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Underquoting Jesus

Jairus & JesusBart Erhman wrote a book entitled, Misquoting Jesus. And many indeed do. But a larger problem is that we under-quote Jesus. That is, we take a little piece and run. Some of our favorites are: love your neighbor, the truth shall set you free, let the little children come to me, love your enemies and many, many more. But the teaching of Jesus demanded much more than pithy quotes.

In Mark’s gospel he tells us of a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She tried everything, spent all her money, but only grew worse. She was in tough shape. But she heard about Jesus. What did she hear? We’re not told, but clearly everyone was talking about his miracles and the crowds swarmed him. So she thought should could grab a little piece of Jesus and head for the hills.

Here’s the text from Mark:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him [Jesus]. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She 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. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

This woman did what many try to do with Jesus – touch and run. No need to dig deeper. Just give me what “I” want and I’ll be on my way. It’s the same thing with Jesus’ teachings. We want to take what we like and ignore, or in some cases, throw out, the rest. But the historical teachings of Jesus show us that he rejects this kind of loose connection. We have much deeper needs and Jesus knows it. If we come to Jesus he wants to give us the whole enchilada.

In the story, Jesus calls her out. She came and fell at his feet and told him the whole story. Jesus makes it crystal and publicly clear that it was her faith – as weak as it was – that healed her. Why did he do this? She needed the freedom that Jesus was offering when he called her “Daughter.” As Tim Keller points out, she came to him for a healing, but was challenged with a deep faith upon which to build her life.

The same is true of Jairus, the synagogue leader, who came to Jesus for a fever cure for his daughter. As Jesus was still chatting with the woman, we’re told that Jairus’ daughter died. Without missing a beat, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Jairus, who had a decent faith, was being driven deeper. He asked for a fever cure. He got a resurrection plus a deeper faith and understanding of who Jesus is.

Jesus wants everything from us. Not because he needs it. But because we do.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson


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  1. Matt Millard says:

    “Jesus wants everything from us. Not because he needs it. But because we do.”

    Ted, if you were more famous I would cut this out and put it on my wall. :^) This is powerfully true, and a great reminder to give all that I am to God today, and everyday.

    Thanks for the reminder!

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