Reaching for Fringe

The next prompt in Writing in the Margins…

Luke 8:40-48 tells the story of a woman who touched the edge of Jesus’ robe and received power….What power lies within Jesus that is so strong that the woman might be healed even here at the edge?

As I’ve reflected on this passage, I shared my thoughts with a friend and my mother. It’s been fun to talk to others about this story.  But they both think the way I read the story is really weird!  They saw this as a deeply moving story and have great sympathy for the woman who reaches out for the fringe of Jesus’ garment.  And then there’s me!  First, I need to explain, that sometimes I like to visualize the Bible story and put myself into it.  So here’s how my overactive imagination retells the story from the perspective of someone traveling with Jesus to Jarius’ house:

I imagine myself feeling this intense sense of urgency to get Jesus to the house of Jarius. He and his wife have just one young daughter.  She is only twelve years old and on the verge of death.  The family’s only hope:  Jesus.  We are all rushing to Jarius’ house and then Jesus just stops all of the sudden and wants to know who touched him!?!   In a huge crowd of people pressing against him!  He then starts a conversation with a lady, who tells a long story about how she was bleeding for twelve years and she has spent every last cent on doctors to see if they could help her and nobody could, but she touched the fringe on Jesus’s garment and the bleeding finally stopped.  Then Jesus seems really moved by her story and commends her faith, gives her his peace, and even calls her daughter.  And the whole time that the two of them are stopped and talking, I keep thinking, “We have to get to Jarius’ house.”  Then we receive the news that Jesus was too late; the girl died.  I feel devastated, and see myself among the weeping.  Jesus calmly goes inside and returns to say the girl wasn’t dead, but sleeping and sees to it that she gets something to eat.  The story turns out well for everyone, but for a while I was freaking out wondering why Jesus stopped for a lady with a chronic problem when there was such a desperately urgent one waiting for him.

What keeps coming to me personally: there are stories that move and touch me deeply, like the story of Jairus’ daughter, just twelve years old and dying, the couples’ only child.  And then there are stories that can be frustrating like the story of a lady with twelve years of strange bleeding troubles who spent all her money on doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with her and nobody could help her.  Jesus made time for both.  He stopped and addressed the woman on the way to help the temple leader’s daughter.

Something else that hits me personally: I need to be better about appreciating interruptions.  A refrain that comes up again and again in the gospels is “Don’t bother Jesus.”  And each time it comes up, Jesus offers reassurance.  He wants us to come to him; he makes time for us and our concerns.  The lady who reached for his fringe was something of an interruption to his plans, and yet for many readers, she is the main focus of the passage.  Jesus brought a young girl back from the dead, but the readers I talked with were even more touched by just how caring Jesus was to the woman along the way to the big miracle.  Jesus doesn’t mind interruptions.

As I thought about illustrating this verse I found myself focusing on the fringe. What eventually occurred to me:  this is not fancy, decorative fringe.  This is Numbers 15: 37-41 fringe:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.  So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God:  I am the Lord your God.-Numbers 15: 37-41

It is endearing to me (especially given my current project!) that God has the Hebrews adorn the margins of their clothes with a reminder of the commandments of the Lord.   When the lady reaches out to touch Jesus’ fringe, she touches a symbol of the law worn by the person who embodied the law and lived it perfectly.  Through the act, she is both identifying with Jesus and putting her trust in his prayers.  He acknowledges this by saying “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”  On his way to help Jarius’ daughter, he fully embraces the woman who reached out to him as his very own.

The prophecy from Malachi seems to fit nicely along aside this story: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2)  It reminds me of the healing power present in the story of the woman who reached out for fringe on the edge of Jesus’ garment.

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