“When Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him while He was by the sea. One of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at His feet and kept begging Him, “My little daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay Your hands on her so she can get well and live.” So Jesus went with him, and a large crowd was following and pressing against Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for 12 years had endured much under many doctors. She had spent everything she had and was not helped at all. On the contrary, she became worse. Having heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His robe. For she said, “If I can just touch His robes, I’ll be made well! ” Instantly her flow of blood ceased, and she sensed in her body that she was cured of her affliction. At once Jesus realized in Himself that power had gone out from Him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My robes? ” His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing against You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me? ’ ” So He was looking around to see who had done this. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came with fear and trembling, fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth. “Daughter,” He said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be free from your affliction.” (Mark 5:21-34 HCSB)
Have you ever been in a state of hopelessness? To be honest, I think most of us believe we have been there but I’m not sure we really have. Hopelessness occurs when you have exhausted all of your resources, all options and even all possibilities and you have nowhere left to go. You are, quite literally, at the end of your rope. But when you reach the end of your rope you tie a knot in it and hang on for dear life. Why? Because there’s still hope that some day someone with a solution to your problem just might come along. Guess what? Today’s that day…
I stated above that while many of us may feel as though we’ve been in a hopeless situation, I doubt we actually have been. I’m not trying to be flippant or sarcastic about your circumstances. I’m really not. I just think that most of us have never really exhausted our resources, options or possible solutions. We quickly become frustrated that the answer isn’t readily available or obvious to us and we turn to Google for answers or ideas. We seldom truly exhaust our financial resources, governmental resources, societal support options and certainly not Google search results or YouTube videos on the subject. We might feel anxious or desperate but we aren’t yet hopeless. Not quite yet…
But, what happens when we really do run out of resources, when options are exhausted or ideas have run dry? Is that when we begin to open our minds and our hearts to other things? When we open ourselves up to possibilities that seem far fetched or outlandish? Is that when faith begins to sprout? Let’s spend some time this week considering this question of faith and how it begins to develop, grow and drive our response to Jesus.
For just a second, I want you to consider the conditions Mark lays out for our story: Jesus has returned to the western shore of Galilee and is, most likely, back in Capernaum. As He begins teaching, the crowd begins to grow and press in on Him. For now, we are going to leave the story of Jairus and his daughter alone. We’ll return to it next week. This week, let’s focus in on the story of the woman with the bleeding ailment that has lasted for over 12 years. She has been to every doctor, tried every medical solution possible and spent all of her financial resources seeking their help. The results? She’s worse off now than when she started. What, worse off now than when she started? That’s encouraging, right?
Sorry, my sarcasm settles in when I get into a situation like that. Doesn’t yours? She spent everything she had seeking their help, she’s done everything they suggested and she’s not better. In fact, she’s worse now than when she started. It is at times like this when you want to look heavenward and just ask, “Why, God? Just why?” If you’re going to ask Him that question do you think it might be worth listening for His reply?
Listen to His reply…
Mark says: “Having heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His robe.” She has heard ABOUT Jesus. Mark doesn’t tell us the specifics of what she’s heard, just that she’s heard about Jesus. I think we can probably make some assumptions based on what Jesus told the man last week, “Go home, tell your friends and family what the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” I think that living in this area she has been hearing these stories about Jesus and they’re bearing fruit in her life. Mark has told us that faith begins as a seed sown by someone else onto the soil of life. This seed is the Word of God which we often assume means the Bible, but the living Word of God is Jesus. He is the Word or the very expression of God. In other words, when the invisible God speaks it is Jesus that we see and hear.
“Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:1-3 HCSB)
So, the expression, the response or the reply of God to the questions we ask and the solutions we seek is Jesus. A popular response by our culture and, perhaps, by you to this statement is: but why JUST Jesus? Aren’t their multiple ways to God? The world is full of religions so isn’t it a bit prideful and closed-minded to exclude them? After all, aren’t all religious expressions and beliefs equal? Aren’t they the same? Don’t they teach the same principles and beliefs? How can Jesus be the only way? That just sounds like a power trip that the Christian church just wants to push onto us and our culture. So, let me state this very clearly, directly and emphatically: No, they aren’t the same and there never has been and never will be anyone else like Jesus. He is the unique, the one, the only Son of God. Not my words, His…
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 HCSB)
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 HCSB)
So, this woman had heard about Jesus and had likely heard what He taught about God’s love and mercy. I strongly suspect she also heard about some of the miracles and healings that He’d performed. She may have even heard about the man’s deliverance from the legion of unclean spirits in Gedara. But, don’t overlook the fact that she was also considered unclean because of her continuous bleeding. This woman was essentially isolated from her community and from worship because of this medical condition. The scriptures were clear, this continuous vaginal bleeding would have caused ritual uncleanness and that would have resulted in making her avoid social and religious contact with her family and friends. To do so would have made them unclean and unfit for worship and social interaction.
But twelve years of struggle and isolation will drive you to the brink and make you do things you wouldn’t normally do, like go into a crowd just to touch Jesus. In fact, this kind of struggle and social isolation will make you go even beyond the realm of visible reality and step into the realm of faith or invisible reality. Invisible reality? Yes, you see scripture defines faith as the “reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” (Heb. 11:1 HCSB) Faith is no less real, just less visible and less understood. She had exhausted all of the possibilities in her “visible reality” and now she was ready to consider those things she couldn’t quite see and didn’t fully understand. Things she’d only heard about from someone else’s encounter with Jesus. She was beginning to venture into the realm of faith.
