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04-07-2013 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

What’s the biggest crowd you’ve ever been caught in? Maybe it was going through the turnstiles at the state fair. Or maybe it was coming out of the Dome after a Vikings game. Maybe it was crowding into a New York subway. Or maybe it was in a political rally at the DECC or the state capitol.

If you’ve ever been in a situation like that, you know how crazy things can get in a large crowd. You get bumped, pushed, shoved along. It’s like you’re caught in a wave, caught in swirling currents of people. Sometimes you’re pushed where you didn’t want to go. Sometimes you have to inch your way along because so many are blocking your way. Sometimes you have to detour around others going the opposite direction or standing in a line for a hot dog or just stopping to talk.

Mark describes a scene something like that…

Mark 5:24-34

24…A large crowd followed and pressed around him.
25And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’

32But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

    Today is the last in a series of messages we’ve called “Crazy Talk.” Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at the Gospel of Mark — at several events from the life of Jesus. We’ve seen how Jesus often said things that just didn’t make sense to people. He said things that seemed extreme — over the top, unreasonable, “crazy talk.”
What he did and said just didn’t fit in with what seemed “normal.” They thought he was out of touch with the real world. Even his family said at one point, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).
As we’ve considered the extreme things Jesus said and did, however, we’ve begun to see that this so-called “crazy” Jesus is exactly what is needed by a world that’s messed up and out of whack. A crazy world needs more than typical, standard answers. We need something that is radically different, maybe even “crazy” by ordinary standards.
Well, Jesus is the answer. Sure, he had a knack for upsetting people. And he kept pushing the envelope — challenging the status quo. You can go back on the church website to hear several examples of these times.

In today’s story, we see the disciples arguing with Jesus about what he said. They were confused. Amazed. They thought he was being ridiculous when he said, “Who touched me?”

We don’t know specifically how large this crowd was, but we know there were times when there were up to 5,000 men in the crowd around Jesus — not counting women and children (Mark 6:44). Another time, the crowd was jammed so tightly that several men could not get through the crowd with their paralyzed friend (Mark 2:2-4). Another time it was so packed that a short Zacchaeus couldn’t see over the crowd and climbed a tree so he could catch a glimpse of Jesus (Luke 19:1-10).

It was almost like Jesus had “rock star” status — all sorts of “fans” wanted to get close to him. Some were learners, committed to spiritual growth. But they weren’t all dedicated followers. Some were merely curious, wanting to see what he was like. Others were critics, hoping to catch him in some faux pas. There were all kinds of people around him, for all kinds of reasons. Nowadays there would be autograph hounds or paparazzi in the mix.

So it was in this crowd — a lot of pushing and shoving, jostling and bumping. Mark says the crowd “pressed” around him. Some versions say “thronged”; the Amplified adds that it was so crowded “so as to almost suffocate him.”

With all that jostling and bumping in the crowd, it caught the disciples off guard when Jesus stopped and turned around and said, “Who touched me?” What a crazy thing to say! Why would he ask such a ridiculous thing? Why would he be so concerned about someone touching him? Of course, someone had touched him! Dozens, probably hundreds had touched him!

It also felt strange to them that he would stop what he was doing — an urgent, pressing matter. He was on his way to the house of Jairus, an important man in the community — a synagogue ruler, a respected man. His 12-year-old daughter was at the point of death, and he had asked Jesus to come heal her.

No wonder the crowd was pushing and shoving. They all wanted a front-row seat for the miracle they all hoped to see. The disciples may have thought, This is an emergency. Come on, Jesus. Now is not the time to worry about people getting too pushy. Just brush them aside and let’s get on with it! A girl is dying.

But in the midst of all the jostling and elbowing, there was a desperate woman. She wasn’t important like Jairus. She didn’t have the prestige and respect he did. She was an unknown, anonymous face in the crowd. In fact, she wanted to remain anonymous. She didn’t want people to notice her, especially when you considered all the problems she had:

  • She was sick. She had been sick for 12 years with a bleeding issue, a humiliating woman’s disease. She was likely anemic and weak from a slow but constant flow of blood.
  • She was poor. She had spent everything she had going from one doctor to another over the years trying to find a cure for her disease.
  • She was ostracized. She shouldn’t even have been out in public. Lev 15:25-27 in the OT says that a woman with a “discharge” of blood was unclean — like the law for a woman’s monthly period. Anyone who merely touched her — or her bed, or anything she sat on — also became unclean.
  • She was in rebellion. She hoped to touch Jesus, knowing full well that the Law said anyone who touched her in her condition would become unclean. But she didn’t care anymore. She was desperate and willing to break the Law and take a chance that no one would find out.

When other people came to Jesus, they tried to get his attention. Once a blind man sat begging by the side of the road. When he heard Jesus was passing by, he began to shout and making a ruckus, hoping Jesus would stop and heal him (Mark 10:46-48). Some told him to shut up, but “he shouted all the more.”

