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MIRACULOUS MOMENTS IN MARK: Woman In The Crowd: A Bloody Shame

Mark 5:24-34

Jesus was interrupted.

Nothing new. Jesus was always being interrupted. You could almost write an entire life’s story of Jesus using nothing more than the interruptions. People were forever breaking in on His public times, His meal times, His teaching times, His travel times, His preaching times, His private times, His prayer times, His rest times. Why even His dying moments on Calvary were interrupted by the cries of the repentant thief on the adjacent cross. Jesus was always being interrupted. Yet what I want us to understand today is that Jesus had a unique ability to transform interruptions into opportunities. Whenever life threw Jesus a curve, He always hit a homerun. Whenever life sidetracked Him, He managed to reveal the hand of God in it. This “Miraculous Moment in Mark” is a case in point.

Jesus was trying to make His way through the crowded streets of the city of Capernaum. Of course the streets were crowded because Jesus was there. People were pressing in upon Him, hoping to watch Him work one of His miracles, or failing that, hoping to catch some gem of wisdom which might fall from His lips. Then suddenly, Jesus was interrupted and the whole procession stopped. A woman – a sick and tired and timid woman – a woman in that crowd had reached out and touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment as He passed by. Jesus stopped, wheeled around and cried: “Who touched me?”

I want us to focus the laser beam of our attention upon this woman in the crowd. Mind you, she was a nobody. She was not even prominent enough to have her name mentioned in the Bible, and yet, in spite of that, she has earned a place in the hearts of Christians everywhere because of what happened the day she interrupted Jesus. Here is the way I like to express the meaning behind this miracle: This woman was a nobody whom Jesus made a somebody in a way so wonderful that I’d like to tell everybody. So let me do just that.

Notice, first of all, that this woman had an incurable illness.

In the days of Jesus, there was no condition more debilitating and more humiliating than what this woman endured. The Bible says that she had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered much and she had sought help from many doctors but all to no avail. She was no better, but rather, grew worse. Her condition left her weak, anemic, and chronically fatigued. But added to the physical depletion of the loss of blood, was the emotional depletion of living in shame. You see, because she was bleeding, she was considered unclean. She was an object of shame. She couldn’t have a normal marriage. She couldn’t have children. She couldn’t prepare a meal or wash the dishes or clean the clothes. She was not even allowed to go into the temple to pray and to worship God. Her life for all of those twelve years had been one long nightmare. Her condition was impure. Her body was impotent. Her situation was impossible. Her purse was impoverished. Her disease was incurable. She had reached the end of her rope.

It’s a terrible thing to have an incurable disease. You and I have known people thus afflicted and our hearts always break for them. Of course, it’s a fact that incurable diseases can afflict the soul as well as the body. All about us we see evidence of people in perfect physical health, spending great sums of money trying to cure the sickness in their souls. Some of them spend $100 an hour on a psychiatrist’s couch. Some of them surround themselves with all kinds of grown-up toys. Some of them take extended journeys traveling about the world. Some of them dive into a bottle trying to find some solace for their disease. Some are constantly changing things – jobs, houses, friends, and even, God-forbid, marriage partners, hoping upon hope that each new change will somehow bring the happiness that eludes them. Deep down they remain discontented, disillusioned, depressed, disheartened. Physically, they are perfectly fine. Spiritually, they are incurably ill. Like the woman in the story, they are at the end of their rope. The tragedy is, of course, that they have never met the One known as the Great Physician. But, thankfully, the woman in this story did meet Him.

Notice next that this woman had heard reports of Jesus.

That’s what this passage in Mark says. She had heard reports about Jesus. Apparently in Capernaum they were talking about Jesus. Reports were circulating about the town. Reports about the four men who lowered their sick friend down through the roof and into the presence of Jesus. Reports about Matthew, the hated tax collector, who had been so transformed by the Savior that he had actually signed on as a disciple. Reports about the man with the withered limb whom Jesus had healed. Those reports were being spread around town. People were excited about Jesus. We can understand that, can’t we? I mean, when we encounter something in life that’s exciting, that’s thrilling, that fills us with joy, the very first thing we want to do is to talk about it. That’s what was happening in Capernaum.

