Sermon – August 30, 2015
Text: Mark 5: 24-34
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Perhaps a year or so ago I was on line looking at our bank balance and debit card activity when I noticed a charge that I didn’t recognize. It had originated in Shanghai, China and I was pretty sure I hadn’t been to China lately, so I knew something was not quite right. It was the week-end so I had to wait until Monday morning to go in a talk with the bank. When they opened I went to a teller at the bank and explained that I thought there had been an unauthorized transaction on my account. She listened, took my information and then retrieved a list from another desk. “You are already on here” she said, pointing toward the list, we already figured this was unauthorized and we have cancelled your current card.
That was pretty impressive, at least to me, that they already knew something was amiss-the unauthorized withdrawal was fairly obvious if you knew what to watch for. There was something that alerted someone, or some computer, to let them know that something fishy was going on. Impressive on one hand, but kind of scary on the other; it kind of leaves you wondering what else they know about you but just are not sharing that information right now…
Any way, we got the mess figured out, I eventually got my money back, ordered a new debit card and all was well.
I tell this story because the text I read a few minutes ago reminded me of this experience. You see Jesus was immediately aware that someone had made an unauthorized withdrawal; the text states that Jesus was aware that some form of power had left his body. There were lots of people touching his clothing, the disciples were a little confused when he asked who had touched him-and they responded by saying, look around, everybody is touching you, how can you say, who touched me?
But of all the people who were pressing in on Jesus and coming into contact with him, only one was able to withdraw the power to heal from him. Only one. Have you ever wondered why just one and what made it possible for that one?
We need to go back to the text and look again, but the woman had told herself that all she needed to do was to touch the hem of his garment. That was it; just touch the garment and she knew she would be healed. This is remarkable, but we have to really think about it before we begin to fully realize the true implications of this text.
You see the act of touching the garment by itself was not the key ingredient. Lots of people were touching the garment without any consequences. It was the fact that the woman had already decided in her mind, she had told herself, if I touch the garment, then I will be healed.
Does this give us any clues about how important it is that when we talk to ourselves we guard the kind of language we use and we pay attention to what it is we are saying to ourselves? Everyone talks to themselves-we are constantly having conversations with ourselves; but what are we saying? Are we telling ourselves how stupid we are, how silly we look in this new haircut, how inadequate we are, how we really blew it at work or how we wished we hadn’t said that one thing? What is our self-talk? One lesson of this text is to watch our self-talk, because it determines to a large extent what the outcome of our actions is. Without self-talk this woman would never have been healed; if she had not told herself what would happen when she touched the garment, when she did, nothing would have happened. That’s exactly what happened when everyone else was touching Jesus, nothing. But this woman was different and that difference was what she had told herself, in her own mind. Self-talk is powerful and we need to pay attention when we begin to tell ourselves things.
But as important as that is, I don’t think that is the truly liberating part of the story. I want us to look at verse 26, where it said she had endured much under many physicians and she had spent all she had. Boy does that sound familiar. As a matter of fact, this story is repeated in the Gospel according to Luke, and Luke says that even though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. I guess in a twisted sort of way there is some comfort in knowing that some things never change.
So this woman tells herself that if she could just touch the cloak of Jesus she would be healed; and then she manages to get close enough and touches his cloak, and immediately she felt in her body that she had been made well. Then it gets interesting, because Jesus knows that something is up-kind of like my bank knew that there was unauthorized activity on my account, Jesus knew there had been an unauthorized power withdrawal from his cloak.
So Jesus stops and starts asking questions. I find it interesting that in all three stories, for this story appears in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, the woman eventually comes forward, but is scared to death. She falls before Jesus in fear and trembling is what the Mark version says. So, why would she be afraid? She had done nothing wrong. Was she fearful that Jesus would be upset; did she consider her power withdrawal to be some sort of violation? Was there an unwritten law somewhere?
One explanation that speaks to the context of the story in terms of history and tradition, is that the woman would have been considered unclean in her condition, and so for her to touch Jesus, would have also made him unclean. So some scholars believe that the woman was afraid that Jesus would be upset because the woman had made him unclean. She didn’t know Jesus very well, if that was the case. It seems that Jesus didn’t pay a lot of attention to that kind of stuff.
With all of the references in the three texts about how the woman had spent so much money on all those physicians, I’m wondering if the woman thought there may be a charge of some sort. I can see her wondering in her own mind; “uh-oh-I been found out, I wonder what this is going to cost?” I can see this woman asking the question in her own mind; “is this going to be free?” She had already spent all she had and we can assume there wasn’t anything she could offer, even as a gift. I think in her poor financial condition and in her poor health condition, she wanted to remain as anonymous as possible. But Jesus calls her out. So there is some anxiety as she approaches Jesus.
All Jesus says to her is that her faith had made her well.
Now we need to think about this a minute and link all of this together. We established earlier that the woman’s self talk was instrumental in her healing. Others were touching Jesus and nothing was happening, but for her, healing took place. Now Jesus tells her that it was her faith that made her well. I want to ask a question: Is faith and self talk the same thing? Have you ever thought about it in that way? Who is that voice in your head and what is that voice saying most of the time? Is it positive or is it negative? Think about what you say to yourself as faith-think about what you say to yourself as the voice of God. Does that change what you might say to yourself in certain situations? I think it might.
With regard to the woman’s financial condition, I want to give you another thought. If there was some kind of financial value to the healing, which the text indicates there was not, but if there were-when Jesus responds to her what I hear in that response is that you already own the healing. It was yours all along. All you had to do was reach out and take it. In other words, all that Jesus has to offer is already ours, it is on the shelf, in stock and ready to ship, we just need to place the order-and shipping is free!
As you begin to think about this, can you begin to see a relationship develop between our own self talk and our ownership position of all that Jesus represents? Can we find the courage to actually speak to ourselves with the same kind of knowing that the woman in our text had? Can we take ownership of what is already ours and make it our own? Can we reach out and touch it and make it part of our lives? Can we listen to the very voice of God in our own self talk and recognize it for what it is?
I’m asking a lot of questions. But when we begin to answer the questions and live those answers to the fullest, our lives may never be the same. And that is food for thought.
Go in peace and go with God. Amen.