Encountering Jesus: A Sick Woman

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Mark 5:27-28

She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.”

Mark 5:27,28 rsv

“She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, `If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.’”

THE SUFFERING WOMAN

There she was on the fringes of the crowd, a frail woman, color drained from her face. She asked a bystander what was going on. “They say it’s Jesus of Nazareth,” came the answer, “He’s gone with Jairus to heal somebody sick.” “It’s Jesus?” the woman asked again. She was all ears now. Everyone had heard about this man from Nazareth, the way He spoke with such conviction, the way He cared about people so intensely. Most of all, everyone in Galilee knew about the astonishing things Jesus had done. People were saying He could even raise the dead! And now He was actually in her town, walking down her street. Could that be? Maybe someone like this Jesus could even help her!

She had been suffering for twelve years, this lady, with a recurring hemorrhage. She had tried all the usual remedies, without success. Every doctor around had heard about her case, but some of their treatments had made her condition even worse. Fear and sadness had etched deep lines in her face. Her life was literally ebbing away and she knew it. She had spent all her money in searching for a cure and now hope was exhausted, too. She had almost resigned herself to this wasting illness.

But now it seemed that help had come her way. Somewhere out in that noisy crowd was a man who could make her well. If only she could reach Him! It wouldn’t take much. People said He could heal with a word or a wave of His hand. God was in this Jesus. Power went forth from Him. Maybe all she’d have to do would be to touch His robe.

Heart pounding, she groped her way ahead. She moved this way and that, straining for some sight of Jesus. As she edged further into the street, she was caught up in a surging mass of people, pushed, jostled, sometimes almost lifted off her feet. It began to seem hopeless. Struggle as she would, there were still hundreds nearer than she. She groaned at her frailty and helplessness. If only she had the strength to get near to Him! Doggedly, she kept inching her way until suddenly the pressure eased and she was walking again, darting through a rift in the crowd. There, she could see Him now right beside the worried father, Jairus. If she could slip between the two big fellows right behind Him, she might be close enough. Then came her chance. Leaning forward, almost swept under by those behind her, she reached out to grasp the hem of His robe. Just as quickly, she released her grip again. There was no need to cling. The incredible had already happened. She knew that she had been healed.

Just then Jesus stopped and turned around. “Who touched My clothes?” He asked. “What do You mean, Master?” the disciples responded. “You see all these people pressing against You and yet You say, `Who touched Me?’” Jesus didn’t seem to hear them. He kept looking around at the crowd. A few feet behind Him the woman lowered her eyes, half wishing she could disappear. She had never expected this. Healing was all she had wanted. She would have been happy to go quietly on her way. But Jesus knew that someone had touched Him. How did He know? Was He angry? Would He rebuke her, a woman ritually unclean, because she had dared to reach out and touch Him? Suddenly her new joy turned to fear. She felt trapped, desperate.

But there was no escaping. Jesus was determined to know who it was. Finally, she got up the courage to speak. “It was I, Master.” Falling at His feet, she told Him all about her illness, her long, weary years of disappointment, and then what had just happened. She waited, hardly daring to look up, not knowing what to expect. “Daughter,” came a strong, gentle voice from above her, “Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your plague.” His words confirmed what she had felt. She was well again.

Why do you suppose Mark and the other Gospel writers have related this event? As a human interest story? It is certainly that. As a sign of Jesus’ power? Surely. A pointer perhaps to the mystery of His person? Yes, but more even than that. The encounters of such persons with Jesus tell us something also about ourselves. The miracles, think about this, are signs of what He came to do for us. The blind man, for example, reminds me of my insensitivity to God, the deaf one of my dullness to His voice. The leper with his uncleanness stands for me and my moral taintedness. Lazarus in a grave portrays my lack of response to God, my lifelessness apart from Him. All the sick, with their varied afflictions, speak to my need to be made completely whole. Seen in that way, the history of this woman is not simply an isolated happening from the past. It becomes your story and mine. We, all of us, suffer a profound sickness of the soul. We, in our wandering and estrangement, have a need beyond any human power to help.

THE WOULD-BE DOCTORS

And many of us have tried various would-be healers too, haven’t we? Let me picture, with a little imagination, some that you may have visited. First, there’s the one we’ll call Dr. Relax. You go to his pleasant, comfortable office and proceed to tell him your symptoms: “Doctor, I’m afraid something is terribly wrong. I seem to be in the grip of habits I can’t break. I keep doing things of which I’m ashamed. I seem to go on hurting people around me, even betraying those who trust me most. I lack any sense of purpose. I’m troubled by these deep feelings of guilt. To tell the truth, I’m desperately afraid to die. Can you help me?” Dr. Relax smiles benignly, “Now, now, you’re not really ill. The problem is imaginary. All you need is a change of outlook. There’s nothing really wrong with you. Forget those morbid thoughts and enjoy yourself.” So you go away mildly reassured but deeply unchanged. The symptoms remain. We can’t heal a festering sore by simply forgetting about it, can we, or by covering it with an attractive bandage?

