Little Girl & the Hemorrhaging woman, part 3


Mt 9:18-26.
MK 5:21-43
Luke 8:40-53

The story of the little girl and the hemorrhaging woman is found in the three synoptic gospels.The story is nearly the same in plot ,though Matthews version is condensed.  The greatest similarity is that is consistently a sandwich gospel, two stories layered together. That the three 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 ? Interesting too is the age of the little Girl(which is mentioned in Luke 8:40-53) and the length of time the woman has suffered, twelve years. Another common point to the three gospels 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.

Comparing the three gospels and their authors reveal a common set of points universal to both. Then 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, age, 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 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. The noisemaking, the wailing,the musicians were all a ritual part of Greek funeral rites of the day:Jesus is putting an end to a ritual. Chances are though that the funeral ritual is only a hint at Christ’s message.

The greatest hint is these are two females, one a mature woman and the other a little Girl and the coincidence of age,12 years. 12 years as the age of maturity for the little girl, of becoming fertile and 12-years the mature woman has been suffering. As their touching Jesus made him ritually unclean, their own biology is making them ritually unclean. In some of the accounts the Jewish nature of the little girls father is emphasized, in others it is obscured; likely for reason of the target audience of a particular gospel. It is ironic that the little girl dies at the time she approaches fertility, and dies also at the same time she herself would begin becoming ritually unclean.In the story had the little girl not died, she could have ended up like the hemorrhaging woman 12 years later. Ritually unclean was a burden. Until the rituals of being clean again were compleated, she would have been bared from many aspects of society. Being considered defiled simply for the biology of ones sex might also have been degrading;the woman could have been targeted for  second class citizenry especially in a patriarchal society. Perhaps the older woman was not reaching out to Jesus to heal herself , but perhaps it was an effort to heal, to save, the little girl?While the Jewish law regarding women might have been also seen as beneficial to woman of the day as it did emphasise their woman hood , it did not make room for a merciful God when their body did not comply with the letter of that law. It might have been that the womans hemoraghing was not the normal or typical and routine that the law intended. It could also have been an exception, a physical malady beyond her control yet unaccounted for by the law.

Jesus in his discussions with the religious leaders of his day constantly argues against cultural taboos that placed a burden on people and against stigmas that suppress people, especially ones that stigmatize people for something that is beyond their control, and most especially that which has its origins in God. A woman’s biology has its origins in God. Mortality too has its origins in God. Perhaps Jesus healings here point to the  cultural abuses of Gods creation. The defiled, the ritually unclean, are not the dead, nor these woman.Neither are they the blind, or the crippled, or the disfigured. The defiling uncleanliness is the cultures taboos, its stigmatizations, its exclusions and abuses of what God had created.”Ritually Unclean” can be an abuse of what God had created. It can have more to do with establishing a social hierarchy than with obedience to God. Its mans law, not Gods. While some of the rituals themselves can and do  offer spiritual graces, it is the damaging abuses of “ritually unclean” that were likely the intended target for healing.

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