Rev. Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber
Today’s gospel story is a sandwich of two stories. On the outside of the story, the beginning and the end, is the story of Jarius’s daughter and the healing that happened in her life. In the middle is the story of a woman healed after twelve years of disease.
Today, I want us to take a close look at that middle story. Let me read it again so it’s fresh in your mind:
“A large crowd followed Jesus and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
There are two elements of this story that have a lot to teach us about how to live our own lives.
The first element of this story is the crowd around Jesus. Dozens, or maybe even hundreds of people, were crowding around Jesus, all jostling and bumping and wanting to be a part of this event. Everyone wanting to hear Jesus, to be close to this person the whole town has been talking about.
As Jesus slowly made his way from the boat into the village, he was touched by many people. But only the touch of this woman stopped him in his tracks. Why?
This woman’s focus and determination and clarity was different than the rest of the crowd. She had tried everything else. Her only hope now was Jesus. Jesus, for her, was not a way to be entertained today. Jesus, for her, was not simply a teacher or a prophet. Jesus, for her, was nothing less than a chance at life.
A bleeding woman, in that society, was an ostracized woman. An unclean woman. No good to faith or family. For twelve years, this woman had not been able to partake in normal life.
And a barren woman, which this hemorrhaging caused, was of no value in that society. A woman’s value and worth grew from her identity as mother. Without being a mother, she had no standing, no safety net, no future.
This woman seeks out Jesus. She understands what Jesus can do for her. She knows the difference he can make in her life. And in hope and desperation, she reaches out simply to touch his clothing. And in that touch, her body is healed.
This first element of the story invites us to imagine where we are in the picture. Are you close to Jesus to hear the stories? Are you comfortable being just part of the crowd? Or are you close to Jesus because you want to be healed and transformed?
The power of Jesus comes not simply from hearing his stories, or being in crowds of people who are interested in Jesus. The power of Jesus comes when we–like this woman– allow and expect ourselves to be transformed by our encounter with Jesus.
The second event in this Gospel story that has something to teach us is the point where this woman admits to Jesus that she was the one who touched his robes. The woman was fearful to the point of trembling. But she did not back away. She told the whole truth and admitted she had touched him.
This nugget has wisdom for us in all our relationships: Our relationship with Jesus, our relationship with our doctors and therapists, and our relationships with the ones we love.
In order to share our full selves. . . In order to be healed. . . In order to be truly seen and loved. . .We must tell our whole truth.
Our internist can not treat our underlying illness unless we tell the whole truth about an embarrassing change in our bodies.
Our therapist can not provide the healing available through their work unless we tell the whole truth about our thoughts and feelings and experiences.
Our companions can not love the real “us” unless we tell the whole truth about who we are inside and out.
Jesus can not make us whole unless we tell the whole truth about where we are broken and offer our broken selves to Jesus.
For the woman in this story, it is this decision to tell the truth about herself that allows Jesus to proclaim her well.
We so like to hide our broken parts and pretend they don’t exist. But by doing that, we lock ourselves into a lifetime of brokenness.
But when we find trustworthy doctors and therapist and friends and partners, we can begin unpacking the layers of brokenness and let these other people in, to become part of our healing.
When we move from being “part of the Jesus crew,” when we move from someone who just attends church and helps out where needed…
when we instead become someone who trusts Jesus with the most scary, most broken, most ugly parts of ourselves — then we can begin to be made whole.
This bleeding woman invites us to change our relationship with Jesus in two ways.
First, we are invited to move from just being one of the crowd, from just being a church member to becoming someone who strives for relationship with Jesus. Someone who expects to be changed by an encounter with Jesus.
Second, we are invited to connect more deeply with Jesus and other healers and companions we trust by sharing with them the brokenness in our lives. We can not be healed — by Jesus or by medicine or by therapy or by love — unless we share our brokenness so that the healing can reach it.
Jesus has enough power and healing and love to transform every life that was, every life that is and every life that will be.
Share with Jesus and the other healers in your life what is broken.
Actively reach out to Jesus for healing and acceptance and love.
And go in peace.