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Arise (Part 2)

Jarius turned away from the sight of his servant struggling through the crowd towards them, forcing himself to focus instead on Jesus and the woman. He couldn’t bear to face the news that he was sure the servant had come to deliver. It couldn’t be.

“You’ve healed me Jesus, I knew the moment I touched you that I was healed!” the woman said quietly, her face still bowed towards the dirt at his feet.

“Arise my daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

As the woman stood and cautiously looked up at him, a small smile seemed to tug at the corners of Jesus’ mouth, his eyes seeking hers for just a moment. A smile broke out on the face of the woman, her face glowing with a barely contained joy.

Jarius felt a gentle tug on the hem of his sleeve. He slowly turned to confront the man he feared had come to tell him of his daughter’s death. The tears on his servant’s face as he turned confirmed his worst fears, and Jarius collapsed into the arms of the servant as he spoke the words he feared the most.

“Master, your daughter is dead. There is no need to trouble the teacher anymore.”

How could his little girl be dead? His sweet daughter, their only child, gone? Who would laugh at his jokes now? Who would wake him early on Sabbath with her happy voice full of excitement. Who would he make silly faces at while her mother scolded her for some minor offense, until his wife caught on and turned her scolding to him? Was all of this gone?

Would he never again be gently awoken in the night by his daughter who was certain there was something outside that she certainly wasn’t afraid of but wanted her father to check on…just to be sure everything was okay? Would he never again bravely put on his wife’s cooking pot as a helmet, with a bread knife as a sword and stand guard just inside her door until she drifted back to sleep?

How could he ever be brave again if she was gone?

The noise of the crowd suddenly crashed over him like a breaking wave. The people next to him who had heard the news were already beginning to mourn loudly. It was over this and the continued muttered spreading of the news of his loss through the crowd that he heard the voice of Jesus break through.

“Do not fear, only believe, and she will be made well.”

The crowd that followed Jarius to his home had become quite somber as the each step drew them closer to the home they knew contained a mourning mother.

Jarius could hardly escape his own thoughts as he stumbled through the dusty streets. One arm held by the young man who had brought him to Jesus in the first place, his other arm steadied by the servant who had brought him the terrible news. Each landmark along the path to his home seemed to have some memory of his daughter associated with it. Each person they passed along the way quickly avoided his look, as if they were ashamed to look on and share in his misery.

Why had this man Jesus stopped to speak with that woman? Didn’t he know that the interruption had condemned his daughter to death?

It was only gradually that Jarius became aware that Jesus’ disciple was speaking to him. The quiet voice came as though through a fog.

“All is not lost, friend. Even yet, there is hope. Even yet your daughter may live. Remember the centurion’s servant, my mother-in-law, even the widow’s child was brought back to life.” The young man seemed to be pleading with Jarius.

What good would it do to hope? God above had ordained this moment, who was he to deny it? Surely death itself could not be defeated by this wandering teacher. God had demanded of him that which God had given, and there could be no argument.

Jarius spoke quietly to the young man at his side. “How could there still be hope, my only daughter is dead.”

“Remember our father Abraham, friend. His own only son condemned to death, laid on the altar to die. Abraham believed that even if he must sacrifice his son, God could return him to life,” the young man continued. “We share the hope of our father Abraham, that even though death takes our children from us, God will raise up through us a mighty nation. Believe in this man Jesus, I have seen him do miraculous things with my own eyes. Even this is not beyond him.”

“God was testing Abraham.” Jarius replied. “He needed to know that Abraham would follow his voice no matter what was asked of him. No matter the cost.”

“So also is God testing you, my friend,” the young man countered. “He asks you to believe in this man Jesus, to believe that even though your daughter is taken from you, she will be restored to you.”

“You ask for much,” replied Jarius. “I shall do my best as we together walk through this valley of shadow and death.”



Arise

“Who touched me?”

The crowd came to an abrupt halt at the words, a murmur of confusion spreading quickly through the throng of people pressed into this narrow roadway. The people immediately next to Jesus pushed themselves away from him, as if denying they had done it.

“What now?” Jarius growled to himself. “This whole thing has been one interruption after another. Don’t you understand, Jesus, that my daughter is dying? We need to hurry!”

