Thursday, June 5, 2008

Females, Healed

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district. ~ Matthew 9:18-26

These two well-known stories from Matthew's gospel are sometimes referred to as a 'story sandwich,' because one story begins-- a slice of bread-- another story interrupts it, and is told in its entirety-- the filling-- and the first story is finished-- the other slice. Make mine a chicken and pesto panini!

The thing that strikes me about this story is the sheer irrationality of the requests that are made of Jesus. "My daughter died... fix it." "I can't stop bleeding... your clothing will heal me." These people are audacious. They are at the end of their respective ropes, the end of the line for hope. They have nothing to lose, and the whole world to gain, and they reach out and grab themselves some healing.

In some commentary on the story, the woman and the girl are connected by the number twelve, which is the girl's age in the version told by Mark. Matthew's version is mysterious to me: it is so brief, almost abrupt. In Mark we have the backstory of the woman who reaches out, trembling; we have her inner monologue, convinced that she has been healed; we have Jesus feeling the power surging forth from him. We also have the chaotic scene of the mourners at the home of the little girl (whose father is named there: Jairus), Jesus allowing the parents to be present for the resuscitation. Oddly, Matthew adds a detail: there are flute players. Why does Matthew shorten the story? What about the full version bugs him? Is it a woman thing? Is it a female phobia? Too much information for him? Or, is this one of those stories that shores up the old idea of Matthean priority-- that Mark's gospel was not the earliest?

It hardly matters, I suppose. The woman is still there, all bleeding need. The little girl is still there, stone cold. Life is hopeless, life is gone. Until Jesus enters the scene, and the audacious, irresponsible, irrational requests-- demands-- for healing are answered, Yes. Thanks be to God.


Unknown said...

I'm pondering that difference with Mark, too, thanks for these thoughts.

Choralgrrl said...

Damn, C, you are articulate. :-)

I usually get all weepy about this story (bleeding woman)--because it was this story that turned the prism for me when I was trying to answer the "does God hate me now that I know I'm gay" question. She was SUCH an outsider, all bleeding need (love that turn of phrase) on SO many levels, and he called her "daughter." And, in that moment, God called ME "daughter," and I knew I would be OK.

So I usually get all weepy about it. And now you've turned the prism again, and I'm laughing at "I'm bleeding...your clothing will fix it." Thanks for getting me to slough off the me-centric midrash in my head and look at it afresh. And for making it fun...and true at the same time.

You're a good preacher, C.

Fran said...

Oh this is good - really really good.

I love seeing this presented in this way and it did indeed make me very weepy.

Right now I am taking a class on John's Gospel and have been praying with the woman at the well a lot.

A Samaritan.
A woman.
She takes HIM to task for talking to her.
He presses on.
She is healed too.

Now I am off to ponder the flute playing in the Gospel and with the sounds of the tinkling mirrors from Choralgirl's post.

philomela said...

Myself and a friend have just set up a blog carnival for progressive Christians
The home page is here I thought you might want to participate.

(I really really like this blog by the way, do you mind if I blogroll it on my personal blog)

Choralgrrl said...

Meant to add this before: one of my favorite Madeleine L'Engle poems is called "The Irrational Season," and it goes like this:

This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild:
had Mary been filled with reason
there'd have been no room for the Child.