Note:
This message was written and preached by Andrew Thompson, a participant in the Texas Annual Conference’s College Pastoral Intern Project (CPIP). Andrew will be starting his senior year this fall at Abilene Christian University and is discerning a call to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. He has served here at Jacksonville First United Methodist Church this summer and has been working hard experiencing the many facets of ministry. He is a great young man!

Doug

Meeting Jesus: The Bleeding Woman
A message on Luke 8:43-48
By Andrew Thompson, CPIP Intern
Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
July 21, 2019

Luke 8:43-48
43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Good morning!!! Isn’t it so great to be here in the presence of our Lord!?!! Today I have the pleasure of speaking to you on the First United Methodist Church’s birthday. Aren’t we so blessed with the opportunity to praise and worship God together in this holy place!!?!

Another thing that is so great about our time here is that we all get to gather here, coming from different backgrounds and circumstances, praising God, all on the same grounds.

However one mistake we often make is believing that ‘the places where we come from’ makes us unworthy to be in the presence of God. It’s easy to think that our personal holiness can make us more or less worthy in approaching God. However, that’s not really the case. We know that when Jesus died on the cross He made it possible for all to receive God’s salvation, no matter how spiritually dirty you might initially feel. God saves all. That’s something that most of us know.

But for the sake of our story, I’d like to encourage you, to have a blank mind. Try to imagine yourself watching this miracle unfold. Imagine that Jesus has not yet died on the cross for all people.

When we read from the Old Testament, we see that cleanliness was very much a topic of concern for the Israelites. They very closely associated physical health and spiritual health. For them, they were nearly one in the same. If one was physically ill everyone else would assume that they had spiritual problems going on in their lives as well.

When I was in 5th grade I went to a summer camp in the hill country called “Camp Stewart.” And at this camp there was a policy saying that, in order for you to enter the mess hall you must have a shirt and shoes on. They were not going to have shirtless boys come in all dirty to the hall because it was just disrespectful to the cooks and those that cleaned the mess hall. One day I lost my shirt at the waterfront and when I tried to go to lunch right after they turned me down at the door because I wasn’t presentable. I had to hike (what felt like a half mile) back to the cabin, grab a shirt and walk all the way back. And when I got back to the mess hall everyone had finished eating and I missed out.

It’s kind of the same way for the ancient Israel. It was important and respectful to keep yourself clean when coming into the presence of God or others. There were laws you had to follow, and if you can’t follow these laws (just like how the woman could not stop her bleeding) you were out of luck and were kept on the outside. It was very important to keep themselves clean, holy, and worthy in before coming to God.

This all sets the stage for our passage. The laws in Leviticus mandated that the sick woman be set apart from the rest of the people because she was seen as being physically and spiritually tainted. It would have been bad for her to “contaminate” those things that are clean.

We have all heard the term “outcaste” before, right? The origin of that word comes from Hindu culture. It referrers to a class of people who are the lowest of the low. The outcasted people, in early hindu society, held the super nasty and unclean jobs. They were mud hut builders, pig farmers, they even practiced ritually unclean practices. The term outcaste means “untouchable” or “one who should not be touched.”

That is exactly what we are dealing with here in our story. The woman was deemed as “one who should not be touched.” She was looked down upon and stigmatized by everyone. It was the law that was telling her that she should not touch anything and that everyone should stay clear of her. The law even told the community to stay clear of her shadow because that might contaminate them too. It’s also likely that she was told that she wasn’t clean enough to worship God in the synagogues with everyone else. Do you know what that tells the woman?? The law communicated that she wasn’t even worthy enough to go and fulfill her role as a Jew woman by worshiping God. That is what is so tragic about her situation.

Fortunately, we know that when Christ died on the cross that the curtain in the temple was torn in two, meaning that nothing in this world should obstruct us from praising God. Not even our own spiritual cleanliness can get in the way of that if we believe in the resurrected king.

Romans 8:38-39 says,

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Moving on, after the woman was sick for a looooong 12 years she still had not found a doctor who was able to heal her. 12 years! That is a really long time, right? We should also be reminded that 12 is a biblical number. It’s symbolic. What is it symbolic of? Here it is symbolic of a really long time. It represented all the time in the world, and that no one else was able to help her except for God.. So she was in a desperate situation by the time Jesus rolled into town.

As Christians who struggle in following God with our full hearts, this should resonate with us a little. We tend to turn to God only after we have tried to solve our problems first. The lady had seen many doctors before she sought Jesus’s help. When we have personal and spiritual problems we want to solve them ourselves before coming to God in prayer. Don’t mishear me on this, if you’re sick or ill you need to go see a doctor. This passage isn’t telling you to boycott doctors or mental health specialist or anything like that. But it’s highlighting that we often turn to God last when dealing with our problems. For those that struggle with depression and grief, they may want to fix their problems with alcoholism. For those that struggle with loneliness may try to fix things by falling to lustful desires. For those that have personal problems they may want to try to fix their situation on their own accord or act out of anger. However, our passage reveals to us that faith in God is the solution to struggles in our lives. It is God who makes us perfect, not the world.. Many of us know that when sitting in Sunday school and we’re asked a question we don’t know the answer to that one answer that is never wrong is “Jesus.” We face all sorts of problems, but the only sufficient answer to all of them is Jesus.. Faith in Christ is the only way we can find complete fulfillment in our lives. We can try to fill the holes in by other means, but the only way we will truly be made perfect is by coming to our creator.

