Many years ago, when my grandchildren were very young, one of our favorite pastimes when grandma wanted to go shopping at the mall, was to ride the escalators!
It just never got old!
We would hold hands and time that first step onto the moving stairs. Up we would go until a few feet from the top we would plan our exit. One of the rules was that when you stepped off at the top or bottom you had to move out of the way of people behind you, lest we cause a people-jam.
Round and round, up and down we went, removing apprehension and building confidence in using the technology. As I explained to my grandkids, I may look like a grown-up but I’m just a big kid (and it beats shopping every time!) But I believed I was performing a public service by ensuring that we had confident young people who knew how to use escalators. I invite you to watch the behavior of many adults in similar circumstances and I’m sure you’ll agree I was being very civic-minded!
I was reminded of this when we were with some friends visiting Washington D.C. and riding an escalator up to street level from the subway.
Approaching the top, I was fourth in line, with my friend two in front of me. Suddenly, the guy in front of my friend stopped/stumbled at the exit causing a chain-reaction of bumping on the crowded stairs. When we exited at the top my friend discovered that his wallet and passport were missing from his pants pocket. Apart from the bump, my friend didn’t feel a thing. It was all a set up by the pickpockets and when we spoke to the police they said it was a very common occurrence and advised us to always keep valuables in front of us! Insert wisdom here about horses and barn doors!
All of this brought to mind an incident in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke where Jesus was surprised and suddenly stopped, mid-stride, causing a people-jam! I’ll let Mark tell the story:
A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”
Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition. Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?” His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” Mark 5:25-34 NLT See also Luke’s version of the story in Luke 8:43-48 and Matthew’s in Matthew 9:20-22
The reason for Jesus’ haste was that he was on the way to perform a healing miracle (arguably it may only have been divine diagnosis) for the leader of the local synagogue (Jairus) whose daughter had reportedly just died.
But right in the middle of the street Jesus suddenly stops and says “Who touched me?”. The disciples roll their eyes and say “are you kidding? Everyone is touching you in this crowd”.
From Jesus’ reaction we can surmise that he was well aware of the sensation when he performed acts of healing that there was a transfer of power to the recipient. Normally that person would be right in front of him, but in this case the recipient was behind him and hiding!
Jesus was in a hurry, he had somewhere to be, a daughter to raise from the dead, but he refuses to move on until he knows who it is he has healed. This was getting awkward! Eventually the woman reveals herself and her condition.
By Jewish law she should have been nowhere near a crowd like that! She was a super-spreader of uncleanness! She had tried all the prescriptions for her condition (probably including holding a powdered ostrich egg in a cloth pouch!, and that’s one of the more rational cures) but only had bankruptcy as a reward. So she sneaks up behind Jesus believing that if she could only touch the fringe of his shawl she’d be healed - and she was.
I’m so glad Jesus takes the time to identify her and her faith.
If he hadn’t we might have had to contend with the “true fringes of Jesus’ shawl” as religious objects of veneration along with the “true cross splinters” (Vera Cruz) and the knuckle bones of various saints supposedly having magical powers.
Can you imagine what the reaction of the Scribes and Pharisees would have been to the woman’s confession? Righteous indignation and holy howling! But Jesus not only gives her healing, he gives her forgiveness, hope, love and a bright future: “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”
Jesus not only brings relief from symptoms, he cures the cause of the symptoms.
He could have been stiff and formal with her: “Woman, you are cured!” Instead he treats her as a beloved family member: “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”.
It brings a lump to my throat to know that Jesus is quite willing to cause a people pile-up and pause whatever urgent matter presses in on him, just to make me a healthy family member and justify my faith in Him.
No need for sneaking up on him from behind!
Watch how you go on escalators!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black
P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/chronicle/?category=Bible%20Study