Jesus shows up, and a crowd swarms all over the guy. Talk about paparazzi. No matter what era in history or what culture, people swarm to something that is happening, especially if it has to do with some connection with God.
Our third story of hopelessness and helplessness. He fell at Jesus feet, pleading with him to come to his house. This is something I have experienced. So many times I have been on my face and my knees, feeling so helpless and hopeless, just pleading with Jesus to help me. I know this desperation, humility, and recognition that I have nowhere else to turn.
“…because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.” The agony. I so vividly remember the night we got a phone call that our son was in a hospital in Boston having had a debilitating stroke and they didn’t know if he was going to live. While I was on the phone with doctors and friends over the next several hours, Denise was in the living room sobbing her eyes out in grief and despair. I will never forget what she and I were feeling. This man’s brains, status, religion, knowledge, and money couldn’t help him in the face of death. Before, in Luke 7, it was a centurion. But here it is a faithful Jew—a leader in the synagogue, even, but it doesn’t matter. We all stand helpless.
“…the crowds almost crushed him.” When interposing into the plot comes the second story of hopelessness and helplessness. “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.” NO ONE COULD HEAL HER. It’s the story of our son even now. Hopeless, helpless despair. Why do you think people swarmed around Jesus so? Because for years all their prayers had gone unanswered and they were not healed.
She approached him sheepishly, no doubt fearing that he’d turn her away, just like so many others had done for 12 long, excruciatingly painful years. It wasn’t her fault that she had this unwelcome ailment. Despite the press of the crowds, she slowly worked her way toward Jesus to get up close and person enough to touch him. Knowing that this man held in his hands power, a power on which no doctor could call, she touched the hem of his garment.
For 12 years this woman had been treated as an outcast of her society. According to Old Testament law, her flow of blood rendered her ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15.25-27). And as such, any woman in her condition could have no contact with her parents, husband, children, extended family, friends, or neighbors. She couldn’t go to the synagogue for worship. She would be utterly cut off from society, shunned by all who knew her just as if she’d been a leper. She was cut off from all human contact. She was financially impoverished after spending all she had on doctors in a fruitless search for a cure (Lk. 8.43). This was a woman of broken dreams and dashed hopes, devastated by disappointment at how her life had turned out. She told herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well,” and reached out her empty hand.
“…and touched the edge of his cloak.” Jesus is powerful even at the fringe. What Jesus does is no parlor trick. Even at the edge, and without his knowledge, there is healing power. It was immediate and complete—no matter, no matter what, He has absolute power. “And immediately her bleeding stopped.”
“ ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’ ” Not everyone who touches Jesus gets power. Many say, “Lord, Lord,” but don’t know him. The wheat and the tares will grow together until the end of history, and no one but the gardener can tell the difference.
Why doesn’t the power work for everyone? People were pressing all around him. Just like the crowd—a lot of it is incidental or meaningless contact, like the crowds of John 6. But Jesus can tell when a contact is real, and for power.
“But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ ” Jesus has some sensation of power, whether physical or spiritual. This power wasn’t just a glow around him, but a specific entity that was “on” or “off.” The power was controlled and purposeful. God is all-powerful, but his use of that power is a choice. It’s not like his love or holiness in that sense.
“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet.” There were many reasons to hide. She was a woman, she was unclean, and she was a “loser.” She could easily have been afraid of rebuke, or rejection, or of punishment, either by the people or Jesus. But then it becomes suddenly public, and in the presence of the crowd she spills out her story and her shame. But people will do anything if there is a spark of hope.
“Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’ ” Anyone else would have condemned her for defiling the person she touched, but not Jesus. He called her “daughter,” a tender term of loving acceptance, music to the ears of one who for 12 years had been ostracized by all. He not only have her health, he gave her life back to her.