The Power of Blood

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the First Colony Church of Christ.

“Jesus was indubitably male, yet, if he is to be the perfection of our humanity, he must also be the perfection of female humanity.” [1]

There is something unique about female humanity that puts them in solidarity with Christ. The blood of women has life-giving power.

In what follows, I will suggest that one way Jesus shows the perfection of female humanity is in his life-giving blood shed at the cross. [2]

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:6)

Any talk about blood makes me squeamish. When simple bloodwork is required I get dizzy and faint watching those tiny vials being filled with my own blood. Like a child I have to look away and imagine getting my sucker at the end of it all just to make it through without bursting into hysterical tears.

As a mother I am keenly aware of the relationship between blood and life. I have given birth twice. Both times my greatest fear was having to face my own blood. 500 milliliters. This is the average amount of blood loss at child birth. My labor and delivery friends tell me that it is standard procedure for the medical staff to attach a giant plastic bag below the hospital delivery bed to catch the copious amount of fluid that cascades from the body at childbirth. A gruesome and gory scene is the cost required for new life.

How does the blood of women compare to the blood of Christ?

A christological reading of the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus’s daughter offers a perspective that allows this comparison to come to light (see Mark 5:21-43; Matt 9:18-34; Luke 8:40-56). [3]

The synoptic writers all go out of their way to inform the reader that the woman had unstoppable uterine bleeding for 12 years. This woman’s story is sandwiched between the story of Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter. Allow me to reflect on both stories.

The blood-soaked woman

Faint from the heat, I stand in the midst of a crowded mob. Passing in and out of a conscience state of mind, I hear the buzz of excitement and new gossip all around. The teacher is in town, they say, the one everyone is talking about. So maybe they won’t notice me. I close my eyes as tight as I can, trying to ignore the sideways glares and hushed whispers. There is nowhere to hide from the menacing questions in their eyes,

“How could you come here and infect us?! Irresponsible and cruel.” Their words cut like knives deep inside my heart, and my body aches with a dull, familiar pain.

Isolated. Ashamed. Cast out. Impurity and infertility render me unfit and unworthy.

If only I could get close enough to touch him. I know he could heal me.

Next thing I remember, the bleeding stopped. It felt like a jolt. Power came out of his body and into mine. And there he stood, holding my face in his tender, loving hands.

The dead girl

I can still hear my daughter, happy and healthy, running back and forth from the field to the kitchen. I can scarcely believe that it is her now, a cold and lifeless corpse lying dormant in the corner of the room where she once slept. Hours it has been now, and she is stale to touch. Outside I hear the wails and screams of the mourners. Inside all is still. Too still. A knock at the door startles me from the what-ifs and the regrets. A gasp so deep arises from within me and sucks the remaining air out of the room. It is him. The teacher I have heard about. Jesus of Nazareth. He crosses the room. Panic begins to rise as I think he might touch her. Surely the great teacher is not going to defile himself on a corpse. He does. I watch as he bends down, as close to her face as he can get, and whispers something. His voice is soft and his words are tender. Next thing I know my daughter is walking around as if she had awoken from a slumber.

Both women are nameless. One is infertile due to bleeding, and one is at the height of fertility. But both are defined by blood.

The Gospel writers put these two women in symbolic alignment with Jesus. [4]

Jesus touches one and her futile blood ceases to flow, rendering her fertile and alive. He touches the other and her dormant blood begins to flow, rendering her fertile and alive.

Like these women, the blood of Jesus shed at the cross is about fertility and life.

“Ancient and venerable exegetical traditions have seen the blood and water flowing from Christ’s pierced side as emblematic of birth.” [5]

Just as the blood at the birth of my child was the means by which my baby was born, so too the blood that poured from Jesus’s side bore new creation.

Herein women find solidarity with the humanity of Jesus. We have shed blood to give birth. As Bynum writes,

As all medievalists are by now aware, the body of Christ was sometimes depicted as female in medieval devotional texts—partly, of course, because ecclesia, Christ’s body, was a female personification, partly because the tender, nurturing aspect of God’s care for souls was regularly described as motherly. Both male and female mystics called Jesus ‘mother’ in his Eucharistic feeding of Christians with liquid exuded from his breast and in his bleeding on the Cross which gave birth to our hope of eternal life. [6]

Among these is Julian of Norwich, whose reflections on Christ as Mother offer the church a timely and rich image of the fullness and reality of God.

Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him and this is where His Maternity starts. And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us. [7]

[1] Janet Martin Soskice, The Kindness of God: Metaphor, Gender, and Religious Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 115.
[2] I am NOT suggesting that blood shed at childbirth is the only way women find solidarity with the humanity of Christ. Rather, I seek to highlight one way that the shedding of blood in the giving of life finds solidarity with the blood of Christ shed at the cross in the giving of life.
[3] Soskice points out this parallel in Chapter 5.
[4] Ibid., 96.
[5] Ibid., 87.
[6] C.W. Bynum, “The Female Body and Religious Practice is the Later Middle Ages,” in Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 181-238.
[7] http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20010807_giuliana-norwich_en.html
Header image: Sandro Botticelli. Madonna del Libro (Madonna of the Book). Circa 1480-1483. Graphic retrieved from Wikipedia and cropped for use on Charis.

 

After a decade spent ministering to students and families in domestic and international contexts, Kelly Edmiston has developed a passion to equip the church for works of ministry. Originally from Abilene, Texas, Kelly is currently the Student and Family Minister at the First Colony Church of Christ in Sugar Land, TX. She will complete a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University in May 2017. Her areas of interest are liberation theology, spiritual formation, and practical theology. She enjoys “suburban life” with her husband Ben and two sons. Find her blogging at brophytwinspeak.com.

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Author:  Publish Date: August 3, 2016

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @ acu.edu.

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