By Jim Hatherly
A meeting between the synagogue leader whose daughter was healed by Jesus, and the woman healed of a haemorrhage.
Matthew 9: 18-26
The woman healed of a hemorrhage
A leader of the synagogue whose daughter was brought back to life by Jesus. (I have cast the man as a Pharisee.)
(Scene: The woman is sitting in the front row of the church / synagogue, in prayer. The Pharisee approaches her. She is aware of his presence. Finally, she looks up. They look briefly at each other, he walks a few steps, then turns around to look at her again. She is disturbed again, looks around, then gazes him in the eye and speaks.)
Woman: (loud whisper) I am sorry, sir. I am at prayer. I do not wish to be disturbed. Please.
Pharisee: You must forgive me my impertinence. It is not proper for a man to approach a woman without the accompaniment of her husband. And I of anyone should know it is improper to disturb a person at prayer.
Woman: (loud whisper) Then by the name of God, sir, leave me alone. I do wish to pray in this synagogue, and I do not wish either of us to get into trouble with the authorities for improper conduct.
Pharisee: I am afraid to say I am the authority here. No one will turn me in but me myself. I am the leader of this synagogue.
Woman: (burying her head in her hands) Then in God's name what are you doing? I wish no trouble. Please, sir. Just leave me to God. That is who I came to talk with. Not with you. Not a stranger.
Pharisee: Woman, I am no stranger. Though I understand if you think I am one.
Woman: If you are not a stranger, then I am a Pharisee! The first woman Pharisee in all of Galilee! You mock me, sir. I cannot fathom why, but you mock me.
Pharisee: Woman, I will not beat around the bush any longer. We saw each other once. I know we did. Though the day of our meeting was the most amazing day of our lives.
Woman: Of what day do you speak, sir? Life is full of amazing days.
Pharisee: I speak of the day you were healed, woman.
Woman: (looking him straight in the eyes, her mouth open, speaking slowly) You? You were there?
Pharisee: Yes. I was there. In fact I was there first, though I do not mean to play "who's first?" with you. Simply to say we both experienced healing on the same day. By the same man. By Jesus.
Woman: Sir, may we speak of these things? Now? (looking around, agitated) But not here. No matter your authority, I wish for a safer place.
Pharisee: I agree with you. People may have their eyes shut in prayer, but their ears do not close very well. Follow me.
(They move across the chancel, then upstage center, and sit on the steps.)
Woman: Now. Tell me. What did you see? To tell you the truth, as we were walking, I began to have my doubts about speaking of my experience. The cause of my infirmity is, even now, an embarrassment. Especially in the presence of a man. Even a stranger who claims not to be one.
Pharisee: You may call me a stranger if you wish. I know we got off to a difficult start, but in all honesty I did not know how else to begin. Perhaps I should tell you my story first. And then, if you wish, you may proceed. Fair?
Woman: Fair. Go ahead.
Pharisee: Actually, our stories intersect. Mine started, yours interrupted, and finally mine concluded. To put it briefly, thanks to a very short acquaintance with Jesus, my daughter who was dead is now very much alive. And my experience has changed everything I once thought I knew about God. And challenged so much of what I now hear about Jesus. Especially by my brothers in the synagogue, the other Pharisees. They fear him, because they do not understand his teachings. Frankly, I fear for the man. In spite of what he did for my daughter, I fear for his life. I am sorry, I am becoming political, and talking like a Pharisee again. My training, you see. It is hard to shake.
Woman: I do not fault you, sir. The politics of the Pharisees aside, you must have desperately wanted to talk about this, or you would not have approached me. What you did was at some risk. To both of us. Now. Tell me. As one human being to another. What did you feel when your daughter died?
