Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 16, 2001
Shortly before 9:00 a.m., last Tuesday, American Airlines flight 11, carrying 93 people crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Minutes later, United Airlines flight 175, carrying 65 people, crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. About one hour later the South Tower collapsed. About 30 minutes later the North Tower collapsed. Those images - along with pictures of the burning Pentagon and the impact crater in Pennsylvania - those pictures will remain permanently engraved on our minds.
Beyond the images are the emotions we feel. Thousands of innocent - ordinary people - like us - died.
Moments before 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Denise DeAngelis answered the phone at her home in West Hempstead, New York. The caller was her husband, Robert DeAngeles - calling from his office on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center, Tower Two.
“Denise,” he said. “Honey I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing!”
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Denise, they’re jumping out the windows. Go and turn on the T.V.”
In her living room, as Denise turned on the T.V., she saw the pictures we all have become too familiar with - smoke swirling around the first World Trade Center tower that had been hit minutes earlier.
“Denise,” Robert said, “three people right in front of me just jumped out of the window of that building.”
As Denise watched, she saw the second jet speed across the T.V. screen. She screamed into the phone, “Robert there’s another plane coming. Get out of the building. Get out of the building!”
Robert never answered. “I love you,” said Denise.
Denise is still waiting to hear from her husband. He’s not been confirmed dead. She beeps him every hour because she thinks it may help rescuers locate him.
It's very difficult to put into words - to sort through the emotions of this last week. To somehow express our feelings of simultaneous sorrow and outrage, concern and anger. In many ways we feel helpless - as if our security and innocence has been brutally taken from us. As a nation, this last week has been a week of mourning.
In the days ahead we will go forward with our lives. As we go forward - among many questions being asked is this, “Where does the healing come from? In coming together as a nation? Helping each other? Services expressing our common spirituality? In justice being served?”
That’s the question we’d like to consider - on this “Renewal Sunday.” In the midst of the emotions of these days - and of other circumstances in our lives where we’re looking for healing - for renewal - where does healing come from?
Please turn with me to Mark 5:25-34. As you’re turning I’d like to share the setting of what we’re about to look at together.
Jesus has come by boat to the western shore of the Sea of Galilee - back home. Jesus is at the height of His popularity. The size of the crowd is tremendous. People have come from north - south - east - west - to see and to hear Jesus. Perhaps even to see Him perform a miracle.
An official of the synagogue - Jarius - a man of privileged position - comes and falls before Jesus and begs Jesus to come and to save the life of his 12 year old daughter who’s dying. In Mark 5, Jesus is traveling to the home of this synagogue official to heal his daughter. The large crowd - Jesus’ fan club - is following along hoping to get a glimpse of Jesus in action.
Also in that crowd is a woman - a woman in great need of healing. Beginning in verse 25 we’re introduced to this woman and her condition. Mark 5:25: A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse
Notice three important things about this woman’s condition. First, this woman had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Literally, she had been experiencing her menstrual flow without interruption for 12 straight years. It is not hard to imagine that she was anemic and physically weak - debilitated by her physical sickness.
Second, she was an outcast. In Leviticus 15 there are specific laws given which speak about how to treat a woman who has a discharge of blood beyond her normal period of menstruation. This woman was considered ceremonially unclean - impure. As long as she was in this condition - and for 7 days afterward - she was to be considered unclean.
That meant that anyone or anything that came in contact with her was also considered unclean. She had to avoid her people. People - even her family - had to avoid her. She couldn’t approach the tabernacle - later the Temple - because she would defile it. So, she was prevented from being a part of the normal worship of her people. (Leviticus 15:25-30) For twelve years this woman had lived painfully separated - ostracized - held at a distance by her family - her community - her religion - treated like a unclean - sinful - outcast.
Third, this woman, “had endured much at the hands of many physicians.” In the Talmud - the Jewish commentary on the Old Testament - there are at least 11 different cures offered for this woman’s condition - lotions - potions - and concoctions based in superstition and the inferior medical knowledge of the day. This woman had spent all of her money on these “cures” and - its not surprising - she was actually worse off because of them.
What condition would we find ourselves - physically - spiritually - emotionally - if we had to continue on this way - without hope of healing - for 12 long years? Imagine, in this crowd following Jesus is this impoverished woman - diseased - distanced - and desperate.
Verse 27: after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
In desperation this woman pushes her way through a crowd of people - that by her very touch are now unclean - she reaches out and defiles Jesus with her touch - and yet, she is physically healed.
Verse 29: Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.
Remember - at the moment Jesus was touched by this woman - Jesus was on His way to the home of Jarius - a life and death mission to heal Jarius’ daughter. The disciples are focused on the crowds - the important official - the expected healing of the daughter. The crowd - Jesus’ fan club - is partying as they move to Jarius’ house. Each one is distracted by their own reasons for being there. Everyone is distracted except Jesus.
