by Gordon Lang
Not For Sale
Author requests article critique
Not For Sale
Author requests article critique
“I am sorry, Demitries, but there is nothing more that I can do!” the sad-eyed physician agonized, “perhaps the Almighty will be merciful…!” In a desperate attempt to offer one last dying ember of hope, the suggestion remained unspoken. Demetries looked numbly to his loving wife and saw the tears brimming in her eyes, threatening to spill over and run down her cheeks.
“Thank-you, Doctor”, he mumbled, “it is enough.” The physician nodded solemnly, and slipped out the door, leaving them to handle their sorrow together. Sweet, little Tabitha – the joy of his existence! How could life be so cruel? Just last month he had watched in delight as she skipped over the cobblestones on her way to the marketplace to play with the other children. She was, indeed, Daddy’s little girl! Her bubbly giggles and childish antics brought such a refreshing vigor to his otherwise ordinary life-style. Now, as his wife melted into his arms, he tried desperately to find just the right words.
“What shall we do?” she wailed, “why does life have to be so cruel?!” Similar questions swirled in his own mind, and he could think of no comforting words with which to reply.
“Perhaps even this shall pass…” he offered, but the words had such a hollow ring, and did nothing to bring confidence to his spirit.
“Water, Mama….” the faint, rasping voice pleaded, breaking into their moment of mutual consolation. Deborah squirmed free of his embrace and rushed to the water pitcher. Hastily, she poured water into the cup, and, with hands still trembling, she hurried to answer Tabitha’s desperate plea. Her skin was pale, her hair disheveled, and, as Deborah slipped her arm around the girl’s shoulders to support her, she noticed that her daughter’s gown was drenched with sweat. Tabitha gulped one mouthful, then another, then her little body went limp, as the water dribbled down her pallid chin.
“Tabitha!” Deborah cried desperately, “Tabitha! No! O God, No!” her voice was lost in a mournful wail. Instinctively, Demetries knew the cause of the panic in his wife’s voice, as he rushed into the room to witness the limp body, cradled in the arms of her mother. Uncontrollable sobs racked Deborah’s shoulders, as Demitries numbly retrieved the body of his little girl from her mother. Gazing at the lifeless form that lay in his embrace, Demitries mind flashed back to the first time that Tabitha had been placed in his arms – the day of her birth. The hope of that day – compared to the horror of this one – how could life be so cruel?! The shock of reality caused his own emotions to explode in a mournful wailing that seemed to last forever.
“What do we do now?” he heard Deborah mumble through her grief. It was an issue that he had dreaded for so long, a question to which he still had no answer. What was it his brother had told him? Something about a prophet from Nazareth – he had stopped a funeral procession at the town of Nain, and had actually called a widow’s son back to life?! Could he – would he do the same for his Tabitha?! Maybe, just maybe, all was not yet lost. The possibility lit a fire of hope within him. Where was this Jesus of Nazareth? How could he be found? It was worth a try - if there was even the most remote possibility…
In a daze, he left the house. Where would the prophet be today? At the temple? In the town square? Would he even be in town today? He would try the market place first – yes, that was best! As he neared the market, he heard only the familiar sounds of commerce, but, what was that group of people doing? They seemed to be milling around a central figure – could it be? Yes! There he was! The teacher – Demetries could hardly believe it! Surely this was a day of blessing! Without hesitation he approached the Teacher, and fell on his knees before him.
“Teacher,” he implored, “my little girl died this morning. But if you would only come and lay your hand on her, I know that she would live again!”
“I will come,” the Teacher assured him, and, without hesitation, he began to follow Demitries to their home. But, wait – what was this? Someone else was approaching the crowd. No it couldn’t be – please don’t let her interrupt now!
She emerged from the shadows, her body clinging to the gnarled cane that had become her closest companion. In her weakened condition she had learned to lean on that cane desperately over the past twelve years. How many times had she hobbled along the streets on her way to the physician’s house, hoping earnestly that this would be the day of her release? How often had she followed some bizarre ritual that had been prescribed as the cure to her hopeless physical condition? Her inheritance had long-since been exhausted, paying physicians’ fees - only to be disappointed by the realization that the costly prescribed treatments left her in the same condition.
