The Miracle Maker and the Passion of Remaining Desperate

mountainsIn Mark 5:25-34, Mark tells the story of the woman who suffered from the issue of bleeding for 12 years. I don’t think he does this woman’s story justice. I’m not saying his words weren’t God-breathed or infallible. I’m just saying if I told the story I’d schedule an interview with the woman, find out her life story, write an article, and sell it to the Jerusalem Chronicle. Of course, 10% would go to the local tabernacle and another 10% to the disciples’ ministry fund.

It’s not every day a woman with a 12 year long history of hemmorhaging is instantaneously healed. At least not today. Perhaps miracles were so commonplace wherever Jesus went that Mark only told the story as an aside rather than as a feature article. But if I wrote an article about the healing of this woman, it might go something like this:

One evening, the family of a woman who suffered from internal bleeding wrapped her resting body in a burlap sack, laid her over a donkey, and travelled by night through the desert. Their priest said her sickness indicated demon possession. Her family couldn’t risk her demon infecting others, so they journeyed to the River Jordan. They laid her resting body by a Palm Tree, prayed over her, and then left her in the cool of  the night.

For the next several years, she went from city to city begging for food, making sure not to stay long enough for people to discover her hemorrhaging and judge her demon possessed. After more than 10 years, she found solace in a cave outside of a town. She hid in the cave, so the town’s people wouldn’t drive her away.

Early in the morning, before the sun rose, while merchants set up, she went into town and stole food. Before sunrise, she disappeared and went back to the cave. She started out traveling into town every few days, but soon she could only find the strength to go once a week. Two outcasts, who dwelt in a nearby cave, said they would bring food to her if she would guarding their cave from animals and wash their clothes.

One morning, when they returned, they told her they saw Jesus of Nazareth and His disciples walking toward the town. The hemorrhaging woman wanted to go see the man some called “The Miracle Maker,” but she couldn’t travel that far in the hot sun. Only one of her companions could go with her, so they wouldn’t leave the caves unattended. But just one of them couldn’t carry her across the desert. She could only see Jesus of Nazareth if she managed the strength to cross the desert alone.

That morning, risking her health, she walked across the desert. Many times, fainting only to wake and realize the trail of blood she left attracted beasts of the fields and birds of prey. Using her staff, she managed to beat off the Hyenas, Vultures, and other animals that tried to feed on her. Thinking about all of the anger festering within her from years of feeling unwanted by her family and those who claimed to be the righteous of God, she wept tears stained with blood.

By the time she got to the town, she had lost so much blood that she collapsed from exhaustion. The trail of blood, once no thicker than a snail’s trail, now looked like a crimson carpet rolled out for Kings. She pulled her body with her weakened arms. Grains of sand entered her bloodstream, causing the pain from the intense heat of the sun to become unbearable.

Almost unable to move, trying to scream out for Jesus,  the din of the crowd and shouts from those who saw her and yelled, “Leave us, Devil woman!” drowned out her bloodied gasps. A group of men tried to carry her back to the desert, but they could not stand the putrid smell of her decaying body long enough to get within 20 Cubits of her.

Somehow, well into the afternoon, while Jesus taught outside of the synagogue, she managed to find enough strength to crawl through the crowd. That morning, before she left, her companions told her if she could not manage to reach Jesus she might die in the streets. Knowing the risks of death from the loss of blood, she answered “If only I can touch His garment, I will be healed.”

Saying those words from the moment she left her cave until this moment, she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. He looked up and said, “Who touched me?” Fearing the crowd might drive her away because she interrupted Jesus’ teaching, she tried to hide from His wandering gaze. Aware of the overwhelming stench, the crowd looked around for the source of the odd odor. Realizing the source of the putrid aroma, the crowd began to back away from her. Two shepherds covered their faces with their headdresses and dragged the woman’s blood stained, almost lifeless body to the foot of Jesus.

