- Fr. Athanasius Oweis
The Unfathomable Power of Christ!
Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
At that time, there came to Jesus a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue; and falling at Jesus' feet he besought him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As he went, the people pressed round him. And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased. And Jesus said, "Who was it that touched me?" When all denied it, Peter and those who were with him said, "Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!" But Jesus said, "Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me." And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace." While he was still speaking, a man from the ruler's house came and said, "Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more." But Jesus on hearing this answered him, "Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well." And when he came to the house, he permitted no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and bewailing her; but he said, "Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, "Child, arise." And her spirit returned, and she got up at once; and he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed; but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
This Gospel is rich with different emotions, surprises, unexpected turns of events, and lessons. Let’s start from the very beginning, when Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, fell at the Lord’s feet. He made a full prostration to our Lord. We never heard Jesus telling him: “You should not prostrate, only believe in your mind”. Jesus’ acceptance of his prostration by going with him was a confirmation that the acts of the body and not just the mind, are vital in repentance. As it is the acts of the body that are a big part of our sinfulness. We sin with our body, so we repent with our bodies, and this is what we do in the Orthodox Church. We prostrate many times, and we tame our bodies with fasting and crossing ourselves, asking God to have mercy on us.
Second, you could imagine the state of anxiety in which Jairus was feeling. His faith was not as high as the centurion who told him “You don’t need to come to my house for I am not worthy, one word from you and my servant would be healed”. Quite the opposite, Jairus begged Jesus to come to his house, his daughter was in a critical condition where she was on her death bed, every minute counts. Not one second should be lost. While he was walking with Jesus back, the crowds become larger and larger and started pressing the Lord and his disciples and Jairus himself. This made their movement much slower. Imagine the frustration, his fear of losing his daughter at any minute! The clock is ticking…
Now the worst happens, Jesus stopped, for no apparent reason, and asked a very surprising question: “Who Touched me?” If you were Jairus, and your daughter is dying, and Jesus stopped in the middle of a pushing crowd, and asked that question, what would be your reaction. Mine would be: “For the love of God let’s go”. The apostles felt Jairus’ emotions, and immediately told him: “Lord, everyone touched you”. Jesus stood His ground and insisted that a power came out from Him.
And now, a woman appears, who also fell down in prostration before Christ. She was trembling in fear. Why? Let’s read Leviticus 15 verses 19-26:
19 “If a woman has a discharge and the discharge from her body is blood, then she shall be impure for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. 20 Everything upon which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything upon which she sits shall be unclean. 21 Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and shall be unclean until the evening. 22 Whoever touches anything upon which she sat shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and shall be unclean until the evening. 23 Whoever touches anything that was on her bed or on something upon which she sat shall be unclean until the evening. 24 If any man lies with her so that her impurity is upon him, he shall be unclean for seven days and any bed upon which he lies shall be unclean.
25 “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days outside of the normal time of her impurity, or if it runs beyond the time of her impurity, then all the days when she has an unclean discharge shall be the same as the days of her menstrual impurity. She shall be unclean. 26 Every bed upon which she lies all during the time of her discharge shall be for her like the bed of her impurity. Everything upon which she sits shall be unclean, just like the uncleanness of her time of menstrual impurity.
So now according to the law, she was in the middle of the crowd, where she is supposed to be “quarantining”, lest everyone else becomes unclean. She being there defiled everyone. Furthermore, these women issues are not to be talked about in public in that culture, even till today. How embarrassing the situation of this woman who was talking about the most private of issues and who was breaking the law in public and affecting everyone. This is why she was trembling. Now to explain briefly: This law of the seven days of impurity is a prefiguration of Christ’s resurrection in the eighth day bringing new life and new creation with him. The blood of man or woman was a sign of death or unbirth, where the blood of Christ gives life.
Furthermore, the woman did not touch Christ. She touched the hem of His garment. But Christ still said: “Who Touched me?” Which means “Who Touched me in Faith?”, that is if the inanimate things that touch Christ’s body He considers as Himself, then the same power exists in everything that relates to Christ! In the Book of Acts it wasn’t Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s clothes only who gave healing, it was their shadow also, which isn’t even an object that you can hold! This is why we venerate icons, crosses, relics. They carry the power of Christ. This during the pandemic we should run to the icons and crosses to kiss them and venerate them. The icons have always been fountains of healings throughout the history of the Church. The faithful should not be prevented from kissing the cross or the icons, this has never been the teaching of the Church! Icons are not for decoration, they carry the power of Christ for those who believe.
How much more would be the power in the people who were united with Him and became close to His likeness. Didn’t He Himself say: For thus said the Lord of hosts after he sent me forth, Whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye. (Zechariah 2:12). When Jesus appeared to Saint Paul on his way to Damascus He asked him: “Why are you persecuting me?” Brothers and Sisters, you are more powerful than you think, or what the evil one wants you to believe. You carry Christ, you need to believe in His power!
So, What did Christ do? Did he rebuke her for breaking the law? Quite the contrary: He called her daughter and asked her to go in peace. The fathers also see this situation allegorically, where the woman represents the humanity, the twelve years is the lifetime before Christ, the doctors who could not heal her are the law and different religions who failed to make humanity well…
While he was still speaking, the worst nightmare of Jairus became a reality, he received the news that his daughter did not make it. Alas! He lost his daughter because of a woman.
And in that point, we see the opposing voices that start to talk to Jairus, the voice of despair immediately came to him: “Do not trouble the master”. Isn’t that voice familiar, don’t we hear it everyday? “Christ will never be able to help you!!” And Christ, knowing the faith of Jairus to be faint, immediately stretched out His hand and saved him from drowning in despair and told Him: "Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well." When they arrived to the house, Jairus is hit by the reality of death again by seeing everyone wailing and crying. Christ in His loving kindness asked the people not to cry to console them and strengthen Jairus. He felt for them, what did he face, ridicule. The people believed in death more than life itself. Isn’t that what we see today? Aren’t people running away from the source of life because of a virus? Lord have mercy!
Christ gave resurrection to the girl, and her spirit did return, her parents were amazed, and the apostles learned from Christ and repeated the same, where Saint Peter did the same with Tabitha in Acts 9. Christ is able to change everything. Believe, prostrate, and repent, and you will be well.
May the Lord our God help us in strengthening our faith to walk in true repentance towards Him. Amen