We can see the miraculous touch of Jesus on display throughout the gospel. How an encounter with him would change everything — in an instant. Lepers, blind men, the bleeding woman, they were completely transformed by a touch. John described Jesus like this:
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
— John 1:4
It’s made very clear who Jesus is in the first chapter of John: He is “the Word,” “the true light,” “the only Son,” and he is God. But John also reminds us in verse 4 that, in addition to all these things, his very essence is life. So it should come as no shock that, when people came in contact with Jesus, they received life. He is the source! His entire time on earth was a picture of life overcoming death, light chasing out darkness. This is what John is alluding to. So it makes sense that the woman tugging on his cloak (Mark 5:27) would receive healing out of the overflow of that essence. She had faith in Jesus’ ability to give life, and that’s exactly what he did.
Now look at another short passage in the gospels, one of my favorites:
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
Not only does this passage give us a beautiful picture of faith and how to receive the kingdom of God, but it gives a glimpse of Jesus’ heart.
The disciples saw all these people shoving their little children toward Jesus as a major nuisance. Frankly, the whole idea of Jesus touching them seemed insignificant. They’re babies and toddlers; they’re just kids! But Jesus scolded his companions. “Do not hinder them,” he commanded, for there are none too small for Jesus to make time for. His heart, our Creator’s heart, is to touch those that the world, even the very religious, might consider insignificant. Isn’t that wonderful?
There have been many times in my life that I’ve found myself thinking, “God, I’m a lost cause.” Or “why would you waste your time on someone like me? I’m just going to mess up again.” Have you ever thought something like that? But I thank the Lord that he doesn’t look at it like that. He is the spring of abundant grace. And, just like those little children (who the disciples thought were a waste of time) or the unclean woman desperately reaching out for Jesus, we too can receive life, if we will simply ask — with the faith of a child.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there…
— Mark 5: 24
Satchel Paige was a great pitcher. However, being a black pitcher back in the 1940s, he did not get to pitch in the major leagues until he was over 40 years old.
After he made it to the major leagues, a reporter asked him for his thoughts on how to become a great pitcher. Paige answered with a famous quote when he said, “Well, I think about 90% of success is just showing up.”
Paige understood that the first step to being a successful pitcher was making sure to show up every day to work out, participate and improve. The days that he showed up and worked hard on fields that had empty stands eventually led to him pitching very successfully in major-league ballparks.
That truth is not only found in baseball. It is true in many other arenas of our lives.
Sunday we heard about a woman who was healed. The first step towards her healing was that she showed up. She heard Jesus was passing through her town. She decided she had to be there to see Jesus. This woman brought some other great qualities with her as well. She showed courage and a boldness to reach out and touch him. She had wisdom to know that her needs could be met only through him. It was not easy for her. The crowd was large. They were not interested in this “unclean” person. But her passion and faith was greater than the crowd and distractions. And she was healed.
Some good lessons can be learned from this woman. For one thing, she showed up. As a child of God, before we can be blessed by a Bible study, a worship service or the fellowship of Christian friends, we have to show up. We have to be there to participate. It is good to check from time to time on how consistently we are putting ourselves in positions to be blessed and to hear from our God.
“…90% of success is just showing up.”
— Satchel Paige
Touch is important from the moment we’re born. I can remember vividly the first time my (now) husband held my hand. There was something so special about that moment, all the butterflies and mushy stuff. Even now, physical touch is such an important aspect in marriage. It is a nonverbal communication that signifies what another person means to you.
Mark 5:21–34 tells the story of a woman who had a “discharge of blood” that she had dealt with for 12 years. She had spent all of her money on physicians and burdened so much shame being considered “unclean” under the Mosaic law. This woman desired to be part of society again. She was desperate, having been shunned for 12 years of her life and cut off from everyday normal activity due to this ailment. Under the Mosaic Law, everything she owned and touched was also considered unclean, so you can imagine that people probably avoided being around her altogether. She was not only suffering physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.
Imagine her excitement when she heard that the Healer was coming to her town. She didn’t care about the crowd, she pushed her way through. She thought, “If I could just touch even his garments, I will be healed.” Upon touching his cloak, she could physically feel her body being healed as the blood dried up.
Even though this woman thought that she would be reprimanded for touching Jesus due to her uncleanliness, she knew that simply brushing his cloak would heal her body. You know that there had to be hundreds of people around Jesus all hoping to catch a glimpse of him, yet Mark doesn’t say that everyone was healed of their sicknesses upon accidentally bumping into him. Only this woman, who purposefully sought him out and purposefully touched him, was healed. When Jesus felt his power leave him, he asked who it was that had touched him. It is interesting that he does this, because God, being all-knowing, knew who it was. He just wanted everyone else to know that this woman’s faith in him was what had healed her.
