“Wherever he went, into villages, towns, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch just the end of his robe. And everyone who touched it was healed.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
You never know what actions on your part are going to have the most significant impact on the people around you. Something you do that seems utterly mundane could be the thing that completely changes another person’s life. More than that, it could be the thing by which you become known. In our story timeline in Mark, a few weeks ago Jesus healed a woman when she surreptitiously touched the edge of His robe. It was a one-off sort of moment that happened while He was on the way to what everyone around Him believed was a more important appointment (He, of course, understood the importance of the woman and paused to honor her faith much to the consternation of the people with Him). The power of that moment, though, didn’t stay in that moment. Jesus became the man who could heal people simply by their touching His robe. That’s how He became known. What I want to talk about this morning is how you want to be known.
When our oldest was still a toddler we lived a half mile from a very active rail line. We couldn’t quite see it from the house, but if you went to the other side of the church parking lot it was a straight shot. This meant you could easily see trains rumbling by if you got there quickly enough. During those years we learned that when trains cross roads the engineer toots the whistle in a specific pattern: long, long, short, long. (This was the case except when a friend and the son of our wonderful next door neighbors was driving the train; then he added a couple of extra toots to say hello.)
Well, little boys and trains go together like peanut butter and jelly. One afternoon when we had been playing with trains in the house we heard the whistle of a soon-passing train and I thought, “Why not?” I scooped him up, burst out the front door, sprinted across the yard, and got to the other side of the church in time to watch the whole train rumble past. This was much to his first surprise and then delight. I was super dad. A few hours later we heard the whistle again and I realized my mistake. He came running back up to me and said, “Whoo, whoo! Run, run?” So I dutifully scooped him up and we ran over there again. What I meant to be a moment of harmless fun became a three-year exercise program. Oops.
When Jesus healed the woman who had bled for years, it seemed at the time like that would be the end of that. Jesus healed lots of people everywhere He went. Sure, He was known for His healings, but not in a way beyond what you would expect Him to be known. That healing, though, changed things in ways no one could have predicted. When that woman slipped away back into the crowds she didn’t go quietly. We know that because of what we see right here. She went away and started telling her story everywhere she went and to anyone who would listen. She was utterly desperate for help, but didn’t think she was important enough to warrant Jesus’ direct attention. So, she slipped up to Him as the crowd was pressing around Him and just managed to touch the edge of His robe. She was healed instantly. If you are sick and you just touch His robe, you could be healed too.
Every now and then today you’ll see some new miracle cure or miracle diet or miracle get-rich scheme make a big splash. The reason this happens is because our world is broken and people are constantly on the lookout for hope; for something that gives them a promise of a better, easier, more comfortable, less painful life than they are currently living. As followers of Jesus we know we can find this in Him, but for the majority of our culture who doesn’t follow Jesus, they don’t have that hope, and so are looking for it anywhere they can find it. Sometimes even professed followers of Jesus who don’t have as firm a grasp of the substance of their faith as they should jump onto these bandwagons too. When people learn of something that promises to make their lives easier than they otherwise are, they’re interested.
This woman’s story spread. Quickly. And when it did, people started coming to Jesus in even bigger droves than they had before. Everywhere He went people rushed to be there, bringing their sick and injured friends and family. They weren’t looking for any of Jesus’ time and many weren’t even all that interested in what He had to say. They just wanted to touch the edge of His robe. And what Mark writes here is really amazing: anyone who touched it was healed of whatever it was that was ailing them.
Now, we’ve talked before about whether Jesus’ miracles were for or from faith, but I think both elements were in place here. I suspect Jesus was consciously allowing this use of His healing powers because He is a God of mercy and compassion. He was driving back the darkness of sin by this effort that cost Him very little beyond being surrounded by people all the time. At the same time, these people genuinely believed this would heal them. They had incredible faith in Jesus’ ability and willingness to do this. They were willing to make perhaps enormous sacrifices to get where He was. And were all of them convinced to follow Him because of this? Probably not. But when God sows seeds of mercy, He broadcasts them liberally even if all of them don’t produce fruit. Again, He is a loving and compassionate God who delights in healing the wounds of His people.
And we could keep jamming in this vein, but as I said before, I want to ask you another question this morning: How do you want to be known? What is the thing you want people to call to mind when they think about you? More often than not, you’re not going to recognize when your defining moment comes. It’ll pass you by without even a wave, but then you will suddenly find yourself defined by it. And here’s the real trick: You don’t have the wherewithal to be consciously in control of all of your moments such that you get to pick how that moment goes in order to make sure you become known for something good and not something bad. This is all the more true in a day of social media dominance where a single post can go unexpectedly viral and make someone famous or ruin someone’s life.
So, what do we do about this? How can we hope to become known for something that makes us smile rather than want to hide? It’s simple: We live every moment in such a way that we would be glad to become known for how we lived it. We practice radical kindness with everyone we meet. We are gracious and generous in every situation we face. We lean toward justice and compassion everywhere we go. We love without limits no matter the shape of our circumstances. We put on the character of Christ with the abiding help of the Holy Spirit and we absolutely refuse to take it off for anything. If we’ll do this consistently and well, we’ll never have to worry about a moment going south on us ever again. Imagine the power and freedom that will give us. Imagine if we had whole churches filled with people who did the same thing. Imagine what a transformation that would bring to the image of the church and our ability to share the Gospel with an interested and willing audience. It would change the world. Well, let’s get started.
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