Lent Reflections @ CEC: Questions of Jesus
“The self-denial involved in the period of Lent isn’t about just giving up chocolates or beer; it’s about trying to give up a certain set of pictures of God which are burned into our own selfish wants.”
— Rowan Williams
Scripture: Luke 8:42-48
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
Who touched me? – Luke 8:45
Her hand on my shoulder, she prayed for me. I know the power of this touch. My dear college pastor’s wife met with me weekly for a stretch that last year, fed me baked beans and weenies, listened to me, and prayed for me. Wound-up, anxious, perfectionist sort—I was heading for finals, graduation, and my own wedding that spring. Not least, I was grateful for this mentoring as one who finally figured out just how much I need tangible, immediate spiritual support and living experience of God’s love. I will never forget my relief as stress and agitation flowed out of me when this woman touched me and prayed for me.
So I do get just how powerful the particular touch to Jesus’ cloak is in these verses, coming from a woman in desperate need. Twelve years she’d had this “flow” or hemorrhage. It meant that like a leper she was labeled unclean in Jewish society, could not participate in family life and worship those long lonely years. Perhaps it was also grounds for divorce. Anyone or anything who touched her—or which she touched—was also unclean. A good doctor, the writer Luke understands how she had “suffered many things at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse” (KJV). She is desperate when she pushes through the crowd to touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. In response, his “power has gone out” to heal her.
There’s a lot to take in here. First, it’s one of many stories in Luke’s gospel about women. I’m glad it’s during Women’s History Month we’re looking at one of perhaps 14 records of women here. Most are real people (his mother Mary, his aunt Elizabeth, and this woman). Some are central to Jesus’ parables (a woman hunting for lost a coin). This account shows up as a break in Jesus’ trip to heal the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader—showing his compassion for an impoverished outcast woman as well as for a little girl beloved by a powerful man in Jewish religious culture. Jesus loves women and girls. He loves everyone low and everyone high.
Second, there’s touch and then there’s touch. The street is crammed with people (think of pushing your way out on the last day of school). “Who touched me?” To Jesus’ disciples this is a dumb question. He’s probably had dozens of people jostle him on the way to Jairus’ house. One thing I learned as a junior high, high school, and college teacher is that a fist or elbow bump may be a good safe way to make friendly contact with students. We’ve all been practicing it during Covid. This woman’s touch is neither of these. Her longing, hope, desperation—and his divine power—make this touch miraculous and healing, life-changing.
Next, if her pursuit of Jesus’ touch draws her to his feet, then it’s the power of his compassion that gives this woman strength to speak up “in the presence of all the people” to tell them her story. Jesus certainly already knows what’s happened. She needs to put it into words, and the people need to hear it.
Finally, I don’t really know how to read “Your faith has healed you.” It’s God’s power in Jesus that miraculously changes her body and life. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus marvels at the faith of a non-Jewish centurion who knows Jesus’ power goes everywhere. St. Paul explains in Eph. 2:8, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith.” Perhaps faith is our human longing, hope, and desperate realization of our need for Jesus. This kind of faith opens the door for him to come into our lives. “Lo, I stand at the door and knock,” the Spirit writes to us in Revelations 3:20. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and in and eat with them and they with me.”
Who touched Jesus? The answer should be—all of us. He loves us more than we can imagine. We need him more than we know. He responds with power beyond words. God’s power in Jesus waits at the door to come into us, to change us, and to overflow from us. Will we reach out to him?
Enable us to feel to the core our need for your touch. Give us strength to push through our crowded lives to come to you. As we reach for you, touch us Jesus with your power, so that we can know you and live a full, committed life of faith in you.