Reach Out to Jesus

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 8:44

And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased.

Luke 8:43,44 RSV

A NEEDY WOMAN

We don’t know very much about her. We aren’t told her name, her age or the town in which she lived. We don’t know with assurance a single word she said. We only know that she was a woman in need. This is from the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 8, beginning at verse 43:

And a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him [that is, behind Jesus], and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!” But Jesus said, “Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

The woman’s need had been grave. For a dozen years, her life had been literally ebbing away. She was a victim of chronic hemorrhages, gradually becoming paler, weaker and more vulnerable through loss of blood. On this particular day the flow had begun again and she was discouraged. The malady had sapped her energy, crushed her spirit and made her religiously an outcast.

She had tried a number of remedies, but the best healing arts of her time had been completely unavailing. She realized with a sadness bordering on despair that her affliction was terminal. No one she had ever known or met could seem to make her well.

One day she heard a commotion in the street near her home. She wondered aloud what was happening. Someone told her that Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet from Galilee, was passing through the village. She had heard about Him, how seemingly incurable afflictions had disappeared at His touch, how lepers had been healed, the demonized set free. Even the dead had been raised to life again by His word of authority. Here, she thought, was her chance. Maybe He could accomplish what no one else had been able to do. The power of God seemed to radiate from this man. “If only He would speak a word to me,” she longed, “pray a prayer for me, perhaps that would be the one thing that would meet my need.”

It took considerable energy, but she began to move toward Him through the crowd. The going wasn’t easy. People were packed together in the street, jostling with one another for a sight of the Galilean. She wondered if she had the strength to make her way through the press to get near Him. The extremity of her need spurred her on, along with a rising confidence that He might be able to help. She kept pushing ahead, shoved this way and that way. Sometimes almost swept off her feet, she moved in Jesus’ direction. Some looked at her with annoyance as she squeezed past them. Others had something coarse to say. But she hardly heard them, so intent was she on reaching Jesus. Suddenly she was able to slip through a crease in the crowd and found herself directly behind Him. Many voices were calling out to Him, so it seemed impossible to get His attention. But maybe, she thought, that won’t be necessary. Perhaps she could simply touch the hem of His robe and that would be enough. She did, and in that instant knew within herself that she had been healed.

The woman could hardly have been prepared for what followed: Jesus’ stopping and inquiring about who had touched Him, His looking around, making such an issue of this. He wasn’t going any farther, obviously, until His question had been answered.

She saw that what she had done couldn’t be concealed. Still overcome with joy, she now felt suddenly afraid. Amid all the mingled rush of emotion, almost shaking, she cast herself down before Jesus in the dust of the street. She told Him everything, what her struggle had been, why she had touched Him, and how in that very moment she had been made well. That’s the last we know of this woman, that moving personal witness before Jesus and before a watching world. She told what great things the Lord had done for her.

A MIGHTY SAVIOR

Now let’s look more closely at Jesus’ role in all this. Watch Him stop, turn about and scan the faces in the crowd. “Who was it that touched me?” Everyone seemed startled by the question. Had someone abused Jesus? Had He been struck, insulted in some way? All those around Him had been quick to deny any wrong doing. “Don’t look at me, Jesus, I didn’t do anything.” Peter, as he often did, voiced what the other disciples were thinking. “Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you.” Peter obviously didn’t understand Jesus’ question. “What do You mean, Master?” he seemed to say. “You’re wedged into a big crowd here. Hundreds of people have been touching You.”

Peter had missed the point completely. That happened fairly often, didn’t it? Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.” Somewhere in that milling throng was a person who had made a special kind of contact with the Lord. It wasn’t simply physical proximity, people brushing by, hands reached out toward a visiting celebrity. This touch was different. Jesus felt it inwardly. When it happened, the life and strength of God had flowed from Him to another.

Why, do you suppose, He was so concerned to know who it was? This wasn’t simply mild interest. He couldn’t be dissuaded from the search. He was determined to find out who this person was. We wonder why.

In part, it was surely to discourage superstition. Jesus didn’t want people to think there was anything magic about touching Him, as though His presence automatically gave off some healing power. He was not a walking shrine, charged with cures for anyone who bumped into Him.

More profoundly, this tells us something about God’s desire for a personal relationship with His people. He wants to give blessing to their lives, but not in some automatic way, spreading it around as though it were a commodity. He longed to know and be known, to give Himself in His gifts.

