"What if all the things that seem like a burden in the Bible, are a burden because I've looked at them through fear?
And what happens if I look through Love, instead?"
I asked those questions a few weeks ago, thinking I was going to explore the Love-and-the-Bible theme more. Instead, we had a long hard look at fear-and-control when the Duggars and The Village Church were much in the news.
I hope that was helpful, but now I want to get back to what I really wanted to talk about in the first place!
Here's the story where I had my first looking-through-Love aha moment.
On the other side of the lake the crowds received Jesus with open arms because they had been waiting for him. And now a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell down at Jesus' feet, begging him to come home with him. His only child was dying, a little girl about twelve years old.
As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds. And there was a woman in the crowd who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years. She had spent everything she had on doctors and still could find no cure. She came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.
"Who touched me?" Jesus asked.
Everyone denied it, and Peter said, "Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you."
But Jesus told him, "No, someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out of me." Luke 8:40-48, New Living Translation
WHY DOES JESUS SAY "WHO TOUCHED ME?"
Why does he even stop to ask the question?
Here Jesus is, on his way to save a dying child. This woman reaches out in the crowd, touches his robe, and is healed. No big deal, right? Jesus heals a bunch of people every day. Why does he stop and make a fuss about this? It kind of doesn't make sense.
Back in February, I was working on what I would speak about for the International Christian Fellowship retreat in Nicaragua. I picked out three stories of women in the Bible: Naomi, Hagar, and this woman with the issue of blood.
(I started calling her Sandy, because TWWTIOB was clearly just not going to cut it.)
At the time, I had realized that I write from the inside out. I start with emotion, and I work my way out. So when I worked on these stories, I went to the strongest places of emotion and worked from there.
With this story, I found a lot of emotion around "Who touched me?" so that's where I started working.
My instinctive emotional reaction to "Who touched me?" is guilt.
I put myself in Sandy's place, and I instantly feel that I must have done something wrong. I feel ashamed.
I know those emotions are based in fear, not Love. And I am all about letting Love cast out fear these days.
Therefore, I questioned my guilt-shame-fear reaction to "Who touched me?"
I said, "Wait. This is Jesus. He loves me. He loves this woman. He's not trying to make us feel afraid or ashamed. WHY, THEN, IS HE ASKING THIS QUESTION?"
And I couldn't figure it out.
So I did what I do as a therapist. Whenever I get lost in therapy, when I don't understand what's happening, I go back to the last place where things make sense, and I work my way forward again.
For this story, I went all the way back to the beginning of Jesus' ministry at the beginning of the book of Luke.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come. Luke 4:18,19, NLT
Then he tells the people that this prophecy has come true in their presence that day. They freak out and say he’s just a carpenter’s son. Jesus says that every prophet is without honor in his hometown, and he hits the road.
He walks out of the synagogue, and goes on a healing rampage, taking care of:
- People with unclean spirits (Luke 4:35)
- Simon's mother-in-law (Luke 4:38)
- A bunch of other people (Luke 4:40)
- A man with advanced leprosy (Luke 5:12)
- A paralyzed man (Luke 5:17)
- A man with a deformed right hand, in the synagogue, on the Sabbath (Luke 6:10)
- The Centurion's servant (Luke 7:10)
- A widow's dead son (Luke 7:12)
- A demon-possessed man who lived in a graveyard (Luke 8:35)
- The woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:48)
- A bunch more people after that
Let's make sure we understand this: Jesus was not associating with nice, clean sick people.
Pretty much anybody the Levitical law called unclean, pretty much anybody that everybody else thought was absolutely disgusting and horrifying, pretty much anybody that everybody else was terrified to be close to, THAT'S WHO JESUS SOUGHT OUT.
Also, there’s no record of him trotting around to the priest every afternoon for ritual cleansing. Jesus has made himself unclean by being with all these sick people, day in and day out, and he does NOTHING about it, as far as I can tell.
What's more, besides just healing a bunch of unclean people (maybe you could forgive him for that) Jesus deliberately hangs out with even more unclean people, apparently just because he wants to.
He invites a tax collector, Levi, to be an actual disciple (Luke 5:27) and then goes to a banquet with Levi's whole crazy posse of tax collectors--and as the religious people phrased it--"scum of the earth." (That's the New Living Translation)
When he did accept an invitation to a Pharisee's home for dinner (finally, a squeaky clean setting), a "woman of the city, a sinner" followed Jesus there, to anoint his feet with oil and wash them with her tears. The upshot of that scene was the religious people saying, "Who does this man think he is, going around forgiving sins?" (Luke 7:49)
"Stop all this healing and forgiving nonsense! We have rules about that!"
Here's what I learned from those chapters of Luke: Jesus deliberately seeks out the unclean. He heals them, he forgives them, he sits down and has dinner with them.
This is who Jesus IS. This is what he DOES.
So, when it comes to Sandy, WHY DOES JESUS SAY, "WHO TOUCHED ME?"
This is Jesus, so we have to assume Love.
Let’s read this next part of the story, thinking about love instead of fear-guilt-shame:
When the woman realized that Jesus knew, she began to tremble and fell to her knees before him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed.
Jesus gets Sandy to tell her whole story to the whole crowd.
And this, I think, is the answer to WHY:
LOVE WANTS EVERYONE TO KNOW THAT IT'S JUST FINE THAT THIS UNCLEAN WOMAN TOUCHED HIM.
He wants us to know that he is willing and EAGER to be in contact with unclean people.
That’s what He’s here for.
(And, I would suggest, that’s what we are here for, too.)
When she’s told her story so that the whole crowd can hear it, he says this:
"Daughter," he said to her, "your faith has made you well. Go in peace." Luke 8:47-48
Do we really understand what’s happened here? Right smack-dab in front of the leader of the synagogue?
This woman has broken the law.
She is unclean and by touching Jesus, she’s now made him unclean.
She has reached past the law for healing, and JESUS CALLS THAT FAITH!
This is mind blowing, and Jesus doesn't want anybody to miss out on it.
So he says, "Who touched me?" and gets her to tell the story.
For breaking the law, she is called daughter. She is healed, and her great faith is now an example to the crowd to whom she had been unclean, untouchable, disgusting, and horrifying for 12 long years.
Let me ask you this:
What do you need from Jesus?
What are you afraid to take from him?
What are you too ashamed to reveal?
What do you think is too awful to be known?
Where are you living in shame instead of Love?
I want to invite you to reach out to Love today, break the rules of fear and shame, feel the healing, and hear these words: