Monday, June 24, 2013

The Faith to Touch the Hem

~Tracy Frederick

She was tired, no doubt, worn out from the daily routines of life as most women were, but even more so in her situation. Most likely she had no one to offer a comforting shoulder to cry on. It wasn’t possible, the law didn’t allow it; she was “unclean.”  “Unclean” was a word necessary to maintain the health of the people, but struck fear in the hearts of those who knew what it meant-- ostracism. Under the old law, no one could touch her, or anything she had touched (Lev 15: 25-27). The loneliness must have been overwhelming. Furthermore, it had been twelve years; twelve years of going from doctor to doctor and subjecting herself to one treatment after another, enduring embarrassment and unsuccessful treatments—“she had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.”  The heartache and worry must have overcome her …and no one could help; no one could comfort, and all of her money was gone  (Mk 5:26) .
Jesus had been traveling about the region healing and had casting out demons (Mk 5:1-24, Lk 8:1-42, Matt. 9 1-19). He was a busy man and in demand, “the crowd thronged Him” (MK 5:24, Lk 8:42). In fact, when He arrived, an important man from the synagogue came to worship Him, Jairus, and desperately needed a favor- his daughter was dying (Mk 5:22-24). The man was important, and she was a woman and an unclean one at that. Perhaps this woman stood afar off and contemplated the consequences of her actions- the risk of being in a crowd; interrupting Jesus with a synagogue leader. Perhaps she stood back a bit, her heart pounding; feeling the blood flowing from her body with each beat of her heart. Perhaps she took a moment to contemplate the crowd that separated her from her Savior until she finally convinced herself to do it…take a chance… “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (Mk 5: 28, Matt 9:21). I wonder about this great woman of faith: Did she try to ball herself up as tightly as possible so as not to risk making others unclean and suffer the consequences? Did she hide herself until the last possible moment knowing others might recognize her as unclean? Did she drop to her knees in the dust and dirt trying desperately to stretch out her hand as far as possible…perhaps even through the legs of others to reach Him? Were her hands, her fingers stepped on? Was dirt kicked in her face as she tried in desperation to not lose sight of the RIGHT garment; her eyes fixed on the RIGHT hem? She felt immediate healing when she finally touched it. I wonder how her eyes must have welled-up in happiness.

Then He turned to look for her. She must have been shocked. It was only a hem, right? She only dared touch His garment; she never touched HIM, and there were so many others around, right? But He knew. “The woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth” (Mk 5: 33). She was afraid. She was unclean. Then He talked to her, looked right at her-- encouraged her…..and called her daughter (Matt 9:22, Lk 8;48, Mtt 9:22). (Note: This is the only time that I see Jesus calling someone “daughter”. )

The account, this small, little seemingly insignificant account of a desperate woman is found in three of the four gospels (Matthew 9, Mark 5, Luke 8). It is an account that we might often overlook. It is just a woman with an illness; it is just a small miracle in the midst of the raising of the dead and the casting out of demons. But, I believe it must be very important for our Father to, through the Holy Spirit, inspire the writers to include it so often. For some time I’ve been considering the depth of faith one must have to please our Lord, the depths of humbleness to which one must  be willing to go to/through, to” reach” our Lord, the desperation and the risks we are willing to take to make our lives, our sin-sick souls whole- only through Him and I keep coming back to this woman, this unclean woman who fell to her knees and crawled on the ground through the dust and the crowd--with great risk-- and the belief and faith she had knowing  that she only needed to touch the hem.  

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