Our Gospel story this morning tells the story of…
(interruption by youngster) But we haven’t had a Gospel story this morning!
(somewhat flustered) Ah, yes, so we haven’t. I’d better tell you what it was about. A very long time ago, in a distant land, there lived a woman, whom I will call Jane. That wasn’t her real name, but she was too embarrassed to tell us her real name. Jane who was very ill. She had been ill for a very long time, twelve years in all. She suffered from haemorrhages, which meant she bled a lot. You know if you cut yourself, it bleeds for a little while, then forms a scab, and then heals up – well, it wasn’t like that for Jane. She just bled and bled, and got very weak, and often got nasty infections, because she lived in a hot, smelly country.
Jane used to be quite wealthy, but now she was very poor. And this is why: She went to see the doctors to try to find a cure for the bleeding. “Oh Yes,” they said, “we can cure that. But it will cost … lots of money.” They tried, took her money, but their so-called cures made no difference, or sometimes made her worse, or just left her feeling sick. She tried another doctor, and another, but no-one could heal her. She dared not go out or do anything in case she hurt herself, and started bleeding.
And then there were the synagogues. They were like our church today, but there was a problem for Jane. Even though like Abraham, she believed in God, she wasn’t allowed to go, because they said that if you were bleeding, you were ‘unclean’, which meant she wasn’t welcome. And one by one, her friends left her, because no-one wants to be associated with someone who is unclean.
So, after twelve years of this, with no money, no friends, no-one to love her or care for her, no National Health Service, no state pension, no unemployment benefit, Jane was completely at her wit’s end. Then one day she heard about Jesus. People said he came in the name of God. And that he could heal people. And that he cared for people who couldn’t cope themselves. “Yes,” thought Jane, “I’ve just got to go and meet him”. Eventually the day came when Jesus was passing near where she lived, up in the North of the country near to the Sea of Galilee.
Oh, she was so excited. “If only I can get close to him, and reach up and touch the edge of his cloak”, thought Jane to herself, “then surely I will be healed. And no-one need ever know – I can just slip back into the crowd”. There was hope for her. But then, disaster of disasters, in the excitement, she slipped and cut herself. Worse than ever before, there was blood everywhere. But still, she had to go. She found the crowd, and joined in. But no-one wanted to be close to someone who was bleeding, unclean. They told her to stay at the back, or to go home. But she wouldn’t have any of it – she was determined to get to the front, despite feeling so weak. It was such an effort, but eventually she made it to the front, and reached out… and touched the edge of Jesus’ robe.
She felt it immediately – the warmth spreading through her body. And was that a scab forming where she had been bleeding? No, as she looked, she realised it was new skin. She knew in her heart that this was real healing, and it was permanent.
“Stop, everyone”, she heard Jesus saying. (This wasn’t in the plan, she thought.) “Someone touched me.”
“What do you mean, someone touched you? Of course someone touched you – you are in a crowd!” And in that country, people don’t tend to stand this far apart [ ], but more [ ].
“No, I don’t mean touched me, like bumped into me, but touched me on purpose. I felt power go out of me.” This was Jane’s worst fear (well almost, second to worrying that she might not actually meet Jesus at all). She had nowhere to hide. She had to own up. Very frightened of what everyone would say, and especially of what Jesus would say, she slowly put up a hand. “It, it was me”, she stammered. “I thought, in fact I knew, that I would be healed if I could touch the edge of your cloak”.
“It’s OK”, Jesus smiled at her. “Your faith has made you well again. Go in peace – you don’t have to worry about it any more.” He said that as if he knew what she had been through. Yes, she was sure he knew.
Here is faith again, As we heard earlier, God didn’t give Abraham and Sarah children because they were perfect, or because they deserved them, but because God promised, and Abraham believed. Abraham plunged in, and so did Jane, expecting God to do something for them.
For Jesus, it was not enough just to know he had healed someone, he also wanted to meet her, and to know that she really was OK after all. And he also know that it was better for Jane to meet him, not to stay anonymous. Jesus wanted to encourage her faith, to lead her closer to God, and to completely transform her life, not just bring physical healing.
And Jesus is still the same today. He wants to bring you healing, but he also wants to meet you personally. If you have just slipped into the back of church today, hoping to remain anonymous, then, (to our shame) we may not notice you, but you can’t get much past God. [We do have some regulars who like to sit at the back, but I rather think that’s because there is a nice, warm radiator behind them, rather than because they don’t want to meet Jesus, and that’s all right] .
Rather than just dashing off, let us stop and say hello to Jesus, and really meet him. Because he would like to meet each one of us, and if we will let him, he will, like for Jane, meet our deepest needs.
Mark 5:25–34, Matthew 9:20–22, or Luke 8:43–48
Ref to Abraham is from Genesis 12:1-9 Proper 5A/Ordinary 10A
Mark passage is Proper 8B/Ordinary 13B/Pentecost 5
She only touched the hem of His garment
As to His side she stole,
Amid the crowd that gathered around Him,
And straightway she was whole.
Oh, touch the hem of His garment!
And thou, too, shalt be free!
His saving power this very hour
Shall give new life to thee!
She came in fear and trembling before Him,
She knew her Lord had come;
She felt that from Him virtue had healed her,
The mighty deed was done.
He turned with “Daughter, be of good comfort,
Thy faith hath made thee whole!”
And peace that passeth all understanding
With gladness filled her soul.
By David Moore, Used with permission
Permission to use granted. Please attribute
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I should add that when talking about how close people stand, [. ] Means told hands up 3 feet apart, and [ ] means hold hands just a couple of inches apart.