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Friday, April 15, 2011

Risky Reaching

 34Jesus said to her, "Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague."
(Mark 5:34)

Jesus was passing through town one day on his way to accomplish a totally different thing when someone touches him and his healing power is released.  For those of you familiar with the story, you recognize this individual as the woman with an issue of blood (hemorrhage) for nearly twelve years.  I imagine she had sought every healer in the region (and perhaps beyond) in hopes of finding the cure for her condition.  She has obviously found no relief, no remedy, in these twelve years of dealing with this life-debilitating hemorrhagic condition.  

For those of you who don't know the impact of such a disease process, let me lay out a picture of what this woman was dealing with.  She would be severely anemic - probably constantly bordering on being in a state of health that would have prevented her from conducting normal activities.  Her body would have been constantly trying to keep up with the red cell production she required to replace the blood she was losing, but it would be impossible to do.  At best, she could take supplemental iron, attempting to build her blood supply, but being sapped of all she was supplementing as quick as she could put it in.

Her anemia would have not only made her body fatigued from the constant efforts of trying to keep up with red blood cell production, but she would have been easily worn out with almost any type of "normal" effort or exertion.  Yet, look at where we find this woman - pressing through an enormous crowd of people that were thronging to Jesus to get their own miracles, or just to see the great Teacher as he was passing through the region.  I have been in crowds of people on a mission to get something, or be somewhere "first".  The intense "press" of people carries you along and makes it almost impossible to navigate one's way out of that throng.  Her position in that crowd was one of "pressing" - she was the one pressing forward with all the might she could muster, on a mission to just touch the hem of the garment of the great Healer.

Her mission was realized - she made contact - and, oh, what a contact that was!  Her mission was to press forward, despite the tremendous burden this was to her already weakened body, over-taxed heart and oxygen-deprived lungs.  In that one moment of contact, her life is changed.  Her life is transformed, in the midst of the crowd, with everyone else oblivious to what had happened, except for one person:  Jesus.  He turns, asks who had touched him, and stands there waiting for the answer.  

She has taken a cultural risk beyond what her Jewish culture would have allowed.  She had an issue of blood (viewed as making her ceremonially "unclean") - she did not belong in the crowd; she belonged at home, away from others that she could make ceremonially "unclean" by her very presence.  She had taken a physical risk of being out in that big of a crowd, pressing with all her might, going beyond her natural strength to draw near enough to Jesus to touch his garment's hem.  She had taken a personal risk of believing for her healing.  Jesus' response:  "Your risk was worth it - on all levels!"

Her risks, no matter how large, or how insignificant we may realize them to be, were noticed by the one she was seeking.  His acknowledgement of her risk-taking makes this story even more significant.  He doesn't point out to her that she is healed first - he first points out to her that it was her "risk" of faith that made all the difference in the receiving of what it was that she was seeking.  There are a lot of times we know exactly what it is we need, but we don't take the "risks" to step out in faith to receive it.  This woman stands as an example to us all - the "risks" are worth it!

In the end, she received more than her healing - she was blessed.  He tells her  to live well and to live blessed.  It has probably been a long time since she had lived "well" - she probably doesn't remember the last time that she felt like she was living "blessed".  He was telling her to live with great contentment - to recognize the "favor" of God in her life.  What a tremendous place to be!  Isn't that what we'd all like - to live in the "favor" of our God?  Maybe it is time we take a few "risks" in reaching for God like we never have before!