This woman sought Jesus out desperately, and Jesus turned around to face her. When was the last time you intentionally pursued Jesus because you were desperate for him to do what you knew he could do?
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
— Psalm 34:17–19
Faith makes God move. Have you noticed? Have you seen your faith move God? Don’t get me wrong, God does not need our faith to make things happen, but we see all over Scripture that God often moves in response to the faith that we display.
On Sunday, in Mark 5 we saw two different people whose faith motivated them to seek Jesus out and demand his attention, both convinced that he was their only answer. The first, a synagogue official named Jairus, actually told Jesus that he believed that Jesus’ hands were the thing that would heal his daughter who was on her death bed. The second was a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. It is easy to understand her desperation. 12 years is a long time, and if I had been plagued that long, I would’ve been willing to try almost anything to find relief. Here is what they had in common: they both saw Jesus as their answer, and they both were willing to do whatever it took to get within his proximity, confident of his healing ability.
Jesus did not need these people to fight through crowds to receive their healing. He could have done it from anywhere, with or without their knowledge, but he loved their faith. I can imagine the gleam in his eye after the woman touched his robe and he began to inquire about who had touched him. We can hear the audacious tone of the disciples as they are like, “Jesus, you’re in a crowd. At least a hundred people have touched you.” I wonder if his face looked stoney as he said no and began to make eye contact with the woman. Or was he compassionate as he looked deep into her and declared her well? Did he get a kick out of himself as he decided to just allow her one touch of his robes to provide her with the healing she so desperately wanted? And what about poor Jairus as this was happening? Was he impatiently huffing, trying to get Jesus’s attention in a subtle way until his friends came to say that his daughter was gone and that he could leave Jesus alone? Did he look at Jesus with fearful eyes that asked if it really was too late? Did his faith remain intact as he ignored his friend and took a step toward Jesus? I imagine Jesus chuckling as he said he was still coming over to have a look at her, knowing that everyone was in for quite a surprise.
Jesus was moved by these people, by their desperation, by their desire for him and he responded to their faith. In fact, he gave them exactly what they were asking for. So here is what I am asking myself, and maybe you will find yourself asking the same thing: What am I desperate for? What is the thing that I am confident that only Jesus can be the answer for? And what changes do I need to make in my heart and life so that I can faithfully pursue Jesus until he answers me? Jairus and the woman literally tracked Jesus down, potentially stalker-style, to hear these words, “your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”
From the time I am writing this, it was exactly one week ago that I asked my girlfriend to marry me. It was an evening that we will never forget. Even though she didn’t know when it was going to happen, we had talked about marriage plenty before I popped the question. In other words, I knew the answer to the question before I even asked it.
And yet I was still a little nervous.
It wasn’t that I was afraid of what she was going to say — I was pretty confident she would say yes. Instead, my nervousness derived from the realization that the question I was about to ask her is one of the biggest questions I will ever ask anyone. Ever. Period.
Those four little words, “Will you marry me?” sum up so much.
They say, “I love you, and will choose to love you and no one else this way for the rest of my life.” They say, “I will selflessly provide for you, protect you, and serve you the way Christ did for the Church.” They say, “Regardless of our feelings, our health, and our circumstances, my devotion to you will be unconditional.”
So it wasn’t that I was afraid of the answer, but rather that the question itself packed so much possibility, responsibility and permanence. It wasn’t the content of the question, it was the size of the question that made me nervous.
I fear that, so often, this is what keeps us from praying bold, valiant, lionhearted prayers to a God who can answer them with ease. A God who is gracious and generous with his kindness and blessings. A God who has power and wisdom that will always be beyond anything our imaginations can fathom.
But, should the size of the request be something that is too big for our God? Should the hopes and dreams that we have be curbed by our reluctance to ask God because our request seems too big, too unlikely, or too audacious?
This is the same God that has the power to create an entire universe from nothing and preserve it in being. The same God that has kept every promise he has ever made to every one of us. The same God that sent his own son to live a life we could not live and die a death we should have died, so that he could adopt us as children in his family. For eternity.
So let’s pray prayers that demonstrate the awesome power and love of our God. He assures us that our prayers are heard (Micah 7:7), that our prayers make a difference (James 5:16), that he will do more than we can fathom or expect (Ephesians 3:20–21), and to do this because he commanded us to do so (Ephesians 6:18).
We pray big prayers because any request, no matter how large and impossible it seems, will be child’s play for a God of infinite power, love and generosity.
What is that one, lionhearted prayer you have been reluctant to come to God with? Now is the time.