They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Quarantined; a Biblical story

Now that we have had a taste of being quarantined, how would you like for that quarantine to last 12 years?

Read these two verses and see what I am talking about:

“A large crowd followed Jesus and pushed very close around him. Among them was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered very much from many doctors and had spent all the money she had, but instead of improving, she was getting worse.”
— Mark 5:24-26

We don’t know this woman’s name; all we know is that she had a chronic condition. Scripture tells us this condition lasted 12 years. Such a condition would be hard for anyone of any time period. Go back with me 2,000 plus years and let’s take a look into this woman’s world. What would this look like?

It would have meant that this Jewess would have been a social outcast. She contaminated all who came in contact with her. It is possible that every day she would hear the word, “unclean” and she would feel unworthy, unloved, unacceptable, and would be full of shame for something she had no control and had not caused. It would mean that sexually…she could not touch her husband. It would mean maternally…she could not bear children. It would mean domestically…anything she touched would be considered unclean. It would mean spiritually…she was not allowed to go to the temple or even to the synagogue. (Talk about social distancing!) Scripture also tells us that she spent everything she had, but got worse. So, we could add hopeless, financially ruined, and desperate to that list.

However, she had one hope and we find out that she was a pretty gutsy woman. There was a buzz in her village about a rabbi who was healing the lame and the blind. She had to be thinking, “maybe he could heal me” and she takes a huge risk. What if she was recognized? What if she was shooed away? What if she were punished for being in the crowd? What if she was publicly disgraced…again? What if….?

She thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed. ” (Mark 5:28) Luke’s account says it this way: “She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped (Luke 8:44).” Some translations say, “hem of his garment. ” So, this edge of his cloak, this hem of the garment, what could it mean? The Greek word for hem is “kraspedon” and literally means fringes or tassels. God commanded His people to sew tassels on the four corners of their garments to remember to obey all of His commands (Numbers 15:37). The Hebrew word for corner is “Kanaph” and means “wings.” Jesus, like other Jewish men, would have had tassels sewn on the four corners (wings) of his tallit (outer garment).

I think there is more to this story. This woman would have been familiar with the words of the prophets. Listen to Malachi 4:2:

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” She had the faith that Jesus was the sun of righteousness, the long-awaited Messiah and risked it all, and acted on that faith.”

John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, prophesied about John and Jesus:

“And you, my child will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven…”
— Luke 1:76-78

P.S. There is another Scripture that goes along with this. “When they had crossed over, they landed at Geneseret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all the sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge (tassels; wings) of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”

Doubting Thomas

There are a few New Testament Bible stories that are so universally known that the main character takes on a life and meaning of his own. That character’s name and actions become synonymous with certain personality traits that supersede the story’s real intent. For example, the story that Jesus told in Luke 10:30-37 about a man being robbed, beaten and left for dead is not remembered as the answer to the questions that Jesus was asked, “who is the neighbor”, but is known as the story of the” Good Samaritan”. Now, anyone who helps out someone in need is called a Good Samaritan, even though that was not the point of Jesus’ story. A second example is a parable that Jesus told in Luke 15 to answer the question of why he would eat with sinners and tax collectors. The young man in the story who wanted his inheritance early and left the family has over time become known as the ”Prodigal Son”. If anyone has wandered from the faith and returned, he is called a prodigal son. Again, that was not the main meaning of the parable that answered the Pharisees question of why Jesus would be hanging out with sinners.

Another story that has this kind of handle attached to the character is the story of Thomas, one of the 12 apostles (disciples) of Jesus. Because of his questioning reaction to the news that his rabbi, whom he witnessed being crucified and then buried, had now come back to life and was seen by the rest of the disciples, he has been forever labeled as,” Doubting Thomas”. Today, if anyone has a tendency to be hesitant or skeptical of a situation, they are labeled as a “Doubting Thomas”. Is this a fair label to hang on this disciple of Jesus or should he be remembered in a different light? What do we really know about Thomas? A little digging will show that this little known member of the twelve was a fiercely loyal and faith-filled apostle that was willing to give his life and travel to the ends of the earth to share the good news that he had been witness to for the three years leading up to the incidents in Jerusalem. Yes, he had some misgivings and questions because of what he had seen, but in the end, we should all strive to be more like this devout follower of Jesus.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Thomas is only mentioned as one of the twelve. In Matthew 10:3 and Luke 6:12-16 he is listed as one of the ones that were given the special title,” apostle”. The book of John has by far the most information on Thomas. In John 11: 16, we learn that he was also called, “Didymus”, which means twin, but doesn’t tell us who his twin was. A verse that gives us a great insight into Thomas’ personality is found in the same chapter of John. Near the end of Jesus’ ministry, in John 11:1-3, Jewish leaders were plotting to kill him. The disciples received news that their friend, Lazarus, was near death. Fearing for their lives, they tried to talk Jesus out of going to Lazarus’ hometown of Bethany, because it was too close to Jerusalem. Jesus was determined to go and Thomas spoke to the rest of the disciples and said, “Let us also go that we may die with him”. This statement, in the face of death, showed extreme courage and loyalty.

Thomas also showed extreme loyalty in John 14:1-6, when Jesus told the disciples that he was going to leave them very soon to go to his Father’s house to prepare a place for them. This confused the disciples and Thomas was the first to speak up and say, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” This statement implies that Thomas wanted to figure it out and wanted desperately to go where his Rabbi was going.

Unfortunately, what Thomas is known for in the Gospels is a statement to the other disciples that he needed proof to believe that Jesus had actually risen from the grave. He wasn’t in the room when Jesus showed himself to the rest of the disciples (John 20:24-29). He was saying,” I want to see it as you guys did, so I can also believe”, which was an honest statement given the unbelievable thought that Jesus had somehow come back from the dead. Jesus lovingly gave Thomas proof and let him feel and touch his resurrected body. Thomas immediately confessed, “My Lord and my God”! He was not a doubter at all-like the others, he saw and believed!

What happened to Thomas after the resurrection? Acts 1:13 lists him among the disciples that witnessed the Ascension. From that miraculous event, we have to depend on church history to see what happened to ‘Doubting Thomas”. History records that he traveled east from Jerusalem to spread the gospel as Jesus had commanded them. He traveled to Parthia (modern-day Eastern Iran) and then on to the far reaches of the known world in India. Look at a map to see how far he went to spread the good news that he was a witness of. In 72 A.D. while preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, he was killed with a spear by the local pagan priests who were vehemently opposed to his teachings. Like all the other disciples but John, he was martyred for his faith.

Let’s remember Thomas, not as a doubter, but a fiercely loyal follower of his rabbi, and our Messiah Jesus Christ.