The Tassels of Christ

“The Tassels of Christ”
A reflection on Mark 6:53-56
Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
©2022 by Gloria M. Chang

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.

Mark 6:53-56

At the sight of Jesus, hope and expectation filled the hearts of people as they ran about gathering the sick and spreading the good news of his arrival. Compassion, kindness, and healing power emanated from Christ’s whole person, even the fringes of his garment. Never before in the history of Israel could God touch and be touched. The Greek verb haptomai (to touch) occurs thirty times in the Gospels in the context of Jesus healing or blessing children. 

The prophet Malachi had foretold the coming of “the sun of righteousness” who shall arise “with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2 or 3:20). The Hebrew word for “wing” or “extremity” (kanaph) appears in Numbers 15:38 to refer to the “wings” or “corners” of garments, upon which the Lord instructed the Israelites to fasten tassels (tsitsith). 

Tsitsith (tassel) is derived from tsiyts, which has the meanings of “blossom,” “flower,” “shining plate” (as on the diadem of a high priest’s mitre), and “wing.” The noun tsiyts is related to the verb tsuwts—”to blossom, shine, sparkle.” Even in English, to “tassel out” means to bloom or blossom.

The original purpose of the tsitsith (tassel) was to be a blossom in obedience to the Lord’s commandments: “When you use these tassels, the sight of the cord will remind you of all the commandments of the Lord and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes” (Numbers 15:39). Abundant blessings bloom from the blossoms of obedience, “For the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7 or 8, RSV).

In the Greek translation of Numbers 15:38, kraspedon (fringe, edge, corner, tassel) corresponds to the Hebrew word tsitsith. Kraspedon is the very word used in Mark 6:56: “Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.”

The Son of God has come with healing in his wings.
The tassels of his robe blossom with blessings.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 17:8

Related posts:

If I But Touch His Clothes, I Shall Be Cured
Lent, Day 18

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: