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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…

Bleed (Part #3)

It seemed the rest of the crowd was interested too, and there was a surge of people all trying to get closer to the shouting man. In the mob, it became difficult to move, but she learned several things as the people around her began speculating.

“What’s wrong with Jarius?” A nearby woman asked.

“Is the synagogue in trouble? Is there a fire?” questioned the man to her left.

“Maybe it’s thieves again, or the Romans!” she heard from behind.

“Maybe if you’d all be quiet we could hear!” The sick woman loudly interjected.

Thankfully, no one seemed to have heard where the suggestion had come from, and they must have all seen the sense in the request. The crowd quieted down just enough that she could begin to make out the words of this man who was apparently called Jarius.

“My daughter is sick, I need to find the healer! Has anyone seen him? Has anyone seen the man Jesus?” Jarius’ pleas filled the small square around the well as she struggled to get through the crowd. The woman redoubled her efforts to reach Jarius, planning to follow him to this Jesus they both sought. Surely someone here would know where to find the healer.

Moving through the crowd reminded her of the time her family had gone to the sea together. She had been much younger, and her father was still alive. They had played in the early morning sun, splashing each other and enjoying the cool water as they explored the shallow water near the shore. After the frenzy of splashing and chasing each other had worn them out, they floated calmly in the bright sun, slowly drifting with the gentle waves. She had drifted pretty far from her parents when the air temperature suddenly changed. She had opened her eyes to a darkened sky and ominous grey clouds overhead. The faint cry of her mother calling her back to shore only just discernible over the suddenly growing sound of the wind.

Her panic had grown as quickly as the storm had. With arms beating frantically against the water, grabbing at the surface ahead she crawled forward towards the shore. The wind blew spray into her face, blinding her for a moment while she blinked away the water and tears that mingled there. Each stroke took all that she had, but with each stroke she was driven back from the shore. It seemed that she would be swept out to sea. “Father!” She had cried! “Father!”

Then he was there. Her father, swimming powerfully towards her. Stretching out his hand for hers. With her last gasp of strength, she had lunged forward to reach him. Her hand fell into his, where it was grabbed firmly. As her father began to turn back to shore he shouted to his daughter to hold tightly to his clothes. She grasped at the hem, and held on for her life.

Fighting through this crowd felt the same way to her. It seemed for every step she took towards her goal, the crowd pushed her back. She struggled to keep her eyes above the sea of people separating her from her goal. She fought back tears as an elbow smashed into her from the side, taking her breath away like the storm driven waves that day so long ago. Where was her father when she needed him? How could she ever reach Jarius by herself?

“Jarius is not the healer, so why are you chasing him?” a quiet, small voice said to her.

Looking around for the source of the voice, the woman could see no one. Yet the voice still seemed to echo in her head. Jarius wasn’t the goal. Jarius couldn’t heal her. Jarius himself sought the healer!

Like the changing wind that day at the beach, the woman turned and began pushing through the crowd again, this time not towards Jarius, but rather, in the same direction Jarius was going. It suddenly seemed as though she swam through the crowd, slipping between people as if they were standing aside to let her pass. She quickly made her way to a narrow street that lead away from the square, finding herself just in front of Jarius as he entered the dark alleyway.

He was met there by a young man, who grabbed his hand and began to lead him quickly through the city. She followed them as best she could, beginning to fall behind as the men’s long legs carried them further with each hastened step. She could hear Jarius telling the man about his daughter, 12 years old, whom he was afraid was dying. Between ragged breaths the man told Jarius of the widow’s son, who Jesus had raised from the dead not long ago, adding that his own mother-in-law had been healed of fever by Jesus himself.

“It was only a touch.” the man told Jarius. “He healed her with the simple touch of his hand!” “Surely he can help your daughter.”

As they rounded the corner and slipped out of sight, the woman found comfort in the young man’s words. It was only a touch that had healed his mother-in-law. It was a simple touch of this man Jesus that had restored her to health.

to be continued…

Bleed (Part 2)

She knew she couldn’t focus on the fact that she had no money left. It was hard enough to remain hopeful in the face of nearly half a life of being an outcast from society. When she had first entered her womanhood, it was strange and frightening experience, but also one that her mother was there to guide her through. It wasn’t until a few weeks had passed that she noticed her mother was uncomfortable and even seemed worried. After a month, they had quietly sought the help of a well regarded older woman in the community. The medicine they were sent home with didn’t provide any relief, so the slow search for a physician who could help was begun.

By the time her mother had passed away, they had spent nearly 8 years seeking a cure all over Galilee. For the last 4 years, she had been on her own, with her mother’s savings slowly dwindling until she had to leave the home she had grown up in. It had been a sad day when she left the house for the last time. She still remembered the smell of her father when he would hold her on the window sill, watching the sunset over the hills most nights after he returned from work. His laugh boomed in her ears and she couldn’t help but smile when she thought of his silly jokes. She remembered how hard it had been to look out of that window after her father had passed, and she remembered her mothers hand upon her shoulder as she was guided away from the star filled sky that was streaked and clouded by so many young tears. She remembered the longing for that same kind hand on her shoulder that would never again come after her mother’s death. So many memories in that home, but they were often tempered with sadness too. Now she was the only left who remembered her family as it really had been, the only one who didn’t see a family cursed by God and struck down for some unknown sin.

The woman had been so deep in thought that she hadn’t noticed the older woman approach her, and was startled when a quiet voice asked her if she was well this morning. Turning to face the owner of this quiet voice, she stammered out a greeting of her own in return.

“You look like you didn’t sleep very well last night, my dear.” creaked the old woman. “What brings you to the well so early this morning?”

“I’m looking for someone, but I am not from here, and I don’t know where else to begin looking. I guess I thought the well might be a good place to start.” The woman stammered back.

“Seems as good of a place to begin the search as any. Who are you looking for?” asked the older woman.

“I’m afraid I don’t really know, I’ve never been sure of his name. ”

“How do you expect to find someone when you don’t know their name? You’d be better off going back to bed until you could come up with a few more details if you ask me. Kids these days.” the old woman croaked. “Surely you know something? I don’t have much to do these days but gossip, maybe I can help you find them!”

“I only know of him through rumors and gossip myself.” The woman reluctantly answered. “They say he healed a centurions servant with just a word and that he teaches with that same authority. I guess in my head I’ve always just thought of him as the healer.”

“I wondered if it would be him.” the old woman interjected. “He causes a bit of trouble around here from time to time. It seems every time there is a new story of him, there’s a new reason for certain people to be mad at him. I don’t mind the stories personally. Gives someone something to talk about at least, but some of them sure are hard to believe.”

“Do you know him then? Do you think you know where he is?”

“Well, I don’t know him. I just know that he stirs things up sometimes.” the woman replied. “Now, you just stay here and wait a minute and I’ll see if anyone knows if he has come back to town.”

With this, the older woman tottered towards the well, where the crowds were starting to gather, drawing water and news for the day. As the courtyard around the well continued to fill, the woman seeking the healer slipped away from the open and hid herself in the still long shadows of the morning. The sounds of the growing crowd grew too, and as a few more minutes passed she found that she had been forgotten by the older woman, who had quickly hobbled off with a small group towards the synagogue. Perhaps it was better that she was forgotten, it made it easier to hide when no one was looking for you.

The sound of shouting brought her back from her reverie, and as the commotion grew louder she noticed a well dressed man approaching who was frantic. He was shouting something she couldn’t quite hear again and again as he worked his way through the crowd. Finding a small opening, she slipped into the throng of people and tried to work her way closer to the man. What was it that he was shouting?

to be continued….