There is a wonderful story in the book of Luke. Many people in today’s world could identify with a woman who spent all her money on doctors without getting well. Here is Luke’s record of that day:
As [Jesus] went, the crowds pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down be3fore him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. “He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Luke 8:42-48 NRSV
When I read this story this morning, I was struck by a question: why didn’t Jesus simply keep moving? He knew the woman was well. She knew she was well. Why did he insist on speaking with her?
Jesus did a lot of things that shocked the people of his day. He frequently spoke with women as if they had the same value as men, and that certainly shocked them. However, I don’t believe that he did any of those things for the sheer shock value. I don’t think he singled out this woman because of any social agenda.
I believe he forced this woman to come near and talk with him, because Jesus wanted her to understand that it was her relationship with him that healed her. Her faith touched him as my faith touches him today. It reached out and claimed what his presence promised.
Jesus knew people very well. He knew that she had received her healing the instant she touched the fringe of his clothing. He knew that when she told people what had happened, that detail would stand out, and many people would be tempted to wonder if they could produce a miracle, too, if they only had a little bit of the fringe from Jesus’ clothing. He wanted to prevent the woman and all the people who might ever hear her story from thinking that this was some magic trick that anybody could perform if only he had some of that fringe. Jesus didn’t want people fighting to get near enough to trim off pieces of his clothing. Jesus did not want people reacting to him the way people today react to the arrival of a rock star.
Jesus also knew that miracles like this have a way of stopping time in someone’s life. Since the story makes it clear that she had been sick for a long time, most of the people in the crowd probably knew about her illness. If she suddenly became well, and it was all due to touching Jesus’ fringe, she herself might become a junior celebrity, introduced as the woman who was magically cured by Jesus’ fringe. She could become like a forty-year-old man I once knew who had nothing to talk about except a speech contest he won his junior year in high school. Jesus came to make people’s lives rich and fulfilled, and he did not want her life to stop in that dusty street with her fingertip on his fringes.
Jesus wanted this woman, and everyone else, to know that her healing came through faith in God. Jesus was God in the flesh, not a passing stage show. This healing was a response to faith in God, the God she saw in Jesus. His response to her faith and her act of faith was relationship. Jesus wanted this miracle to be like the miracle of birth. When a baby is born, we all gather round and admire the baby. We are excited by this tiny little creature whose arrival is a new miracle of life. But if the baby never grows at all, it is a tragedy. The new world record for the smallest man in the world is a man who never grew any more after a few months. Jesus did not want this woman to be stunted that way.
Jesus was on his way to important business when a sick woman touched him in the middle of a crowd of people. Even to notice her was an interruption, but for Jesus, the relationship was more important than staying on schedule. He took the time to speak with her and to bless her and to nourish the faith that acted with both fear and determination. Jesus wanted to nourish that relationship. It is a lesson for us all.