It’s some time later now and things are no better for you. You go to visit a second physician – we’ll call him Dr. Reform. He listens to your report and nods with understanding. “Yes, I can see that you have a problem, but you mustn’t take it too seriously. A little extra effort on your part can take care of everything quite nicely. It’s time for you to turn over a new leaf. Decide that you’re going to be a better person. If you will start today in earnest to do the very best you can, you’ll find that this troubling condition of yours will clear up in time.” That sounds plausible. It’s a bracing word, stirs you to some new resolutions. But somehow, as time goes on, you aren’t able to follow through. You begin to feel like a man with shin splints who has been urged to go running to make his condition better.

With growing distress, you seek out still another physician. Surely this one will take your condition seriously. His name is Dr. Religion. “Yes,” he agrees, “you have a serious problem. It’s obvious that you need a spiritual dimension to your life. Everyone to be really well needs some kind of faith, some religious orientation. It doesn’t matter, of course, which faith you choose. Your sincerity is what really matters. Believe in something with all your heart and you will improve remarkably.”

That sounds promising, so you take a few classes in meditation and a correspondence course in world religions. But you have your doubts. Can it really be true, you wonder, that believing in just anything can transform your life for the better? Isn’t believing a bit like swallowing – its effects dependent on what you take in? Is it all the same if you swallow spinach or strychnine, applesauce or arsenic?

You may feel today much as this woman did. You try a host of remedies, some of them quite expensive. The real need hasn’t been met. You don’t feel like a whole person yet. The advice you’ve gotten all sounded good at the time. But it hasn’t changed your life. It hasn’t made you deeply well. It hasn’t brought you peace. You’ve just about given up hope that anything or anyone can make things significantly different.

THE TOUCH OF FAITH

If you’re feeling that way, remember this woman and her despair, and then what happened in her life. She believed that Jesus could help her. It’s not for nothing, you know, that they call Him the Great Physician. Apparently, there were no cases too hard for Him. He could even deal with moral sickness. He could cleanse a guilty conscience. He could change a selfish heart. In fact, He specialized in forgiving sins and transforming people on the inside.

I like to think of Jesus as someone in perfect, radiant health coming to a world full of sickness. Everyone He met was in the process of dying from a dreadful disease. He saw that. It moved Him. It broke His heart. What if He could somehow take our sickness upon Himself, gather up all the disease germs of our race, as it were, and receive them into His own body? What if He could become the bearer of all our evils, all our moral wrongs and go down to death in our place? And what if He could rise then from the dead, possessed of the only antidote? What if as the risen Lord He had new power to heal, restore and change us all?

That, dear friends, is not wild conjecture but the gospel truth. Listen to the apostle Paul: “[God] made him [that is, Jesus] to be sin [for us] who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God [in him]” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus bore our sicknesses, our sorrows, our sins, so that we through Him can be completely whole. If you will come to Him as this woman did, realizing your need, knowing that nothing else can help and putting all your trust in Him, this greatest of miracles can happen also for you. You can hear Him say to you also, “Son, daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

But there’s a sobering thought here too. Think about the vast crowd that pressed around Jesus on that day. Hundreds must have touched Him. But only this woman, apparently, received the priceless benefit. In the midst of all the pressure and commotion, He turned at her approach and said, “Who touched me?” This to Him was something different. Evidently it’s possible to be around Jesus, to be within reach of Him and yet not to receive all that He has to give. Only those who know their need and reach out toward Him in trust experience this transforming miracle. It’s only a living faith that truly touches Jesus Christ.

You may belong today to a Christian fellowship, a congregation of believers. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may have heard the gospel preached or taught on a number of occasions. Jesus Christ has passed your way and you’ve been interested in Him, perhaps as that crowd was. But the curiosity of the masses is not the same as the touch of faith. It’s when Christ and your personal faith come together, when you open your life to Him, reach out toward Him, that His saving power is communicated. Trust Him now. Move toward Him in the earnest appeal of faith. Say this in your heart and believe it: “If I can only come into living contact with Jesus Christ, He can make me a new person. He can make me completely whole.” And when you really meet Him, when your faith takes hold of Him, you will know that it has happened.

When you do, when you receive the gift of His salvation, don’t try to slip away quietly as though nothing had happened, like the woman did. He wants you to acknowledge to Him and to the world around what great things the Lord has done for you. It’s faith and then it’s witness. It’s receiving Christ with the touch of faith and then sharing what the Lord has done for you. Let your world around you know that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by in the life of the church, in the ministry of the gospel, and anyone who stretches out toward Him the hand of faith can be wonderfully healed.

PRAYER: Father, may we not be satisfied simply to know something about Jesus or to be near to Him but may we reach out with genuine faith to touch Him and to receive with a believing heart all that He waits to give. In Christ’s name. Amen.