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The Hem
by Marsha Sue Pitman
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"The Hem"
Marsha Sue Pitman

To the unsuspecting eye, it was an ordinary Galilee morning. The sun rose quietly on a delicate dabbing of dew and the warm, sweet morning air was filled with lilting bird song and the hope of dawn. The stir of a sleepy world was a subtle hum in the background of the early morning symphony, as life began for the day in the dusty town of Capernaum.

The first sounds to assault Keturah's ears on this fine morning were the rumblings and grumblings of her husband, Michaleal, from the other room. He had awakened after a restless night, filled with disturbing dreams of the day ahead. Michaleal was a Roman soldier by career, and his job was to keep the peace and ward off untoward Jewish gatherings and riots. As an Official of Crowd Control and Keeper of the Peace, today had promised to be trying.

After all, those Jews were a volatile, high strung lot. They were a hand full, alright, and they surely made his job a challenge. They were irritable and discontented, those Jews; a mule-headed bunch, always huddled, mumbling and debating about history and hopes of the arrival of their scripture-promised king, their Messiah, who was said to be coming to free them from Roman tyranny and raise them to power. They were a huge, rowdy threat to Caesar, to be sure, and Caesar's direct order was to rule them with an iron fist. Michaleal's job was not an easy one. And today, of all days, stirred his dread.

There was always, at any given time, a rabble-rouser amongst the Jews, and today was no exception. For the past month or so there had been a man, known as The Baptist, John, stirring up trouble down by the river Jordan. The Roman guards had been warned to keep a sharp eye on him and his activities, for he was, indeed, a danger to the sovereignty of Roman reign. The Baptist was an odd character, living in the desert, wearing camel hair bound by a leather belt, existing on a diet of locusts and wild honey. He heartily preached repentance of sins and baptized with water all who came to him, confessing and repenting their sins, in the Jordan river. He spoke of the coming of one who would baptize, not with water but with the Holy Spirit and fire, whose sandal he was not worthy to loose. He preached with zeal and power, greatly inciting the crowds.

In short order, a young Jew named Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph the carpenter, had appeared at the shores of the Jordan, submitting to John's Baptism. Since then, Jesus had stolen the Baptist's thunder, drawing huge crowds wherever he went, and was said to possess magical powers. It was rumored that He performed miracles that only God or the Devil could perform. He was some magician, this Jesus, or some charlatan. Yes, He was said to restore sight to the blind, loose the tongue of the mute, make the lame walk, cure lepers, cast out evil spirits and even raise the dead! It was no wonder he caused such a stir amongst the poor, savior-starved Jews. Indeed, this man bore watching, and today, it was said He was coming to the very town of Capernaum to teach and perform His miracles. Michaleal's head already throbbed with the very thought. This Jesus would prove to be a headache, of this he was sure.

As Michaleal rattled around in his room preparing for work, Keturah dragged herself out of her bed and limped toward the hearth to light a fire. She was weak as a kitten and her bones ached but the world did not stop just because she ailed. Meals had to be prepared, and household chores had to be done, which all fell on her shoulders, regardless of how she felt. Keturah thought wistfully that she should be used to it by now. After all, it had been 12 years that she had been afflicted with this scourge of blood and been considered unclean. She had been to many physicians who took her money readily enough but could offer her no cure. She had forgotten what it felt like to feel good, to be healthy, strong and vigorous as she had been in her youth. She was tortured daily now, and some days, she just yearned for the peace of the grave. How weary she was of the pain and weakness that plagued her.

In spite of the deep ache in her bones and weak muscles, however, this morning seemed to be charged with anticipation that was almost palpable. As Keturah hurried about preparing her Michaleal's breakfast, she pondered the excitement that seemed to crackle in the air. The only thing she could attribute it to was the rumored arrival of the young man they called Jesus of Nazareth. The rumors about this handsome young Jew were all the buzz in Capernaum. He was said to be a "holy man" with great powers. Some of the Jews claimed He was their Messiah, some said He was Elijah reincarnate. It was even said that He Himself claimed to be the "Son of God".

Keturah had heard alot of whisperings and musings about this Nazarine, and wondered if it was possible. She had also heard that He was none but a rabble-rouser and a trouble-maker, but was not really convinced of the latter. She wanted to see for herself. She had had a dream about Him, last night. It was a vivid, haunting dream where she had come face to face with Him, and He had looked deeply into her soul with piercing, burning eyes. Remembering the dream in all of its clarity brought tears to her eyes. Come what may, she must seek Him out...

Keturah had been a young, attractive girl of thirteen when her parents had arranged for her marriage to Michaleal. He had stolen her heart within the first five minutes of meeting , and she had vowed to spend her life loving and trying to please him. He was her one and only love. But fate had been unkind to her. Keturah had conceived fairly soon after their marriage, but lost the baby early in her pregnancy. She was barely a woman when she had then developed a malady that rendered her unable to do the one thing she knew would make her Michaleal happy, produce a son. Yes, she was barren, and afflicted with a scourge of blood that no physician could cure. Michaleal loved her in spite of it all, but she mourned in her heart the fact that she was unable to give her husband a child. And she was tired, perpetually tired. Life was a huge effort for Keturah, an enduringly sad effort. She pondered her dream, as she prepared breakfast, and toyed with the fantasy that the Nazarene of her dreams could cure her.

