Hem of His Garment
a woman, Jesus, and a man named Jairus


In Luke's gospel we encounter two stories blended into one when Jesus meets Jairus and the woman who reached out to touch the hem of his garment (Luke 8:40-48). The difference between these two needy souls could hardly be greater. Jairus, a synagogue ruler, was a man of prestige and power. The woman, who remains nameless for us, has weathered shame, sickness and poverty for twelve long years. For twelve years Jairus has delighted in the life of his daughter while this dear woman has suffered. Both Luke and Mark mention this timeframe, a detail which emphasizes the stark contrast of their lives.

Both came to Jesus because of their pain. Jairus' pain was acutely urgent and the woman's, desperately chronic. Jairus came first but was required to wait, for this unfortunate interruption took place just as Jesus had started on his way to heal his precious daughter. The woman who reached out to Jesus, barely touching the hem of his garment, tested Jairus' patience and increased his anxiety. Jesus, don't you realize that my daughter's health is too critical to delay? And for whom are you lingering?! For this shameful woman! (my take on his thoughts) But, for the moment, he wasn't given any option. He simply had to wait on Jesus, his only hope.

The unnamed woman....
Penniless, having spent every last denarius on doctors, to no avail.
Ceremonially unclean, just like every other Hebrew woman during her monthly period (Lev 15:19) yet, for her, a permanent state throughout these 12 harsh years.
Shunned by the religious who would not sacrifice their own ceremonial purity through coming in contact with her (Lev 22:5).
Burdened by the shame which had grown increasingly heavy, until she could bear it no more.

She reached out to Jesus in desperation and faith. Though I don't dare to ask and would never ask him to touch me, perhaps if I could just touch his robe....

She reached through the crowd and touched the hem of his garment, and felt his power move through her. Her physical healing was immediate, occurring before a word was spoken. Yet the shame held her still. "Who touched me?" Jesus insisted on knowing. Falling fearfully at his feet, she declared the reason for her daring act and confessed the healing she knew she had just experienced.

Once her confession was made, the grace of healing was made complete. For Jesus' words applied balm to her soul, just as his unspoken power had done to her womb.
"Daughter" Care, belonging, her shame cast away.
"Your faith has made you well." Reinstated, no longer an outcast. Restored!
"Go in peace." Her soul soared! Blessed by the Master. Her freedom gained. Filled with gratitude, hope and overwhelming joy.

How I wish we knew this woman's name! Yet nameless she stands for countless others who are shrouded in shame.

Water on Faces

In a way unique to my journey, I can identify with the weariness of her struggle. I recognize the long road to wholeness and the longing to cast off the shame which has wrapped itself around me, threatening to steal my sense of self. The immediacy of the woman's healing and Jesus' tender affirmation encourages me that my own healing can also be complete and lasting.

And what about Jairus? It may have taken a while for the full significance to sink in, but I imagine he lay awake that night, mulling over the lessons of the day. His impatience and judgment of the woman (not recorded but undoubtedly present) were overlooked, and grace was extended to him as well as to her. His had been but a short episode of pain, a harsh and rude intrusion into his blessed life. Yet Jesus' gift of grace was his too as he restored his daughter to him without even a moment of passing judgment. Grace had freed Jairus too from shame and set him free to receive the gift he'd been given. Gratitude, as well as grace, flowed richly that day.


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Other stories of grace

Jesus and the woman at the well Jesus and Bartimaeus Spiritual refreshment page

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Quote of the Week
"Somebody was telling me this week that nobody can make a violin speak the last depths of human longing until that soul has been made tender by some great anguish. I do not say it is the only way to the heart of God..."

Frank Laubach
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16-18 May 2014
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