Laying there, in the dusty street, fearful of His response, the woman buried her face between her outstretched arms. Jesus, ignoring the stench, knelt, lifted her head, and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” In a moment, after 12 years of suffering, her wounds closed, the blood dried up, and she felt no more pain. Smiling, her tears of mourning became tears of joy. She stood and embraced “The Miracle Maker.”

Toward the end of my interview, I asked the woman who once cried because of the loneliness that festered within her from years of abandonment if she felt anymore anger. Smiling, she looked at me, leaned forward, and said:

“For many years, I dealt with an issue far greater than that of hemorrhaging. I dealt with an issue of bitterness that entangled me with such an intensity that demons did not need to possess me. I allowed the bitterness within me to possess me. The day Jesus healed me, all of the bitterness left me. Jesus gave me the power to forgive. I lost so much of my life, not because of the years of physical suffering, but because of years of allowing my hatred to embitter me.”

Now, just a few years after the afternoon this woman looked into the gentle eyes of ’The Miracle Maker,’ she travels to the same towns where people once called her wretched filth or demon possessed. She tells them of Jesus’ love and of His healing power. But more than that she tells them of the power within each of us to receive Jesus’ forgiveness from sins and to forgive those who persecute them.

Why I chose to dramatize this story:

One morning, God spoke two words to me: “Remain desperate,” and then He brought the story of the woman with the issue of blood to my mind. I don’t know if she was cast out by her family, or if she had to crawl across a desert to get to the town just to touch Jesus’ garment. I’m sure there are Bible scholars who could tell me there’s evidence that she lived with her family on the outskirts of town. I am sure the story does not go exactly how I told it.

However the story goes, I do know she remained desperate. I am sure she not only remained desperate for healing from her issue of bleeding. I am sure she also dealt with years of from loneliness that caused her to become embittered. I am sure she was embittered toward her family and those who persecuted her. I am sure she had become embittered toward God for allowing her to go through 12 years of suffering.

Though, she chose to remain so desperate for physical and emotional healing that she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. I believe the greatest issue she needed healing from was not the issue of bleeding, it was the issue of loneliness and bitterness that had consumed her.

What physical, financial, or emotional issues are you dealing with today? Are you remaining desperate? Are you so desperate for Christ’s healing that you would cross deserts to reach out and touch the hem of His garment? Do you have enough faith that you can say, “If only I can touch His garment, I will be healed,” and then go through unbearable pain to reach out to Him?

Whatever issues you are facing today, God would say to you, “Remain desperate.” Cry out to Him. And if your prayers are muffled by the distractions of the world, do not lose faith. That’s when you need press in through the crowd, and reach out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.

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The Objectification of ‘Pretty’ and Redemptive Nature of Forgiveness

In the movie “12 years a Slave,” people are devalued and treated like objects. Throughout the movie, there are scenes in which these people stand in rooms and their captors touch, poke, and otherwise handle them much like a dress in a store.

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

In Beyonce’s newest video, “Pretty Hurts,” which is about women preparing for and going through a beauty contest, there is a similar scene. All of the contestants are standing along a wall, and a gentleman is drawing on them, touching them, and making sure they are of good value to their judges. They won’t be bought or sold that day, but they are objectified and valued like merchandise. Just as the slaves in, “12 years a Slave” find their self-worth based on whether or not they are accepted by those that objectify them, the women in this video seem to base their self-worth on whether or not those men that objectify them find value in them.

When I saw the title, “Pretty Hurts,” I thought of ‘pretty’ as describing the ‘hurts’ inflicted upon women. In other words, that the wounds inflicted upon women in our society are somehow ‘pretty.’ Though, I think that just as our male dominated society objectifies women, and many women see ‘pretty’ as a level of acceptance to be obtained, we have objectified the word, ‘pretty.’ We consider something ‘pretty’ if it attains to a certain level of aesthetically pleasing standards. A woman, we have taught them as a society, is not ‘pretty’ unless her objectified, physical appearance is similar or better than that of another object to which she is held up in comparison.