Recently, my wife Helen and I celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. It was one of those milestone times when our children went out of their way to give us a party. As we gathered up the cards and greetings at the end of the open house, we noticed a lovely gift standing apart by itself. It had somehow become separated from the card that identified its givers.

You know what that’s like. You feel a certain frustration in situations like that. You’re happy for the gift, of course, appreciative for the thoughtfulness it represents. But you feel puzzled and tentative because you don’t know whom to thank. The gift which was meant to be an expression of a loving relationship has become simply an object sitting there. Much of its intended meaning has been drained away.

When we were finally able to sort out all the cards and when our daughter-in-law had done some detective work in matching the wrapping paper with the envelope, we knew just which loving hearts were behind that gift. And that made it complete. Shining through the present we could see faces; we could celebrate friendship.

And remember, friends, we are human beings made in God’s image. Our desire for relatedness, our yearning to connect blessings with persons is in God’s heart too. Jesus wants to know who touched Him.

THE TOUCH OF FAITH

Then, when this grateful woman has poured out her happy confession, Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Now it becomes clear, both to her and to all those around how this healing has occurred. Power has been communicated, God’s power from Jesus to a healed person, and it has happened through faith. Jesus’ robe had no healing properties about it. Her touching didn’t by itself connect some elecric circuit of healing. No. She had believed in the power and mercy of God present in the person of Jesus. Her touch was an expression of that; it was belief in action. And that faith had made all the difference.

Now she could go in peace. Now the shalom of God could rest fully upon her life. She had experienced more than a healing change in her body. She had known the Lord’s personal blessing, that lovingkindness of His that is “better than life.”

Perhaps there’s a reason why we don’t know this woman’s name or any other particulars about her life. What’s being described here is more than an isolated incident in Jesus’ ministry, a long-ago happening. The afflicted woman has become in the eyes of the apostles a kind of representative person. Her story is somehow our story, too.

Can we see in her condition a picture of ourselves? We too suffer from a condition certain to be fatal. We too are beyond all human help. We are flawed, failing people. Sinners is the Bible name for us. And since the wage sin pays is death, since none of us can ransom our own lives from the grave’s power, and since only God can do anything about our guilt and estrangement, if left to ourselves we are utterly without hope.

But then we hear about Jesus of Nazareth, about the life of perfect obedience that He lived, about His deeds of power and words of grace. We learn how He took our sins and sorrows upon Him and died in our place. We hear the overwhelmingly good news that He is risen from the dead, alive, offering forgiveness, new life, healing of the heart to all who will trust in Him.

When we hear that gospel, hope springs up within us. Perhaps He can do for us what no one else can do. And so we begin to move, as the woman did, in His direction. We listen to His word. We find ourselves among His people. And as the gospel offer is made to us, we sense that there and then, Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. So we reach out to touch Him.

Maybe for us that reaching out means going forward at the end of an evangelistic meeting. Maybe it means admitting our need and calling on the Lord in prayer for help and grace. Maybe it’s the silent outcry of the heart when we have nowhere else to turn. But when we tremblingly, hopefully reach out in His direction, the miracle takes place. We know in the depths that we have been transformed, that new life has been imparted to us.

We might like to slip away, to enjoy quietly the miracle that has happened, but that cannot be. We need to confess Him. “If you shall confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord,” says the apostle, “and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9, KJV). Before God and other people, we celebrate what Jesus has done for us. As a people redeemed, we claim Him openly as our Lord and Savior.

And as we do, He says to us, “Your faith has saved you.” It’s the living trust in your response to Him that has made all the difference. However awkwardly and gropingly you cried out, however halting were your first steps toward Him, He saw in them the reality of faith. He saved you, forgave you, restored you, and gave you a new beginning. He’s saying to you now, “Go in peace.” Whatever remaining problems you may struggle with, it’s all right now. You have the Lord with you, His blessing upon you. His peace will guard you and He’ll never let you go.

Maybe I’m speaking to someone today who’s still out on the fringes of the crowd. You’re hearing about Jesus, the difference He can make in the lives of people, but you’ve never really thought it could be for you. You’ve never called on Him from your heart. Well, this is your golden opportunity. Reach out to Jesus. Do it now. Call upon Him. One touch of faith can make your whole life new. Alleluia!

Prayer: Father, right now as we’ve been sharing the gospel message, we know that Jesus is wonderfully near. May every person sharing this message be given grace to reach out in faith and touch Him and find healing and life. In the name of Jesus. Amen.