Remember the “don’t step on a crack, break your mother’s back” superstition we all picked up in childhood? Or the dread of a black cat crossing our path? Those types of superstitions are everywhere. As Stevie Wonder reminds us, 13-month-old babies, broken looking glass, seven years of bad luck…etc. Jesus wipes out superstition with a few well-timed words.
Today, we can usually shake off these childhood superstitions, but other, more deceptive ones have taken deep root. They’re subtle. Things like: if I do this good thing, perhaps my chances are better that I’ll get what I want. Or, if I don’t shave, somehow my chances will be better at some victory. It’s all a vicious cycle of trying to control our destiny because we’re, quite literally, scared to death of more things than we’d care to admit. It’s from this prison, we can see the freedom offered by Jesus.
I’ll use the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years who touched Jesus’ clothes while he was walking through a large crowd. I’ll lean heavily on Tim Keller to help us put this in perspective
As he often did, Jesus was on his way to help someone who was dying. In this case, it was a dying little girl. Here’s what we’re told in Mark:
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.
What’s interesting in this story is that you’d think “saving the little girl” would be Jesus’ primary goal. It was certainly the poor father’s. But what does Jesus do? Half way there he stops the procession and says, “Hey, who the heck touched me?”
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 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.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
As Keller notes in his book King’s Cross, you can only imagine what the father and his students must have been thinking. Something like: “Dude, what the heck is your problem. We’ve got a dying little girl on our hands and you’re worried about someone touching you?”
Yes – yes he was. And here’s Jesus’ well-timed words:
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
This poor woman was thinking “if I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Jesus had much grander plans for her. Jesus isn’t interested in superstition. He didn’t want folks to just grab a piece of God and run off on their own. No, he wants to consume us whole – to completely transform us into the people we were meant to be. Jesus was saying, I know you wanted this little thing, but your faith gets you the whole package – welcome to the kingdom of God.
After only what must have seemed like hours to the poor dad of the dying little girl, we find out his daughter is dead. Jesus’ response:
Don’t be afraid; just believe.
The Way of Jesus is not superstition, or good deeds to become a better person. It’s freedom. Or as many like to put it, salvation.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson