Ever have one of those songs that you find yourself humming over and over but can't stop once you realize it is there? Pastor Eric at Victory Church taught a bit on Mark 5 last week (and you can probably listen to the message this coming Sunday here at 11am EST), but I find I cannot get this woman out of my head.
Jesus was busy on a rescue operation for a leader of the church whose daughter was very sick. He was going to the house to heal her, accompanied by a crowd of gawkers & groupies. Contrasting with the pending death of an innocent child, a woman who has been suffering for many years comes into the crowd, a woman unclean because she has been bleeding for those years. We don't know exactly what is wrong with her, but according to Jewish law anyone who is bleeding is unclean and anyone who touches such a person also becomes unclean.
For a long time I have only seen her shame and unworthiness. She is an outcast because of her condition. This Sunday, reading it again, I began to see that she is very similar to me. How many things do I hide in my shame thinking, "if only people really knew me...?" But even further is how determined I am to try and fix things myself without bothering Jesus: She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
I joke sometimes that before I surrender I always end up with a flat and bloodied forehead from banging my head against walls. I think that if I just do a little more, do it a little better, work harder, think quicker...somehow I can get this. Self reliance is an American ideal, right? Perhaps, but is it really helpful?
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak...
With nothing left to lose, I come to Jesus with my needs, but not quite honestly. Although I used to think this woman's action was a demonstration of how much greater her faith was than most, I am not sure. It is my ego that thinks I can read the right thing or ask the right question rather than admitting fully that I cannot do it, I cannot help me, that only He has my answers, that only He can be heal me.
The church leader went right up to Jesus pleading for help, and Jesus went with him. He was not embarrassed or ashamed to be completely in need. While this woman thought she could get away with not bothering Jesus, He turned the tables, as was His way.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
His followers thought Jesus had lost his mind to ask a question like that since they were in a crowd. But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. It was important to Jesus to acknowledge what had happened, and to whom it happened. How often I just want to be ok and hide in the normality.
Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.
I don't know that we can truly have an encounter with God and not be changed. Once she understood what happened, she couldn't deny it. She couldn't slink away and pretend she had stumbled a little but looked cool (bumping into Jesus) while she was doing it. The whole truth is that her body was broken, her spirit was broken, she needed help that she couldn't find anywhere, and that Jesus without taking a coin or demanding anything had freed her body and spirit.
"Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
After all those years as an outcast, how tender it must have sounded to be called daughter. For all her trying, all her doctors, all the uncomfortable treatments, and all the money spent, it was faith that healed her. It wasn't faith in her doctors or herself or her money, but in God & in His plans for her. When she came to the end of herself, she began with Him.
And so can I.