There’s a well known story in the Bible, about a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years. She came to Jesus from behind, secretly touched the hem of His garment, and was healed. It seems like a simple story, but there’s much going on beneath the surface that you might not be aware of. When we examine the story, we find that both Jesus’ and the woman’s behaviors seem strange, until we understand the religious and cultural context of Israel back then. And in finding that key, we will come to see what is really the most important part of the story. First let’s take a look at what actually happened.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”
And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” – Mark 5:24-34
The scene is one of near chaos, as crowds throng around the Savior. Just previous to our excerpt, a Jewish synagogue leader named Jairus had come up to Jesus and fallen at His feat, pleading with Him to come and heal his young daughter who was dying. The girl was fading fast, and Jairus was uptight and in a hurry, so Jesus tells him “fear is useless; only believe”, and they start off to the girl. But then this woman with a chronic bleeding problem comes up from behind, touches Jesus’ cloak and is healed. Jesus senses that power has gone out of himself, and, despite Jairus’ desperation, stops and makes an issue of it. The disciples are incredulous – with all the people thronging around, many of them must have been touching Jesus. So what’s the big deal? But Jesus is intent on finding the person who was healed. Finally, the woman comes in great fear and falls to the ground trembling before Jesus, telling all. Jesus blesses her and continues on His way with Jairus.
There are some interesting questions here. Why did the woman come up to Jesus from behind? If she wanted a healing, why did she even from the outset intend on only touching Jesus’ garments rather than His person? Why did Jesus make an issue of this healing, when almost certainly many people in this vast crowd must have similarly been coming up, touching Him and being healed? And lastly, why did the woman finally come forward in fear and trembling, rather than with joy and exaltation at being healed of her long-standing disease? Indeed, the Gospel of Luke expands on why the woman even come forward at all:
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. -Luke 8:47
According to Luke, the woman was not merely lost in the crowd, she was actually hiding in that crowd! What then was this woman so afraid of?
I’ve been landscaping around the house where I live. The weapons of my warfare in this case are indeed physical: steel rake, shovel, Johnson bar and wheelbarrow!
Most of the time the job has been ecstasy for me. There’s something about working the earth that is super gratifying. You can tune out the noise of the world, and with the accompaniment of the ancient rhythms that are so deeply a part of us, tune into the precious Holy Spirit. (The only exception to my reverie has been the darn mayflies that I’ve had to do battle with.)
But the other day I got to the part of the job where I had to repair a stone wall, and the stones that comprised the wall were BIG. I tried to use tools as much as possible, but there came the moment when the only way to shift a 200+ lb. rock into place was to bend over and pick it up by hand.
I was successful, but I did hurt my back. I’ve done a lot of physical work in my life, and consequently my lumbar region has a disk that’s worn out, with two vertebrae naturally fused. I’m careful about it, but I don’t let it stop me from doing what I have to.
And so I developed a significant backache from lifting the rock. By evening I had become bent over, and pain shot down my leg when I walked a certain way. Having gone through this before, I know the drill. The answer is not in the likes of heating pads, herbs or magnetic exotica. The answer is to gently but firmly work the back up straight again, despite the pain it brings.
That’s what I did in bed that night, and the next day I avoided heavy work and concentrated on straightening up as I walked around.
The following day – today – after working out the morning stiffness, 50% of the problem was gone. I was out there raking, shoveling, and wheelbarrowing soil and stones uphill, with little problem. Tomorrow, I expect the problem to be reduced another 50% from today’s level, then another 50% the following day, until the problem is off the radar screen altogether.
I was thinking about this as I was working today, and it struck me how precisely the Bible describes this healing dynamic:
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. -Heb 12:11-13
That about says it all. If we want to be healed, the answer doesn’t lie in passively coddling ourselves, it is found in confronting our problems and challenges square-on. If you’ve got a bent-over back, the remedy is to straighten it up. If you have weak knees, the answer is to exercise them (strong quadriceps hold the patella in correct position, alleviating much knee pain. I’ve had a lot of knee pain, and I’ve personally found this to be the case, to the point where my knees no longer bother me much).
Note that we are cautioned that this is not going to be a pleasant process, but rather, a painful one. It’s as if our healing is a castle surrounded by a mote of pain. But there’s a stronger warning in those verses yet. If we will not straighten ourselves up and confront our condition, we can expect what is lame to be “put out of joint”. Nothing ever stays the same for long. It’s either going to improve or it will get worse. Our lives are always in some kind of flux. Don’t be lulled by some sort of compromised status quo. The reality is that either we’re pressing in to higher ground, or we’re sliding backward.
But oh, the promise! If we will meet our challenges head-on, we not only can cope with them, we can be healed! The world doesn’t believe this is possible. Even in the physical realm, when knees or backs go bad, or metabolisms take a hit, the medical industry’s quick, formulaic (and lucrative) answer is usually surgery or maintenance drugs, and overwhelmingly, the patient is sent on a downhill course, worse than before they went to the doctor. (I’ve had metabolic problems as well, and by fighting back rather than becoming dependant on hormone therapy, I was able to completely overcome the problem. Yes, the Lord has healed me of much! –see Psalm 103.1-4)
Here, the physical is symbolic of the spiritual and soulical. When we have a problem, obstacle or hindrance in the spirit, the answer is not to coddle ourselves or adjust downward into permanent workaround mode. The answer is to face the problem square-on. Yes, it may be painful for a season. But that pales in comparison to the pain of a life lived at a subsistence level of accommodation and mediocrity. Jesus has given us all the authority we will ever need to overcome any problem that could ever confront us (see Matthew 16.19, 28.18-19). He offers us healing, but like the man in the synagogue with the withered hand, very often we must stretch out that part of us that needs the healing, in order for the virtue to flow in (Mt 12.13).
The choice is ours. Discomfort for a season, leading to victory, or dancing around our problems and living far below the level God lovingly intends for us. Cowards don’t enter in (Rev 21.8). Let’s resolve to face down our problems, knowing that any pain we incur doing so is a sign of soon-coming victory. The pain is temporary, the victory will be sweet, and it will be ours permanently. As Jesus repeatedly tells us in the Book of Revelation, blessed are they who overcome.
An excellent message received via the ElijahList, dealing with different ways we can be hurt, and how to find the power to overcome and turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
In Betrayal – “I Love You”
While He was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”—Luke 22:47-48
“Beloved one, I am Love that will not let you go. To those of you who have walked in the pain of betrayal from dear ones you have trusted and loved, I release the grace to overcome such pain and crushing disappointment. My Love is more than you will ever need to forgive betrayal. Reach deep inside of Me and find a place of forgiveness from which to draw upon. Rest your souls in Me. Let Me cover the scars of betrayal with the healing power of My love. Be not battle weary, but allow Me to kiss away the effects of the lies, the greed and the fear from others that led to your betrayal.
“You have shared in My cup of suffering, so that you might also share in My cup of Joy. My heart overflows with love for you. My love is freedom, My love is unchanging and all-powerful in the pulling down of strongholds that would keep you from flowing fully in My grace. My love is your storehouse in times of great need. Child of My heart, I love you; betrayal is overcome by the Cross.”