Thursday, June 11, 2009

When Push Comes to Shove

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

                        Luke 8.45

Too Many People, Too Little Time

Most every year, Walt and I try to be in Paris for the summer solstice, when the city hosts its magnificent fête de la musique, a dusk-to-dawn revel of dancing and music. It’s basically a do-it-yourself festival. If you can play an instrument, you find an open spot and go for it while the city reserves its famous landmarks for famous performers. One year Lenny Kravitz played at La place de la République and we wandered over for a look. Crowds (mostly American kids) jammed the square and streets around it. When he took the stage, the crowd surged with such force it lifted us off the ground, wringing us into a human riptide. “We gotta get out of here,” Walt shouted. “I’m not ready to die for Lenny Kravitz.” Somehow we broke free, vowing we’d never again put ourselves in similar danger.

All the same, I relive that experience every time I read about the hemorrhaging woman. She’s suffered for 12 years and spent her savings on doctors to no avail. She’s ashen, frail, and riddled with pain. News that Jesus is in town brings unexpected hope, driving her to muster what courage and strength she has left to get to Him. By the time she finds Him, according to Luke 8.42, the crowd is so dense it almost crushes Him. Most people in her condition would turn back in dismay, thinking there are too many people and too little time for Jesus to get to them. A lot of us would look at the hordes pressing Him and see a deathtrap. Not this lady. She’s come too far to turn back. Jesus is her only hope and she intends to reach Him—or die trying. She pushes her way through. Though she never gets close enough to be seen, she manages to reach out to Him. As the crowd surges and sways, she lunges forward and—for a glint of a second—grabs His cloak. Jesus instantly stops to ask, “Who touched me?”

Touching Jesus

Plainly, something serious just happened and nobody’s sure what Jesus means. Everyone in proximity denies jostling Him. Finally, Peter suggests, “Master, the whole crowd is brushing and pressing against You.” This is different, Jesus says. “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” (Luke 8.46) The woman’s touch changed Jesus. Their contact wasn’t flesh-to-flesh, but spirit-to-spirit. This is serious, really serious. Someone’s taken power from Jesus without His consent. Everybody backs off. The woman realizes Jesus is talking about her. She falls at His feet, trembling as she confesses what drove her to touch Him and reporting she was healed the instant her hand grazed His garment. Jesus says what He habitually tells everyone who’s healed in His presence. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (v48)

The King James Version translates Hebrews 4.15 thusly: “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” implying our suffering does in fact touch Jesus, our High Priest. The Hebrews writer goes on to say, like us, He’s completely familiar with human vulnerability and weakness. He feels our pain. And the hemorrhaging woman’s miracle teaches us touching Jesus is how we feel His power.

Plunge, Then Lunge

We can’t look at the crowds and turn back, thinking there are too many people pressing Jesus and too little time to receive what we need. We plunge, then lunge. The crowd may not welcome us. They may even pull more tightly together, citing Old Testament edicts to keep us out. The hemorrhaging woman sure isn’t welcome to join the crowd. According to Leviticus 15.25-27, she’s a health risk: “When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days other than her monthly period… she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge… Whoever touches [anything she’s touched] will be unclean.” Yet she ignores the Law to plunge into the crowd and then audaciously lunges toward Christ, knowing if she touches Him, He too will be unclean. That’s why she hesitates to identify herself. Her background convinces her she’s unworthy, untouchable, guilty. It pushes her so far from the crowd she has no choice but shove her way through it.

Instead of drawing Christ’s scorn, her touch draws His power and immediate attention. Twelve years of hearing she’s incurably sick and beyond human help vanish the instant she reaches Jesus. Notice, Jesus never touches her—not because He’s worried about breaking the Law, but because she’s already touched Him. Her faith heals her. When push comes to shove, we can’t permit others to push us aside for fear we’ll pollute them. Our need for Christ is bigger than outmoded laws and uninformed paranoia. It’s time to shove. In Matthew 11.12, Jesus says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” The kingdom is advancing. A Force is at work. We can’t wait for current crowds to figure out what’s happening and catch up. We need Jesus now and if we have to force our way into the crowd to reach Him, now’s the time to do it.

We can’t allow crowds to intimidate us. We need to touch Jesus now.

(Tomorrow: Rock Talk)

Note: Two online Bible studies are happening THIS WEEK—one of them TONIGHT at 8 PM CDT. Click on the link at the top of the right column to find out more.

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