But not this woman. She didn’t come shouting, trying to catch Jesus’ attention. She didn’t come like Jairus, the synagogue ruler, falling before Jesus at his feet and asking for a favor.

This woman didn’t want any attention. She just wanted to sneak in, quickly, and then get out. She hoped to get close enough to Jesus — without being noticed — so she could do the unthinkable. She was an unclean, sick, poor, ostracized woman daring to break the Law and touch a holy man.

The amazing thing is that she managed to work her way through the shoving, jostling crowd. This sick, emaciated woman somehow had the determination and chutzpah to push and shove until she was close enough. Then, with her heart pounding, she stretched her hand out, reaching between a couple of men, and she touched the one of the tassels on corner of his outer robe (Num 15:38-40). She touched him.

Immediately, she felt something deep within her body — a warm, healing surge of strength. She felt the flow of blood stop, right then and there. She had touched him, and that touch had connected with his healing power.

Now to get away…to make her escape before anyone would notice. But as she turned to go, he also turned, and she heard his voice, “Who touched me?”

Oh no! Surely he couldn’t have felt her touch! It was so quick, so light, so secret. She didn’t even touch him, just his cloak. Even his disciples were arguing with him. “What are you talking about, Jesus? You can’t be serious! Why are you asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens of people are touching you. They’re pressing in from every side.”

Luke tells us that Jesus explained to his disciples, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” (8:46). Mark says that “she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering”; and then Mark says that Jesus “realized that power had gone out from him.”

Both words (felt, realized) in the original Greek come from the same root — ginōskō: “to come to know, recognize, perceive” and epiginōskō (which has greater intensity): to recognize; to know exactly, to become fully acquainted with, to acknowledge.”

He knew! He had felt what she felt — an exchange of power. She felt power surge into and through her body to heal; he felt the power go out from him.

She glanced up quickly, hoping he would let it go. But he had been looking through the crowd, scanning the crowd from one person to the next, and in that moment, his eyes met hers.

Her secret was out. He knew. And now she would be humiliated and shamed in front of the whole crowd. She could even be punished because she, an unclean, sinful woman had dared to touch this holy, righteous man. It was just wrong — on so many levels. She would be judged because she had come in secret and stolen his power without asking.

But now that the secret was out, there was nothing left that she could do. She fell at his feet in a heap of emotions, “trembling with fear” Mark says, because she didn’t want to be condemned or punished or humiliated. She had only wanted to be healed.

Sobbing, she told him the whole truth. She spilled it out — all of it. In front of everyone. The twelve years of suffering. The doctors who couldn’t help. How she’d only gotten worse. Her money all spent. How she had hoped only to touch his clothes. How she only hoped to be healed.

Whatever those in the crowd might have thought about her story, Jesus didn’t condemn. He didn’t judge. He spoke kindly, with love and grace. He called her daughter. “Daughter. Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Many, even his disciples, thought Jesus was crazy to ask who had touched him. But Jesus knew what he was talking about.

A lot of people had “touched” him that day, but only one had really touched him. Only one in that crowd had faith enough to touch him and be healed.

Maybe you can put yourself in that woman’s place. Maybe you’ve felt what she felt. Maybe you know what it’s like to feel pushed aside, ostracized by more respectable people, by influential people.

Maybe you’ve suffered from a sickness — some physical disease, maybe not. Perhaps you’ve suffered from a spiritual sickness: Damaged emotions. Painful memories. A dysfunctional family. Grief and loss. Some terrible Injustice. Disappointment. Abuse.

Maybe you have suffered in silence. But the pain has taken its toll. Maybe you haven’t spent everything  you had on doctors, but you’ve paid a terrible price, just the same. You’re exhausted. Totally spent. You’ve borne the brunt of anger and scorn. It’s cost you your peace of mind, maybe your health, maybe your family or your relationships. Your dreams. Your future.

Maybe you have felt unclean, unworthy. Maybe you’ve begun to believe the accusing words, the lies and the condemnation: It’s your own fault. This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t have caused it. All lies from the enemy.

If you have felt pushed aside, stripped of your dignity… if you have felt unclean, unworthy… if you have suffered from dysfunctional abuse… if you are exhausted and spent…

It’s time to push through the crowd. Past all the chaos and confusion in your life. Past all the stuff that gets in the way. Your own fears. Your doubts. Circumstances and people who demand your attention.

It’s time to push through the crowd and the distractions. It’s time to stretch out your hand. It’s time to reach out in faith. It’s time to touch Jesus.

The sweetest words you could hear might well be, “Who touched me?” Because in that moment, there is an exchange of power. We all need his strength, but he has more than enough power to give to us all.

Jesus reassured this woman. In one moment — in one touch — he undid the damage of the previous 12 years. He affirmed her. He encouraged her. “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Will you believe? Will you have faith? Will you by faith reach out and touch Jesus?