Jesus reaches across the barrier of prejudice. Jairus, a religious leader, asks Jesus to heal his daughter. While Jesus is on his way to his home, a woman, suffering with bleeding, dares to touch his cloak.
In ancient Jewish culture, bleeding made you unclean, so this woman would have been an outcast, somebody who would have experienced prejudice on a daily basis as she attempted to live her life. There would literally be a barrier between herself and the community which she was once part of. In her desperation, she reaches out in an attempt to cross that boundary to be healed (by touching Jesus’ robe) and Jesus also crosses that same boundary when he not only insists on finding out who she is, but also does not condemn her actions as he offers her healing.
I suppose barriers is a polite term, for what we are really talking about is prejudice that exists between people, and it manifests itself in many forms. The woman who suffered from bleeding would have experienced prejudice. Leprosy, a common ailment in Jesus’ time resulted in many people experiencing prejudiced against and because of their condition were exiled from society.
In reality, prejudice against those who are different from ourselves exists throughout life and affects each and every one of us. Can you recall a situation when you have experienced prejudice against yourself? Such prejudice may simply be because of our educational attainment, the job we do or where we live. When you add in factors such as race, colour, and religion there is the potential to build real and significant barriers between people.
Prejudice in our world and the problems it produces is nothing new. When Philip first meets Jesus, Philip excitedly went to tell his brother Nathanial that he had met the one prophesised by Moses. When Nathanial heard that Jesus came from Nazareth, his response was "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”. Probably a bit of banter between brothers but doubtless it had its undertones, in the same way that we would say can anything good come out of Widnes, St. Helens, or Wigan?
Jesus met prejudice against himself even in his own town of Nazareth, it is recorded in the Gospels that he was rejected when he spoke in the synagogue. Whilst they may have marvelled at his knowledge, they reminded themselves that he was just the son of Joseph the Carpenter.
Elsewhere in the Gospels we find evidence of prejudice. The parable of ‘ The Good Samaritan’ is a good example as it highlights barriers and prejudices in a number of ways, a Priest, a Levite and a Samaritan all had the opportunity to help the stricken traveller, but it was left to the poor despised Samaritan to demonstrate the love and kindness to those who are different from ourselves that Jesus requires of all his followers.
When we look at what Jesus demands of his followers in very stark terms as demonstrated both personally by his actions and through his teachings, we begin to realise the enormity of the transformation we must make to become his true followers. To take on his likeness.