February 27, 2022
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 8:40-56
I’m wondering if in the close-up view we are getting to the various people Jesus encountered in his short three years with us, there is a chance that we are also getting a big picture as well.
TRUE TO HIS WORD
For me, week by week, I’ve been struck by how intentional Jesus was in each of his encounters to do what he announced at the outset that he was here to do. There in the town of Nazareth – the very town that ran him out on a rail – he said: “Here is what I am about:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Those words never fail to penetrate into my soul as a leader of a 21st Century church of Jesus Christ. The poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed look different in every generation and each generation must consider how we are to help set them free! But if we are to follow Jesus, set them free we must!
Take a close look at the woman in our story today. She had some chronic bleeding issue – perhaps menstrual? We know so little details. What we do know is that she had been captive to this disease/disorder for 12 years! Whatever the diagnosis would be today, the very fact that she was a woman and was bleeding made her unclean in that culture! To be unclean meant she must isolate herself from other people. She must not touch or be touched, for to do so was to make another unclean also. And she had had this condition for 12 years! Condemned to a life without touch for as long as your disorder persists! Can you imagine? It was a kind of imprisonment!
Her society said she should be unseen, hidden, tucked away so that others would not be contaminated. Today was the day she said, “No more!” She spotted Jesus in the crowd and, attempting to be anonymous, to hide what she was, she made her way to within arm’s length of him.
All the paintings of this event have her nearly on the ground, arm and hand extended to reach for the bottom edge of his garment. It was a cloak over the main garment and on the four corners of the bottom hem were hung a tassel – a symbol of a practicing Jewish man’s connection to God through the religious law.
What did she expect to happen? We have no idea! But she only touched it and she knew that she was a different woman! The bleeding issue stopped. She was free! Before she could slip away unnoticed, Jesus called out: “Who touched me?” Like a
bunch of squabbling siblings, they all said: “Not ME!” And leave it to Peter to give Jesus this questioning shrug as he verbalizes the obvious: “Ah… Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you!”
Jesus, always so patient with his most irritating disciple, says: “It’s not just ANY touch that I’m talking about, Peter! “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” It was a spiritual power that had gone out of him and that miracle
actually challenged the laws and the traditions of Judaism and in their place inserting love and compassion.
It is so clear the way this story has been preserved for us that this beloved child of God, this afflicted woman, came to Jesus suffering not only the disease, but also the burden of shame. She felt obligated to do her best to be hidden. Her idea that day had been to get in, make contact with Jesus, and slip away unnoticed. The words of Jesus foiled her plan. And then the text says: “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet.”
THE WAY OUT TO FREEDOM
I am so fascinated by the fact that, in this story, brokenness and hiddenness are linked on one side, while openness and healing are linked on the other. I think it is the truth that brokenness cannot be mended in an atmosphere where it must be hidden. If you cannot be open and honest with your doctor, for example, he or she cannot help you. The woman in the story today was not healed because of the religious establishment. They could not seem to make room for her to come out of hiding and be healed.
For the church to be a place of healing, it also must be a place where woundedness can be openly admitted (confessed, if you will) received and accepted as normal so that the healing properties of love can do their full work of restoration and lifting.
When the woman saw that she “could not go unnoticed” or could “no longer stay hidden,” healing was just around the corner.
“In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.” It was the freely offered compassion of Jesus that released her to come out of hiding, admit who she was, what was her need, and be healed.
I wonder what it would take for us to become a place where the poor have the good news preached to them, where the prisoners are set free, where the eyes of the blind can see again, and where the oppressed are set free? Starting with you and me!