“Who touched me? Who touched my clothes?” Jesus repeated.

“Is this man insane?” Jarius thought to himself. “We can barely make any head way through this crowd to begin with, and now we’re stopping to figure out who touched his clothes? Everyone is touching you Jesus. Literally everyone. Let’s go!”

A man Jesus called one of his disciples seemed to be explaining this to him. Gesturing to the large crowd that had been following them to Jarius’ home, the disciple seemed to be pointing out the futility of asking that particular question. His quiet words to Jesus seemed to border on admonishment. It was as if the disciple was embarrassed by his own master’s question. The disciple tried to lead Jesus on by his elbow, but Jesus stayed where he stood, with his questioning eyes searching the crowd.

“We don’t have time for this!” Jarius screamed in his thoughts. “My daughter is dying, my little girl!” He glanced back over his shoulder in the direction of the home he and his wife had shared together with their young daughter, desperately hoping he wouldn’t see one of the household servants approaching. Any news a servant would have at this point couldn’t possibly be good news.

He could still remember the night his wife had first told him that he was going to be a father. He had returned to his home, exhausted from a long day of service at the synagogue. After dinner and a small glass of wine shared between them, the small talk of life sprinkled the rest of the evening as the household chores were completed. As the sun set behind the hills, his wife had lit a pair of candles for them, placed in the simple wooden candlesticks that had been a gift from her family. Neither of their families had much to give when they were married, but they always seemed to have enough for the two of them.

As they walked into the bedroom together, he found himself distracted by thoughts of tomorrow’s work. He prepared himself for the night, being sure to follow all of the required practices of a good Jewish man, and he had settled in to his bed, thoughts still churning through his plans for the morning. It was several minutes before he realized that his wife was seated on the edge of his bed, looking at him with her gentle eyes filled with tears.

“What’s wrong my darling?” Jarius had asked. “Is there something the matter?”

“No, no. Nothing the matter.” his wife had cooed.

“Then why the tears my love? Why are you crying?” Jarius reached up to wipe a tear from her cheek.

“God has been very kind to us.” was her response. “We have not been overlooked.”

“I suppose that is true, is this why you cry?”

Laughing, his wife had nodded.

“You know, I don’t understand you.” he had told his wife.

“Yes, I know.” she had laughed.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“Eventually.” she joked. “Although if I wait long enough, even you will figure it on your own.”

Laughing, he had asked, “How long do you suppose that would take?”

“Well,” she said” I certainly hope it would be less than 9 months.”

Everything had changed for him that day. His well laid plans for the next morning were set aside, and now, 12 years later, it seemed like nothing had been normal since then. After 9 months of hustling around to prepare his home for their child, his daughter had been born, and he still hadn’t found anything to even come close to comparing to the joy of that day. His heart had expanded so much since he had first held her tiny form in his arms. He had never expected it to change him so much.

A gasp from the crowd had drawn his attention back to the present moment. A woman had stepped forward, and at her sight the people around her had parted. She fell to her knees in front of Jesus, bowing before him. Jarius could see her worn and dirty robes, and what looked like dried blood on the left side of her face. The crowd had recognized that she was unclean, and those closest to her pushed back as far as the could from her, lest they be made to present sacrifices at the synagogue for cleansing.

“I’ve bled for 12 years my Lord. No one could help me. I spent everything I had and still I was sick.” the woman cried. “I’ve heard what the people say about you, that you are a healer. I’d heard that you had restored the paralytic and a man with a withered hand. I had to find you. I thought that if I just touched the hem of your cloak, I would be healed. Forgive me for the wrong I have done.”

Trembling, the woman knelt in front of Jesus, her face in the dirt. The whole crowd seemed frozen, awaiting his reply.

Jarius had begun to tremble as well, he could see his servant at the end of the street, making his way towards them.




Bleed (Part 6)

The woman frantically began trying to put her self back into order. Finding a small basin in the alley that must have been used for ceremonially cleansing, she saw her reflection in the rippled water. Dust and blood had run down the left side of her face, and then had dried there while she listened to the soldiers. She hurriedly pulled out the worn scrap of cloth she used each day and began wiping away the mess left on her face. Dipping the filthy rag into the small basin, her reflection was shattered, leaving her to work blindly.

