A religious man is on top of a roof during a great flood. A man comes by in a boat and says “get in, get in!” The religious man replies, “No, I have faith in God, he will grant me a miracle.”
Later the water is up to his waist and another boat comes by and the guy tells him to get in again. He responds that he has faith that his miracle is coming. With the water chin high, a helicopter throws down a ladder and they tell him to get in. But he again turns it down telling them he has faith in God. And then he drowns.
He arrives in heaven and says to Peter, “I thought God would grant me a miracle and save me from the flood.” St. Peter chuckles and responds, “I don’t know what you’re complaining about, we sent you two boats and a helicopter.”
We know there have been studies that show that people of faith and people who pray appear to heal faster and live happier and more fulfilling lives. Perhaps you know someone who has that super positive attitude toward life, and you see how far that’s taken her or him. A positive attitude can do wonders for a person, and in order to accomplish anything, you have to believe it’s possible and go for it.
Or you know someone else who is just the opposite, who can has such a tough time seeing or saying anything is right or good or going well. Their negative attitude has brought them only misery.
It’s so easy to get bogged down amid the troubles today and what seems like the negative of tomorrow. If it weren’t for faith, where would we be?
Faith is flexibility. Faith is believing no matter what comes you’re not powerless to meet it. Faith is the capacity to suck the joy out of life’s little lamb chops of blessings! How is that for an image?! Faith is looking at the small, sweet stuff and bringing it up close enough to your eye so that it blots out the other stuff you normally focus on.
Faith is a woman who finds a light at the end of the tunnel of her life and makes sure no matter what, no matter who, she is going to reach it.
All four Gospels affirm that women played a special part in Jesus’ life. It was noted particularly in Luke’s Gospel. Luke records episodes not found in the other Gospel accounts. He introduces Elizabeth, the prophetess Anna,
the widow of Naim, the women who ministered unto Jesus, the woman who was bent over, and the weeping women of Jerusalem.
Luke preserved two special parables involving women: the housewife who lost a drachma and the tenacious widow. Women also mentioned in the other Gospels, receive special focus with Luke: Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, and the poor widow who offered two coins in the temple. Jesus’ relationship to women is an outspoken theme of this Gospel.
And then there is the woman we met today.
What I like so much about this story is how even though she is absolutely at the end of her rope, she doesn’t give up. And even more wonderful to me in this story is that Jesus gives her all the credit for doing what seems almost impossible anymore—to be made well and whole again.
The woman who seeks out Jesus has been living a medical/physical nightmare. She has, according to our text, suffered twelve long years of unremitting blood flow, what the King James Version translated as an issue of blood. The New Revised Standard Version translates as hemorrhages. Are we supposed to understand it was a menstrual issue? Probably, but not necessarily so.
That condition would have left her chronically anemic, so that each day of her life would have felt like she was climbing a bone-crushing mountain of insurmountable fatigue. The text stipulates that her condition had been made worse by the physicians she had consulted. Since there was virtually no knowledge of internal medicine in the ancient world, much less gynecology, we can only imagine the suffering she endured in seeking a cure for her illness.
In the Old Testament’s Holiness Code, menstrual blood is a source of temporary uncleanness for a woman. Because of her condition, this woman was, for all intents and purposes, rendered permanently unclean. Of course, this was not necessarily a moral judgment on the woman, but because any physical contact with a woman during her period would also make the other person unclean, she was basically socially untouchable. Through no fault of her own, she was barred from Israel’s worshipping community and excluded from her place in the Temple fellowship.
She was in a word, drained. Completely drained, physically, financially, and of course socially and religiously.
Have you ever felt totally drained? Usually when we encounter problems in our lives we do not fall so far as to fall into being completely drained. But sometimes we do.
The bleeding woman had suffered for twelve years. Twelve years is the length of time from when your child starts school and then is ready to go off to college. A lifetime of memories can happen in twelve years.