Just last month she heard about him. His name was Jesus- a teacher from Nazareth. People said that he had healed the paralyzed man in the temple – right in the middle of his teaching – surely he wouldn’t mind her intrusion. But, she wouldn’t intrude – she would be more polite. She had heard that he had healed many people with just a simple touch, sometimes with nothing more than a gentle word. If the healing power was so evident in him – maybe, if she could just get near enough to simply touch His outer robe, she would be healed! Didn’t the law declare that her hemorrhage caused her to be “unclean”? Just appearing in public was risky, her very presence could defile so many people, but it was a risk that she had to take. It had been a lonely, costly, and totally humiliating existence for the last twelve years, but perhaps it would soon be over!
She could see the crowd approaching, she could hear the joyful sound of the children that always seemed to flock around Him. Yes – there he was – head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd, he had that friendly, but determined look about him. Here was a man that was definitely headed somewhere – he wasn’t simply out for an afternoon stroll. He probably wouldn’t have time to stop for her anyway. This would not be easy, the crowd was so thick, she would certainly be pushed and shoved by the milling throng – she might even be injured in her efforts. She stumbled over a child’s foot – the child cried out in surprise, and made some rude remark. In an effort to regain her balance, she jostled a member of the Sanhedrin, who glared at her impudently. As he shrank back in disgust at the sight of her, she saw her chance to scoot around him, bringing her closer to the Nazarene. Now she could see the bulk of his broad shoulders hidden by the outer cloak that covered his ankle-length robe.
“Just touch him!” her spirit screamed, “just reach around that woman and touch his robe – and all of your prayers will be answered!” This was the opportunity for which she had prayed, the moment that she had anticipated for the last six months. Finally, this was her chance! Her trembling hand groped for the garment, yes, there it was – her fingers closed around a handful of soft fabric. She felt the gentle tug just before she released her grip, and shrank back behind the man who was trying to elbow his way into a position in front of her. There was no bolt of lightning, there was no clap of thunder, in fact, she didn’t feel any different than she had a moment ago! But, somehow, she knew in her spirit that her life would never again be the same!
He stopped instantly – the crowd followed suit. Curiously he looked around, surveying the people, before he asked –
“Who touched me?”
“Master”, his closest friends chided, “there are people all around you – and you say, ‘who touched me’?”
Yes, of course! Such logic would be her excuse! It could have been anybody that he had felt brushing against him.
“No”, he persisted, “somebody did touch me – I felt the healing power go out of me!” He paused – clearly determined to proceed no further until he received a satisfactory answer to his initial question.
“Don’t say anything!” her mind warned “don’t you know that you could be stoned for such impropriety?” Overwhelming fear now gripped her, as she stood motionless, wishing the earth would open up to swallow her. She felt her body start to tremble under the stress of the moment. Still he waited for an answer to his question – was he looking directly at her ?! She was trembling so violently now, that her legs refused to carry her weight as she stumbled towards him, and collapsed at his feet.
“It’s been so long!” she cried, as she tried to raise her eyes to look at him. “No one else could help me, so I came to you! Everyone pushes me aside, even the law says I am unclean! I didn’t want to be any bother to you, but I thought – ‘If only I could touch you …’ ” The implication was clear as her voice dissolved into uncontrolled sobbing. She awaited his stern rebuke, but none was forthcoming.
“Daughter,” she heard his gentle voice, “your faith has made you well; go in peace.” That was all he said – there was no rebuke for interrupting his time of ministry, there was no harsh order to present herself before the priest to be declared ‘clean’. She was free to leave! She was free from the bondage of an “incurable” disease, she was free from the reproach of the requirements of the law, she was free from the disdain of the members of her society… she was free, indeed!
“Maybe there will still be time for me in his busy schedule,” thought Demitries. He silently chided himself for even considering the jubilant woman as an untimely interruption. After all, was he not also usurping the Master’s time to answer his request? He remembered Deborah, at home, even now struggling with her own grief. How he needed her comfort - as he knew that she needed to be comforted. Once again he could feel the grief welling up within him. Sweet Tabitha – but maybe the Teacher could … no, he had to be able to…
He could hear the sound of mourning as they rounded the corner. The desperate wailing, mingled with the haunting sounds of the flutes, caused his heart to sink in despair once more.
“What do these people know of my grief?” he thought bitterly. Tomorrow they would be laughing and singing joyfully once more, while he and Deborah would be lost in their heartache, unless… He caught a glimpse of her in the far corner, in a roomful of ‘mourners’, yet so desperately alone. As he met her gaze, his heart broke once again at the sight of those beautiful eyes – now vacant and hollow with her grieving. Trembling, she reached out to him as he approached, and, as she melted in his embrace – a fresh wave of grief washed over both of them.
“Get out!” the stern command interrupted their moment of mutual comfort. “I said – get out! All of you!” the teacher’s voice was now more than impatient.
“How dare you impose on this gathering…” the chief of the mourners sputtered impudently, “it is our duty to be here!”
“You have no duty here!” the Nazarene insisted, as he took the chief mourner by the elbow and forcefully ushered him toward the door. “The girl is not dead – she is only asleep!” The statement brought a round of bitter laughter and unrestrained sneers from the group. Still, as their leader was guided out the door, they all followed in stunned obedience. Nothing like this had ever happened before – how dare he interrupt such a solemn occasion! Should they remain outside the house until this madman had finished with his cruel joke? Would they still be paid for their services?
With the absence of the mourners, Demetries found his momentary despair begin to turn to hope once more. Again, the account of the widow’s son returned to his memory. They said he had been dead also – they had even prepared him for burial. At least Tabitha was still in her room – surely this was a more hopeful situation! And hadn’t the Teacher just said she was merely asleep? He wondered if she would stir when they entered the room – but there was no movement beneath the shawl that covered her little body as they approached the cot where she lay.
“Are those tears in his eyes?” Deborah thought, as she watched the Teacher reach for the limp hand of their little girl. Could he also feel the sorrow that filled the room?
“Tabitha – arise!” – that was all he said, as he took her hand. Yes! There was a movement under the shawl now, as her other hand hesitantly brushed back the covering to reveal her radiant smile. The Teacher’s grip tightened on her hand and he gently drew her into a sitting position on the cot.
“Mama! Papa! It was so beautiful! You should have seen it!” the child’s words of sheer wonder and amazement were smothered by two sets of adult arms as Demetries and Deborah were lost once again in unbridled emotion. This time, it was tears of joyful release that flowed unrestrained in the bedroom of their little girl. Two broken hearts underwent several moments of merciful healing as they considered the hope that was now theirs. After some time, they simultaneously turned to the figure in the doorway – and yes – there were tears of joy on his cheeks as well.
“Teacher – Master-…” Demetries stammered, “how can we ever thank you?” The question echoed in Deborah’s mind as they both threw their arms about his neck in a moment of spontaneous thanksgiving.
“Go, tell your family and friends what great things God has done for you,” came the simple reply. That was all he said, before he gently closed the door behind himself, and left them to savor the delight of family enjoyment once again.
Two people, so totally different, with respect to their station in life, yet so very similar in their need for divine intervention. In the mind of the average person, both situations would have been written-off as hopeless, but in each case there remained that desperate hope, fuelled by the burning faith that, with God, all things are possible. Remember that these two people had not been raised in a society that had access to the written Word of God, to which they could refer when life became so painfully tragic. In today’s society they would have been able, in their desperation, to refer to the Word – if only to find solace in their time of sorrow.
In the case of Demitries, the average person would have simply accepted the death of their child as a hard fact of life, and began to make funeral preparations. Why would one seek out this Jesus of Nazareth after the girl was already dead? Certainly, those who are fathers can relate to that special bond of affection that ties us to our little girl. It would be difficult for any of us to sit idly by and watch the very life ebb from that precious body, but to admit that she had actually expired would have been heart-wrenching indeed. He would have to manage his own grief, and he would need to provide strength to his devastated spouse. Questions of what went wrong?, or what more could I have done? would have to be dealt with before he could find any amount of peace.
