A biblical reimagining from another point of view of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and the 12-year-old daughter of the leader of the synagogue:
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. In honor of girls everywhere that need healing from disease, oppression, slavery, fear, rejection, and every other hurt inflicted by a cruel world, I want to share with you an encouraging story. I wrote the following as a letter written by the wife of Jairus, mother of the little girl I call Phoebe. To read about the day and culture in which this is set, a good short intro which I stumbled upon is Women of Letters.
You can find the story of Jesus’ touch on this family in Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18-26 “And the report of this went out into all the land” (v. 26), and Luke 8:41-56.
A letter to my dear Mother, from your daughter Sharon of Capernaum
How can I even explain all that has happened? I will come bring the full story of the good news as soon as I can. Two miracles have touched our small and insignificant family.
Little Phoebe, our light, has always been small for her age and Jairus and I had decided we would not even entertain a suitor for her until she turns sixteen—an old maid, but her body must have the time to grow properly. That’s not what I’m writing about, so I shall spare more talk on that.
A few weeks ago, she came down with a terrible fever. It’s been going around Capernaum, stealing the lives of not less than a dozen grandparents and small children. Phoebe was the first adult who had taken so ill. We thought she was going to make it, but she became so ill that Jairus, himself sick with worry, determined to seek out this Jesus bar Joseph of Nazareth. You know we study the law and the prophets with vigor in our home—Jairus, as one of the synagogue leaders, is asked many questions—and I am asked by the women who don’t want to bother their husbands and can’t read like I am blessed to be able to. This Jesus speaks the prophets with such conviction that he has impressed even Jairus. He shies not from a question even meant to trick. Jairus believed Jesus could heal Phoebe. I wasn’t as sure, but I hadn’t heard him speak in the synagogue and heal a man before my very eyes. (Yes, Jairus saw him heal a crippled hand!)
Jairus left me with Phoebe and he was taking too long. I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to her. Phoebe was writhing, coughing blood, her body covered in cold sweat, though she cried, “I’m burning! I’m burning!” The servant women and I stripped her naked, poured cool water over her, but she didn’t know what was happening. I was afraid the fever was traveling into her brain. Then, she cried out with a loud voice, louder than I’d ever heard in a twelve-year-old child, and she crumpled. Her writhing gone and then her breath. Gone. I felt her wrist for a pulse and of course I found none. The female servants began to wail, but I had no tears and remembered King David—he pleaded and wept and cried out, but when the child died, he straightened his clothes. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
I thought of Jairus, making himself crazy in front of the new teacher. I know it sounds heartless about Phoebe—she was my only living child too—but Jairus needed to think of the honor of his position in the synagogue and set a good example on how to mourn. I too had to set an example, as cold-hearted as it might sound. You know that Father didn’t keep his position of leader of the Pharisees by not thinking of honor.
I sent a messenger to fetch Jairus. The messenger returned right before all of them, and he tried to tell me a dozen things—they were on their way, and the teacher thought he could still do something. When I shushed him for his nonsense, that the teacher was only coming for propriety and kindness and sympathy, the messenger interrupted me—I know you think I’m too lax with the slaves—but then he said something unbelievable. Sit, if you are standing.
The messenger boy said a woman touched the teacher in the crowd, a woman known as perpetually unclean—the messenger didn’t know who it was, which is fine—and that Jesus stopped and waited until the anonymous person came forward. And then Jesus astonished everyone.
Daughter, he said—yes, he called an unclean woman daughter and spoke to her in front of a crowd—your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be made whole.
And you must see I’m holding back—it was indeed your very own lost daughter, my very own lost sister! “Oh Susanna,” I cried out. And of course Jesus, Jairus, and the three male followers arrived at that moment of recognition. I began to weep uncontrollably—all thought of honor forgotten—my sister restored to life as my daughter died.
Jesus touched my hand—the same hand that reached out to grasp my sister’s. Jairus didn’t yet know—he wasn’t paying attention and hadn’t realized it was Susanna. Why should he? He hadn’t seen her up close in years, though he pretended not to know I still often left her food or clothes or even coins. All I could blubber out was “my … my …”
When the mourners—who had appeared from almost nowhere—scorned Jesus when he said the child was sleeping, I sent them out. Perhaps I was wrong that she had died. But I’d felt her wrist, seen her cry out as she was ripped from earth. I didn’t allow myself to believe that she’d be raised from the dead, but I stopped weeping and took him to Phoebe. Jairus and the three men came with us. I wasn’t even breathing. Why would he want to see a dead child? Thankfully, I had put her tunic back on her quickly cooling body.
He walked into the upstairs room, respectful but like it was his own house, and he took her hand and said, “Little lamb, get up!”
And up she sat. She who had been dead looked confused but well. She pulled the sheet around her as Jairus and I fell upon her with kisses and hugs. When Phoebe’s nanny burst in (she heard our cries of joy and laughter), I allowed her to kiss Phoebe, then I sent her right out again to find Susanna.
When I visit next, not only will I bring your Phoebe, but your very own Susanna, your very own lily!
Your devoted daughter, Sharon