When our daughter Courtney was about 14 years old, she came into the kitchen one afternoon and said, “Dad, I’m going to go to the movies and go eat lunch with my friend and her mom. I need money.” I said, “Okay there’s a $20 bill on my dresser. Why don’t you get that?” She gave me a hug, thanked me and headed toward the front door. I said, “Wait a minute. Aren’t you going to go get the money?” She smiled and said, “I already got it. I knew you’d say yes.”
As a father, that made me feel good. That warmed my heart to know that she knew I wanted to be good to her. She felt so loved that she would go in and take it knowing I would say yes.
Notice how the woman in our story went to the correct source for help. In what direction are you headed right now? Are you moving towards the Lord or away from help? Look at your life honestly today. Take an inventory of your daily activities. What does your mind and heart dwell on throughout the day? Where will this lead if it continues? We need to realize our own situation.
The women in our story couldn’t help but notice it. She was drained and now desperate. And she was very discontent. But she had faith! Faith can often mean something as basic as heading in the right direction versus the wrong direction.
Some people can be drained and continue on the same path. They would rather be miserable than changed.
So often we are quick to run to something to help soften the feelings of discomfort. We may run to the mall and buy out the store. We may open the freezer and eat a gallon of ice cream. We may run to the Television to shut down our minds and hearts. We may run to the internet and search for images. We may buy alcohol and drink again, or drugs and use again. We may get into a fight again with our loved ones, or just go nowhere and retreat.
This woman however had faith, a faith as simple and important as a courageous refusal to believe her fate was sealed, that pain, isolation, and
loneliness were the cards God had dealt her and that she had better get used to it. Her faith would not let her believe that God had put her here on earth to drain away.
And according to Jesus, that faith was enough to save her and bring her to a new way of being alive and well and whole in the grace of God.
Our story includes one of the seven times Jesus says this, “Your faith has made you well,” or “your faith has made you whole,” or “your faith has saved you.” The Greek verb sōzō can be translated in any of these ways.
Translators actually have to make a choice. The NAB chooses the spiritual translation, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.” The NRSV focuses on the physical healing, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Both are valid translations. So is the less frequently encountered choice in the New King James Version, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole.”
Jesus’ healings really are ways of making people whole: healing them physically, restoring them socially, encouraging them emotionally, and redirecting them spiritually.
Now without getting too grammatical or Greek on you, I want to point out that the tense of the verb, sozo, also tells us a lot. In all seven instances, the word is in the perfect tense, sesoken. Perfect tense means an action that occurred in the past, which has continuing effect in the present. In other words, the saving act was in the past, and its effect continues in the present.
Jesus wants us to notice that we took the faith step that enabled him to heal on us. Our faith enabled him to make us whole. Because once you made the decision, once you set your faith in motion, the good stuff, the healing, the help, the blessings, the new life, the power was going to occur for sure.
You see, God has already said, “I’m here.” The Lord has already tried to place you in the palm of his hand, tried to shepherd you to health, mercy, and strength. God has already given you approval and Christ has already done all the work necessary to make you whole and well.
There’s a story that in heaven there’s a huge warehouse. And when you get to heaven you will see it. St. Peter will take you there. You will walk in, and you’ll see acres and acres of boxes up on shelves. Everywhere you look as far as you can see there are rows and rows of boxes. On every individual box there’s a name. Out of curiosity you’ll ask St Peter what are all of these boxes. And St Peter will say these are all of the good things, all of the healing, all of God’s blessings people never claimed for themselves.
Don’t leave your boxes on the shelf. Let God pour them out on you. Push through the madness of your life and the rush of your doubts. Get more focused on getting healthy, whole, spiritually put back together. Find your strength in living a life God can bless and use to the utmost of your faith. Don’t let what has been be the only way life is going to be for you.
Stop trying to find your health outside of yourself. You can’t run fast enough to catch up to it. It’s already yours. You won’t be given it by anyone else. You already are in possession of it.
Push through the crowd, claim the kingdom of God’s peace, strength, love, compassion, forgiveness for yourself. Turn to the one who has the love and the power and the grace to share with you what you’ve been looking for and needing. Accept the word of grace that confirms your faith.