Three things strike me about Matthew’s account of these miracles: the request of the official for Jesus to help his daughter after she has died, the haemorrhaging woman’s belief that Jesus could heal her by merely touching his cloak, and the immediacy of Jesus’ response to both.
Due to the issue of blood, many doors would not have been open to this woman. Like the lepers (and the dead), she would have been deemed unclean. Her faith was so abundant that she knew touching the fringe of Jesus’ clothing would be sufficient to heal her, even while risking his rejection. Jesus turns towards her, choosing to neither ridicule nor shame her. He stems her bleeding, then profoundly acknowledge her faithfulness. In complete humility, Jesus identifies that her faith alone has made her well.
Earlier, when the official had made his seemingly irrational request, Jesus had risen immediately and followed, with the faith that nothing is impossible for God. On his way, he chooses to give time to the faithful, ‘unclean’ woman, yet later removes the faithless mourners, ignoring those who laugh at him. Walking into the house, he takes the hand of the dead (thus also ‘unclean’) girl, who immediately stands up.
Jesus is not interested in pomp and ceremony. He does not ask questions or demand proofs. He connects with all people: officials, women, the dead and unclean, indeed all those who seek him. He asks only for “faith the size of a mustard seed” (Matt. 17:20), enough to move mountains. Finally, he removes the obstacles set before those in need – those who mock and question faith, and the rules that prevent people from being fully present to each other. For what is it to be truly human if not our ability to act towards our sisters and brothers with complete humility and love? Faith allows us to perform miracles through our words and actions. Faith gives us the prospect of removing the barriers that cloud our judgement to the possibility of God.
Angela Marquis works as a primary school chaplain with WATAC (Women and the Australian Church) and the Hobart Passionists at St Joseph’s in Tasmania.