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Sunday, January 6, 2013

The tip of her finger

Have you ever taken a "risk of faith"?  So intent on getting something you desperately needed so as to push through anything in your way - giving it your all?  We find ourselves in many a tough spot on occasion, but I wonder how many times we wait until we are right there in that spot to begin to take the risk of faith.  If we were probably honest, it isn't until someone tells us the bad news of a reduction in workforce, gives us the "incurable" verdict, or leaves us in the lurch with no way of escape that we often come to a place of desperation which drives us to "risk" our faith.  This morning, we look at a woman who lived with a debilitating disease - not for a matter of a few months or years, but for over twelve years.  The very life was being taken from her by a constant issue of blood.  Today, most women would consult their doctor, be scheduled for a surgery to stop the bleeding, and then be on their merry way.  Not the case for this woman.  It was either a "risk of faith" on her part, or deal with the debilitation until it had totally consumed her.

“Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!"  (Mark 5:34 MSG)

I have explored this passage in Mark time and again, but this morning, I want us to see something I had missed until now.  You see, she took a "risk of faith" for which Jesus commended her.  So, I want to learn from this woman's risk - her willingness to do what it took to accomplish her healing.  If we were  honest, we might just need this type of "risk-taking" faith in our own lives.

First, see her need:  An issue of blood for twelve years.  This would have left her not only severely anemic, but totally tired all the time because the very ability to regenerate her body with much needed oxygen and nutrients was impossible in her present state.  She could not have worked a job, much less taken care of a family.  Her state was probably one of needing someone else to tend to her basic needs most of the time.  In the culture in which she lived, her "job" was the care of a family, not the other way around.  So, in the eyes of the community, she was "non-contributory" - her illness made her a drain on society, not a contributing member.

Next, see her extravagance:  She spent all she had looking for a cure.  The scriptures tell us she had seen a "long succession of physicians", each offering her some cure, but leaving her worse than she was when we came.  In fact, it tells us they took all of her money.  She was penniless - not only plagued with illness, but destitute.  She had no means of income in her present state and that which she had to her name was all gone.  Sometimes we don't press in to get what we need until we experience the intensity of destitution.

But...here's what I want us to see - her pursuing desire.  She wasn't content to just stand along the wayside, crying out, hoping for the healer to "notice" her need.  In fact, she did what she would have born the scorn of the religious elders for - she, the unclean, mingled with the "clean" in the crowd, pressing through until she had slipped through all of them - close enough to touch the hem of the garment of Jesus.  Not with her whole body, but with the touch of her finger tip.  For, she knew his power only needed a connection point to do what no other could do.

She pushed, pulled, and wriggled her way to the very presence of Jesus.  She could have simply called out, asking for her healing, but she didn't.  Does this strike anyone else as unusual?  Those in the crowd were beckoning, looking to get the notice of the healer.  All except this woman.  She just waited until she was close enough - and she did not let up until she was!  Then, she simply reached out.  Something was different for her - she was pursuing, seemingly unnoticed, but determined on one point of connection.  Do you realize this is all Jesus really needs?  One point of connection. 

One point of connection stopped Jesus in his tracks.  All the crowd stood still, the world probably seeming to stop for this woman.  She knew her need was met, but she thought she'd just be able to touch him unnoticed.  The simple truth is we can never touch Jesus unnoticed - for it is impossible to touch Jesus and come away the same!  The pursuit of her heart may have been driven by the need in her physical body, but the risk of her faith was driven by her spirit.  This "spirit" connection caused Jesus to stop in his tracks - to take notice of not only her physical need, but her heart need, as well.

She pursued with all she had.  The very demanding effort of working her way though the crowd would have nearly exhausted this woman.  Her risks went beyond the taxation of her body, but to the very risk of allowing her spirit to connect with that of Jesus.  So, in determined pursuit, she pressed in - not content to call from the wayside, but determined to make a connection with Jesus.  Jesus cannot help but notice the one who pursues in such a manner.  When the desire to press past all obstacles becomes the focus of the heart, that "risk of faith" is noticed by Jesus.  It doesn't take a full-on embrace to create the connection - just simply the tip of a finger extended to him in hope.  Just sayin!