The Fringe in Gennesaret
“After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.” (1)
In a region called Gennesaret, the recognition of Jesus led to a collective response. Given how much difficulty we have arriving at any type of corporate decision, the fact stands out to me – noteworthy – that upon recognizing Jesus, the people of the region brought all their sick. They didn’t debate, they didn’t do a feasibility study; they didn’t vote, they didn’t even question. They, according to Matthew, went through all the region, and brought all of them. Their sick. Matthew was reportedly a numbers guy, so his use of the word all, seems significant. Given how much attention, how much press, how much tax and NGO money is given to both figuring out how we should care for the sick, and then attempting to execute it; this universal response in the region of Gennesaret, is astonishing to me.
“And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” (2)
So deep was their recognition, that they brought; but they also assumed, presumed, hoped – that if the sick could touch even the hem of Jesus’ garment, they would be healed. Matthew offers a picture of the keepers of society, the civic leaders recognizing a power larger than themselves. Upon our moment in history, when the presumed integrity of civic leaders – those entrusted with the care of societies and peoples – is fractured nearly beyond hope by broken promises at best and cruel and vicious intent at worst, this is a startling picture. All at the recognition of Jesus…
I’ve been a caregiver on multiple fronts for many years; not formally of society, but in vocation, with family and friends, amongst the terminally ill. There is no one-size-fits-all to the healing arts we call medicine. Desperation might cause one to take risks for oneself; to grasp at an unproven alternative when all the reasoned approaches have failed. But caregivers do not take risks with their loved ones lightly. Those risks are taken with yearning for the salvation of the loved one’s dignity firmly lodged in the caregiver’s throat. Which means the people of the region, bringing their sick and begging Jesus to allow them to touch his garment, were bringing their sick wrapped in the fabric of their hearts.
And then we read…all. All of them were healed; as many as touched it. There is nothing in our society that heals all; not chemo, nor psychotropic drugs, not naturopathy. At our house we don’t even use the same anti-inflammatories. What was it in Jesus’s garment, stirring the dust of Gennesaret as he walked, the fringe caught, and caught again; that healed the sick, and some of society’s ills as well. What is it that one grasps, fingers tangling in the fringe?
(1)”Matthew 14:35 (NLT) – When the people recognized Jesus.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jan, 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/mat/14/35/p1/s_943035>.
(2)”Matthew 14:35 (ESV) – And when the men of.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jan, 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/14/35/p1c/s_943035>
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flepht, flepht, flepht…the footfalls of Jesus stir the dust that lines the streets of Gennesaret. Dust stirs again, the sweep of his robe whorling small puffs of sand. Pebbles trickle across the path. Grit. Soon footfalls crescendo, as the message sweeps throughout the region, “Jesus is here!”
The sick, borne along the path on the strength of the townspeople’s mercy, now lie in the dust. Able voices plead for the broken, “Let them touch your robe – even that will heal them.” Their pleading falls to the earth, echoing in desperate cries, “Help me walk, help me breathe, help me to see. The sick one’s position on the path, is a plea for mercy, for all those who would see him well; those who long to witness a miracle – any miracle; those steeped in compassion; those weighted by life’s inconsistencies. “Help us, Jesus” The sick are not the only ones gasping for air…
So the blind bring the blind, all to finger the dirt and dung and blood threaded through the fringe of the garment worn by Jesus. The dried brokenness of the stiffened hem scratches, serrating each palm. Such an earthen journey – that of Jesus – his robe gathering up the dust of temptation and loss, the sorrowful mucous of dead cells and dead dreams, the crumbled decay of sin. Yet he does not flinch. Rather he waits, eyes of compassion; until one can reach to finger his wounds – those he enlisted on our behalf; his body, his cells, that we might be healed.
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There was a time when, unknowingly, I was afraid to get too close to the path; I feared to touch, for dread that the brokenness would somehow infect me. Unknowingly – because I did not yet know how well I reside among the broken. I don’t think I was afraid of being cut exactly, by an errant jagged edge. I was afraid that I would not be enough – that I would lack the strength , or the necessary wisdom, to pull together shattering pieces, and yet remain intact. Looking down at my palms, I see that I was right. In and of myself, without the love of Jesus flowing through the arteries there, I never will be.
But something has changed. How fully I belong among the broken, crying out to Jesus, presuming, hoping, that He is enough. I had not realized that Jesus could walk by to see me groveling in the dirt, his tangled fringe grasped in both begging hands, and yet, with eyes of compassion, find himself reflected there. I did not know that under his loving gaze, one can be broken, and still be whole.
The threads of fringe cross my palm. “Look at my hands,” this traveler exclaims, as in detail she examines the stains. No nail holes here… instead I encounter his suffering, all the suffering that Jesus will carry to the cross. In Gennesaret I am healed, fingering the world’s brokenness. For suddenly, I am free to grasp my own – to measure its width across his garment, stain upon stain, stiffened red. My soul is transformed, his palm laid upon my brokenness, and returning “Life.” I watch as his palm is laid across the sorrowful heap of another, roaring, “Hope.” There is another, quivering with fear, who upon his touch, begins to inhale the blessings of “Peace.”
Until I was among people who nearly all had some form of apparent brokenness, I was unable to fully examine my own. Nor could I allow Jesus to touch my wounds, whether self-inflicted or otherwise. In bringing the weary pain of others to God, I have often experienced that while I might think myself helpful in their rescue, it is God who is undoubtedly, in some regard, rescuing me.
Jesus…healer, I do not want to underestimate the power of your resurrection, made manifest, as you restore the image of God in us. Our brokenness, our return to simple dust, is a trail that you have walked, gathering up sorrow upon sorrow, braving the shards of our jagged edges, and holding our secrets; exchanging them all for your holiness. You have found us on the path, whether running, or carried there; the hem of your robe a grasp on the new life you offer. Our grasp is a plea, embodied, that you would heal us; even as you have embodied our sin. We confess our brokenness, and our sin. We are dust. But we are your dust, borne by you, in sorrow and in love to the cross of our making. We cling to you in hope – forever. Amen;
scripture reference: Matthew 14:34-36
You might also like to contemplate Matthew 27:32-54; Hebrews 2:10-18