Deborah Beach Giordano
© July 2, 2018
Mark 5:21-43 ~ told by Deborah
When Jesus returned from the other side of the lake, a huge crowd gathered around him as soon as his feet touched the shore.
Jarius, one of the leaders of the synagogue, came to him and fell at his feet and begged him, over and over, “My little daughter is dying! She is dying! Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him — and the crowd followed, pushing and shoving.
Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; but nothing helped, she only got worse.
She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, thinking, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Instantly the bleeding stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
Instantly Jesus felt that power had gone forth from him, and he turned and scanned the crowd, “Who touched my clothes?” “Who touched you?” his disciples repeated, “In the crush of this crowd? How can you ask who touched you?”
He looked all around to see who had done it. And the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
As he said this, people arrived from the leader’s house, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” Hearing what they said, Jesus told the leader of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” He didn’t let anyone come with him except Peter, James, and John.
When they reached Jarius’ house, people were in hysterics: weeping and wailing. “Why are you carrying on like this?” Jesus asked, “The child isn’t dead, only sleeping.”
And they ridiculed him. Then he thew them all out, and went in to where the child was with only her father and mother and those who came with him. He took her hand in his and said, “Talitha, kumi!” (which means “Little girl, get up!”) And instantly she arose from the couch and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age).
Everyone was bowled over; astonished and amazed and speechless. He ordered them not to tell anyone about what had happened, and told them to give her something to eat.
The Woman’s story ~ as told to Deborah
Twelve years. Twelve long years of pain — in my body and in my spirit. It would have been more bearable, perhaps, if not for the terrible loneliness: the averted eyes and hurried departures when I came near — as if a leper’s bell were sounding! I had no hope for a child to claim as my own; no husband to share my hearth — for who would marry a woman he could never approach?
Avoided by the fastidious, shunned by superstitious, unable to worship, or wash, or go to the well when others did, the ceaseless flow marked me as surely and clearly as if my very robe were stained scarlet. And all the while my life was being sapped from me, slowly, steadily, relentlessly; I could feel it in my body: my steps growing feebler, my heart beat weaker, my eyesight dimmer.
I had sought countless treatments with doctors and rabbis and soothsayers and midwives — yes, even those! I’ve been prodded and poked and prayed-over, taken purgatives and potions, but in the end all were agreed: it was hopeless. Despite it all, I believed in God’s goodness and mercy. As the psalmist said: God’s anger is for only a moment, but His love is forever; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. I believe in that shout of joy … And O, how I prayed for it.
So that morning I made my way, slowly, painfully, to the lakeshore, to await this man Jesus. It was said that he was a true miracle-worker sent by the Holy One to cure and heal every sort of suffering, and that he could even cast out demons. Rumor had it that only the day before he had cleared a whole legion of them out of one man, who was now perfectly well and fine.
Perhaps this holy teacher could heal me. Perhaps this Jesus could banish my demons. Perhaps.
A crowd was forming; a boat had landed and a dozen or so men and woman were stepping onto the shore. Several voices began shouting at once, “He is here! Here he is! The Lord has come!” That provoked a full-on crush: people were rushing past me; others had been waiting for Jesus, too, and now it seemed that he was lost to me. I had no strength to push my way through the crowd, and he was surrounded on every side.
Still, I crept forward, unnoticed, ignored: one cannot be an outcast if one is unseen. Then I saw one of my neighbors — and he saw me — with a look of alarm he nudged the man next to him and they both hurriedly stepped aside. My illness had cleared a path for me.
And all at once there he was, right in front of me: this Jesus of whom I had heard so much. There was a sort of radiance about him, a kind of shimmering as in the desert sands at midday, and I found myself drawn in. I wanted to reach out, to feel that glorious intensity for myself. How I longed to be within the circle of that light!
Then, suddenly, it was as if the sun had ceased moving, as if we were all turned to stone.
A man had come running up to Jesus — pushing his way through the crowd — a man whose face I knew full-well: Jarius, one of the elders of the synagogue; ancient and venerable, utterly respectable and infinitely observant of the Torah. My face was known to him, too — as was my condition — and I was certain that he would tell Jesus to avoid contact with me.
I stood still, immobilized with fear and dread. All chance for healing would soon be lost!
But then, astonishingly, unbelievably, this pillar of the community, this upstanding character so conscious of his great dignity, threw himself in the dust at the Lord’s feet. As he looked up at Jesus I could see that he had been crying! “My little girl!” he sobbed, “My little girl is dying! She is dying! If you will only come — please, just touch her, that’s all I ask! — and I know that she will be healed and live! Please! Please…” Over and over he repeated, “Please save my little girl! Please save my little girl!”
My heart nearly stopped beating at such terrible news. An unimaginable loss; a disaster: this child had been a gift from heaven, so everyone had said at the time. Jarius and his wife were no longer young when the little girl was born, they had nearly given up hope when, as in the stories of our ancestors Abraham and Sarah, a child was given to them in their old age. The whole community had celebrated with them … and now that sweet small life was ebbing away. I began to cry.
