Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Power of Desperation

Based on Matthew 9:24-34

She had a slow, steady hemorrhage. We aren't told why. I've always heard it presented as a medical condition, but we don't know. Perhaps she tried to abort a baby. Perhaps she continued to choose to live with an abusive husband. Perhaps she didn't have a choice but to live with him. We don't know if her continuous bleeding was the result of some natural consequence of living in a fallen world, or if it was the consequence of her own personal sins. We just know she suffered … and nothing she had tried could cure her. In fact, she got worse.

She was at the point where she would try anything, because she had already tried everything. What she had already tried had caused more suffering, in addition to the suffering of not curing her. Then she heard about Jesus. I wonder what went through her mind. Was she skeptical that he might be able to help her? Did she consider, for just a moment, the effort might be too great to face another disappointment? Did she wonder what additional suffering His methods might cause? It had been over a decade, and she had only gotten worse. After a decade, you begin to believe that things really cannot change. Those beliefs war with hope.

But she was desperate for change. Desperate to live again. Desperate to worship and socialize without the stigma of being unclean. So seeing one more chance, even if it was only a small chance, she chose to take it. She had to do it secretly. A man as important as the Rabbi would never touch a woman like her--would never sacrifice his spiritual cleanliness. And after all, she was only a woman, not someone of importance like the Synagogue ruler He was helping when she came upon Him. Her skeptical friends and family might try to discourage her. She had heard amazing stories … stories that couldn't be true … but if they were … she wouldn't even need to get his attention ...would she?

It didn't take great faith to reach out and touch his robe, it took great desperation and a little faith. It took full awareness of the insufficiency of her own weakness, and certainty that He was her last hope. Bolstered by the stories she overheard as she tried to press through the crowds of people all wanting to see the Master, touch the Master, talk to the Master, she crept closer and closer, pushing back nervousness and restraining excitement. Again, I wonder, what went through her mind? "He doesn't even have to know that I touched Him." "I don't even have to bother Him." "He is enough to heal even a woman like me."

She didn't expect much from Him--no time, no eye contact, no words, not even His own touch back. At the same time, in an instant, she expected the world from Him. Complete healing was impossible ...but she had heard that He revived a dead man. He was One who had done the impossible, hadn't He? Could He do it for her? Would He do it for her? So crawling on her knees through a sea of legs, she pushed into the crowd hoping no one would recognize her and push her away, and she reached out her hand … and she touched the hem of His robe.

She didn't slowly recover. She didn't need an expert opinion. We are told that she instantly knew she was well. She wasn't the only one who knew. Jesus knew too. And although He stopped to look for her … to ask for her … I'm not entirely sure He needed to do those things to find her. He was God, knowing all things, and yet He asked her to come forward. She hadn't taken anything from Him that He was unwilling to give, but He wanted to give her more. She thought that her greatest need was freedom from her physical suffering, but Jesus wanted to free her for more. He wanted to free her to know Him, and to know how much He loved her … loved healing her.

Inching toward Him to touch His robe must have seemed a simple feat as her fear mounted at His question. It would have been so easy to walk away--after all there was a huge throng around Him and even His disciples were urging Him to move on to the Synagogue ruler's home. But just as she knew He had healed her, she knew He was looking for her, and she couldn't run away from Him. So she fought against her fear, stepped forward, and confessed to being the one who had drained Him of His healing power. Had she compromised the possibility of the rich man's daughter being healed? Had she made this esteemed Rabbi unclean? What judgment would she see when she looked in His eyes? Could she look in His eyes? No. She fell at His feet to beg for His mercy. She confessed to being the one who touched Him, in a crowd full of people who were touching Him.

I wonder at what point she looked up at Him. Did she hear His words first, or did she steal a glance, and get to watch as He spoke to her? Knowing Jesus, He gave her more than she had hoped for. Not just healing through the touch of His robe, I like to think He bent down, looked her in the eyes, put His gentle hand on her shoulder and spoke to her with the tenderness of a Rescuer. I know that He saw more than a woman who wanted to be healed from a physical disease, because He pronounced freedom from all of her suffering. No longer would she feel like an outcast. No longer would she feel like a burden. No longer would her draining hemorrhage feel like a drain on all who came into contact with her. She was whole. Because Jesus healed her, she was well, and she could live in joy and peace. She could always remember … she was loved.