But, let’s be honest. Her faith was not fully formed and certainly not mature. In fact, it was really quite primitive and cluttered with really messy ideas. To put it simply, her faith was in serious theological trouble and was quite unorthodox… “if I can just touch His robes, I’ll be made well!” That smacks of magic and mysticism but it was being placed in and entrusted to the correct object of faith, Jesus. What’s my point? Faith doesn’t have to be perfect to be life altering and transformational and able to get us to Jesus. Faith can be quite messy and even wrong in many ways, but when it is placed in Jesus it has the ability to change our lives and save our souls.
Notice, she was instantly cured of her affliction. This word “affliction” is the same word used for the “scourge” that Paul was threatened with in Acts 22:24. It is a whip that is strips of leather embedded with pieces of metal and was the same type of scourge we believe was used on Jesus. This disease had been so debilitating to her life that it was described by Mark using the same terms used to described the flogging Jesus suffered at the hands of the Romans. But when she touched Him, Jesus stepped in between her and the cruel beating that she has been enduring for twelve years and He took her place (see Is. 53:5). Those blows would no longer land on her, Jesus had brought her salvation, cleansing and restoration.
Now notice, she sensed she had been cured of her affliction and KNEW immediately that her touch of faith had brought God’s response but Jesus also knew it. Her uncleanness had not brought God’s condemnation but had instead brought God’s healing power and her restoration. Jesus also knew that God’s healing power had gone out from Him. He turned around and said, “Who touched My robes?” You can almost hear the incredulous reply from His disciples, “Look around you at the crowd, what do you mean ‘Who touched Me?’”
Did He truly not know? To be honest, I find that hard to believe given His power, knowledge and insight. I wonder if He wasn’t just looking at the crowd, glancing her way and watching, waiting for the barriers of fear that had long enslaved her and kept her isolated to fall away and for her to step out into the open and to acknowledge Him and His power in her life (see Matt. 10:32-39). Notice how Mark describes her response and I think you’ll see why I think Jesus knew but needed her to break down those fear barriers and step out: “the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came with fear and trembling, fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.”
I think she told Him everything. All of the struggles, fears, failures, money and time wasted on unsuccessful medical procedures and the loneliness and isolation her uncleanness brought. Her feelings regarding God’s silence in the midst of her pain, torture really. The wounds from that whip were still fresh, even as the salve of God’s mercy and grace poured over them. Fear. Trembling. Tears. But God’s mercy has a miraculous healing quality, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be free from your affliction.” There’s that word, again. Affliction. But this time she has been set free from its pain by faith. Simple faith. Messy faith. Weak and immature faith. Faith that may not have been entirely orthodox, but was well placed in God’s only Son. It wasn’t her worthiness that brought healing, it was that simple, messy, weak, immature and broken faith. Isn’t God good?
Some of you know these feelings, the fear builds and this whip of physical, emotional or social abuse lands blows on your back quite regularly, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, we often look to the wrong person or persons for our rescue. We try all of the social solutions, psychological solutions, medical solutions and nothing helps. We spend all of our time and money looking for something, anything but nothing helps, because nothing but Jesus can save us. Sadly, the word “salvation” has lost much of its original intent. Folks outside of the church now tend to associate it with negative feelings tied to broken religious imagery and icons when it really means “to be rescued” by Jesus. Jesus rescued her from the uncleanness that isolated her from the God she longed to worship, that separated her from her family and friends and even from life, in general.
This disease and its uncleanness had separated her, not just from God but from everyone. But when she touched Jesus He didn’t recoil from her touch, His power flowed into her, through her and cured her. You see, it hadn’t separated her from God and God’s mercy just from the Temple worship. I want you to know that He can do the same for you. He can break through those barriers that your pain has built and He can bring wholeness and peace. He won’t recoil from your touch. In fact, I promise that He’ll lean into it. You’ll sense Him drawing near to you. That’s that invisible reality I mentioned, above. It may seem like God is gone or has gone silent, or that He has closed all possible doors into His presence but that is just your visible reality, not His invisible reality. Pain might drive you to despair but it can also cause you to stumble onto that path to God, the path lit up by faith, faith in Jesus.
I know a little something about weak, broken, immature, and unorthodox faith because I’ve been there, too. Let me share with you a passage that has had a significant impact on my walk of faith: Psalm 51. Go read it, here’s a link. This is the prayer that David prayed after he had broken his relationship with God through sexual sin and murder with Bathsheba and her husband. Pay particular attention to these words: “You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.” (Psalms 51:16-17 HCSB)
What God wants more than anything is for you to come to Him openly, admitting your brokenness, your uncleanness, your pain, your affliction and your need for Him and His mercy. To throw yourself at the feet of Jesus on the cross and to cry out, God have mercy on me a sinner! Just slip into the crowd, come up behind Him and reach out and touch His robe. Let His power flow through you and cleanse you, heal you, restore you and rescue you. Then listen to Him say, “Son/Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be free from your affliction.”