Most men would have divorced her by now. But her dear Michaleal loved her truly. He was a kind man with a good heart, and his job found him many times torn. He was a conscientious guard, and loyal to Caesar, but did not always agree with the way the Romans ruled. There was no cruelty in him, which made him stand out among the rest. He found that many times he could accomplish more with firm compassion and kindness than the others in his garrison, who arrogantly wore their authority like badges and wielded their power like sharp deadly swords.

Michaleal had not really wanted to spend his life in service to Rome. He was a humble man, with no desire for power or authority. He hated confrontation and had wanted a simpler life working with his hands, as a wood crafter, but his father would have no part of that idea.
His father had spent his life in service to Rome, and Rome had been good to him. His father had connections, insisting that a career in the Roman
Army, as his father's protege, was Michaleal's destiny. He was a good son, thus, here he was.

After Michaleal left for work, Keturah cleaned up breakfast dishes, washed herself, and then busied herself with her many chores. By mid morning, it was uncomfortably hot and humid. The town of Capernaum occupied nearly two-thirds of a mile on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, over half a mile of it harboring fishing boats, hence, often, it was cooled by the salty, sweet sea breezes of the nearby Galilean Sea. But this morning there was no breeze stirring and the stifling heat of the day was oppressive. Keturah's hair was damp and her skin was sticky as she thought about how uncomfortable Michaleal must be in his heavy metal gear.

Suddenly she heard a commotion, off in the distance, not unlike the sound of a stampede. Instinctively, she knew the source of the din, and was drawn to the dusty street out in front of her home. Before long, she could see a huge throng of people down the street moving slowly toward her. Keturah had known that Jesus would be surrounded by multitudes of people, and had been contemplating since awakening how she could just get close enough to Him to but touch his cloak. It would not be easy, of this she was sure, but she had to try. What if the rumors about this man, Jesus of Nazareth, were true. What if He could heal her...Keturah's heart raced at the thought.

Indeed, there was a huge crowd of people surrounding Jesus as He walked down the street. As the mob approached her, Keturah took a deep breath, and stepped into the road, being instantly swallowed by the masses. She tried to push and shove her way into the moving drove, hoping that luck was with her, that she may somehow draw near to Jesus. A short distance in front of her, she heard a voice rise above the din. As she listened, she recognized the voice as that of one of the Jewish rulers of the local synagogue, an official appointed by the Jewish elders to supervise the Jewish worship. He was an important, influential Jew whom she had heard Michaleal speak of on more than one occasion. The Roman military personnel, under the command of a centurian, worked closely with the Jewish leadership to keep the peace, and the Jewish officiate were well known amongst the military garrisons. To her surprise, Keturah realized that the voice of this man, known as Jarius, was but a few feet in front of her.

In the midst of the crowds, Jarius threw himself down at the feet of Jesus, prostrating himself as if he were a servant. He spoke in loud desperation, "Master, my little daughter is gravely ill and lies very close to death. I pray You, come and lay Your Hand upon her so that she might be healed and live!" Jesus agreed to go with Jarius, but the crowds pressed in upon Him, preventing His movement. In that instant, it seemed like the crowd parted and Keturah moved forward behind Jesus, bent low to the ground and reaching out, touched the Hem of His garment. A surge of warm, tingling energy passed into her fingers, up her arms and into her chest as a glowing warmth filled her from her head to her toes. Suddenly tears sprung from her eyes and rushed down her rosy cheeks and she began to tremble, for she knew that she had been touched by a Power beyond her dreams, and she knew that she was healed. Jesus stopped immediately, turned around, and asked in a loud voice of authority, "Who touched Me?" The men closest to him incredulously replied, "The throng closes in upon You, Master, and yet You ask," Who touched Me?"" Knowing that Power had gone forth from Him, Jesus looked around, and Keturah, trembling now with fear, came forward and dropped at His feet, sobbing out that it had been her.

Jesus, looking upon her with tender compassion and love, reached down, took her hand, and helped her to her feet. With the corner of His cloak He gently wiped away her tears, and softly said, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go forth, and be free of your disease."

Before He had finished speaking to Keturah, members of the synagogue ruler's home came forward and said to Jarius, "Your daughter has already died, Master. Trouble the Teacher no longer." Turning back to face Jarius, Jesus said firmly, "Fear not. Just believe."

Jesus then separated Himself from the crowd, taking with Him only Peter, James, and his brother, John, the three men closest to him. Jesus headed to the house of Jarius, where He sat on the little girl's bed, spoke softly to the child who had died. Jesus reached out and took her hand, calling her back from the grave. The entire household was stunned with great amazement, such was His Power and Compassion.

Meanwhile, Keturah returned to her home moving slowly, in awe. Her body and spirit still felt aglow with a warmth, joy, and fulfillment such as she had never known, and she was exquisitely aware that she would never be the same again. She had been raised to believe in many gods and goddesses, but never had she experienced anything like this. She had heard that the Jews believed there was only "One True God" but up until now, had dismissed that thought as silly myth. Now, however, everything had changed. She knew that she had been touched by the very Hand of God through Jesus's Hem, and had been made whole, and her faith and joy knew no bounds. She could hardly wait to share this experience with Michaleal, to tell him all about this Jesus, who had touched her and healed her.

That very night, Keturah conceived a child, a man child, and nine months later gave birth to a hearty, healthy son, whom they named Jarius Jude. Michaleal sought out this Jesus of Nazareth that Keturah told him of, and invited Him to honor them by sharing a meal in their home, which He graciously did, and Michaleal became a fast and faithful believer in Jesus that very evening. From that day forward, their lives were never the same, and their son, Jarius, was raised to know, believe in, and follow Jesus of Nazareth, through whose hem his mother had been healed and he had received life.

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