Who Touched Me?
June 28, 2015
“Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30)
[Jesus] “said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34)
In the middle of responding to one crisis, and surrounded by the crowds, Jesus is confronted with another crisis. A woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years touches the hem of Jesus' garment. Healing energy flows, such that Jesus notices, stops, and asks, "Who touched my clothes?"
Let’s think for just a moment the obstacles that separated this woman from Jesus.
· There was a large crowd following Jesus.
· Jesus was busy; He was occupied in a matter of life and death for a leader of the synagogue.
· There was the issue of gender diversity. Jesus was a man; she was not. In Jewish culture, that fact alone should have been enough to keep distance between them.
· She was hemorrhaging. That meant two things:
o She was sick and tired. We know today what they did not know about the role that blood plays in life. To be hemorrhaging for twelve years is almost beyond comprehension.
o Her bleeding made her ritually unclean under the law. You can read in Leviticus 15 the strict codes that restricted the lives of women. They could not be touched, their clothing could not be touched, the cushions on which they sat could not be touched—not until the eighth day after they had stopped bleeding and the women were required to deliver two turtle doves or two pigeons to the priest, who would “offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering … to make atonement on her behalf before the Lord for her bodily discharge.” (Leviticus 15:30).
There were lots of things separating her from Jesus and from His healing touch.
Hemorrhaging can be literal; but there are lots of ways to bleed to death. The past couple of weeks have been tough. We have seen tragedies—as local as a father and grandfather, who had survived military service overseas and had been recovering from PTSD, being snuffed out in an automobile accident. As tragic as a Bible Study being invaded by a young man filled with hatred, and leaving nine bodies plus his own soul in the rubble. And then we see values that we have cherished being called into question by Supreme Court decisions. We get upset, and we look to sources outside ourselves as the problem. We point fingers, whether literally, verbally, or just in our heads. And we wonder, where is God in all this?
But the hemorrhaging in our world can be found not only in the front-page headlines that grab our attention. Hemorrhaging can be found in a story on the inside pages of today’s New York Times, in a story about a 24 year-old girl named Alex, a baby sitter, Presbyterian Sunday School teacher, living with her grandparents in the middle of nowhere, still suffering from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, which has left her with trembling hands, a persistent lack of maturity and poor judgment. All of which has left her lonely, and turning to on-line friends she had never known as a source of friendship. Alex suffers from bleeding of a more quiet sort. I am discovering that people like Alex are all around us.
So the woman reaches out to touch Jesus. To her amazement, something happens.
In the Gospel story, the woman was part of a crowd. Don’t you think that the crowd must have been filled with broken people? People who suffered from countless illnesses—both physical and emotional? I don’t think their brokenness stopped there. I suspect that the crowd was filled with people who were suffering from broken relationships--from guilt, from anxiety about decisions to be made, from worry about the direction their world, their government, their religious leaders, and their culture were heading. Among all of these, one woman determined to reach out and touch Jesus, to seek His healing.
Maybe some of the others thought that their problems were too small for Jesus. Perhaps they failed to recognize how seemingly little problems can quickly escalate into huge ones.
Quaker pastor and spiritual writer Philip Gulley wrote a book on Living the Quaker Way. Gulley speaks about a creek near his home that swells with water each spring—sometimes so much that it sweeps away large sycamore trees that line the banks of the creek. One day, Gulley travelled upstream to examine the source of the creek—situated on a farm five miles to the north. What gives rise to that creek that undermines and topples sycamore trees? A tiny, insignificant culvert. It doesn’t look like much; but under certain conditions, it gives birth to a torrent that wreaks havoc.
Gulley writes that “every war ever fought, every tyrannical government ever to rule, every system of oppression ever devised, every clash between neighbors, every divorce, and every schism has had as its source the slightest trickle of a broken soul … What must be healed is the hateful thought, the intolerant rhetoric, the laws that demean.”
But the woman was healed. Her hemorrhaging stopped. We actually see a couple different words used here. The NIV translation that we have in our pews says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” There is cure from the physical condition, but there also is freedom. Sometimes freedom comes as a result of a cure; sometimes we discover freedom in the midst of illness—freedom of spirit, enabling us to sing, despite our external circumstances, that “It is well with my soul.”
Our Gospel Lesson affirms to us the truth that God’s healing power surrounds us and is always accessible and available to us. Maybe not always in the way would like to receive it; but it is there nonetheless.
But God’s healing grace is not just some fuzzy idea that is “out there” like gravity or magnetic force. God’s healing force is something that God experiences, just as we do.
In our Gospel Lesson, we read that when the woman touched Jesus, “at once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30). When we reach out to touch Jesus, He notices. Not just in a literal, seeing way; but the faith connection is something that both we and Jesus notice and experience. What does it mean to you when you realize that Jesus experiences what is going on in our lives?
This week, we have had a lot to talk about in the news. There is a lot of distraction in our world. In the middle of all the noise and clamor, I need to connect with Jesus!
Healing doesn’t always come in the way that I want it. Healing doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus will change our exterior circumstances, although He might. Jesus’ way of healing doesn’t necessarily mean that He will cure our physical illnesses, although He might. His way of healing doesn’t necessarily mean that today or tomorrow or even next week, He will change everyone else who is causing our problems, although He might. The healing that Jesus offers us this morning is a healing of the human heart, healing the fear and brokenness that we suffer inside because of the broken world around us and in us.
We need that kind of healing today. Is there anyone here who is suffering from a broken heart that needs healing? I invite you to reach out to Jesus this morning to touch the hem of his garment. How do we do this? We touch Jesus by reaching out in prayer—connecting with Him by faith. Not looking for magic; just looking to connect with His love and His grace, knowing that Jesus has promised us that He is even more anxious to reach out to us than we are to touch Him!
Some people find it helpful to reach out as part of the community. We will give you an opportunity, if you desire, to come forward while we sing our Hymn of Response, receive anointing with oil and pray with me. As we pray together, I ask that the entire congregation lift you up in prayer, as well. You can continue your prayer at the altar rail and return to your seat as you are ready.
The oil is not a magic potion; its power comes as a symbol of God’s healing grace, grace which is available to all.
Jesus said to the woman, “your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (v. 34). He offers the same to each of us today. Won’t you reach out in faith, touch him, and be healed?
 Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia on the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.
 jSee Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS and the Lonely Young American,” viewed on the Internet on June 28, 2015 at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/world/americas/isis-online-recruiting-american.html?emc=edit_th_20150628&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=53645499&_r=0.
 Philip Gulley, Living the Quaker Way (New York: Random House, 2013), 85.
 Horatios Spafford, “It Is Well with My Soul,” in The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), 377.