Gospel of Matthew 9: 18-26 (NIV)
18 While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.
23 When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.
During my years with World Vision I travelled on a number of occasions to Ethiopia and visited the fistula hospital established by Reg and Catherine Hamlin. Catherine Hamlin’s book, The Hospital by the River, tells of the work done there to treat and heal thousands of women and young girls.
It was not until I had heard about the dreadful isolation experienced by women with untreated fistulas and had toured her hospital with Catherine Hamlin that I began to understand what drove the woman in these verses of Matthew’s Gospel to reach out for the edge of Jesus’ garment. The woman had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, detail also recounted in the Gospels of Mark (5: 24b-34) and Luke (8: 42b-48). Though it could have been caused by other than fistula, this woman’s flow of blood would have led to a sense of shame and likely total social isolation. Rejected by her community, she had no legitimate way of approaching our Lord to ask for healing.
Her healing was instantaneous, miraculous. The healing achieved at the fistula hospital is very different. It requires surgery, post-surgical recovery and then rehabilitation before the women are permitted to return to their communities. And yet, though slow, treatment and healing after fistula is effected for thousands today with love, care and protection.
The Gospel of John (14: 12) records Jesus’ teaching: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Jesus did not tell his disciples that, when they undertook the work that he had been doing, their methods should be precisely the same as those he used. The Hamlins undertook the work Jesus had been doing but applied the most appropriate techniques available to them – and have done, in quantity, even greater things than were achieved for this one woman referred to in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Parliamentarians, similarly, have opportunities to do the work Jesus was doing and have the authority given them by the Australian people to undertake this work, whether in the fields of health or education or protection or justice. Let us pray for our Parliamentarians that they will exercise this authority and their opportunities wisely and, when there is success, they will give the glory to God.