Sensing what’s happened, Jesus immediately stops - in the midst of this great crowd - and looks around for the woman who had touched Him. This woman was going to slip back into the crowd - anonymous. No one would ever have known what she had done. But now the whole procession has stopped and Jesus is looking for her. Imagine her fear.
Jesus once told a parable about a shepherd who had lost one of his sheep. Do you remember this? The shepherd leaves his 99 other sheep and goes and finds the one lost sheep. Jesus told the parable to illustrate God’s love for each one of us. (Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7)
When Jesus stops and searches for this woman He’s not looking for her out of anger - to expose this unclean woman to the ridicule of the crowd. When Jesus asks, “Who touched Me?” He’s giving her an invitation. She’s already been healed physically. Jesus could have left it at that. But there’s a need here that goes deeper than any physical healing.
Jesus gives an invitation to come and be healed inwardly - spiritually - of her deepest inward need - to know His love and the complete healing that He offers to each one of us.
Verse 33: but the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.
You can almost see her there in the crowd - eyes fixed on Jesus. Only she and Jesus know what has happened. As their eyes meet each other she senses His love and concern for her. As the crowd steps back - perhaps forming a space around Jesus - she steps forward into that space and falls at His feet. Before the scrutiny of that entire crowd - she pours out her story - it all comes out at the feet of Jesus - 12 years of emptiness - hopeless suffering - woundedness.
Verse 34: And He - Jesus - said to her, “Daughter - what tenderness - the only time in Scripture Jesus addresses someone that way - daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”
Unfortunately the completeness of this woman’s healing - the scope of what Jesus says to her - gets lost in our English translation. Its important for us to realize just how completely Jesus has healed her.
In the original Greek, the word translated here as “well” goes way beyond the scope of physical healing to encompass eternal spiritual salvation - salvation from her sins - healing of her relationship with God. The word “peace” is the same word Jesus used to describe the peace that can only come from God - a deep - lasting - inner peace. Not the kind of temporary peace that we see in the world around us. (John 14:27) The word “healed” speaks of restoration - wholeness. It’s a word used to describe Jesus’ resurrected body. (Acts 4:10) “Afflictions” is the same word which describes when Jesus was scourged - having His back ripped open by a whip. (John 19:1) What this woman has been healed from is that severe. The healing is that complete.
Jesus says to this woman: “When I called and you responded in trust, you were made more than physically well - you’ve been made spiritually well for eternity. Go and live within this new inner peace and from what has been ripping your soul apart be made completely whole.”
In sorting through my feelings this past week and trying to put this passage in perspective for us today, there are two thoughts of application that I’d like to share.
First: The healing we need comes only from Jesus.
The religious and cultural and medical understandings of the day had miserably failed this poor woman. Whatever answers she had longed for - for 12 years she’d been left longing. Until the day she met Jesus.
There are many places that we’re often tempted to turn for healing. Some of them are helpful. But, the healing we need is not found in spiritual leaders or religious activities and traditions. It's not found in being a part of a church. It's not found in philosophy. Not in patriotism. Psychology is limited in how it can help us. Doctors can promote healing in our bodies, but they cannot heal our soul. The healing we need is not found in the latest fads of meditation and exercise and diet.
What we need is Jesus. He’s the only one who can give us wholeness and peace and healing - what we long for deep within.
Second: Consider these words of Jesus, “Who touched Me?” as a personal invitation to you. How will you answer Jesus invitation to you?
In the last few days its been tremendous to watch this nation come before God in prayer. In many ways this tragedy has brought us face to face with our own need to reach out and to touch God. We’ve been broken. But, being broken is not brokenness. Renewal - healing - comes when we’re open to God working in our lives on His terms and not ours.
Like the woman who wanted to slip into the crowd - touch Jesus - and slip out again with her healing - we’re tempted to slip into God’s presence and slip out again. It's possible to come Sunday after Sunday to church - to be a part of this congregation - this crowd - and to experience God’s presence - even to live within His blessing by living according to Christian precepts and God’s commands. But we can completely miss what Jesus wants to do in our lives because we’re content to just touch His clothing - coming on our own terms to touch the surface of what He can do in our lives.
The saving act of faith here is not that this woman reached out and touched Jesus’ clothing. What saves her is her response to Jesus’ invitation - when nothing else mattered to her but Jesus - not the scrutiny of the crowd and their opinion - not the culture and traditions of her people - not even her own fears. It was the condition of her heart that brought her to her knees before Jesus - complete broken openness before Him. That faith is saving faith. That faith open us up to Jesus’ healing in our lives.
There’s a difference between being a part of a crowd and being broken and on our knees before the Lord and Savior. If we desire His complete healing in our lives - when Jesus asks, “Who touched Me?” - when He invites us to come - the big issue for each of us - the decision we need to make is are we willing to let go of our self-protectiveness - our control of our relationship with God - and trust Him with everything we are.