It should also be noted that Demitries was a leader in his community. However he handled his crisis, it would be noted by the people who looked to him for leadership, and, given the controversy surrounding this Jesus of Nazareth, he was really taking a chance in even approaching the Master at this time of need. Others would realize where he turned for help, and would either follow his example, or openly condemn his actions. The whole ordeal could end up costing him his social status, as well as his family. It would not be an easy decision to make, but faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
In our personal lives we would have to admit that Demetries’ level of faith is highly enviable. The situation that we might face may not be as radical as the death of a child or a spouse, it may be hopes and dreams that have been crushed by life’s circumstances. It may be a broken relationship, or loss of employment that has left us at the doorstep of despair. With a little imagination, one can insert his own situation into the scenario, and find that, when all hope is gone, there remains that burning desire to see the impossible dream become a reality.
But if you would only come and lay your hand on her, I know that she would live again! What an enviable confession in the face of the impossible! If only You would come – I know that she would live. When we face an impossible set of circumstances, do we have the kind of faith that says if only God will intervene, we know that the situation will be resolved? The normal reaction would probably be – Why trouble the Master any more? The situation is beyond hope, we may be tempted to believe, there is no sense in disturbing God any more. Yet God honors faith that is able to trust Him for the impossible.
And, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind, and touched the hem of his garment. Just when Demetries thought that he had Jesus’ full attention, someone else came and dared to interrupt. It almost appeared to be a situation designed to present a distraction from what the Lord had promised to do. Upon closer examination, however, we catch sight of someone who is in a situation that is just as crucial. In the eyes of society, the woman would have been declared ‘unclean’, and everything and everyone that she touched would bear the same label. The very nature of her malady would designate her as an object of reproach by the members of society in general, and by the religious leaders in particular. As if that were not enough, we find that her racial heritage also placed her as an outcast to her society.
So, here she was, approaching an up-and-coming religious teacher of the day, with a declaration of faith that proclaimed – “If I can only touch His garment, I shall be made whole”. She didn’t even require the Lord to touch her in order to effect her healing, it would be sufficient for her to touch His garment. It is heart-rending, indeed, not only to find oneself in such a position, but also to minister to such a person. Certainly, there is the physical aspect that needs to be healed, but there will also be much spiritual and emotional healing that will need to be effected. Undoubtedly, the most remarkable aspect of this woman’s disposition was her level of faith. Without the aid of mass-media teaching, how did she arrive at such a resolute confession? We can only surmise that the desperation of her situation drove her to seek the only One who could fill that need.
If her desire for anonymity had been paramount to her success, it appears that, to Jesus, it was unimportant. Rather than viewing her as an outcast as others did, Jesus desired to make of her an example of enviable faith. “Who touched me?” was, as the disciples pointed out, an almost rhetorical question. But Jesus, in his love and patience, already knew the answer. Undoubtedly, he also knew the desperate spirit behind the answer, and, had He not waited for her confession, he would have missed the opportunity to speak words of healing to the wounded spirit.
When they came to the house, the mourners were already in place, fulfilling their duties. Nothing could have been more discouraging in the face of Demetrius’ hope. Was it a jarring return to a stark reality, or was it simply an attempt by the Enemy to extinguish his last thread of hope? In the face of life’s disappointments, mourners are readily available. It seems that man has a natural tendency to gravitate toward the negative circumstances in life. Jesus’ first reaction was to expel the group of mourners. Certainly, at times, it is necessary to make a concerted effort to expel the ‘mourners’ from the situation. We can expect ridicule, and even direct opposition, but the outcome will be a drastic improvement in the level of our faith with the absence of those that appear to thrive on the negative.
The girl is not dead, she is only sleeping – the statement brought ridicule and scorn from those that had been hired to grieve for her. It mattered not what the commonly accepted view of the situation was, the statement of faith dared to declare that reality defied appearance. There will be times in our experience when we will have to declare what seems to be the direct opposite to what is perceived as reality by the masses. The result of such a statement will, most likely, be ridicule and scorn from those who have no stake in the matter, but to those who dare to believe, it will bring hope to believe for the impossible. Jesus had already declared, “the girl is not dead”, so the act of taking her by the hand and commanding her to “arise” was merely a completion of the statement of faith. In our situations, it is not sufficient to simply speak the word in faith, we need to act on that faith in order to see God at work in our lives. Faith without works is dead, Paul declares, because it stands alone. We can declare, relentlessly, that we believe, but until we act on that declaration, our faith will bear no spiritual fruit.
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