Saturday, April 11

The Messianic Declaration

This will be a little longer because it is part of my term paper for a NT
class. The topic is on the Woman with the Issue of Blood.

Through out the Gospels you find many asking, as it relates to Jesus, who is this man? There is speculation around His teaching, healings, observance of the ritual cleansings and laws (eg. Healing and working on the Sabbath, touching the unclean). Still, there are many healings, teachings and deliverances that attest to His power and authority. So what are we to think of this man? Even His disciples find themselves asking this very question. Everyone knows that He is different than other Rabbis and teachers of the Law but so far, no one is willing to make the leap and say whom He might be. That is until the day Jesus is walking to Jairus house to help his little girl. On the way, there is a woman who not only believes in the miracles this man can produce but seems to see much more. She sees and proclaims that He is the one; the long awaited Messiah of Israel.

We shall start at the beginning to get a glimpse of what is taking place here. Jesus had just left a town, on the request of the townspeople, after calling a legion of demons out of a man, but allowing them to enter a herd of pigs, whereupon they run them into the water where they all drown. Jesus and the Disciples leave by boat, and reaching land are met by a crowd. Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, sees Jesus and falls at His feet begging Him to come and heal his daughter, who is dying. Jesus agrees, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him (Mark 5:24). Thronged, literally means to choke or suffocate, the crowd was pressing in on all sides waiting to see what would happen.

It is in the midst of this scene that our lady finds herself. She had heard about Jesus, Mark doesnt let us know exactly she heard about this man but the Greek tense Mark uses is Aorist or a simple past tense. This may simply mean that she had previously heard and learned about Jesus, as oppose to just asking somebody in the crowd that day. However it happened, it must
have stirred something deep inside of her. So deep, she was willing to break custom, and fight her way through the crowd. Often, we picture an old woman crawling through the crowd reaching out her frail hand to grasp any part she can, before anyone sees or possibly recognizes her. The only problem with this picture is that if she was an old and frail woman crawling though a crowd so thick that it was suffocating, she would have probably been stomped on or seriously injured. Mark is also very clear in the word he uses to describe how this woman touches Jesus, it is not a quick grab of whatever she can reach, but the word used here literally means to fasten ones self to, adhere or cling to. There is a strength portrayed in how this woman touches Jesus, and what it took for her to actually get through the crowd to be close enough to Him in the first place. Everyone wanted to be close to the Master. The only modern day comparison would be of Bono or George Clooney walking through a crowd, in a developing country like Africa. Everyone is trying to touch some part of them and be near them. It would be impossible to be on the outside and fight your way to the center of the action, well near impossible that is.

This woman is like many in the Gospels. She is an outcast, through no fault of her own, but because she is sick. She has been bleeding for 12 years and though she has sought help on every front there has been no relief. Her sickness involves blood therefore she is unclean (Lev.15:25). There is to be no contact with this woman (Lev.15:19), and she should be announcing her presence wherever others are, so that they do not become unknowingly defiled. She was also divorced from her husband, not allowed to live in her home or to come into contact with old friends, was excommunicated from services at the Synagogue and not allowed in the womans court of the temple. She was alone in her sickness, seperated from her family, her
people, and her religion.

So, as we look at this story, you may ask, where exactly is this Messianic Declaration? I see an unclean woman doing what ever it takes to be healed by whatever means this man may be healing, but I don't see her calling Him Messiah.

To fully understand what is taking place I think we need to jump back into History. In Numbers 15:37, 38 The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations." The word used here for corners is Kanaf meaning extremity, edge, border wings or winged. So God told Moses to put tassels on the Kanaf of the garment.

This garment was called a Tallit, we would know it as a prayer shawl. The Prayer Shawl was a very intricate garment. The tassels had knots and some represented the 613 laws, some had knots that were spaced apart and represented letters. So that as you were walking and your hand fell upon a tassel, you would allow your fingers to feel the knots you would know that that tassel, perhaps, spelled the name of Yahweh and you would be reminded of your God. As you read further in Numbers, you see that God commanded this because He knew how easy it was for them (and us) to forget Him and His way. We are a tactile and visual people!

Even though it is believed that the daily wearing of the prayer shawl was diminishing in practice during Jesus day, at this time in our story, Jesus is still wearing His. We know this because in Lukes account (Lk 8:44) it says that She (the woman with the issue of blood) came behind Him, and touched the border of His garment and immediately her issue of blood was
stanched. The same word, Kanaf, is used here; she was clinging on to His Prayer Shawl. So, you may still wonder, how is this a Messianic Declaration? For that we must look back to Malachi 4:2. Malachi is making a prophetic statement as he says, "the Sun of Righteousness (a reference to the Messiah) shall arise with healing in His wings (italics mine). One of the defining words we mentioned earlier for Kanaf is wings. The prayer shawl was often referred to as wings, and when the arms were outstretched and the tassels were hanging it actually looked like wings. Through out the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, when you see the word wings it is
often this word, Kanaf. It was thus believed, among the Jews, that there would be healing in His, the Messiahs, tallit (prayer shawl).

Let us now jump back to our story. This woman has heard of Jesus and she seems to put two and two together really quickly. Either this man is from Satan or uses sorcery to perform these seemingly miraculous acts OR He is something, someone, entirely different. The only other option is that He is the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah. If this is true then simply touching His tassels hanging on the Kanaf (border) of His garment would bring healing and restoration into her present life. She has made her decision and starts throwing elbows to get in close enough because she believes that this man is who He says He is and that is enough for her.

There is so much taking place in this story and so much to be gained from it. You have an unclean woman who is not only physically healed, but spiritually and socially as well. She is restored in society, no longer to be seperated and humiliated. The idea that Jesus knows that a little girl is dieing and yet stops to call out what has taken place, and lets everyone else know that this woman is now whole. This is also the only recorded time in scripture that Jesus used the term Daughter, as he says in Mark 5:34 Daughter, your faith has made you well. And yet, some have said that this woman had an ignorant faith, believing that Jesus used magic and there was magical powers in His clothes, But as we look into scripture, where she grabbed, what the Jewish people believed about the place that she grabbed, we can see that she was not ignorant as to where the power truly came from, but was referencing Malachi's promise that the Messiah would have healing in His Kanaf. We need not misunderstand the symbolism here. It is not to promote the transference of power to clothing, but we need to understand all that the prayer shawl represented to the Jewish people. It wasn't simply carrying around the 10 commandments in their wallet in case they forgot, but it was a reminder that God has laid out the way in His commands, and that it is the way that restores their relationship with God that was broken in the Garden so long ago. It was through theses things that they were connected to God, and yet Jesus has fulfilled all that the commands of God required. Through Him, we are now made whole!

Even though there is so much taking place here, for me it is this one fact that stands out. This woman hears about Jesus, sees Him, and makes a public decision. In front of everyone, she is not only begging for a healing like others, but she is saying I know that you are the Messiah. At a time when the masses were wishy-washy and the Disciples were confused, one woman makes it quite clear to everyone what she thinks of this Man.

That is the Messianic Declaration!

(Bibliography not included but you can post any reference questions and i will reply)