6-23-15 - Stealing a Healing

This Sunday’s gospel story is a tale with many twists and turns. It begins with Jesus returning by boat from across the Sea of Galilee, to be greeted by multitudes. Jairus, a leader of a synagogue, gets through the crowd and falls at Jesus’ feet, begging him to come to his house and heal his daughter, who lays dying. Jesus agrees – and the whole crowd follows along, pressing in on Jesus and his followers.

In this crowd is another person in desperate need of healing, but where Jairus could be public about his request, this woman cannot let anyone know. For one thing, she is a woman, a person of little or no status in that culture. For another, she suffers perpetual bleeding. This not only makes her ill; it renders her ritually unclean – if anyone were to touch her they too would be made unclean and thus unable to go to the temple until they’d been cleansed.

So she sets out to “steal a healing,” going low in the crowd, making her way closer and closer to Jesus’ side, so she can just touch the hem of his cloak as he goes past.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’

This seems to be a woman of deep faith – or did she, like many of us, turn to the Healer only when conventional methods failed her? Twelve years of medical treatment with no improvement – that can still happen to people today. And yet many are willing to try procedures with only a 10 percent rate of success. But rely on prayer? That’s way too risky!

I love the way this woman, like Jairus, is determined to get what she needs, and how much she believes in Jesus’ power to heal her. I think of her as a base runner stealing third, trying to get to her goal undetected. Her faith is so strong she knows that the merest touch of his clothes will give her access to the power that heals. And her faith is rewarded – she feels the healing in her body at the instant of her act of faith. She knows, without a doubt, that healing is hers.

When have you or I last prayed with such faith about something that mattered deeply to us? It can feel risky because we are not surrounded by a culture in which such acts of faith are considered normal or rational. But in communities that do uphold healing, that actively invite the power of the Spirit into those who are ill in body, mind or spirit, it is a wholly acceptable, faith-building practice.

We don’t need to steal healing – it has been freely offered to us, a healing stream of living water always flowing in us and around us, into which we can step at will, in faith, in fear, in trust, in doubt. We don’t always see the fullness of the healing we desire in this life. Yet we see a lot more when we do what this woman did – just reach out and take hold.

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