“Now a woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years had endured much under many doctors. She had spent everything she had and was not helped at all. On the contrary, she became worse. Having heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothing.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been desperate? I mean, truly desperate. The kind of desperate where you’re willing to do anything—even things you wouldn’t have considered before hitting that point—in order to get what you are convinced you need? That’s a scary place to be. It’s a place where hopelessness and despair can easily take hold of our lives and not let go. For this particular woman, it led her to reach out and do something most people would have considered crazy. Let’s dig in to her story together.
I honestly have trouble imagining what life would have been like for this nameless woman. I’ve never experienced anything like this before—a fact for which I am most grateful. Perhaps you are much better acquainted with her journey and if so I am sorry for that. Chronic illness and pain are a particularly evil mark of sin’s devastation of this world.
This woman had been dealing with some kind of hemorrhaging issue for twelve years. Now, our first thought on hearing that doesn’t capture how bad this would have been for her. We think of it in medical terms and imagine the inconvenience of it. This is especially true if we haven’t experienced something like this before. While this bleeding certainly would have been medically inconvenient for her, culturally speaking, it was much worse than that.
Culturally, this condition would have rendered her ceremonially and religiously unclean. That label, unclean, would have brought with it a set of social consequences that, for her, would have been much worse than any physical discomfort she had to endure. Being labeled unclean meant that she wasn’t allowed in public life. She couldn’t be around people. She couldn’t go into the temple to worship. She was separated even from God as only things and people who were clean could enter into His presence. The entire social support network most of us take entirely for granted would have been mostly off limits for her. She wasn’t just sick, she was alone and isolated both from people and from God.
Much to her credit, though, she hadn’t just given up. She wanted to be well. So, she had done everything she could to make that happen. She had gone everywhere and seen everyone. Anyone who might possibly be able to help had gotten her attention. She had visited every doctor she could find and had done what they said. When the notable and respectable ones had failed her, she had turned to less notable and less respectable ones. Even the quacks she was willing to give the time of day. She had spent everything to try and find some kind of a cure. But she just kept bleeding. She was desperate.
Then she heard about this new teacher who performed miracles named Jesus.
At first the thought sounded too good to be true. After all, nothing else had worked. Why would this be any different? But then she started to hear more stories about Him and the things He had done. They said He could heal anybody of anything. There was no malady that could persist when He told it to go. He healed with a touch or a word. And you were completely well. They even said He pronounced sins forgiven.
So she went.
And let’s not overlook the courage it would have taken for her to go at all. As one who was unclean, a crowd like was always around Jesus was not a place she would have been welcome. We don’t know anything about where she was from, but there’s a good chance wherever this took place was not it. She may have traveled to where she heard Jesus was going to be when it was far enough away from home that no one would have known about her illness.
The crowd itself probably gave her anxiety like nothing she had known before. What if one of the countless people pressing up against her as they were all trying to get to Jesus noticed her bleeding? What if they discovered that by touching her, they could be rendered unclean themselves. She was taking an enormous risk and she knew it.
And for what? She wasn’t even going to actually try to talk to Jesus. She wasn’t even going to seek His attention. She couldn’t bare the thought of that. In getting Jesus’ attention, she would have had attention drawn to herself and that was the last thing in the world she wanted. She had suffered enough embarrassment. She didn’t need the people of this town knowing about her uncleanness and treating accordingly too. No, her only goal was to just touch His clothing.
Crazy, right? Her whole plan was to get close enough to Jesus to touch His clothing. Like I said, she was desperate. Her logic didn’t make any sense at all. If Jesus was this grand miracle worker, though, if He was as powerful as they said, then maybe, just maybe that would be enough. Then she could remain anonymous. She would just be grateful.
As it turns out, in her world of fear and desperation and uncertainty, she had one thing going for her: Jesus. Whatever flaws her logic might have held, she was moving toward Jesus. That was enough. That’s always enough. When we move toward Jesus, the possibilities expand beyond anything we can imagine on our own. Hopes that seem so unreasonable as to not even be worth considering enter the realm, not just of the possible, but of the probable. Jesus is what makes the difference.
We will explore more of her story and the aftermath of this touch tomorrow, but for now, I just want this one idea ringing in your heart and mind: When you go to Jesus, the impossible becomes possible. There is hope where there was none. There is light and life where there was only darkness and death. If you are in a place of desperation, Jesus is the place to go. Whatever your challenge may be, go to Him. He will be all you need. As we enter into this new year, there’s no better resolution to make.