Seeking and Sharing the Fullness of Life

Are You Worth More Than a Touch?

A sermon on Mark 5: 21-43 by Nathan Nettleton

She had plenty of reasons to be terrified
She wasn’t supposed to be there
but she was desperate
desperate for help, desperate for healing
But she wasn’t supposed to be there in the crowd
sneaking through
trying to touch just the hem of his coat
Surely if she could touch even that, she would be healed
Surely?

But she wasn’t supposed to be there
and if she got found out she was in trouble
Culture and custom said she wasn’t supposed to be there
Social courtesy said she wasn’t supposed to be there
The law said she wasn’t supposed to be there
Leviticus 15

“If a woman has a flow of blood for several days outside her monthly period, or if her flow continues beyond her regular period, she remains unclean as long as the flow continues, and for seven days after it stops. Anyone who touches her is unclean until evening. Anyone who touches anything she has touched will be unclean until evening.”

She’s been bleeding for twelve years
She has been ritually unclean for twelve years
For twelve years anyone she touches has been rendered ritually unclean until evening
If she touches someone, they are prohibited from having social contact with anyone else for the rest of the day
For twelve years she has been persona non grata
She was supposed to stay home and avoid contact with anyone
for twelve years.

She wasn’t supposed to be out in public
pushing her way through a crowd
trying to touch Jesus
or even the hem of his garment
She had plenty of reasons to be terrified
and plenty of people to be terrified of
including Jesus when she made him unclean

How many of us are like her?
Sneaking around with our heads down
afraid to be recognised
desperately hiding the truth about ourselves
for fear of being shunned and isolated
for fear of being looked on as filth
desperate to find some cure, some relief
but terrified of what it would take to lay hold of it.

She pushed her way through the crowd
face hidden
name unknown
taking her chances
It was only a momentary opportunity
Jesus was in a hurry
This was no time to interrupt him
He was on an mission of mercy
dealing with an emergency
A little girl was dying
There was not a moment to lose
She was twelve years old
For twelve years she had been healthy and happy
For twelve years she had grown up as the precious daughter of one of the most important men in the town
For twelve years she had had everything
But now her life was hanging by a thread
This was no time to interrupt Jesus
He had more important business to attend to
He had a little girl’s life to save
“If I can just touch the edge of his coat as he hurries past, surely that will be enough. Surely that will make me better.”

So she did it
She pushed through the crowd and touched his coat as he hurried by
And she immediately felt the bleeding stop
She had been right!
She was healed
The disease was gone!
No more feeling anaemic and lethargic
No more hiding in the shadows, avoiding everyone
She pulled the scarf around her face and slipped back into the crowd
She had what she’d come for
and she was off
No harm done
No one had recognised her
No one knew that someone unclean had touched them in the crowd
She’d just melt back into the crowd and slip off home

“Who touched my clothes?”
Jesus has stopped
Like an ambulance driver stopping for lunch on the way to an emergency, Jesus has stopped
“Who touched me?”
Jairus is pulling on his arm, “Who cares who touched you, come and save my daughter. Quickly, before it’s too late.”
“Who touched me?”

She froze in fear
She’d been found out
Busted
She meant no harm
She was desperate
She’d been careful not to interrupt, not to get in the way
But now she was going to be exposed
Now the game was up
She had plenty of reasons to be terrified
She wasn’t supposed to be there

She fell to her knees at Jesus’ feet
shaking like a leaf
and ’fessed up
She knew she was in for it
but there was nowhere to hide
He knew
Somehow he knew

He reached out his hand
“Daughter, you took a risk of faith
and it has paid off for you.
Welcome back to the world of the healthy!
Shalom!
May peace, health and happiness be yours,
and may your illness be gone for good.”

She hasn’t been shunned at all
She has been touched
by one who knew why she was supposed to be untouchable
She has been lifted to her feet and patted on the back
She has been commended in public
She has been given his blessing
She has been offered healing beyond her wildest dreams
Social healing
Emotional healing
Public acceptance

How often are we just like her?
How often can we not see beyond the little bit of something that will make life more bearable?
How often are we only too willing to settle for overcoming the main symptom and then slip back into the crowd without daring to imagine what more there could be?
How often do we look for nothing more than that
from Jesus
and from his body, the church?
A little bit of something to make us feel a bit better
A little touch to get us through the week

How often do we think that we’re not worth any more than that?
Surely God has got more important things to do?
more important people to attend to?
Surely there is a twelve year old girl somewhere, dying of hunger or disease, who warrants God’s attention much more than us?
Who are we to expect Jesus to stop and take notice?
So we just slip through the crowd for a little touch to make life bearable and then slip off again
unnoticed
unimportant
unchallenged
unblessed
our masks still in place
fear and shame and loneliness still wrapped tightly around us.

But Jesus thinks you’re worth more than that
Nothing is more important than you
There is nothing else that matters so much that Jesus would pass you by and leave you to fend for yourself
Jesus is not content to see you just get a little touch to make you feel better
He wants to see you healed and whole
strong and confident
accepted and loved
He wants to do more than just close your wounds and stop the bleeding
He wants to lead you into a wholeness you couldn’t have imagined
and a fullness of life beyond your wildest dreams

And if you slip off into the crowd
he will be left there with a tear in his eye
still asking, “Who touched me?”
Because he reckons you’re worth waiting for
and he’s got so much more that he wants to give you
He wants you to follow him
to dance with him
to learn from him
to share life and love
and joy and suffering with him
He wants you to lay aside your fears
your shame
your isolation,
to lay aside the only self you have ever known
and follow him into the wide open spaces
of God’s love and mercy.

Christ won’t force you
When the bread is broken at this table
you can reach out your hand
and touch him
and slip back into the crowd,
strengthened to get through the week
but without staying to find out what Jesus might be asking of you
and what he might be offering you
And if you do that you won’t be punished or exposed
but Jesus will still be asking “Who touched me?”
and longing to give you all he wants you to have,
longing for you to accept the gift of his very self.

But if you will stop
If you will fall to your knees before him
and offer him your self in trembling truthfulness
Then he will offer himself to you
and open himself to you
so that you might be healed by his brokenness
and drawn into his wholeness
and raised to new life
to fullness of life
and be reconciled to him
and in him
to the glory of God
and the joy of all the earth.

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