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CHAPTER 5:21-43


REPULSED from Decapolis, but consoled by the rescue and zeal of the demoniac, Jesus returned to the western shore, and a great multitude assembled. The other boats which were with Him had doubtless spread the tidings of the preternatural calm which rescued them from deadly peril, and it may be that news of the event of Gadara arrived almost as soon as He Whom they celebrated. We have seen that St. Mark aims at bringing the four great miracles of this period into the closest sequence. And so he passes over a certain brief period with the words “He was by the sea.” But in fact Jesus was reasoning with the Pharisees, and with the disciples of John, who had assailed Him and His followers, when one of their natural leaders threw himself at His feet.

The contrast is sharp enough, as He rises from a feast to go to the house of mourning, from eating with publicans and sinners to accompany a ruler of the synagogue. These unexpected calls, these sudden alternations all found Him equally ready to bear the same noble part, in the most dissimilar scenes, and in treating temperaments the most unlike. But the contrast should also be observed between those harsh and hostile critics who hated Him in the interests of dogma and of ceremonial, and Jairus, whose views were theirs, but whose heart was softened by trouble. The danger of his child was what drove him, perhaps reluctantly enough, to beseech Jesus much. And nothing could be more touching than his prayer for his “little daughter,” its sequence broken as if with a sob; wistfully pictorial as to the process, “that Thou come and lay Thy hands upon her,” and dilating wistfully too upon the effect, “that she may be made whole and live.” If a miracle were not in question, the dullest critic in Europe would confess that this exquisite supplication was not composed by an evangelist, but a father. And he would understand also why the very words in their native dialect were not forgotten, which men had heard awake the dead.

As Jesus went with him, a great multitude followed Him, and they thronged Him. It is quite evident that Jesus did not love these gatherings of the idly curious. Partly from such movements He had withdrawn Himself to Gadara; and partly to avoid exciting them He strove to keep many of His miracles a secret. Sensationalism is neither grace nor a means of grace. And it must be considered that the perfect Man, as far from mental apathy or physical insensibility as from morbid fastidiousness, would find much to shrink away from in the pressure of a city crowd. The contact of inferior organizations, selfishness driving back the weak and gentle, vulgar scrutiny and audible comment, and the desire for some miracle as an idle show, which He would only work because His gentle heart was full of pity, all these would be utterly distressing to Him who was

“The first true gentleman that ever breathed,”

as well as the revelation of God in flesh. It is therefore noteworthy that we have many examples of His grace and goodness amid such trying scenes, as when He spoke to Zacchaeus, and called Bartimaeus to Him to be healed. Jesus could be wrathful but He was never irritated. Of these examples one of the most beautiful is here recorded, for as He went with Jairus, amidst the rude and violent thronging crowds, moving alone (as men often are in sympathy and in heart alone amid seething thoroughfares), He suddenly became aware of a touch, the timid and stealthy touch of a broken-hearted woman, pale and wasted with disease, but borne through the crowd by the last effort of despair and the first energy of a newborn hope. She ought not to have come thither, since her touch spread ceremonial uncleanness far and wide. Nor ought she to have stolen a blessing instead of praying for it. And if we seek to blame her still further, we may condemn the superstitious notion that Christ's gifts of healing were not conscious and loving actions, but a mere contagion of health, by which one might profit unfelt and undiscovered. It is urged indeed that hers was not a faith thus clouded, but so majestic as to believe that Christ would know and respond to the silent hint of a gentle touch. And is it supposed that Jesus would have dragged into publicity such a perfect lily of the vale as this? and what means her trembling confession, and the discovery that she could not be hid? But when our keener intellects have criticized her errors, and our clearer ethics have frowned upon her misconduct, one fact remains. She is the only woman upon whom Jesus is recorded to have bestowed any epithet but a formal one. Her misery and her faith drew from His guarded lips, the tender and yet lofty word Daughter.

So much better is the faith which seeks for blessing, however erroneous be its means, than the heartless propriety which criticizes with most dispassionate clearness, chiefly because it really seeks nothing for itself at all. Such faith is always an appeal, and is responded to, not as she supposed, mechanically, unconsciously, nor, of course, by the opus operatum of a garment touched (or of a sacrament formally received), but by the going forth of power from a conscious Giver, in response to the need which has approached His fullness. He knew her secret and fearful approach to Him, as He knew the guileless heart of Nathaniel, whom He marked beneath the fig-tree. And He dealt with her very gently. Doubtless there are many such concealed woes, secret, untold miseries which eat deep into gentle hearts, and are never spoken, and cannot, like Bartimaeus, cry aloud for public pity. For these also there is a balm in Gilead, and if the Lord requires them to confess Him publicly, He will first give them due strength to do so. This enfeebled and emaciated woman was allowed to feel in her body that she was healed of her plague, before she was called upon for her confession. Jesus asked, Who touched My clothes? It was one thing to press Him, driven forward by the multitude around, as circumstances impel so many to become churchgoers, readers of Scripture, interested in sacred questions and controversies until they are borne as by physical propulsion into the closest contact with our Lord, but not drawn thither by any personal craving or sense of want, nor expecting any blessed reaction of “the power proceeding from Him.” It was another thing to reach out a timid hand and touch appealingly even that tasselled fringe of His garment which had a religious significance, whence perhaps she drew a semi-superstitious hope. In the face of this incident, can any orthodoxy forbid us to believe that the grace of Christ extends, now as of yore, to many a superstitious and erring approach by which souls reach after Christ?

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