“Filthy woman!” the beggar’s voice seemed to shout in her head. “Unclean and worthless. No one can heal you, and no one will love you.

Dipping the bloody rag into the basin, she continued desperately scrubbing at her face. Red, wispy spirals floated through the basin, making it impossible to see if she was making any progress. She could hear the crowd that surrounded Jesus getting closer. Time was running out, but she couldn’t face him like this.

“My work reveals your secret.” the beggars voice continued. “They’ll all see you for the filth you are.” The memory of his terrible laugh stole her breath, but she pushed the voice away and continued to work.

Dropping the ragged and ruined cloth into the basin, she began to dry her face on the inside collar of her clothes. Desperately hoping she wouldn’t miss Jesus, she worked quickly to make herself presentable. Straightening her head covering, she stood and faced the opening to the alley. She could see a few children running across the opening now, back and forth as they stayed just ahead of the procession. The crowd was quite loud now. How many people were following Jesus to Jarius’ daughter?

As she glanced down one last time to straighten her clothes, she noticed a dark red spot on the dusty cobblestones in front of her. While she stared down at it, another crimson drop joined it. A moment later, another drop of blood fell. The wound on her head had reopened. Her heart sank as she saw the fringes of the crowd begin to pass by the alleyway.

“Unclean! You’re still unclean and everyone will know! You’ll never be healed now!” she heard in the cruel voice of the beggar.

It was true, she was unclean. Jesus couldn’t dare heal her like this. It went against all of their customs, all of their beliefs. Worse yet, she was a thief and could never repay those she had stolen from. She became sick to her stomach as the realization that Jesus would pass her by sank in. She fell to her knees in the alleyway, and buried her face in her hands as more people passed her small opening by. Wasn’t twelve years of suffering enough? Would she never be free? No one saw her in the shadows, no one stopped to ask her what was wrong.

The noise of the crowd had changed now. It became somehow softer, like a solemn moment was passing, like the gentle dripping calm after a rain. In spite of herself, the woman looked up to see what was happening. The man Jesus was just passing the opening. She knew it was him the moment she saw him. Who else could that man be, but the man they called healer? As he strode into view, his head gently turned towards her alley, and his eyes seemed to seek hers. It was all she could do to not turn away from his piercing eyes. It was only a moment that they held eye contact, but in that moment the memories of her own father looking at her in the exact same way exploded in her mind. A small smile played across Jesus’ face just before he was hurried forward by the crowd around him.

Joy bloomed in the pit of her stomach, a sudden warmth chasing away the cold fear that had taken root there. That man loved her. She had seen it in his eyes.

Suddenly she heard once more the soft voice from before. “You’d better hurry, daughter. Or you’ll miss me!”

“But Jesus, you know I am unclean!” the woman silently responded to the voice in her head.

“Yes, but it isn’t the healthy who need a healer.” Jesus’ voice spoke to her.

“I’m unworthy my lord. I’ve done terrible things.” the woman continued. “I’ve stolen from those who fed me when I was hungry, who took me in when I was without a home.”

“I have come to seek and save that which is lost.” was the response.

“But lord, I don’t deserve to be healed, I don’t deserve to be saved.” the woman pleaded.

“Those who seek, find.” the voice replied.

“Jesus, how can this be?” the woman protested. “How could you possibly forgive me for all that I have done?”

“Come and follow me.” finished the soft voice.

She pushed her way out from the alley way into the thick crowd. She caught a glimpse of the soldiers left to stand guard pressed against the walls by the mass of people following Jesus. Once more struggling to see over the waves of people, she swam through the crowd, pushing and fighting her way forward . The joy that was suddenly hers overpowered the fear of discovery, overwhelmed her sense of caution.

As the minutes passed and she continued to struggle through the crowd, she found she was drawing closer to the man Jesus. 10 people away. Just 5 people away now. She now recognized Jarius beside Jesus, the young man who had lead Jarius standing on Jesus other side. Just a few more people stood between her and him. Slipping between them, she quietly fell to her knees behind him as the stopped crowd in front of them slowed Jesus’ progress.

She reached out and touched the hem of his garment.

Bleed (Part 5)

The worst part was that she knew in her heart that he was right.

