Today I’m linking up with http://onegirl-itjusttakesone.blogspot.com/ for her awesome new link up Chasing History, where some nifty writers each choose a woman in the Bible and blog about her.
Apparently I have an affinity for those nameless women who merited only a passing mention in the Bible because today I have chosen yet another of them to write about. Her story is found in Mark 5:25-34.
Have you ever been desperate? You’ve done everything you can do to fix things, and the situation has only gotten worse. You’ve spent every penny you can searching for relief, and now you’re broke on top of everything else. The woman in these verses is often called the “woman with the issue of blood”. She had a name, but her name wasn’t important enough to make the pages of the Bible. The story of her encounter with Jesus was what mattered.
Jesus has been traveling with his disciples and teaching them what they need to know, and performing miracles along the way. At the beginning of chapter 5 He healed a man possessed by demons, and this woman’s very brief story opens as Jairus comes to ask Jesus to heal his dying daughter. On the way to Jairus’ house a large crowd gathers to follow Jesus, and in the crowd is a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years. (In the South we call that “female trouble”) She’s spent all her money on doctors and treatment and her condition is worse now than when it started. She’s desperate for relief. Think about it: twelve years of bleeding.
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 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.
She’s heard of this Jesus and His miracles, and maybe the flame of hope begins to flicker inside her heart once again. So she leaves her house, where she has likely been confined for the better part of twelve years, and she joins this crowd following Jesus like He’s a rock star. Maybe she’s hoping she won’t see anyone she knows because by this time, by twelve years later, all her neighbors know about her little problem. But she’s desperate, so it’s worth taking the chance.
She comes up behind Jesus in the crowd, not brave enough to get in His path and face him. All she’s trying to do is touch His clothes, because she believes that just a brush of His robes will be enough to heal her. Her faith doesn’t require something big and showy. She’s not even asking to meet her Healer. She doesn’t want recognition or to get in the way, just to slip up behind Him and reach out with her fingertips to the hem of His robe. THIS, just this little bit of Him, will be enough, she thinks.
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
And it is enough. Verse 29 says that “immediately” her bleeding stopped and she realized that she was freed from her suffering. Can you imagine? Twelve years of suffering gone with just one touch! Bam! I suspect that if it were up to her, she would have quietly slipped away from the crowd and back to her home, where she could rejoice and marvel at this miraculous healing. Maybe she would have told those closest to her about it and word of Jesus’ message would have been spread to a few more people.
But it was not to be, because Jesus – remember, nothing was a surprise to Him – knew she was coming and He had a bigger plan. He knew her story, He knew what she planned to do, and He felt the power go out from Himself when she touched His robe. So He asks, “Who touched me?” Now, you and I know He knew perfectly well who touched Him. But I think Jesus wanted everyone else to know about this woman’s story and about her faith. The kind of faith that didn’t ask for an audience, or a big production, or even a face-to-face encounter. Faith that doesn’t ask for much but the barest of touches. Faith born of desperation.
And she knows that He knows so she comes forward, trembling in fear and falling at His feet, to tell Him and the crowd the whole story, as if He doesn’t already know. And maybe she’s wondering if she’s in trouble, if He’s going to rebuke her for touching Him, since her condition has almost certainly earned her the label “unclean”.
But instead what she gets is confirmation.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Twelve long years. That’s as long as my middle daughter has been alive. That woman must have despaired, must have thought she would suffer the rest of her life, however long that was to be. Hopeless, until she heard about Jesus and took a desperate step of faith.
I wonder what her life was like after that day. I know that sometimes we tend to identify ourselves by our flaws and sicknesses in the same way that we often refer to her as the “woman with the issue of blood”. We’re consumed with our problems and finding a way out, and that becomes a barrier to real relationship with Christ. I know that we can use our brokenness as an excuse for not following more closely after God. And then once we’re healed we no longer have that excuse to hide behind and it can be scary to lose a big chunk of your identity, albeit one you really didn’t want to keep. There is some safety in the familiar, even when it involves suffering. I think I could do a blog post just on that subject.
But here’s what I want to leave you with: you cannot encounter Jesus and walk away unchanged. Even touching the hem of His robe was enough to heal a woman who had been suffering for twelve years. Jesus wanted the crowd to know that it wasn’t the touching of His clothing that healed her, it was her faith in Him. She believed that even a little bit of Jesus would be enough to stop her pain and it was.
You cannot encounter Jesus to any degree and walk away unchanged. Even a little bit of Him is more than enough to do miracles, to rearrange our most miserable situation, to set life on its head, if you believe.
Do you believe?