Text: Matthews 9:20-22
In this passage we see that a woman with a chronic (long term) health problem received physical healing and relief from Jesus. This is the result of health care at its very best. This episode could easily have gone unknown; after all, the woman came amongst a pressing crowd of many people, did not say anything and intended to slip away quietly. The passage in Matthew shows us that Jesus knew that healing virtue had gone out of Him. He knew which person had been healed and did not need anyone to tell him. For him to say nothing would have protected the woman’s dignity. However there was something bigger at stake here. Jesus knew that the woman’s need went beyond physical healing, as important as that was, and even the protection of her dignity. Her greater need was her elevation – the removal of negative stigma and the restoring of her personhood, position and honour in the eyes of society.
We are usually accustomed to honour as something I receive from juniors or ‘lessers’. However, if you think about it, honour can really only be given from someone who has it, not from one who needs it. The dictionary definitions of honour include the following three meanings: ‘to make known association with’, ‘to elevate another’s status’ and ‘to give prestige to somebody’. Jesus was known (and criticised) in his time for doing this with the ‘outcasts’ of society and He knew that he consciously needed to do this here. He therefore went out of his way to affirm the woman publically for her faith, pronounced her healed and even called her his daughter. For this reason we know about this woman’s faith today.
In the story today Jesus gave the woman honour. This was a radical step in that time, and it would be even in ours. Honour goes beyond dignity. Jesus interrupted his ‘important’ business for her. He not only accepted her presence but he affirmed her and restored her socially – in fact by calling her ‘daughter’ he elevated her to His level in the eyes of all of the onlookers and bystanders. The opposite of giving honour is where I feel or think that I deserve the honour and that I do not need to give this sort of honour to you. In this case I am thinking about my needs and not about yours. This type of inequality is a distortion of relationship and it usually gives rise to neglect or abuse of some or other kind. The other person is left with unfulfilled needs or even hurting. This is not to say that it is always wilful hurting of the other person but simply because the different needs of the ‘other’ are not in view and the voice of the ‘other’ is not heard. It is the assumption that the ‘other’ is not as worthy of consideration and honour as I am.
As we give physical care and support to others in need let us be aware of how we are seeing them and give thought to how we can give honour in our relationships with them.