Two desperate people. One famous, one infamous. Both loved by Jesus. Both restored.
Intimate Impurity, Stolen Salvation
Twelve years. Twelve years of shame and judgment. Twelve years without the touch of another person. Twelve years of poking, prodding doctors who lined their purses with her desperation.
News travels fast in a small town. The word passed from stall to stall in the market: “Jesus is back!” There’s one advantage to being semi-invisible; people don’t realize you’re listening when they talk. This woman knew every miracle Jesus had done in her town…and many he had done elsewhere. Every time she heard another too-good-to-be-true story, she gained a little more confidence that He could heal her as well. He had power—not like those crack-pot “doctors” who took your money and left you with flavored syrup that cured nothing—but like the prophets of old, like Moses or Elijah.
How does one ask
for a miracle?
How does one ask for a miracle, especially one as personal as this? And there was always such a crowd around him…
She wandered toward the lake shore, thinking she might just see Him from a distance. Maybe He would notice her, come over to her privately, and heal her. Jesus. He could do that, she was sure! Suddenly it seemed, the people were all around her. They were going somewhere specific. She should have announced herself: “Unclean. Unclean.” But then Jesus might back away just like everyone else always did. Moving with the crowd, she tried not to touch anyone. She didn’t want to be accused of defiling someone.
Jesus always responds
Story Break: We all do it. We hide our insecurities, our indiscretions, our inefficiencies, and we go along with the crowd at church. We sing the songs, we say the appropriate “amens” but we never declare our authentic selves. We never shout “unclean” in the church foyer. We never truly reach out to Jesus. What would real confession look like in your church context? Jesus always responds to honesty, just like He’s about to do with this woman.
He was so close now. Why, she could touch Him if she wanted to. Should she? She hadn’t done anything so bold in more than twelve years! To touch someone on purpose? To intentionally defile that person? If she had any honor left, that would destroy it. But this was Jesus. He was different. Could you make a prophet unclean by touching him? Maybe. Should she try to touch Him? Could she? Even if nothing changed in her body, she would know human contact with someone so pure, so beautiful, so generous. Just being close to Him was already changing her thought processes! In all these people, He probably wouldn’t even notice one hand brushing against his robe. Before she had time to change her mind, she reached out her hand.
Story Break: Think about this verse for a minute. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. –Hebrews 4:15-16
Simply touching his
clothes healed her.
Before she had time to pull her hand back to her side, Jesus stopped. In the middle of the road. With the woman still right behind him. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked (Luke 8:45). Now she knew: One could not touch Jesus without His knowledge. She knew something else as well. She was healed. The bleeding had stopped. She felt it deep within her body and knew it as surely as she knew her own name. Simply touching His clothes had healed her. She stood up a little straighter before she realized what was happening around her.
That man beside Jesus was Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders. Oh great! He had the authority to chastise her right here in front of everyone, and he looked angry enough to do it. Then he backed away, too. They always did. No one wanted to risk the possibility of uncleanness. Her shoulders slumped, returning to their usual position. They didn’t know yet. They couldn’t tell that she was healed.
Story Break: Sometimes change isn’t immediately evident. The fact that no one notices does not invalidate the change. Give it time.
Wait. Jesus was looking at her. Everyone was looking at her. He knew! She fell onto the ground at Jesus’ feet. Trembling, she poured out the story: the initial declaration, the shame, the doctors and hacks, the misery, the loneliness, the pain. Reaching her hand toward Him again, she couldn’t finish the last sentence: “When I touched you….” Her words mixed with tears under the compassionate gaze of her Savior.
Jesus called her “daughter”–
the only person in Scripture
He addresses with that word.
She braced herself for what He might say. Rather than scolding her, Jesus called her daughter. That’s family. That’s love. That’s acceptance. It would have been enough, but he also freely gave her what she had taken–the power of healing. Now she could live out her life with shalom—the peace that comes from knowing He reigns. She straightened her spine again, shrugging off the slump of shame like an old shawl discarded in the road.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 1:18-20
Can’t you just feel the straightening of her back, the lifting of her chin? Are you sitting up a little straighter now, like the woman Jesus healed? I pray you are encouraged by my retelling of this story. I’d appreciate it if you let me know what you think in the comments below.