Pharisee: (holding back his tears) I was devastated. She was so young. So vibrant. So alive. So beautiful. I know there is no logic in it, but I blamed myself for her death. I was a walking shell of a man. Neither my wife nor I had committed any sins, the girl had done nothing. There was no cause save the disease, which is no respecter of persons. She simply died, and I tortured myself with grief. And - I say this as a man of God, a teacher and Pharisee. I say this with no shame. I cursed God. That is no mean thing for me. To curse God is to undermine the very foundation of my life. My purpose. My reason for existence. I cursed God and then - with no one else to blame, I was lost. Utterly lost.
Woman: Now that was an honest answer. But, tell me, if you had lost all faith in God, why did you come to Jesus? He is a teacher of God. Why him?
Pharisee: Because I wanted to find hope. I may have lost it, as I had lost my daughter, but I refused to believe there was no hope left in the world. I was desperate. It was the day of the funeral. The crowds were gathering for the burial. The mourners had been hired. I could hear their flutes coming through the village, even as I spoke with Jesus.
Woman: So you approached Jesus. Why him? Pharisees don't speak well of him, as a rule.
Pharisee: It was a risk, I knew that. And, yes, my brothers do not speak well of him. But in between the lies and half-truths others spoke about him were words of truth. Some of his speeches, the way he jousted with the scribes. The stories of his healing power. I am not, perhaps, as orthodox as I may appear. I listen. And what I heard I liked. He was in our village. What did I have to lose? I had everything to gain. And so, I approached him. I poured out my story, and asked him to come home with me to heal the girl. We started on our way, and that was when you came in.
Woman: I am glad you bear me no ill will, sir. I was so intent on my own concerns that I was oblivious to everything around me. That is why I did not recognize you today. Honestly, I saw nothing but my illness, and, like you, the possibility of hope.
Pharisee: You said earlier that you were embarrassed. Are you still? Or can you tell me?
Woman: Your story compels me to tell mine. (pause) Sir, I lived for twelve years with a hemorrhage. An issue of blood. Need I say more to you, a teacher of the law?
Pharisee: You do not. I know what that means. It means that for all that time, you were regarded as unclean. As if it were your monthly time, unending. Anyone who touched you, or touched anything you touched, had to wash all their clothes and be themselves considered unclean until evening. My God, woman! Twelve years of that! You must have been desperate, if not destitute!
Woman: I was both. But worse was the shunning. No one would associate with me. It was so unjust! So ungodly! (pause) I understand your desperation, sir. I truly do. I have not lost a child. I will never have one, truth be told. But I do understand your loss. Profoundly.
Pharisee: We both suffered loss. Loss of hope, of the essence of life, and the loss of God.
Woman: Yes, we have. And many others have, also. But your daughter - you never finished the story. How did it end?
Pharisee: She is alive, by the grace of God. By the healing of Jesus. He entered my home, ignoring the laughter of the neighbors who were there. He sent them out, and then took the child by the hand and she got up. And she still gets up. Every day. To torment her poor parents, to run to school, to laugh and play and delight in her life. She is a blessing to us, and a reminder of the blessings of God.
Woman: Your faith in God has been restored, I take it.
Pharisee: I come here willingly now. I speak with conviction of God's love. And, I must say, I do so with less emphasis on the law and more on the mercy of God.
Woman: I wish others in the synagogue had been so inclined when I had my hemorrhage. I too was healed.
Pharisee: I know. I witnessed it. I remember his words, too: "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well."
Woman: Yours, too, my friend. May I be so forward as to call you that?
Pharisee: Thank you for doing so. And I will do the same. I hope we shall meet again. But now we must go. (pause) Do you realize what has happened here?
Woman: I do. I've been thinking about that as we spoke. You and I should never have talked together, not in private or public. We have revealed our most personal stories, and our faith, to one another. And have become friends. The walls of class and religion and gender are irrelevant now, and can, for us, never be raised again. I wonder, miracles of healing aside, if that is the message Jesus is trying to share. Perhaps that is the miracle.
Pharisee: If that is so, then for all of God's people, our faith has truly made us well.
Written by Jim Hatherly
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