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Matthew 9:18-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48

In this study, we find Jesus on his way to pray for the daughter of a synagogue ruler called Jairus. He had prostrated himself before Jesus and begged Him for help, saying that his daughter was dying but would Jesus come and lay hands on her so that she would be healed and restored to life. (Mark 5:23) This very urgent request does not stop Jesus responding to another need. Since women were not considered as important as men, others may have found it strange that Jesus would consider the plight of this woman over and above the task that He was going to do. This must have been tough for Jairus because it looked as if Jesus didn’t understand his own desperate need and the requirement to be quick!

How often do we respond in a frantic waylike this? We have prayed and others seem to be getting answers, but it looks as if Jesus has forgotten about us. The enemy whispers, "He doesn’t care" and we're tempted to believe him. Jesus stops to deal with the woman but, even as He finished speaking to her, some servants arrive to give Jairus the dreaded news: "Your daughter is dead!" Jesus steps over to give Jairus the most fantastic word of encouragement: "Don’t be afraid; just believe". (Mark 5:36) When we think that Jesus is taking too long to respond to us, we need to take these words for ourselves. We need to hold on, repeat the promise we've been given, praise Him for it and trust that He is on the case! God wants to use all situations for our good and His glory.

A lonely woman

Once again, we are introduced to a woman with no name. She is known to us only because of her medical condition: she was suffering from continual bleeding. None of us like to have a personal problem shouted from the rooftops, but a problem like this was particularly shameful in those days. The poor woman would have been unable to mix socially with others because she would have been seen as being ritually "unclean" by all who knew her. The law of Moses stated very clearly that any "bodily discharge" made a person unclean. This included women during their menstrual period. (Leviticus 15:19-33) According to the law, women were not allowed to touch anyone or anything while they were considered unclean, because whatever they touched also became unclean. It meant that this woman would not have been allowed to share in the annual worship celebrations that were considered so important in Judaism. She would not have been allowed to go into the temple courts; she could not light the candles for the Sabbath evening, nor could she participate in the Passover meal. She would have been an outcast in her own world and the gospel writers tell us that this had gone on for twelve years.

What a life! No life at all really! Little or no hope for her either! Were there any family members that she could turn to for support? Were there means for her to keep clean during this time? Where was she living? We don't know whether or not the woman was married but her condition would have made life almost impossible for a husband to show her affection. Any hugging, touching or sexual relations would be followed by a seven-day period of ritual uncleanness. (Leviticus 15:24) It was a situation over which the woman had little or no control. She must have felt totally alone and abandoned, having lost everyone and everything. Her body must have been so weak with constant bleeding. She must have felt as if she was just dragging herself around and that life was hardly worth living.

The last resort

For years, she had gone first to one doctor, then another but, all the time, not getting any better, only worse. She had spent all her money in the fruitless search for a cure for this terrible illness, this infirmity that plagued her constantly. It is a story of desperation where Jesus is her only and last hope. Women of today, who suffer with prolonged periods, have the option of having it surgically corrected and can also go to Jesus for healing. Sadly, it is common for people not to run to Jesus until they have tried all other help and exhausted all other options. For this woman, there were few other choices and, finding ourselves at the end of the road is a desperate place to be, but it's also just where Jesus loves to meet us!

We need to understand that God is always our hope when there seems to be no hope. He is able to meet all of our needs, even when we are in a seemingly impossible situation. This woman approached Jesus for healing as a last resort. She had heard about Him and knew His reputation as a healer. She determined in her heart that she would seek Him out, whatever it took, because she was sure that, "If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed". (Matthew 9:21) When she made it through the crowd, she reached out and touched the hem of His garment. She didn't want to physically touch either His sleeve or shoulder because she wanted to protect Him. No way would she have wanted to touch His body and so make Him unclean because that would have been very difficult for Jesus. By the time she had pushed and been shoved by the crowd, bearing in mind how weak she must have felt, she was probably already on the ground, so to reach His hem was more accessible. Perhaps she was also trying to protect herself from being seen, although she was desperate to be healed and maybe was just past caring who saw her.

For us, coming to Jesus doesn't have to be a last resort. We don't have to wait until we are desperate, having tried all the usual answers, consulted with family and friends, but still with no positive result. Why not make prayer our first response rather than the last resort? Why do we take so long to come to our heavenly Father to ask for His direction and help? Like the father of the boy who was possessed by an impure spirit, we believe, but we still need help with our unbelief! (Mark 9:17-24) Are we not yet convinced that God loves us unconditionally and we can have faith in His power to sort out our situation? Perhaps we can understand why He might answer the prayers of others but not ours. If this is our struggle, let's choose to meditate on some verses about God’s love and allow them to grow in our hearts. Then we shall call on Him in our trouble, not as a last resort, but as our first port of call. (Joshua 1:8-9; Psalm 37:3; Psalm 107:8-9; Hebrews 13:5-6)

Never give up!