Jesus bent down and spoke to the man, his words too soft for me to hear, but soon Jarius was on his feet and leading Jesus away, down the road toward his home. The crowd followed — and so did I.
It was crucial that I reach Him, nothing else mattered — and it had to be now. I would risk his censure, his condemnation, but I would not be pushed aside; I would not be ignored. The mass of people was growing thicker and none of them knew me; I had lost the unholy power that fear of contagion brings! Taking a deep breath, I rushed forward, jostling and shoving and then — O God, no! — stumbling and falling to the ground. At the last moment I reached out, desperately, with all of my strength … and the tips of my fingers touched the hem of His robe.
It was only for an instant. But it was an instant in which Eternity was revealed.
In that instant I saw with new eyes All That Is and knew an unearthly peace and joy. In that instant all suffering and pain vanished; my whole body felt alive, invigorated — as if I had been reborn.
Stunned and surprised, I knelt where I fell, as the crowd surged past.
All at once the marching footfalls stopped. Jesus was standing absolutely still, frowning, “Who touched me?” he asked. He raised his head and scanned the faces around him.
“Who touched you?” one of the men closest to him repeated, “Are you kidding? In the middle of this mob it could have been anybody.”
“No,” Jesus shook his head, “I was touched by the person’s prayer.” He began to retrace his steps, drawing closer to me.
Trembling, I clasped my hands and bowed my head, “Lord, it is I who touched you.”
I waited for the recriminations, the scolding and the shame, but instead Jesus smiled at me. He smiled! And, bending low, he spoke to me, kindly, gently … and I told him everything.
“Talitha,” he said — using the pet name my mother had called me in my childhood, “Your faith has brought healing. You are cured of your disease.” The Lord touched my head in the sign of blessing, “Shalom.”
“Shalom, rabbouni.” I answered.
But in that moment of bliss — the unthinkable. Three men approached Jarius, their gait and their expressions conveying the news before the words left their lips, “Your daughter is dead.” One of them put his arm around Jarius’ shoulder, “There’s no point in bothering the teacher, now; come back to the house.”
But Jesus interrupted him. Looking directly at Jarius, he said, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”
Turning to the crowd, he held up his hand, “This doesn’t concern you. You cannot come with us.” Then he called three of his followers, Peter, James, and John, and we set out with Jarius and the other men.
We could hear the wailing before we reached the house; the whole community had assembled to mourn the death of the child. Tear-drenched faces and pitying gazes met us as we entered the gate; Jarius raised his hand as if to shield himself from the sight. But Jesus stood in the center of the garden, “Why are you carrying on like this?” he asked, “The child isn’t dead, simply sleeping.”
His words provoked sneers and outrage. One man, Jarius’ brother-in-law, came toward Jesus with his fists clenched, but Jarius stepped between them, “Get away! You know nothing!”
“That goes for the rest of you, too!” he shouted, waving his arms at the women with their disheveled hair and torn clothing, “Leave this house at once, and take your shrouds with you!”
We then went into the house and down a short hallway to the child’s darkened room, where her mother sat silently, grasping a small, lifeless hand, her grief too great for tears. Jarius uttered a soft cry and then turned to Jesus.
The Lord knelt by the child’s bedside, his robe brushing against her mother’s shoulders. He took her other hand in his and, with a glance at me, spoke to her softly, “Talitha, little girl, arise!” And instantly she open her eyes and sat up.
Looking at her mother, the little girl said, “I’m hungry!” Then, to Jesus, “How long have I been asleep?” She hopped out of bed and took Jesus by the hand, “Let’s go to the kitchen, my mother always has something yummy in the cupboard.” With a shy smile at me, she left the room.
No one had yet opened the veiled windows, and yet that room, I swear to you, was streaming with light. We stood there, all of us together, in silent awe and gratitude.
A moment later a voice from the hallway broke the stillness, “Mom! I want to make lunch for Jesus and his friends. Can I use the plum jam?”
Her mother’s laugh was colored with tears, “Well, it seems that life is back to normal!” Then, looking deep into my eyes, she said, “We will always be grateful to the one who gave life to our little girl.”
Jarius nodded, “That fellow in there,” he pointed toward the kitchen, “says that, with God all things are possible. So maybe it’s possible for an old man to make a fresh start; to learn to love and leave the rest to the Almighty. Like our mother Eve, you and the Creator brought new life into our world, that’s what counts; no one else matters. God is the one true father of us all; the rest of us are adoptive parents.” He cleared his throat, “You are always welcome in our home.”
Her mother took me by the arm, “Let’s go into the kitchen and see what our little girl is up to.”
And that is the story of how my new life began.
May the light of Christ shine as brightly in your life as it has in mine.
In His Name,
Suggested Spiritual Exercise
How much suffering do we cause by our fear and suspicion of one another?
The woman is not named in any of the Gospel reports of her story, although various traditions suggest she was Mary of Bethany or, more commonly, “Veronica” — which is a Latinized pronunciation (but not translation) of the Greek Berenike, meaning bearer of victory. After hearing her story, it seemed to me that Berenike was a more fitting name.