A week ago the church calendar contained this same reading though by Mark( MK 5:21-43 ).Them story is almost the same,though Matthews condensed version differs on some key points .The greatest similarity is that is again is a “sandwich gospel”, two stories layered together. Here sadly the little girl is dead while in Marks version she is near death. The second variation is that Matthew replaces the loud wailing at the death of the Girl with a flute player and a crowd.For the Hemorrhaging woman she still reaches out to tough the cloak of Jesus(though in Matthew it is the tassels).That both gospel writers went through the effort to layer these stories together draws much significance to the message not within each story, but the message that is common to both stories, the message that links these two events. Mathew emphatically states this girl has died and asks that Jesus Lay his hands on this dead girl so that she might live. Why? The writers both stress the importance of Jesus making contact with the girl and with the woman making contact with Jesus. Culturally for Jesus to touch the dead little girl would have made him ritually unclean, for the hemorrhaging woman to touch him would also have made him ritually unclean. Matthew emphasizes Jesus’s Jewish nature by his tassels as required by Mosaic law.The emphasis of these cultural taboos on one hand might have been added by Matthew for the sake of his audience. The point too might be that these taboos are something that Jesus is addressing. Should this contact with either blood or death be taboo? Should it make one ritualy unclean?While it is interesting that Matthew stresed this point, the answer to that question is a separate topic. What can be concluded from both writers are four distinct similarities:
- Contact between these two individuals and Jesus is important. This is most clearly stated by Matthew and it is also confirmed by Mark.
- The second point emphasized by Mathew and confirmed by Mark is that the little girl dies.
- The third point common to both Gospels is that after contact with Jesus, the little girl lives and the woman is healed.
- The fourth point common with both is the “commotion”: The woman touches Jesus amongst a crowd constantly making contact with him, and the visit to the little girl is preceded by either loud waling or musicians.
With a long almost forensic analysis of the two gospels and their authors to find a common set of points universal to both comes the question; why did these writers want to record these common details? They both are miracle examples of Jesus healing, yet they are not simply a record of events..Why then are contact,death, noise,healing and life related? Some answers might be found by looking into the cultures of the day. A first topic to consider might be death. In ancient cultures, notably documented in the Hellenic cultures but somewhat applicable to Roman and Jewish too, is that once someone dies they go somewhere else; they leave here.Part of the reason for the loud wailing and the musicians and the crowds at the little girls death was to announce that the little girl was leaving here and going somewhere else. In the gentile mindset she would be going to the god Hades of the underworld. Jesus tells them to be quiet. Jesus, the son of God, does not need that noise! He is not deaf, he is not in some far away place; he is here! Perhaps one of the points the gospel writers wanted to emphasize was that God is not in some faraway place, God is here amongst us. There is no need for a lot of commotion; god is in our midst.This same point is also found with the Hemorrhaging woman. There is no need for an outwardly extraordinary gesture to reach God, that can be accomplished with merely the thought of the gesture, God is that close. If we don’t have to travel to God in death or announce loudly our coming in death; do we have to put on some spectacular show to attract Gods attention during our life? Does God need showmanship to see and hear us? Jesus answer is no. God hears us even if we don’t speak. God can feel us reach out without a touch. This concept of God here amongst us ,both amongst the living and the dead, was likely a new way of looking at God for Mathews and Marks readers. For the Gentiles it was alien to their pantheon culture, while for the Jewish converts it perhaps wasn’t totally alien. The Jewish people had a wonderful relationship with God. Perhaps though they needed to know that their God was even nearer to them than they even knew, that their God was with them always. With them throughout their life and even in their death.Gods people are part of Gods creation, Gods creation contains us here and after and God is with us always. These two stories perhaps are not just about Jesus’s miracle healings. They perhaps are not the just story of a healing and a resurrection. Perhaps they are the story of Jesus healing through a miracle rather than with one?Could they be the story of Jesus’s healing through the miracles of a God amongst us and the miracle of everlasting life?