Testimony From Suffering
Mark 5:25-34 (Moffatt Bible) And there was a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years - . 26she had suffered much under a number of doctors, and had spent all her means, but was none the better; in fact she was rather worse. 28Hearing about Jesus, she got behind him in the crowd, and touched his robe; 27”if I can touch even his clothes,” she said to herself, “I will recover.” 29And at once the hemorrhage stopped; she felt in her body that she was cured of her complaint. 30Jesus was at once conscious that some healing virtue had passed from him, so he turned round in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31His disciples said to him, “You see the crowd are pressing round you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 32But he kept looking around to see who had done it, and the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came forward in fear and trembling and fell down before him, telling him the truth. 34”Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well; go in peace and be free from your complaint.”
The crowd was heavy that day. You may well imagine the crowd was like what you might see around a popular politician during an election. People pressing around Jesus, to get a better view of Jesus, to touch Jesus, or possibly to greet Jesus.
A woman who was sick anxiously pushed her way through the crowd. Perhaps, she had to elbow and push to get closer to Jesus. Eagerly, she reached forward, fearing for the worst, yet hoping somehow for the best, for a miracle. And she was healed.
Jewish people considered blood to be a life force. In Genesis chapter 9,1 “blood is synonymous with life.”2 There is some truth in that belief. If you have a sore that is continually bleeding, it is unlikely you are going to get well without medical help. The vital strength of your body is being drained. This woman could not help herself. Every year her condition got worse.
We are not much different than the lady. Because of our nature, we cannot heal ourselves. Sin is something for which we can find no cure. No doctor can cure sin. No pharmaceutical company makes a drug that cures sin. No lawyer or financial advisor can reduce the deficit caused by sin. Acupuncture, hypnosis, stress reduction classes, psychotherapy, counselling, financial planning, self-realization classes, meditation, yodeling, Oil of Olay, and even brake dancing cannot cure sin. Only Jesus can heal a person from sin and the pain caused by sin.
All the doctor’s prescriptions and treatments failed. Not only did the doctors fail, her condition was worse. Considering the typical treatments offered by physicians at this time, it is no wonder her health was not improving.3 Two well-known commentators, Adam Clarke and William Barclay, describe a number of treatments given women who had a hemorrhage. I will share only four of the treatments they describe.
Some methods involved oral medicines. I call this one the bad-breathe cure. In this cure, one gets the sense that the idea was to stink the disease away. First, Persian onions were boiled in wine. Then the patient drank the mixture, and the words, “Arise from thy flux,” were to be said.4
Don’t care for onions? Don’t worry. There are other cures. Perhaps you will like this cure. The ashes of an ostrich egg were to be carried in linen during the summer and in cotton during the winter.5
There is the hiccup treatment. With this method, the disease seems to be scared away, just like you might scare away the hiccups. The patient is to sit in a cross roads with a cup of wine in her hand. Then somebody comes up from behind her, scares her, and says, “Arise from thy flux.”6
The best, or the most unusual cure is saved for last. This prescription seems to get rid of the disease by grossing it out. If the patient does something disgusting enough, the disease might not want anything to do with the patient. This treatment has the patient carry a barley corn found in the manure of a white female donkey.7
And you thought some of our medicines stink? This just goes to prove there is a time-honored tradition among doctors - that all medicines must stink and taste bad.
This was before the time health insurance. The woman spent all of her money on doctors. She had no hope. Jesus was her only option left, her last hope.
This disorder isolated her from people and her community of faith. Leviticus 15:25-27 (King James Version) And if a woman have an issue of her blood many days out of the time of her separation, or if it run beyond the time of her separation; all the days of the issue of her uncleanness shall be as the days of her separation: she shall be unclean. 26Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her separation: and whatsoever she sitteth upon shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her separation. 27And whosoever toucheth those things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
Nobody who really honored or respected the ceremonial law and who knew the woman’s condition would want to have much to do with this woman. The result is twelve years of isolation. But this woman’s condition did not stop her from receiving the very things she sought from God. The Temple, around which Judaism centered, would not accept her. An unclean person was not allowed in the temple.8 But that did not prevent her from being blessed by God.
Gay, bisexual, and trans-identified people have often been rejected by churched people. The religious fear they will not be spiritually clean, if they have contact with queer people. Closets keep many queer people isolated, cut off from the real, genuine, heart-to-heart fellowship for which they long. Being seen as unclean no more keeps queer people from being blessed by God than it kept the woman from being blessed by God.
We all have secret areas of our lives. Those secret areas might be so personal, so objectionable that our friends and our family members would reject us if they knew. We may live in fear of discovery. We have no need to fear discovery by God. The Eternal has always known.
There is One who will never reject you. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter how bad society feels you are, no matter how personal or embarrassing, God will not reject you. God will not reject you for two reasons. First, God the Son, paid too much for you to give up on you. Second, Christ is your righteousness when you are in Christ.
If you purchased a pen for $2.00, would you take it out of the store? Probably. But what if you had to walk for an hour to the store to pick up the pen you purchased for $2.00? You might decide you did not want to walk an hour for a $2.00 pen.
Imagine you paid $20,000 for a used car. You had to drive an hour to pick up the car. Would you spend an hour on the road for a $20,000 investment. I suspect you would make the trip.
And if you paid $110,000 for a brand new car? Would you let the car stay in the dealership or would you take it home? If you had to take a bus trip for two hours to pick up the car, would you do that? And how would you treat the car? Would you take good care of it?
You just paid $750,000 for a new home. You made all of the visits to the lawyer’s office. Will you move in or leave the house empty for vandals to attack?
Dream with me for a moment. You purchased a dream home. This is not an ordinary home. This is a $30 million home. And your dream home has a maid. The home is located in the place you’ve always wanted to live. For some of us, that would be on the Florida coast. Others may want a California coast location. A few people might want to be located where you could look out your living room window every day and see the Rocky Mountains. Those who love the warmth might want their home to be located in the Bahamas. Would you bother to move in or would you leave your dream home empty?
God paid everything for you. God, the Son, Jesus Christ, paid His own life for you. There was nothing more He could have paid for you. Jesus paid the price, not so you would be His slave, but so you would be God’s friend. John 15:15 (King James Version) Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Do you think the God who paid everything for you will send you away? Will the God who calls you “friend” cast you out of the Kingdom? Jesus did not send the woman away and she was considered to be spiritually unfit, dirty, and defiled. God will not send you away either.
God is not going to give up on you. The price paid for you was too much. God sacrificed too much to walk away, without taking you to the heavenly.
Not only will God not turn you away, God is going to move in and take possession. I realize taking possession might sound a bit frightening. Really, that is not frightening at all. God’s Spirit, the Comforter, lives in the hearts of Christians. The Spirit may do a little house cleaning and renovate your heart a little. You will gradually start to see changes in your life and they will be changes for the better. Those changes are what theologians call sanctification. All it means is that you start living for a little different reason. Your life becomes more focused around God and humanitarian work.
The woman reached out to Jesus and He knew she touched Him. God knows when you move a fraction of an inch just a wee millimeter to reach out for God. When you reach out to God, the Lord acknowledges that effort and offers acceptance.
Come to God as you want to come and you will unchanged. Come the way you hope people see you and you will leave unchanged. Come to God trying to be somebody other than you are and you will leave unchanged. Any way of approaching God that requires you to change first will not work. The changed life is a result of Jesus’ healing touch. The healing touch comes after you approach the Lord, not before you approach the Lord.
God will not give up on you the moment you become a Christian. Christ is our righteousness9 and our law-keeping. Jesus kept the law perfectly. Only Jesus is righteous.10 What this means is that the perfect record of Jesus’ life is given to us. We are viewed as being 100% perfect.
The Christian does not have to fear God’s rejections after sinning. As long as you are in Christ, God will judge you as if you kept the entire law just as perfectly as Christ kept the law. 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 (Moffatt Bible) This you lack no spiritual endowment during these days of waiting till our Lord Jesus Christ is revealed; 8and to the very end he will guarantee that you are vindicated on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
After the woman was healed, Jesus asked “Who touched me?”11 Why did Jesus ask that question? Did Jesus have to ask who touched Him? Did He not know who touched Him?
Jesus gave the woman a chance to testify for Him. A secret believer, a closet Christian is not really able to help others. The woman's testimony may have touched numerous lives. The story of her healing has given people hope and has helped people have faith in God for centuries. God is giving you a chance to bring hope and faith to the lives of many people. As gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified people of faith, you are in a unique position to encourage people, to give people enough hope to reach out and touch God. Because they can see how God honored your faith.