‘Pretty’ is no longer an adjective to describe an object. Rather, ‘pretty’ is the object the subject (women) try to become, and it is the attempt to attain to that object that becomes the barometer by which many women measure their value. In that, as a society, we have moved from objectifying women to objectifying language in the form of the word ‘pretty,’ and women are held in subjugation to trying to become a certain type of object. If we understand the word, ‘pretty’ in the title as an object (a noun), we can understand how the word ‘hurts’ is used as a verb or adjective. Both uses of ‘hurts’ describe a physical or mental wound inflicted by the objectification of ‘pretty.’ The title describes the object inflicting wounds up on the subject.

Just as black men and women were subjected by the word ’slave,’ the attempt of women to become an acceptable object (‘pretty’) wounds them physically, emotionally, and psychologically. And just as, the objectification of ‘pretty’ can hold a woman in subjugation to attaining to a level of acceptance, so also the knowledge of sin holds sinners in subjugation to the full awareness of their sinfulness.

Hebrew 10:1-4

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would have no longer felt guilty for their sins.

But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

When Christ came, He came to cleanse our consciousness.

He came to free us from the guilt of sin, and all the sacrificial system did was remind people they were slaves to sin. The sacrificial system didn’t pay off the debt of our transgressions against God, rather it just reminded the people of their debt. The high priests knew they would just have to go back to the temple the next year to make another sacrifice. They were, along with all of the people of Israel, under the subjugation of sin. Christ didn’t come to make the final payment; Christ came to make the only payment that counted. God demanded the blood of a perfect lamb, so our conscious could be cleansed from the bondage of sin, but we did not have access to the perfect blood of the lamb until Christ came.

So, how do overcome that bondage of sin?

We must allow Christ to cleanse our conscious from trying to obtain to the object of ‘good.’ Jesus said, “No one is good—except God alone (Mark 10:18b).” Sin caused us to objectify ‘good,’ as if it is something we must obtain. Rom. 3:23 says, “For all sin and fall short of the glory of God.”

Just as some women only feel ‘pretty’ because of the self-value they learn from those around her, we realize ‘good’ is not something to obtain because of a certain amount or types of works we do that we call ‘good.’ Those of us bought by the blood of the lamb are ‘good’ because of Christ’s nature in us, and the realization of that nature is our salvation. Just as a woman should not measure her worth according to whether or not she is able to attain to a socially acceptable level of ‘pretty,’ we should not measure our worth in Christ by trying to obtain ‘good.’

When we take on the nature of Christ, we take on the nature of ‘good.’ ‘Good’ is no longer an acceptable character level we must strive to obtain, rather it is the value of Christ’s nature within us. The sacrificial system of the old testament, and the good works of those today who think the more good works they do the closer they will be to God, is like makeup. It may make someone appear to be something on the outside they are not on the inside, but it does not change who they are on the insude. That doesn’t mean Christian shouldn’t or don’t do good works (Read the book of James), but it means Christians should not allow themselves to become subject to trying to obtain salvation by being and doing ‘good.’

How do you overcome the objectification of trying to be ‘good enough’

1. Realize there is nothing you can do to obtain to the level of ‘good’ that will justify you before God. It is like trying to pay off a sum of money with an infinite number of zeros when you only have access to wood chips by giving your debtor IOU notices (that’s the sacrificial system) that only remind both of you that you can never pay it.

2. Admit to God that you have a debt of sin to Him so large there is nothing you can do to pay it off, and ask Christ to pay it off for you.

3. Realize that your debt is now paid, and you are redeemed by the blood of the lamb.

Too many people only have a surface level understanding of the power we as Christians have, and I want to help more people realize the depth of the power of our salvation in Christ. The main focus of my blogs will be on strengthening the body of Christ, but some will be gospel focused. I love studying God’s word, I love sharing my understanding and knowledge of what I study, and I love dialoguing with others about what I study

I welcome questions, comments, and even criticism. But please no personal attacks, attacks on my beliefs, or attacks on anyone who chooses to comment here. I want this blog to raise awareness of the redemptive power of God we have through Jesus Christ. I hope you will continue to read this blog and join me on my journey ‘On Becoming Human.’