So let me ask…do people hear you talking about Jesus? Are you engaged in spreading reports about Him? Remember that we as Christians are not called to be the reservoirs of God’s grace, storing it up and holding it. Rather, we are to be rivers of God’s grace carrying that grace out to parched people and parched places in life. Not long ago, a man said to me that he felt that Christians were too aggressive in presenting Jesus to others. Well, if he meant by that that some Christians lack grace or sensitivity, even common decency in presenting Jesus to others, well, then he may have a point. But if, on the other hand, he meant that Christians ought to think twice before mentioning the name of Jesus at every possible opportunity and in every conceivable situation – if that’s what he meant – then he’s wrong; dead wrong. I want to tell you what is true and I want you to carry this truth in your heart. There is no situation, no circumstance which you will ever encounter in life where it would be wrong to mention the name of Jesus. There is no person you could engage in conversation at any time, anywhere for whom it would be a bad thing to hear the Savior’s name. The manner does matter, yes. Make no mistake about that. This woman in the crowd was not pushed. She was not pressured. It says that she had heard reports. And on the strength of what she heard, she decided to approach Jesus. And there, in the midst of the crowd, she very tentatively reached out and touched the edge of His clothing. That was all it was – just a touch. But that was enough. It says “The woman was healed.” After that, no further argument is required.

One thing more. Notice that this woman mattered to Jesus.

It is quite clear that Jesus focused His entire concern upon her. Here He was moving through that crowd – people all around Him-pushing and shoving and jostling to stay close to Him and suddenly He stops and cries: “Who touched me?” The disciples said: “Lord you must be kidding. Look at all these people. How can we tell who touched you?” At that point this woman stepped forward and told Jesus what had happened. You know that Jesus could easily have said to her: “Lady, don’t you see that there are a lot of people around me? There are a lot of needs to be met; a lot of problems to be solved; a lot of things that need to be done. You’re just going to have to take your place in line.” Jesus could have said that, but He didn’t. Yes, she was just one of many, that’s true. Just one. But in that moment, Jesus gave all of Himself to her. He loved her as if she were the only one in all the world to love. That’s what St. Augustin said about Jesus: “He loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.” What a beautiful thought.

The great violinist, Jan Kubelik, was scheduled to play a concert in the Queen’s Hall in London. The concert had been sold out for months. There was a struggling young violinist in London. Her name was Evelyn Bell. Kubelik was her idol. She longed to be able to hear him play. She tried to get a ticket to the concert, but to no avail. The afternoon before the concert, she went to Kubelik’s hotel, hoping that the great violinist himself might have access to a ticket which she could purchase. He had no tickets. At the point of tears, she said: “Well, then, I shall never get to hear you play.” The great master then said: “O, but my dear, yes you will. Please sit down.” And with that, the greatest violinist put the instrument in his hand and proceeded to play through the entire concert for an audience of one. Evelyn Bell never forgot that, just as I’m sure this woman in Capernaum never forgot the day that Jesus interrupted a whole parade to play the melody of healing just for her. She mattered to Jesus.

By the way, Jesus said to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Daughter. Do you know that this is the only time in Scripture that Jesus ever called anyone by that beautiful term of endearment. “Daughter”, he said, “Your faith has made you well.” She was a nobody whom Jesus made a somebody and how I wish everybody could see that. She mattered to Jesus.

Did you ever stop to think that Jesus loves you just like that? He loves you as if you were the only one in all the world to love. You matter to Jesus, just like this woman in the crowd mattered.

Let me be personal at this point. My beloved professor, James Stewart of Scotland, used to say: “Every sermon well preached will cause you to die a little.” There is truth in that. You see what makes a sermon a sermon is the anointing touch of the Spirit of God and when the Spirit touches it He sets it on fire and when He sets it on fire it burns something down inside of you. Take to the pulpit in the grip of that Spirit and let your passion for Christ burn within you and gradually it will use you up. But it is worth it – more than worth it, believe me. I know. I know what it is to pour yourself out with all of the passion you possess in the hope that the people to whom you speak might come to experience the reality of Christ in their lives. I know what it is to expend yourself to the point of exhaustion in the hope that there will be some so touched by the power of Christ in these moments that for as long as they live they shall never forget this day in this sanctuary. How can I convince you except to stand up here and pour everything I have and everything I am into the act of preaching. More than anything else in all the world I want you to know that you matter to Jesus. More than anything else in all the world I want you to know that He loves you – every single one of you – He loves you as if you were the only person in all the world to love. And no matter what it costs, I’m going to keep taking to this pulpit. I’m going to keep telling you about Jesus. I’m going to keep calling you to commit your life to Him. I’m going to keep reminding you of the meaning behind this miracle: Jesus loves you and Jesus will always love you. And Jesus will never stop loving you. Jesus loves you as if you were the only one in all the world to love.

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