Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington, M.Div.

“And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment;  for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well.”  Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.“  (Matthew 9:20-22)

Young’s third New Testament occurrence of the word ‘pistis/faith’ is another triple tradition pericope known simply as ‘A Woman’s Faith’ which sits in the center of ‘Jairus’ Daughter’.  In the simplest of the three accounts, Matthew reports a very brief encounter that this anonymous woman (whose blood had been hemorrhaging for twelve years) has with Jesus as she sought healing .  And so, for the third time in it’s usage, faith is directly related to healing!

Unnamed— just ‘a woman’, who came up behind Jesus saying “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well”.  Jesus turned to her and said, “take heart…”  (Again with the heart??)  How does one “take heart?”

Here the word rendered ‘take heart’ is ‘tharsao’ which says many things in reaching a definitive understanding of the summons by Jesus given to this woman for healing.  While various translations of scripture read ‘take courage’; ‘be of good cheer’; other uses of theword gives the sense of ‘to dare’; ‘to be confident’; ‘to be bold’; ‘to not be afraid’.

The doors of Salem Church were open during the week as late as 1:00 am.  Most Wednesdays after having given leadership to the Bible Study Group followed by the Prayer Meeting Mid-Week Service and housing probably the largest Alcoholic Anonymous Meeting in Harlem, I would leave the Church very late having fulfilled my last duty of the night in locking down and securing the building.  My 1969 Cougar (in 1986) was immobile almost as often as it was mobile, so it was common place for me to walk six blocks to the Subway to take the train home to the parsonage.  That late at night you hear clearly all footsteps that come up behind you in the streets of New York City.  I remember on several occasions stopping and turning around to meet the footsteps face to face as they passed me by.  I had to convince several concerned Church officers and members that “I refuse to fear my people!”  Even through their protests, I walked the streets coming to terms with what it means to have a conscious readiness and preparedness to do ministry at any and all times.  This with a confidence, a boldness— daring to be available to The Presence of what developed my sense that ‘God is with me!’.  No— never alone!

This woman, not significant enough to be named in the history of Bible, knew that for  twelve years in this condition “no one could help her” (Luke 8:43-48).  Even after spending all that she had as she continuously sought out physicians, she only grew worse (Mark 5:25-34).  So small is her encounter with Jesus that it is recorded as an interruption, an interference, an intrusion in Jesus’ mission to ‘go and see’ about Jairus’ daughter.  Yet important enough to release a summons from Jesus in the midst of her disease that speaks across the pages of time.  Courageous enough, bold enough, daring enough to walk up on Jesus, yet faint-hearted at the point of meeting him face to face.  As in the previous two faith events, here and still again, Jesus sees faith.  “Don’t loose heart now”, He said to her, “your faith has made you well!”

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