Life had been hard, and this illness had never been fair. Where was the God her father had told her about in his stories? Where was this God who had saved Noah and his family from the waters of the great flood? Where was the God that protected Daniel in the lions den? If this God loved his people so much, why couldn’t he have kept her father alive? Why was she left here alone to fend for herself? Why did she have to turn to stealing clothes and food to survive?

Wiping the tears from her eyes, she looked down at the clothes she wore. Stolen from the fence of a woman in her home town, but now ripped and covered in dust and blood. Even those few coins this morning had been stolen from a kind neighbor when her back had been turned. Her hand reached up to brush her hair from her eyes, and came away sticky and red. She had never meant to become a thief, but there didn’t seem to be any other way for her to survive. She had been alone in this world for so long. What would her parents think of the woman she had become? Would they call her filthy? Would they know her worthlessness? Would they too seek her death like the beggar had?

Several faint shouts echoed through the streets she had just fled, followed by the sounds of people running. Her breath caught in her throat as the pounding of feet mingled with the sounds of metal on leather drew nearer. Through the tears she could just see the entrance to the alley she was hiding in, and a dark shape crossed it quickly. Moments later she saw what looked like several soldiers cross the entrance as well, clearly in pursuit of the dark shape. The sounds of a nearby scuffle soon reached her ears, and she pressed herself further back into the shadows as the hissing voice of the beggar screamed in terror. A few moments later she knew that he had been captured, and was being lead away in chains.

“I deserve to be locked up just like that man.” she thought. “He is no worse than me.”

Her heart again leapt into her throat as the beggar was lead past the opening where she hid. Four soldiers escorted him past, but the last turned back and spoke aloud to someone just out of sight.

“Wait here for Jesus to pass by. We don’t need any more trouble standing between him and Jarius today. His daughter might not have much time left.” the soldier finished without waiting for a response, turning back in the direction they had come. Soon the sounds of chains and marching faded into the distance. The street became quiet once more, and it was in this quiet that the woman heard the posted guard talking among themselves.

“The boss really believes in this whole Jesus thing, eh?” said a gruff voiced soldier.

“Yeah, well, you know what happened.” a softer voice answered. “His servant had been sick for weeks, and this guy just healed him.”

“Yeah, I know that’s the story, but just how exactly did this Jesus heal him?” the gruff voice responded. “I mean, he didn’t even come to see the guy. Just waved his hand or something and suddenly the servants healed? How do we know he wasn’t already going to get better on his own?”

“He wasn’t going to get better on his own.” the softer voice replied. “The way I heard it, he hadn’t spoken for a week, and suddenly just sat up in bed for the first time in a fortnight and asked for some soup.”

“I could use a fortnight or two in bed.” the gruff man laughed.

“Yeah. I don’t think the rest of us would mind you sleeping for a few weeks either!” the quiet man quipped. “Maybe the boss would give you the time off if you asked nicely.”

“Jerk. I was just saying I could use a bit more sleep ya know.” he continued meekly. “How long do we need to wait for this Jesus guy anyways?”

“I’ll bet he’ll be along this way in a few minutes. It seems he’s always up to something. He’s got the big shots at the synagogue chasing their tails trying to catch him doing something wrong but all I’ve ever heard of him doing is teaching about loving your enemies and giving people forgiveness for their sins.”

“So why’s Jarius going to him for help? They can’t like that very much.” the gruff man asked.

The woman slowly crept closer to the entrance of the alley so she could hear them better, the aches and pains of the attack making her movements stiff and clumsy. Her head ached, but the desire to hear more about this still mysterious man overrode the stiffness in her body.

“A good father will do anything for his daughter when she’s in danger. Even drag his own name through the mud and shame if it means she might have a chance to be okay.” the soft voiced man replied. “I’d give anything to keep my daughter safe. Even when she’s being a downright brat about something, even when she breaks my heart with her decisions, I’d go to the ends of the earth for her. I think Jarius is a man like that, and Jesus knows it.”

“Yeah. I get it I guess.” the gruff man growled. “It’s just going to make his life pretty difficult after this.”

As the soldiers conversation continued, the woman thought back to her own father and all the things he had sacrificed for her. Would he have done that if he would have known? Could he have forgiven her?

“Heads up! Here he comes!” Said the soft voiced man.

