapped by the need of others, He simply said ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’ Such amazing unending compassion. ‘Daughter’. Jesus was about 32 when He died, and I doubt that this woman was younger than Him. I think she may have been in her 40s or 50s or even older. The menopause. But that outcast was His daughter.
Oh, flip me! That’s still not what I’m trying to reach for, to put into words. Bear with me, my sugar ducks (I’ll tell you a story about sugar ducks one day).
Right, listen. What I’m trying to say is this: If we have the love of Jesus, if we really have the love of Jesus, there is no choice and no question, no alternative. When that old geezer falls down in front of me (first para, cast your mind back) then, if I have the love of Jesus I have the compassion and the energy to love him and to care for him.
On my own I can’t. On my own I’m off down that road as fast as my fat little legs can carry me, but with Jesus… his power goes out from me.
There. That’s what I was trying to say. I am that woman touching His hem, His power is flooding into me, and His power is flooding out of me. Nothing to do with me. It’s all Jesus.
So, if you’re 97 and about to smack the pavement, on you go. I’m ready for you.