What would you risk to encounter Jesus?
Dr. RB McFee
“Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of His clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” But Jesus said “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from Me.” When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
Luke 8: 43-48
This evening I was reading The Chosen Devotional, which is co-written by the creator of the series The Chosen which are about Jesus through the experiences of those closest to Him. The day’s devotional was focused on the woman who suffered for twelve years with a bleeding disorder. The authors reference the above scripture on this story. And then they construct a sort of interview situation between a reporter and the woman after she has been cured, and renamed by Jesus as “Daughter.”
One of the questions the ‘reporter’ asked had to do with risking the crowds. She answered “Yes I had to. It was the only way I could get to Jesus.”
Wow, those words “It was the only way I could get to Jesus” really packed a punch!
For starters reading that made me ask myself what would I risk to get to Jesus? What would I give up for some time to be with our Savior? Speak about examining myself concerning one of the most important questions about how any of us value our relationship with Jesus!
Among the many other reasons that was a power packed phrase, we need to go back to the first century when Jesus was preaching.
According to the practices of Judaism, bleeding was considered unclean. That meant she not only suffered physically, but also had to be separated from society at large until deemed clean again. In other words, it was shameful to be her. Not quite leprosy, but socially isolating enough.
Beyond the social stigma, this poor lady probably felt awful. Let’s face it; bleeding disorders alone can be a serious problem just from a medical perspective. Weakness, perhaps need for transfusions, surgery, meds, including injections; hematological problems are often associated with these ailments; none of which were available to her two thousand years ago.
Which is what makes her actions notable when she finds out Jesus, the remarkable Healer, is in town.
She not only faced the law, she likely would have been very weak, and felt lousy. Ever try to push yourself to do anything strenuous when you are sick? Not easy! She probably had to force herself out of bed; every step being exhausting.
As an aside, this story makes me think of a few people who serve the Lord, and help others, in spite of great physical challenges. I’d wager you know some, too. God bless them.
Back to the first century…Faith drove that woman to risk societal punishment, and the fullness of Jewish law levied against her. She risked a lot to encounter Jesus. She believed He could cure her. That alone was enough to put her belief into action, trusting in the blessing of Jesus being beyond the punishment of mankind.
The story makes me think about the man with leprosy who approached Jesus, again breaking a boat load of Jewish laws. He was willing to risk it for one chance to meet perhaps the only One capable of helping him.
“When He came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed Him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out His hand, and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”
Matthew 8: 1 – 4
This man also risked punishment for breaking the laws governing people afflicted with leprosy, such as never interacting with crowds of healthy people. He, too had faith that Jesus was worth the risk.
What if we were the leper; would we do any and everything we could to meet up with Jesus?
How much do we have to risk in order to encounter Jesus? How much are we willing to risk to spend some time with Him? Do we even think in those terms? Not a judgment, a question.
Consider in contemporary times the many Christians around the world who face a death sentence or torture, or imprisonment, or eventually all three fates, just for owning a Bible, let alone trying to congregate and pray to Jesus.
Even during the pandemic, those who sought the Presence found a way to spend time with Him. We all found a way to encounter the Love of God reflected in His people – through time spent in direct prayer, attending church Zoom ® meetings, going to outdoor worship services. And at no time did any of us worry about being arrested or punished for our beliefs, or love of Christ.
Prayer is great, and it is a conversation with the Lord. But how often do we go beyond the weekly hour, or prayer time to hang out with our Savior? Do we invite Jesus on a ride? Or ask Him to join us on a hike?
One of my favorite things about driving is the time it affords me to spend time consciously inviting the Lord’s Presence. Sometimes I take a ride just because it is a good place for me to encounter Jesus.
How about you?
Our access to Jesus is unfettered, if only we take the time to visit Him. We don’t have to walk through dangerous desert regions, or roads known to harbor bandits, or even hide our infirmities to go directly towards and meet with our Savior.
Yet how often do we allow obstacles of one kind or another to act as a surrogate for a crowd, or a reason we can’t meet our Lord today.
Would we appreciate the blessings of Jesus’ Presence more if we had to suffer more to get to Him?
To be sure we cannot see Jesus in the flesh, Face to face, as the woman with the bleeding disorder, or the man with leprosy were able to encounter Him, as mortal to mortal. But Jesus did make certain we were blessed with the ultimate direct line to Him through the Holy Spirit, and all we have to do is take the time to call Home.
Our modern day infirmities that act to keep us from Jesus may be illness, or they may be an issue of over-commitment, or prioritizing everything but our time with the Lord.
Certainly Jesus understands. But how much more blessed would we feel in His Presence? Yes we often go to Jesus in times of need, and He can provide for us in those moments. But what if we just approached Jesus for the blessing of His Presence? Just because it is Jesus….just because?!
Think about children who see someone they care about. They will run to them with reckless abandon, ignoring quiet zones, or parental “slow down” requests. Is it any wonder Jesus wanted us to emulate kids and their behaviors toward Him? Can we take a moment to think about someone we would drive a long distance to visit, just because of who they are, not what they can do for us?
So yes the woman wanted to encounter Jesus for a medical miracle. But she “fessed up” and in the process got to know Jesus beyond the healing experience.
The woman and the leper got healed when they risked punishment to encounter Jesus. It was worth the risk for the blessing. But I would wager that since those first encounters, both people remained focused on and in some way connected to Jesus and the God He connected to.
Put differently, I am sure after they were healed, God became Number 1 in their lives.
Do we need a miracle, or need to be in a position to need a miracle, to make God Number 1? Or can we just think of Him as our portion?
“My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
And when we do encounter Jesus, will we have the faith in Him that would drives us through crowds, the risk of danger, other inconveniences, just because we believe He is worth it?
Think about the last time you had a long chat with, and quality time engaging Jesus. Was it recent? Was it on the ‘to do’ list? Or Heaven forbid, do we need to have illness, or challenges to propel us towards the arms of the Lord?
We are so blessed to be able to pray, worship, and speak of God freely. Through Jesus we can engage and encounter Him 24/7 because the Holy Spirit resides in us. All it takes is the commitment.
What would you risk to encounter Jesus? Thankfully we don’t have to risk anything but time. And He is so very much worth it!