A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5: 24-34 (NIV)
She was unclean. According to Jewish law, she, along with everything she touched and sat upon, was unclean. Everyone who touched her was unclean. She tainted everything, according to the law of her people, because of her blood.
For twelve years she sought healing, sought relief. For twelve years, she sought help from the doctors, and spent all she had. She sought freedom from her symptoms, from her pain, from her shame.
She shouldn’t have been in the crowd. According to the law, she was to be separated from others. She was living a life sheltered from the world around her, ostracized from her community, her friends, even her family. With her medical issues, she was alone and lonely.
Mark tells us she had spent all she had. She had given everything in hopes of being cured. She had put all of her hopes into the ways of this world. And the world and it’s cures had failed her.
But here comes this man, this healer, this Jesus.
Even living on the fringes of society, she has heard the stories. Great stories of healing. Stories of blind seeing, mute speaking, lame walking, the dead rising.
Hope stirs once again inside of her. If floats up through the disappointment, through the hurt, through the shame, and it makes her breath catch. Could he help? Could he free her?
But can she risk it? Does she dare go out? Would people recognize her, shame her?
Her desperation resonates with me. I have been wrung out, exhausted, weary. I have known desperation. I have known the longing for healing. I have reached out to Jesus in my heartache. I have reached out, when the only thing I had left was a sliver of hope that, in His goodness, He would heal. When I have had nothing left in the world to put my hope and trust in, I put my hope and trust in Him.
This woman goes out. She blends into the throngs of people as they crush around Jesus. Perhaps she stays low, so she won’t be recognized. Perhaps it is the weight of her shame that bends her low. Perhaps it is the pain in her belly that keeps her low to the ground. We don’t know why she reaches for the hem of his garment. But she believes that if she only touches his cloak, she will be healed.
She reaches for him. Brushes her fingers against the fabric.
And then she feels it.
Health. Both Mark and Luke tell us that it happens immediately. Freedom.
And she feels His eyes search the crowd.
“Who touched me?”
He knew. Fully God, fully man, He knew who reached out to Him. He knew her condition, her desperation, her shame, her longings.
She fell at His feet. Can you imagine the fear, the trembling? She had broken the law. She had made him unclean. She had risked everything she had left and put her hope in this Man. She admitted it was her. She bared her soul. With a trembling voice, she claimed her faith that His power would heal her. She testified to the hope that stirred in her.
Those in the crowd who knew her muttered. They cast hard stares. They judged, condemned.
But what does Jesus do?
He calls her Daughter.
He includes her into his family with a gentle word. He frees her. He gives her peace. There is no condemnation, no shame, no judgement. Only healing. And love.
This is one of those stories of healing that pierces my soul. I know her desperation. I understand her misery. I have struggled for decades with illness, though not one anyone sees. The darkness in my mind has overcome me at points in life. Depression has threatened to beat me down, hold me in it’s dark tentacles, drown me.
The only thing that has kept me out of the depths is the hope I find in Jesus. The only thing that has kept me alive when the darkness overwhelms is the glimmer of light that He brings.
Even when it seems as though I was abandoned, alone, drowning in the ocean of anxiety and fear and despair, my soul reached out.
I have reached for the hem of His garment.
The beautiful thing about grace and mercy is that you find it in unlikely ways. In the times I have felt the least lovable, the most dejected, when I have heaped condemnation and shame upon myself, that is when I have been struck with the love and mercy of my Savior.
In the most broken places of my soul, that is where hope continually rises to the top, in a place where I am held and loved.
And healing begins there.
image from womeninthebible.net