In Luke chapter 8 the writer tells the story of a woman who had an illness that caused her to bleed; she had been sick for twelve years. This was not simply an issue of her physical health. Her bleeding made her ceremonially unclean in the eyes of her community. Anything–or anyone–she came in contact with would share her uncleanness.
Can you imagine her loneliness?
Can you imagine not being able to give or receive any physical contact?
A pat on the back.
Can you imagine eating every meal alone?
No wonder she desperately pushed through the crowd–at great personal risk–to come in contact with Jesus. And when she does, he senses it…and asks ‘Who touched me?’
In his devotional, Lent for Everyone [Luke, Year C], N.T. Wright takes a section of Luke’s gospel each day and offers a brief commentary/meditation on what is happening in the story as we march toward Resurrection Sunday. I love what he says about this story in particular:
“So the woman comes and confesses. She had been afraid because, with her ailment, she was ‘unclean’, and she must have known that by pushing through the crowd like that she’d make everyone she’d touched ‘unclean’ as well. Particularly Jesus. But with Jesus it didn’t work like that. Here’s the thing…By ordinary rules, we should make him unclean, pressing upon him with our messy and muddled lives. But when we come to him in faith, it works the other way. His power makes us clean again. That’s near the very heart of the gospel.”
Now, that’s good news!
Too often the message Christians send out is more like this:
‘We are the good, holy, accepted, loved ones. The rest of you need to straighten up and be like us!’
As if we could straighten ourselves out!
The good news isn’t that when we try to be better, then and only then, will God love us, accept us, and forgive us.
The good news is that right now, in the shape we are presently in, we are already loved, accepted, and forgiven.
Is it possible that we are getting in the way of people who are trying to find Jesus? Are our rules, our dogmas, our insistence that they do it ‘our way’ creating more obstacles?
Jesus is compelling. He’s good. He’s the way to life.
And we need to be celebrating that, not putting up a barbed-wire fence around him.