As usual our most recent Sunday 10 AM service was filled good spirit and amazing members of the Calvary community — as well as guests.
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 round 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.’
12 years! 12 years this woman suffered a chronic disease.
Schooling takes 12 years. From primary to high school graduation.
4,383 days! It’s a long time to physical suffer. A long time to feel fatigued, uncomfortable, embarrassed in your own skin.
We learn from the text that this woman has undergone treatment from doctors for years. She had spent EVERYTHING that she had – all of her money, all of her energy.
And for what? She’d only grown worse.
She’s got to be frustrated. 12 years of miserable pain, no relief, no sight of an end to her pain. Only disappointment when a treatment fails and she grows worse.
It’s hard for me to imagine the kind of resiliency it takes to stick with it for that long. To bear that kind of pain for that long.
There is a man in my congregation, Wil, who was cycling from San Francisco to Mount Tam. On the ride back he was hit by a car and thrown from his bike.
He was in excruciating pain. His mind quickly started worrying about if this was it! The end. He knew he was breathing, but the pain was unbearable.
An ER nurse arrived at the site and assessed his injuries. She spoke calmly. She took in all that had happened and helped move his body to see the extent of the injury. She determined that he was not paralyzed.
Wil was transported to the emergency room. There he learned that his tailbone was broken and could not be cured. He would live for a while with limited mobility and lots of pain.
The cycling accident happened in 2008 and still today he struggles with the pain caused by it.
Imagine the woman in this incredible chronic pain…and she hears about this man Jesus who is working miracles. Healing all sorts of people in pain.
She goes to him. She’s finds God’s presence.
She does everything she can to get close to him. She pushes through the crowd, She sneaks up behind him, reaches out and touches the hem of his garment.
Immediately, the text says, she is healed. The bleeding stops and “her body is freed from suffering.”
Wow! That must feel amazing. Unbelievable after twelve years.
She may have been in shock. Or pure joy. Or jubilation. But her personal triumph is cut short by the frenzy in front of her. Jesus looks around, anxiously, intensely, searching faces….Oh no, looking for her. The disciples try to calm him, but he is intent.
He will find me, she knows it.
Knowing what has happened, she gathers her courage and in fear falls before him. She tells him the whole truth.
This is the moment Jesus is looking for. This is the reason he stopped.
This woman’s face. Her story. Her whole truth.
The climax of this story is not in fact her healing. It is this intimate moment in which Jesus searches her out, looks her in the face and listens to her whole story.
This woman is amazing. She’s not only courageous, but honest. She doesn’t leave anything out. She exposes the most intimate, embarrassing details of her condition and the scandalous act of touching Jesus while “unclean.”
She doesn’t hide her wounds or identity or shame. She shares it all.
…And Jesus calls this faith.
Jesus is making a point for us to recognize that healing is about more than relief from pain. Christ’s healing has power to restore us to wholeness…within our bodies, within the community, and most importantly, with God.
Jesus seeks this woman out and hears her whole truth because the world around her needs to hear it, too.
How many times have we been like this woman? Desperate for life, for healing, for something that we turn to God begging for what we need, willing to do anything to just live through this hard moment.
And yet, once it is over, once the worst has passed, we are too scared to step forward, to tell our stories of how we got through.
Like the woman, we reach out, are healed and then quickly and quietly step away from the mysteriously powerful source. We do not tell our story.
Jesus could have kept walking, but he didn’t. He needed us to see how important it is to share our story.
If I were among those gathered that day, I would feel some excitement and inspiration for the power he transferred in a touch. I would have been amazed by this woman’s faith. Her risk to trust in Jesus completely.
The woman’s life had to be completely different after she was healed. She went from hiding an embarrassing pain so being completely liberated.
She went from a story of pain to a story of new life, healing, resurrection.
This is a gospel story. One that can’t remain a secret. A story that Jesus wants everyone to hear.
Wil, the congregant I told you about, shares his story of how living with chronic pain gave way to God giving him new life in a new way. In the immediate downtime after the accident, he couldn’t go about his normal life or participate in things he used to enjoy. After a while, he was inspired to pick up the electric bass. He spent his days learning basic chords and listening to music he wanted to learn how to play.
It was a past time at first. A way to distract himself from the pain. But after a while it became a source of joy for him. One of his friends invited him to play during worship at a church and it was through that entry that Wil developed his relationship with God.
Wil began to believe and hope for a healing to his pain. And not just his physical pain, but relational and spiritual pain, too.
Jesus wants our stories – stories like the one of the healed woman and like Wil’s – to be shared because they are OUR faith stories. They are the stories that propel the gospel forward, inspiring one another to act out in faith and courage because of those who have done it before.
There is a lot of talk these days about the relevance of church in the 21st century. We live in the bay area where we as Christians are in the minority. We often live under the scrutiny of those who think our faith does not matter.
And yet, I tell you, our faith does matter.
People are as desperate today as they were thousands of years ago for Christ’s healing touch. People are still in pain and looking for stories of truth that provide healing.
And it is our responsibility as the church – the body of Christ – to share our stories of faith to encourage people on the way.
Our personal stories. Like this woman. Like Wil’s. The story that involves our pain, our vulnerable weakness, our dark side, our embarrassment.
I tell you, when people see this kind of vulnerability, they come. They pay attention. They listen.
Because the authentic pain – they recognize. Everyone recognizes. We are connected deeply through our shared pain.
And we are desperate for healing. We are desperate for stories of hope and resurrection that will give us the strength to try just one day more. One season more..bearing through our pain to the other side.
Jesus wants us – no needs us – to share our story. He’s looking into the crowds…searching for YOU and for ME…to step forward and share who we are, share our whole truth of how God has touched our lives and live into renewed faith and trust.
Let us with courage and faith, step out and reach for healing. Let us share our incredible stories of faith. For its through our stories that Christ continues to have a powerful touch of healing.