"And immediately her flow of blood was dried up at the source, and [suddenly] she felt in her body that she was healed of her [distressing] ailment". (Mark 5:29 - Amplified Version) Imagine what that word "immediately" meant to her! But suddenly she had become the centre of attention. Jesus had somehow noticed what she had done and was asking, “Who touched me?” Would she answer Him or turn and run? His disciples thought that Jesus had momentarily lost it. There was Jesus at the centre of a great mass of people, all pressing in to hear Him and see what was going on and He wanted to know who had touched Him! But Jesus knew that the power of God had poured out of Him. Indeed, many people must have "touched" Him that day, but there was only one "touch of faith". He turned around and kept looking until He saw the woman - fearful, yet bold - who needed Him. All secret acts of sin but also secret acts of faith are known to the Lord, Jesus Christ. She needed to respond with great courage and strength, so she told her whole story. She knew that open confession is the only way with Jesus.

Once the woman had testified to everyone about her healing, Jesus added a blessing of wholeness for her: "Daughter, your faith [your trust and confidence in Me, springing from faith in God] has restored you to health. Go in [into] peace and be continually healed and freed from your [distressing bodily] disease." (Mark 5:34 - Amplified Version) What a beautiful way Jesus has of dealing with us and showing that He understands such a personal complaint. Jesus listened to her, then said, "Daughter". What a wonderful name of love and acceptance! He says the same over all of us today. The woman was restored physically, emotionally and spiritually. It remains Jesus' firm desire and will that His people should be comforted and He still has the power to command comfort to our troubled spirits and healing to our sick bodies. The more we simply depend on Him and expect great things from Him, the more we shall find ourselves being transformed into His likeness. If God has rescued us from any disastrous circumstances or from any sin, we should also share that story for the benefit of those around about us. Our lives are the only “Bible” that some of our friends and family will ever read.

Persistence and determination

This amazing woman has so much to teach us about how to walk in faith and never give up. She had confidence in her position as a daughter of Abraham – Jesus commended her for this. We, too, need to know our position: who we are in Jesus Christ. Confidence in ourselves is not what we need, but increasing confidence in Him. Then our faith will grow to depend on Jesus for all our needs. This unnamed woman was determined as she set out to go to Him and pushed her way through the crowd. She would not quit. There must have been moments when her thoughts were racing: "Who will see me? I can’t push through this crowd - I'm too weak! What if someone finds out what my problem is?"

She was committed to finding healing for her problem, whatever it cost. She must have heard of other miracles that Jesus had performed and now she focused totally on getting a good outcome, despite her desperation. We, too, need her levels of commitment and determination to keep going in the Christian life if we are to experience all that God has got for us to complete before He takes us home. There are so many obstacles for us today, just as there were for her: shame, guilt, doubt, condemnation, anger, depression. She battled with all of these and found victory when she met with Jesus. We can do the same. She had lost all she ever had but, because of her faithfulness and determination, God blessed her and gave her everything back. What is impossible at a human level is always possible with God.

Outcasts?

This woman also poses a very personal challenge today to our attitude to the outcasts or the "unclean" in our own society. Jesus states that "pride" is top of His list of deadly sins. It is a real abomination to Him. Do we have the same heart as God towards sin, or do we grade certain sins to be worse or even unforgiveable? We need to cry out to God for Him to: "create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me". (Psalm 51:10) We cannot afford to sacrifice our fellowship with the living God by judging one of His children, by looking at the lifestyle of others from our supposed moral high ground. (Matthew 7:3) Jesus' response to the woman in our study was not one of rebuke or correction; rather He comforts her and tells her that her faith has made her whole. He tells her to go in peace. She had put her faith in the person of Jesus. Later in Matthew's gospel, we read: "People brought all their sick to Him and begged Him to let the sick just touch the edge of His cloak, and all who touched Him were healed." (Matthew 14:35-36)

Can we honestly say that we have the same attitude as the people round Jesus? Are we so desperate for any in the street or any who come into church to meet Jesus, that we put aside their need to clean up their lifestyle or behaviour before we speak to them about the only one who can make them whole?


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