The story behind the cut is meant to be read aloud. If possible, have someone read it to you so you can soak in the effect.
The woman had been bleeding for twelve years. She had spent all of her money getting second, third, fourth, and even twentieth opinions. No one could make her well. In fact, she was only getting worse. Her only hope now was Jesus. She just wanted to get close enough to touch the hem of his cloak.
I don't know if you can fathom that. I can. When I was in the seventh grade, kids were assigned to take me through the lunch line. They disliked it, and one of them showed it very plainly. She would take hold of the tiniest part of my sleeve that she could hold between her thumb and forefinger and drag me up and down the line, saying, "Anybody wanna take her?" She DIDN'T WANT to even touch the hem of my clothing. She wanted to get as far away from me as she could. I remember how it felt: going through that line, wondering why no one wanted to touch me, wishing that I could become "touchable." I also remember how it felt to meet people whose presence was so affirming that I just wanted to sit within three feet of them and absorb some of their positive energy.
But this lady... She was very sick--sick with blood. According to Jewish ceremonial law, she was "unclean." She could not be touched--she could not be blessed, and here was Jesus, the Holy One, not just a priest but the Messiah. She knew it in her heart--God's Holy Spirit has a way of revealing this to people who need that blessing. But she was unclean. ...
What a nasty, cruel joke! How could God dangle the blessing before me like that, knowing that I am unclean and can never approach Jesus? What kind of God is this? Does He love me or not? ... But I've heard that Jesus has been healing... Why, just the other day some lepers came through town shouting about how he had made them clean. The priests didn't believe it until they examined them. I don't know how it could have happened, but I was near enough to see them pass by and all their sores were gone! Maybe, just maybe, Jesus would heal me. Oh, I could never speak to him. He is so respected and kind! He is so busy, and so many other people need him...
But wait! There is the ruler, Jairus, going right up to him, pleading with him to go to his house and heal his daughter. What boldness! But Jairus is a man of status, not unclean. Perhaps if I could just pass by him... If I could just get near enough to touch the edge of his clothing, I might by chance be healed just because he is holy enough to do such a thing!
And with that, the woman began to move frantically, pushing her way through the crowd, no longer caring who she must touch on her way to Jesus. Blood gushed from her as her body strained to reach her target in time, and people shifted away from her as well as they can. "Move away from the teacher!" someone shouted. "You're defiling everyone! Your blood is getting everywhere!" a man cried angrily.
She pressed on.
As she hurried past Jesus, she quickly reached out a trembling hand. I won't stop, she thought. I just need a quick touch. Everyone is moving anyway. I don't have to bother him. And as they walk, she brushed the hem of his cloak lightly, as if by accident, and then moved on.
But Jesus could not be deceived or hidden from. He knows what is in the hearts of the Pharisees, and he would later predict the time and number of instances of Peter's denial. This woman's small and desperate faith moved him. All that was required was a mustard seed, a bit of absolute faith in his power and God's love. And her faith was so pure that she, the untouchable, knew that all she need do was touch the outermost edge of his clothing in order to receive his blessing.
But the blessings of Jesus were meant to be given, not taken. And so he acted in order that he might give rather than be stolen from by one with such faith. After all, her faith is precisely what he needed in order to teach his lesson: that he came to release the untouchable from their prison of isolation, to clean up the unclean and present them as faultless, blameless children before the Father, to stop the spread of defilement and begin the spread of blessing!
"Who touched me?" he said.
The questions of Jesus are not always comfortable to answer--not for the people who hold the answers, and not for those who stand by. The woman's heart leapt into her throat. She had gone some distance away by this time; but she heard him calling, and she knew what he wanted. He wanted her to return and confess. She had done something very, very wrong. It was time to face the consequences. So much for that healing. The dangling carrot had become a poison.
The disciples were visibly and audibly uncomfortable. A couple of them had seen her out of the corner of their eyes. "Why are you asking such a thing?" one of them said. "It's very crowded. Many people are touching you!"
Jesus continued to peer around as if searching for something lost. The woman could not stand it. She walked back to him, big tears rolling down her cheeks. Reaching him, she collapsed, her chest heaving with sobs of despair. "I touched your cloak," she sobbed, her hands covering her face. "I didn't mean to defile you. I just..." She stole a glance up at him but found that she could not bring herself to look into his face. "I thought that you might heal me... I heard the stories from the others. But I cannot come near you because ... because ..." She buried her face again. "... because I am unclean."
The crowd was silent. Even those who had nothing to do with Jesus had stopped walking along their way, at first annoyed by the scene she had made but now riveted by everything from curiosity to pity. At the far side of the road, a leper stood apart from the crowd, watching with guarded interest.
Jesus looked down at the woman, already knowing the entire story. She knew something about who he was--it was obvious from her reactions to him. But she only knew a piece of the truth. She was human. Humans could not understand the concept of spiritual cleansing. Even his disciples had complained that his teachings were hard.
"Stand up," he said gently. "Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
She looked up, finally focusing on his face. His eyes appeared kind, not angry as she had expected. She stood, trembling, and for the first time noticed that the flow of blood had stopped. He told her quietly to go and see a doctor to verify her condition.
As he was saying this, some men approached. All the crowd turned, including the woman, to see a three men from Jairus' house. They had come to tell him of the death of his daughter. As the woman turned to go, she could see his face falling. She felt guilty for taking Jesus' time when he could have been healing the child.
But then she heard Jesus speak softly to Jairus. "Don't worry. Didn't I promise to heal her? Believe in me." He then raised his voice and instructed the crowd not to follow him. He continued on toward Jairus' house, taking only Jairus and three of his disciples.
The woman turned slowly and went on her way, amazed. She had not taken his time from Jairus! He was Lord over the whole world! He could call that child to live, and she would live, and he knew it! He could spare a few minutes to comfort her--and heal her, too! She began to run--and blood did not pour our of her.
We don't get a lot of details in the Bible about the stories that are there. We get verbal stick figure sketches of events. The story you've just heard is an embellishment of Mark 5:21-37. When we read Scripture, sometimes it can help to do a little imagining and try to put ourselves into the situation. What might the person be feeling that would prompt such a request from Jesus as, "Come and heal my only daughter?" Why would the woman want simply to touch the hem of his cloak? Have we ever been in a situation that caused us to feel something similar? These "tools" help us to learn to relate more fully to Jesus through the Holy Spirit now.
Have you ever felt untouchable or excluded? Have you ever felt that your needs were too shameful to bother God with? Have you ever wished that you could just touch Him passively and have His power "rub off on you?"
Philippians 4:6 says: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Is there anything we should not pray about? In a Presbyterian church I attended a couple of weeks ago, they took care to thank God for a child's new kitten!
What have you done to overcome a lack of boldness in prayer in your life?
The practice of prayer moves us toward maturity. Prayer is communication. Christians are often compared to children, growing in maturity throughout their lifetime. Have you ever chastised yourself for not being "mature enough" in your prayers? There is a place for your prayers. Wherever you are in your faith, God knows how to work with you. If you are young and just learning how to ask for something, it is entirely appropriate to ask boldly for what that is on your mind. Seeing prayer as a process of communication, we learn that often God prunes us and teaches us to get into His mind and sift through our boldness to examine our motives in asking and learn from our prayers. We learn in this way about His character as well as about ourselves. Sometimes we learn through answered prayer, and sometimes through prayers that seemed unanswered.
When have you learned through answered prayer?
When have you learned through unanswered prayer?
When have you learned that God does, indeed, take time for you while attending to what you perceived as "more important" needs of those around you? How did you rejoice in this?