I’ve been struggling with some recurring health issues for MONTHS now. Five months to be exact. Almost half of the year. Nothing huge, just seemingly unending, and even my doctor seems to be at a loss. So today, since I actually got some quiet time before getting Max up (aka me refusing to get him up until I was good and ready), I found myself reading Luke 8: 43-48.
And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all of her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out 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.”
I’ve read this story, and studied this story who knows how many times. The typical stuff struck me again this time. She had a period for TWELVE YEARS. That makes my 5 months of general discomfort seem…well not that bad I guess. She spent her “all of her living” trying to be healed. While I have spent time and money seeing my doctor, it has really only been an inconvenience. And to top off all this other hopelessness, she was ceremonially unclean, isolating her from society. My life has not been hugely impacted. So my first take away this morning was…well it could be worse.
Then I started wondering about this whole fringe thing. I think in the past my thought process was that because of her faith/desperation she thought that by reaching for the smallest piece of Jesus, SOMETHING…ANYTHING could, maybe even would, happen. While I think this is true, I felt like there was more significance to the fringe. So I pulled out the good old study Bible, and turned to Numbers 15: 37-41 (emphasis and notes are mine).
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord (we don’t), to do them (we don’t), not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes (we do), which you are inclined to whore after (all the time). So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God (we don’t and we aren’t…but Jesus is). I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God. (He is our Lord, who brings us to Himself)” .
So this scrap of clothing the woman reached for WAS significant. It was part of the law. The same law that deemed this woman as unclean because of her ailment. My synapses starting firing. This may seem a little stream of consciousness, but try to follow me here:
- This woman was sick and lost EVERYTHING – money, pride, her people, her religion. She was isolated for 12 years. By law she was not allowed to be around other people, and if she HAD to go into public, she had to announce herself as unclean. Heaping more shame onto her shame and isolation. I think the word desperate would adequately describe this woman.
- In her desperation, she broke this law. She hid within this crowd that was following Jesus, with the small hope that maybe if she just touched him she might get SOMETHING, ANYTHING, out of it.
- Technically, according to this law, by touching Jesus, she would make him ceremonially unclean as well. Was she thinking of the legal/religious implications here? Or was she just moving towards Hope?
- She reached for Jesus, touched his tassel or fringe (the reminder of our brokenness/His holiness), and was IMMEDIATELY healed.
- She snuck back into the crowd. It could have ended there. She was healed, she could reenter society, Jesus could have kept walking.
- BUT. A big Holy BUT.
- Jesus stops. He feels power going from him. Not her uncleanliness spreading to Him. But the opposite. His cleanliness spreading to her! Jesus is greater than the Law. His holiness is greater than her (our) brokenness! (Side note: Maybe I’ve been doing too much Kindergarten math homework, but my visual here is the greater than alligator symbol consuming our brokenness. Do with that what you will.)
- The woman realized that she is NOT HIDDEN. She is seen. And not just by the law, or her people. But by Jesus. The Savior. The Lord her God. This is what she responds to. Not the physical healing, but being seen. And her response? Worship! She says what she’s done, why she’s done it, and that she has been healed. Shame? Its gone. Where is your sting?
- Her faith has made her well. I believe there was more healing here than just the physical.
- Go in Peace = Restoration! He is the Lord our God, and He will bring us to Himself.
So today, I take away more than just the perspective of “it could be worse”. I walk away with a few questions and convictions. Where do I go in my desperation? Myself, my personal resources, my people? Or to Jesus, even the smallest piece of Him I can find? And when He brings the healing I so long for, what do I do? Do I slink back into the crowd, or do I fall on my knees, shake off the shame and worship the Lord my God who has restored me to Himself?
As we head into Christmas, this is my prayer. That we reach for Hope, even when things seem hopeless. That we see that Christ has done what we could not and that our response will be to stand up, confess that we are broken but that He is Holy and leave that shame on the ground.