Panic returned as the woman realized that this was her chance. The healing she had been chasing was just around the corner. The rising swell of voices found her ears as she stood up carefully, and began trying to dust off the torn and dusty clothes she wore.

Could she face this man Jesus?

to be continued…

Bleed (Part 4)

“You’d better hurry, you’ll lose them.” A clear, quiet voice said to her.

Startled, she glanced quickly around, failing again to find the source of the encouraging voice. A bit confused, she had stopped to adjust her worn sandals, but with the voice seeming to repeat in her head, she took a deep breath and set off again quickly towards the corner. She approached the end of the street, and as she rounded the corner a quick flash of memory struck her, as she recognized where she was. A moment later, she was struck heavily on the head.

Stunned, she dropped to her knees in the dust. Her eyes swimming with tears she struggled to regain her feet when she was pushed down forcefully from behind. Her face was driven into the ground, she heard the hiss of the beggar as he spat out a cruel curse.

“Filthy woman! Just where do think you’re going?” growled the beggar. “Not chasing after Jarius are we? What would a woman as unclean as you have to do with him, a leader of the synagogue?” He forced his knee into her back as she tried to push herself back off the ground. Struggling but weakened from the fall, she was unable to free herself from him.

“Let me go! I’ve given you all I have!” screamed the woman. “Let me go! Help me someone!”

“Who would care enough to help you? You’re worthless.” The beggar crowed as he ground his knee into her back, her shoulders pinned down by his hands. Leaning down next to her face, he smiled sickly at her, as she redoubled her efforts to escape. She could smell the liquor on his breath, probably bought with the few coins he had stolen from her that morning. The missing teeth made his devilish smile terrifying. It was becoming difficult for her to breath as the beggar put more and more of his weight unto her back, his knee jammed between her ribs. She fought to turn her face away from his, choking on the dust of the road as she struggled.

Gloating, the beggar began to laugh, and shifted his weight so he could whisper in to her ear.

“I’ll kill you, worthless woman. I’ll kill you and they’ll all thank me for it.” He hissed.

It was getting harder to see, black creeping in around the edges of her sight. As she continued to struggle, her thoughts began to wander, and flashes of memories came unbidden to her mind. Each memory staying for only a moment, but seeming to last forever. Memories of her mother and father, of her home, the sea, the stars. She was seeing stars, both through the eyes of memory and her eyes in the present. She didn’t mind them now, as they helped hide the hatred on the face of the beggar as he laughed at her.

Her mind returned to a memory of her father, who was telling a younger and happier her, one of her very favorite stories. It was the story of the birth of man kind, how God had formed the woman from the rib of the man, and how the man himself had been formed from the dust. God had breathed the breath of life into the man, filling his lungs for the first time. She longed for that same air, as she lay there unable to take the next breath her body so desperately needed.

Her attempts to free herself from the beggar had almost stopped now, her face lay motionless in the dirt. Sensing the end was near, her attacker shifted his weight, driving his knee mercilessly into her ribs as his manic stare focused on her nearly lifeless eyes.

Somehow though, she could suddenly breath again. Her mouth drew in a lungful of air, and choking on the dust, she coughed it back out violently. The beggar, eyes wide, was blinded by the dust forced from the road by her cough. He jerked backwards, wiping at his eyes with his hands.

It wasn’t much of an opening, but it was enough.

She rolled away from the knee that held her down, instinct taking over as she gulped in another breath of air, her heart racing and lungs burning. As she stumbled to her feet, the black began to fade from the edge of her vision, and she ran back the way she had come. She could hear voices now behind her, but she didn’t dare to stop until they faded away. The tears had returned as she ran, and now she couldn’t see through them. She turned down a small alleyway and was forced to stop herself with her hands as she nearly ran into the wall in front of her. She sank down with her back against the wall, crying uncontrollably into her hands.

Shaking, she wept. The events of this morning completely forgotten in the shock of the attack. She could still feel his hands on her shoulders, his knee in her back, the crushing pain in her rib. Her head ached from where he had first hit her. She was unable to focus her thoughts on anything but the cruel hissing words of the beggar. They screamed over and over in her head, as she fought to regain control.

She was filthy. She was worthless. She deserved death.

to be continued…