Consequently, the sick woman’s faith compelled her to touch the cloak of Jesus. She demonstrated her faith because we know that Jesus had not healed in this exact way before. And as she touched Jesus’s cloak, the language in the Bible reflects that she had BARELY grazed the tip of it with her finger.. In the midst of that loud, pressing, and obnoxious crowd, the smallest touch of a fiber of his clothes caused a complete 180 degree turn in the woman’s life. Just think about how incredible that is. What happens in our story represents how powerful our Lord is. Even the smallest encounters with God can have the most profound effects on our lives, which is why we are encouraged to seek after Him in our faith.

Moreover, there is just so much irony in this story. If you think about it, by Jewish law, our character was not supposed to be in a crowd of clean people. By Jewish law, she was defined as being unworthy to approach God. By Jewish law and reason, when she touched the cloak of Jesus, it was supposed to make Him unclean and not the other way around like it actually happened. In the woman’s encounter with Jesus, we see just how powerful God is. His power didn’t “break the law”, His power overcame the law. His power overcame a law which subjected this woman to feelings of despair and helplessness.

What’s also interesting to think about is the aftermath of the healing. When Jesus questions who touched him, everyone immediately steps back and says, `It wasn’t me! Don’t look at me!’ And Peter says ‘well Jesus… you see… everyone was kind of touching you just now’. But when Jesus then identifies the woman as the culprit, she falls on her knees and trembles. She was so terrified at this moment, she had no idea how He would react. She probably felt that she still wasn’t worthy to be anywhere close to Jesus. And she definitely didn’t want to be the center of attention.

We can all at least relate to this in church. I can tell that not many of you are just dying to sit in the front rows of church today. For those of us who are self-conscious, we are comfortable sitting in church unless it’s the very front and center. Our self consciousness makes us want to keep our distance. The woman probably would have felt way more comfortable and safe if she had kept her distance from all the action. Yet, she stepped out in faith. And what she heard afterwards from Jesus was even more puzzling. Jesus didn’t react harshly, He praised her and told her to go in peace. What would have been the custom for someone being healed is that they would have had to go before the priest and have them declare a person healed before they could be readmitted into society. Christ didn’t have to command her to go see the priest afterwards to proclaim that she is healed. He healed her on the spot and restored her life right then and there. He truly freed hear from physical illness as well as a social disgrace. Which is a great thing!! The woman’s life was looking downward. The place where her life was heading was not a good place. The healing power of Jesus intercepted that and turned her life around.

A beautiful Bible verse comes from Hebrews 10:11-14, which does our topic justice. It reads

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest {Jesus Christ} had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being sanctified.

When we read our passage, it’s easy to take a simple message that says ‘Jesus heals us.’ But that’s not everything that happens here. It was the woman’s faith which compelled her to seek the healer. Jesus didn’t initially seek her out. But she was compelled by faith to step out into an uncomfortable spot. That is what we are encouraged to do. For us, it is essential to being a disciple of Christ to have a faith that pushes us forward and seek God in our lives, even if that means we have to seek Him into uncomfortable situations.

This past weekend our church sent about 14 youth and 7 chaperons to a national youth conference in Kansas City. There was lots of time for worship as well as several workshops which they choose from. During our time, there was a speaker who talked about the power of storytelling and testimonies. One thing that was said when discussing God’s plan was that, “God orchestrates our pathways and journeys. But you, {“emphasis on ‘you’”}, you have to choose what story you will follow.”

God very much had a role in this healing miracle. However, it was the woman who had a faith that caused her to move. She saw Jesus in the moment, opened the door, and took a huge leap of faith. And the result to her opening that door was reclaiming her identity, the person she was meant to be.

As you go out from here I’d like to encourage you to do two things. The first is to reflect on what’s currently happening in your life. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if there is anything that concerns you. Maybe there’s a family member in the hospital, or you might be struggling with an addiction of some kind. Maybe you’re stressed with something else.. Identify any concerns you are currently having. The second thing I’d like to ask you is, once you’ve identified those concerns, pray to God. Ask God to help you to open that door to Him, so that you can be made whole and glorify Him with your life.

As people who are created by God, our sole-purpose in life is to worship and glorify the creator with our entire being. And when we fall short, we may feel less worthy in fulfilling those roles. However, our circumstances do not hinder us in seeking God. Jesus is still very much in your life. You are not abandoned! The Holy Spirit is still right in front of you, regardless if you can see Him or not. And it’s your job now, to open that door and seek after Him with your full heart and being.

Blessings

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