“You know what they did then, Auntie Rahel?”
“No, my child.” I smile at my niece’s animated face. She is a pretty one, already catching the attention of the young men. I was like her once - full of life and dreams of a future.
“They went on to the roof and pushed the reeds apart and lowered his sleeping pallet down at the Rabbi’s feet.”
“Really?” I shift on my own sleeping pallet, imagining how it would feel to never rise from its confines. Already, I spend too many hours here, my strength bleeding away. Yet at least I can arise for short times every day.
“The Rabbi told him his sins were forgiven and the scribes murmured that he couldn’t do that. So, to prove that he could, he told the man to get up. And he did.”
“He did what, Miriam? You are going too fast.”
She clucks her tongue impatiently. “The paralysed man stood up.”
“Yes! The Rabbi healed him.”
Healed. The word lodges itself deep into my heart. Twelve years I have sought to be healed of the bleeding. Every physician in Capernaum, in all of Galilee, has attended me. Even those passing through from Damascus and Alexandria have been called to my bed. They have recommended baths, ointments and poultices made from herbs and oils. They have prodded, probed and promised, but never healed.
Healed. Is it truly possible?
I have heard of this Rabbi Jesus-Ben-Joseph before, for he spends much of his time in Capernaum. Yet no Rabbi would allow a bleeding, unclean woman into his presence.
“Lord,” I close my eyes, seeking His comforting presence, “if this man is truly from you, please make a way for me to reach him.”
The crush of bodies almost overwhelms me. I struggle to stay on my feet as I am pushed forward by the force of the crowd. Even breathing is difficult in this hot, sticky mass of people and I feel the familiar light-headedness that so often overtakes my body. I fight it, for to faint now could be fatal.
Help me Lord, please.
The Rabbi is coming. I see his disciple, the big Fisherman, trying to clear a path through the crowd. As they draw closer, I catch my first glimpse of the Rabbi. His arm is around the shoulder of a man I recognise - Jairus, the synagogue leader - and they are deep in conversation. Rabbi Jesus is shorter than his companion; I had imagined him to be tall. Momentarily, I am disappointed - he looks so very ordinary.
He is near. Now is my chance. I edge forward, closer and closer, but he passes me by. Desperate, I duck under the arms of another one of his disciples and reach out as far as I can. My fingers brush against the fringe of his receding cloak.
Warmth tingles through my hand and slowly pulses up my arm. When it reaches my shoulder it spreads across my chest and down into the rest of my body. As it touches the throbbing ache in my abdomen and back it grows in intensity, flaring into a short burst of pain. Then it is gone and, as I straighten, I realise that it has taken the constant backache with it.
Slowly, I become aware of how very quiet the crowd has become. A lone voice is speaking – the Rabbi: “Who touched me?”
He knows. I try to turn away, but the mass of people is an unbreachable wall. The Fisherman answers: “There are many crowding around you and touching you, Rabboni.”
True, he won’t find me. Yet, I watch as his eyes roam over the crowd, looking intently into every face. Eventually he will look into mine and he will know.
With trembling body, I push forward again and fall before him to face his wrath: “Forgive me, Rabbi.”
There at his feet, I tell of the pain, rejection and sorrow of the last twelve years. Strangely, I am no longer aware of the crowd - it is as if we are completely alone. His strong arms eventually draw me up and I look into a face bearing not a trace of anger.
“Daughter, your faith has healed you.” His eyes brim with love and approval. “Be free and blessed.”
With just one touch of his cloak, the Rabbi has done what no mortal man could – healed me.
I know then that he is anything but ordinary.
The account of Jesus healing the paralytic is found in Matthew 9:1-8
The account of Jesus healing the bleeding woman is found in Matthew 9:18-22 and Mark 5:21-34
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