Reflections on Faith, God & Isolation
A Lockdown Devotional for the start of a New Year:
Thursday 14th January 2021: #14 A Sick Woman
Click here for link to the video\
I was thinking of who, in the Scriptures, could best identify with self-isolation because of disease and the risk of contaminating others, and my mind was drawn to this woman in the Gospel of Mark. The story occurs in the middle of a crisis. An influential man, Jairus, has approached Jesus because his daughter is dying; and between hearing the news and going to Jairus’s house, Jesus has a strange encounter.
she is without influence, an outcast in society, unnamed, unnoticed
The contrasts are enormous: this is a woman, she is without influence, an outcast in society, unnamed, unnoticed and rather than confronting Jesus she just tries to sneak a touch of his robe.
Mark takes us right into the heart of this woman’s misery, by heaping phrase upon phrase: a woman, subject to bleeding for 12 years, suffering a great deal, (suffering) under many doctors, spending all she had, getting worse not better, hearing about Jesus, came up behind him, and touched him. This woman had nothing more to give or offer: she couldn’t pay Jesus – all that was gone. Her only hope was to see if she could get something for free, just by touching.
And so she touches him and this terrible disease that was characterized by a never ceasing flow of blood, stops immediately. What would have dried up over time in a normal cure, is immediately gone. Mark has brought us here before, in the stilling of the storm which happened immediately, rather than dying off gradually.
Her only hope was to see if she could get something for free, just by touching.
Here Jesus shows his supernatural power and knowledge as he asks “who touched me”?
The woman was doing her best to slink away unnoticed. She was happy; she had got what she came for, what no-one else could give, but she was still shy and embarrassed. She needed to get away, but Jesus didn’t allow it. Which is strange. Because Jesus will later tell Jairus and his family not to say anything about what happens, but now he deliberately seeks out this woman, not respecting her privacy or her wishes, and he publicly exposes her. Why?
We can feel her vulnerability. No Jesus! This is not a safe space for her! And yet what she is about to find, is that it is the safest space she has ever been in in her troubled life.
She didn’t just need to have her health restored, she needed to have her dignity restored. She didn’t just need to be healed she needed to be reintegrated into the community.
This wasn’t just a case of Jesus giving her what the other doctors couldn’t- Jesus was able, in fact wanted, to give her so much more. Her need was not just physical healing; her physical condition had had emotional, social and spiritual consequences. She was an outcast, unclean. She didn’t just need to have her health restored, she needed to have her dignity restored. She didn’t just need to be healed she needed to be reintegrated into the community.
Above all, everyone else, the thrill seekers and paparazzi who were crushing Jesus, desperate for a sign or a miracle, needed to hear her story and to hear what could be achieved by the tiniest, little. microscopic, unthought-through, semi-superstitious faith, when it was placed in Jesus. They needed to see that it wasn’t the amount of faith that saved, but who the faith was placed in, and the sincerity of the heart that sought out Jesus. Because it was salvation.
They needed to see that it wasn’t the amount of faith that saved, but who the faith was placed in
Jesus could have used a more common word for healing, but in these stories he uses ‘saved’ (sozo), since Mark’s message is that Jesus came to do so much more than simply heal temporarily. In a story of two daughters Jesus says to this one “Daughter, your faith has saved you’ because it’s also about hope and peace and freedom. “Go in peace and be free from your sufferings and all that they brought you.”
Meanwhile Jairus’s daughter dies, and if Jesus had been any sort of registered doctor his delay in getting there, in order to treat a comparatively minor complaint, would be classified as the clearest case of medical malpractice you’re ever likely to see. However Jesus seems to be giving Jairus – and us – a bit of perspective here:
“You have a daughter, Jairus? – This woman is also a daughter.
You have a twelve year old? – This woman has been bleeding for your child’s entire lifetime.
You are a synagogue ruler? – With your contacts and power, you could find a way of talking to me anytime, this woman would be kept away from me because of her uncleanness, she was only able to breach the religious security checks because of the crowd, this was her last chance saloon.”
There are no major and minor ailments in Jesus’s eyes. The rulers and powerbrokers don’t get preferential treatment over the poor and anonymous.
There are no major and minor ailments in Jesus’s eyes. The rulers and powerbrokers don’t get preferential treatment over the poor and anonymous. He offers full and universal and free salvation. You can bow down before him or shyly touch his robe. Whichever it is, he can restore you, ensuring that you know that you are no longer anonymous, but ‘daughter’, ‘son’; you are no longer outcast, banished, far off, but brought near, one of the family; you are no longer unclean but saved.
Lord Jesus, if I find myself isolated or feeling abandoned, give me the faith to reach out and touch you, knowing that you will respond and seek me out and speak words of reassurance and acceptance. However weak or inadequate my faith, help me to know that you are more than strong, more than adequate to meet my needs. However unworthy I may feel of your attention, much less of your forgiveness, remind me that you came precisely so that my sins could be forgiven and that the unworthy could become worthy in your eyes. Save me and restore me, I pray. Amen