Tuesday, 16 August 2016

You Don't Know my Name

In the Bible, the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke recall the story of a woman who suffered from a period that had lasted twelve years.  No author provides us with any personal details about this woman other than what she had been afflicted with, but what they do record is the intent of this woman to reach out and touch the divine.  So intent was this woman on reaching out and touching God, that she broke Jewish laws and customs that forbade any 'unclean' woman from having contact and being around people. In fact she risked her life to be near Christ and achieve that which she desired.  

This reminds me of another story in bible, about another woman that reached out to touch the divine; Eve. 

The Genesis account of creation tells of the creation of humanity and the subsequent fall of man, and it is in the fall of man that we see the two stories begin to link.  In Genesis 3:4-5 we see the Serpent say to Eve that if she ate the fruit she would become like God, not in a sense that she would become omnipotent but because her "eyes would be opened"; she would gain new knowledge. Verse 6 of the same chapter goes on to explain Eve's thought process; the food was good to see eat, good to look at and was "desirable for GAINING WISDOM".  These things would seem to be worthy things to strive for, King Solomon for example was rewarded for asking God for wisdom above all other things. (1 Kings 3:10-15).  Food is necessary to our survival, and who doesn't like their food to look attractive?  Similarly this woman we encounter in Mark, Luke and John, was what she sought after not also desirable?  Every person desires good health, and those unfortunate enough not to have been blessed with it desire healing.  What this woman sought after was good.  

In both these stories the women both reach and take what they desire, but it is here that the similarities in the women end, but not necessarily where the link between the stories. In this case the differences in the narratives are just as critical. 

Beginning with Eve, she was working from a point of perfection, she had a direct face to face communication with God but she failed to trust him to supply her needs. If Eve desired wisdom she was free to ask for it, and if Solomon is an example to be judged by, God would have granted it to her, but perhaps in a less harmful way than how she acquired her knowledge, but she didn't. Instead, along with the man who was with her (Gen 3:6) she trusted her own knowledge and her own ability to gain what she desired.   The woman in the New Testament however, is in an imperfect world, she cannot seek God directly but requires an intermediary in the form of the priest, and yet her affliction keeps her isolated from her community. 

The original states of these two women are important for they are reversed, and the outcomes are also reversals.  As I stated before, both women reached out for what they wanted, but the way in which they reached is the critical difference. The woman in the New Testament in her desire for healing reached out to touch God in the belief that true healing came from Him.  Eve by contrast reached out for wisdom not through God but upon her own endeavours and abilities; she had not yet come to understand that true Wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6-8).  For the woman in the New Testament God was the source and conduit for healing, for Eve she herself was capable of achieving wisdom. 

The result of Adam and Eve's actions, carried out in the light of day, was to isolate man from their creator, for after they had sinned they hid and eventually they were banished from Eden. However when we look at this woman's actions we see that she is already hiding not in trees and bushes, but the crowd, still she was so worried about being observed she touches Christ from behind (Luke 8:44). Unlike Eve her actions did not force her into even further hiding but rather Christ calls her out of hiding, and into the light.   

The story of the woman ends with Christ calling the woman 'Daughter', the only woman whom he ever addressed in such a way.  In calling her Daughter, was Christ affirming to her not only the restoration of her health, the restoration of her community, the restoration of her mental and emotional health, but also the restoration of her to being a woman in the fullness that God had created her to be.  Consider this, in Christ's entire ministry on earth we are filled with story after story of the Divine reaching out to man and connecting, but this is the only account that we have of man reaching out to God and touching him... And it's not even man that connects with God, it is woman. 

"But what about Thomas?", many people will say, but an actual closer look at the account of Thomas and Christ does not indicate clearly that Thomas actually touched Christ, but in fact it seems to suggest the exact opposite. The account is found in John 20:24-29.  In verse 28 after Christ tells Thomas to thrust his hand in his side and to touch the nail imprint in his hands, Thomas' response is to profess his belief but the text at no point says that Thomas touches Christ. This point is further reinforced by Christ saying in the verse 29 "Have you believed because you have seen me?".

In a church in which the large majority of the people are women, what does this say?  Are women constantly searching for the divine? Is there something innate in women that they seek a closeness with God, that perhaps is not so natural to man?   Or maybe man seeks that closeness in a different way?

These are perhaps questions for another day, and after the resurrection of Christ we are all now sons and daughters of God able to be brought into direct communion with Our Father.  But until the advent of Christ only one person has managed to reach out and touch God... 

And we don't even know her name. 

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