Text: Mark 5:21-43
The Rev. Dr. D. William Faupel
Jul 1, 2018
Have you ever felt like the bucket of your life has a hole in it? Does it seem to leak faster than you can fill it? No matter what you do, how hard you work, where you go, what you try, you just can’t fill it up? Work, play, friends, family, even trying to sleep just leaves you with that empty feeling. You are left feeling drained of life: tired, frustrated, angry, resentful. In the words of Peggy Lee’s last hit, you find yourself saying: “Is that all there is?” If you have ever felt that way, I think you can identify with the woman in today’s gospel.
We don’t know her name. We don’t know where she came from. She could be any one of us. She’s anonymous; just another face in the crowd. What we do know is that she is sick and desperate. She has been bleeding for twelve years. That is 4,380 days! In all that time no one has been able to help. She has spent all she had: time, money, energy, but has only gotten worse. Day by day, week after week, month after month, year after year. It was always the same. Blood.
It did not take long for her condition to become more than physical. She realized she was losing more than blood. She was losing the joy of living. It soon became a matter of the spirit. Matters of life and death always are.
At one level this is a story of an individual nameless woman. At another level it is the human story. Her story is our story. It has as much to do with men as it has to do with women. Drained of the joy of living, we go through the motions. We are alive, but we are not living. We can be in the midst of people, but feel disconnected, isolated, alone.
During those twelve years, whenever she learned of a new doctor, or heard of a new remedy or someone spoke of a new cure, I can imagine her thinking, “As soon as I visit this new doctor, my life will change.” We all have our “as soon as” moments, don’t we. “As soon as I can get my husband to change.” Or “As so as I can get my wife to agree,” or “As soon as the economy gets better.” Or “When I retire and move to Florida.” We convince ourselves that as soon as things change, life will get better. What we don’t always realize is that when we allow our physical circumstances to adversely affect our spiritual life, it no longer matters what our external circumstances are. We are going to be miserable. And everyone around us is going to know it.
In our gospel today, after twelve years of disappointments, however, this woman had still not given up hope. We don’t know what she heard about Jesus, but it was enough to make her believe that her life could change. Maybe she heard about something he had said in one of his sermons, maybe she had heard about someone he had healed. Whatever it was, it was enough. Like the lady I told you about two weeks ago in my sermon who I finally found in the nursing home, this woman said to herself, “I’m going to live!” No longer would she wait on others to fix her life. She refused to be identified with the circumstances of her life. Today, this day, she would reach beyond her circumstances and literally take matters into her own hands.
Deep within she knows, “If I can but touch the hem of his garment I will be made well.” No matter how much or how long she has bled, the truth of these words coursed through her veins. She came to believe that Jesus offered her a life that is unleakable, a life that can never be drained from her.
She pushed her way through the crowd. Nothing would deter her. At last she caught up to him. She reached out and touched his cloak. Instantly she was transformed by the healing power of God. It was enough just to touch. The connection was made. A relationship was established. Life no longer leaked out of her but flowed in and through her.
The hemorrhage stopped but the healing continued. “Who touched me,” Jesus asked as he felt power flow from his body. His disciples are flabbergasted. “There are dozens of people crowding around us, what do you mean, “who touched me?” But Jesus ignored them. He looked all around him and spotted the woman. When he caught her eye, she knew that she was unmasked. She came forward, now trembling with fear. What would he say? What would he do? Would he send her away in disgust saying “Woman, don’t you know that by touching me, you have made me ritually unclean?” She fell down before him and confessed that she was the guilty person. Instead of rebuking her, however, he spoke to her kindly, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole, go your way in peace.” No longer would she be known as that “bleeding woman.” She was now a daughter. She had a new identity, a place in the world and a new relationship. She was a whole person. She was now free to live in peace.
This is the unleakable life that Jesus offers each of us. The “bleeding woman” had to wait twelve years for Him to appear for her. But he is here today, for you. He offers you his blood, his body. You have only to press through and touch him.