As the crowd jostled and pushed, attempting to get close to him, she stood at a distance. She watched them as they laughed and chatted, and shouted greetings to one another across the busy street.
She felt invisible. No-one welcomed her, or talked to her, or even glanced in her direction. It wasn’t that she expected them to acknowledge her; she knew her place- standing at the back of the crowd, on the outside, looking in. She hated it, but she was resigned to it; it had been twelve long years since life had been different.
Twelve years of sickness and suffering, of doctors and medicines, of hopes raised and dashed. Twelve years of being excluded and avoided and branded “unclean”. Twelve years of wishing and praying, and hoping for a cure that would bring an end to her isolation. Twelve years of disappointment.
And yet she wasn’t quite ready to relinquish hope, because she knew that right there, in the centre of the crowd, was Jesus. She had heard stories of the amazing miracles he had done: turning water into wine at a wedding, healing leprosy, curing blindness, enabling a paralysed man to walk for the first time ever. Surely if anyone could help her, it was him.
If only she could figure out how to get through the crowd to approach him. The thought terrified her. Surely someone would notice and send her back where she belonged. Even if she did get to Jesus, what would she say to him anyway? Why should he help her? And what if it didn’t work? She had literally tried everything else- there was no other hope.
She was distracted from her thoughts as the crowd suddenly parted and stood aside. A man made his way through to approach Jesus. He made it look easy.
Well, it was easy for him. She recognised him. He was the leader of the local synagogue. Of course Jesus would have time for him.
She could see that something was badly wrong though. The anguish was written all over his face as, close to tears, he fell to the ground before Jesus and pleaded with him: “Please come and help. My daughter is dying.”
She saw Jesus’ concern and compassion as he helped the synagogue leader to his feet and set off with him, reassuring him that he would come to help. It was an expression of such love and tenderness that her mind was made up. She had to do this- there was nothing to lose. She had to find a way.
She knew there was no way she could walk up to Jesus like that- she wasn’t important enough- but she knew he was powerful- really powerful. Maybe just getting close enough to touch his robe would be enough.
She hurried along to catch up with Jesus as he strode through the town. Running along by the side of the crowd she overtook them all, until at last she was in line with Jesus.
It was now or never.
Before she could lose courage, she made her way through the people surrounding Jesus, she timidly reached out her hand, and she touched him…
And everything changed. It came over her instantly- a feeling that she had almost forgotten. The bleeding that had plagued her for so many years had stopped and she was well! She could hardly believe it! She was clean at last!
But something was wrong. Jesus had stopped. He turned to the crowd. “Who touched my robe?”
At first she thought she might get away with it. One of his disciples tried to persuade him that someone had just brushed against him by accident. It was perfectly possible with the huge crowd pushing and trying to get close. But Jesus waited- he knew that it had been deliberate.
Now she wished she was invisible. She tried to blend into the crowd. What if Jesus was angry that she had touched him? What would the people say? She could feel herself shaking with fear. Her heart was pounding and it felt like every eye was upon her as she finally stepped to the front of the crowd and fell, trembling, at Jesus’ feet. The words came out in barely a whisper:
“I touched you. I wanted you to heal me.”
She stared at the ground as she waited for his response. She had no idea what to expect. But then gentle hands lifted her head and as she looked into his eyes, she could see only kindness. He smiled at her.
“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
And as instantly as the sickness had left her, the shame departed. No longer an outcast at the back of the crowd, but someone loved and valued by Jesus. No longer “unclean” but “daughter”.
Thanking him, she rose to her feet and she went, in peace.