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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, October 20, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 8:40–56

Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying. As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened. (NRSV)

The woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years tried as best she could to be unnoticed. She knew that what she was about to do—step out from the crowd and touch Jesus’ hem—was dangerous in so many ways. A bleeding woman was considered unclean—ritually impure. It was taboo for her to be in public, and especially taboo to have the nerve to touch a rabbi or his clothes. It was believed that whomever she touched would become ritually impure too. It was as though she had a communicable disease and could pass on terrible bacteria. She had been isolated for years, banned from the community. No one would dare touch her.

But at that one moment, the depth of her misery and suffering overrode any fear of breaking a rule. Or looking silly. Or becoming vulnerable. Or admitting she was in need. Or falling to her knees in prayer. Or taking the risk of asking for help. She was in such need, she didn’t even notice that her action would interrupt the important male religious leader who had just asked Jesus for help.

She reached out from the crowd and touched Jesus’ hem.

She’s the woman in scripture who reminds me to admit my deepest needs, to peek out from the crowded mess of my life to touch Jesus’ hem. She reminds me that the taboo of showing need in our society can’t keep me from reaching out to Jesus. She is a woman who has great need, but she also has great courage. She reminds me that showing and admitting need and asking Jesus for help, despite all sorts of taboos, is really a courageous and valiant act.

Great God, thank you for ancient stories that remind us of the need to reach out to you, to ask for help, to rely on your guidance for our lives. Thank you for showing us, through the actions of Jesus, that no matter who we are, no matter our station in life, you invite our reach and our touch and our faith. Give us courage to believe it. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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