In this Advent season we are talking again about incarnation. This beautiful idea that somehow the divine is made present to us in this life of Jesus Christ, incarnation offers us at least two profound ideas. First, if divinity is found in the Jesus story, then Jesus tells us about what God is like. And second, if the divine takes up humanity in this way, then God affirms humanness itself too.
And what we see in the gospels is not only a story about Jesus, but about the way Jesus sees and uplifts the humanity of those he encounters; especially those who are often on the margins and edges.
“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
A woman, who was plagued by an illness that was beyond her control. And to make it more difficult, the illness she lived with made her ritually unclean and therefore pushed to the margins of community. The fact that she touches him is controversial - a ritually unclean woman touching a religious leader.
But this is not the way Jesus sees it. He sees the situation, and her, very differently from the traditional rules that govern belonging, purity and the dignity of humanness. The woman is seen and noticed; she is not brought before everyone to be shamed but to be honoured.
In last week’s post we talked about a “sinful” woman who breaks in to polite dinner conversation and interrupts so that she can pour out a radical display of devotion to Jesus. Having affirmed the woman, he makes the statement,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Similarly, in this week’s story he says something nearly identical,
“Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
The “saving” and “healing” that is taking place here is all a part of the affirming work of Jesus Christ that flows out from the idea of incarnation. And the emphasis here is on the “your” faith… Jesus could have easily said “My power has healed you” or “God has healed you”. And he would be technically correct.
But he chooses to emphasise their role in the story. This is not about acquiring a special formula for healing. It is not telling us that if we don’t get healed it’s because we didn’t have enough faith. Instead, Jesus invites everyone who was in hearing distance and all those who read these texts now, to remember these women as significant, as playing a vital role, as reminding us that the story is not just about him. He says… this healing you just received, this is not only about me, this is about you.
Be in peace.
What might it mean for us to be recipients of peace as this year draws to a close? The Advent season, as much as we have turned it into a frantic time, is at its heart a season to pause and to be reminded that we can be recipients of peace. This story of Jesus says to us that we do not have to scramble to be seen, to be noticed, to find our affirmation or to find our place in the story. Instead, we are offered peace.
And this is the claim of the angels who appear to the shepherds in the Christmas story, announcing the birth of this child with the proclamation:
“Peace to all mankind.”