“If I only touch his cloak, I shall be made well.”  If you have ever been in a bible study with me… you know that this is my absolute favorite healing story.  When I was a newly minted Episcopalian, this story was given to me to meditate on during a retreat I was attending. The healing story comes up in my life from time to time and each time I learn something new. 

Back in my days as a chemical dependency nurse, there were people who came in and out of treatment.  Some days it was really hard not to get cynical and decide to write someone off as being hopeless.  They would come back with the same story.  Many times it was because they thought they could handle substances again because they had achieved a time of sobriety.  Sometimes it was because they didn’t truly absorb the lessons we tried to teach them.  Always, it was because they didn’t give themselves over to the love and care of God completely. No one likes to feel like they are out of control; and here’s the thing:  none of us are in control anyway.

Our woman in this story, is a figure of great faith.  She had absolutely nothing left to lose; she had lost it ALL already.  Because she was perpetually “unclean” because she was bleeding, she was as good as dead. Anyone who touched her was unclean; she couldn’t go to the temple, she couldn’t get close to her family, she had nothing.  All that she once had she had given to doctors to try and cure her.  Then she hears about Jesus; Jesus the wandering rabbi who cured the sick and who taught lessons about loving God and loving our neighbors.  She didn’t even want to talk to him; she probably felt unworthy; she just knew if she touched his clothing, she would be made well, or as some translations say, she would be made whole.  

Being made whole is incredibly important here because it goes so much further than one’s physical healing, although here that is obviously important. Once the woman is healed, she can go back to her life without fear.  She can touch and be touched; she can go to the temple, she can live with her family; her healing will restore her to a place of truly living, rather than merely existing and being vulnerable.

What I think is remarkable about this woman, is that she never gives up.  She has heard about Jesus and has heard people proclaim him as Lord; she has heard the stories of others being healed, and now she is willing to take one more risk in order to be healed. “If I only touch his cloak…” Can you hear the faith and the desperation? She reached beyond the barriers that society has placed upon her as a woman and as a sick, bleeding woman.  No one who was bleeding, let alone a woman would reach out and touch a man, let alone someone who had the title of Rabbi.  But, desperate people do desperate things.  She saw a chance and she took it.  I doubt if she counted on Jesus even knowing anything happened, but what does Jesus do?  HE SEES HER.  He truly sees her in all of her brokenness, in all of her desperation, in her pain, her suffering, and her deep desire to know God and be made whole.  And, as is always the case when someone encounters Jesus, everything changes… Every. Single. Thing.  Her life has been restored and given back to her, and in her new faith and relationship to Jesus, she is sent forth to live as a disciple.

So, what might this story be telling us?  So many things.  What I want to emphasize today is… No one is beyond saving; Jesus is the God of last and desperate chances, and in a single moment a woman who had lost everything, has been given her very life back.  For us, that means the we cannot judge that someone is beyond God’s grace and beyond saving.  There are so many times when we want to just push someone away because we think they have used up all their chances; and perhaps, they have used up their chances with us; no one should continue in an abusive relationship; however even those people are not beyond Jesus’ grasp.  For some of us, our lowest points are where we encounter the living Christ.  That is where he is and that is where he SEES people.  And, you know what else?  As his disciples, he expects US to SEE people as well, especially those on the margins that society tries to hide; we are the voice of the voiceless and we must SEE those whom others refuse to see.  Our calling as disciples is to reach out to touch Jesus’ garments on behalf of those who cannot or on behalf of those who won’t take that last chance… we must be the bridges between Jesus and those whom he loves who have given up and have lost hope.  We are the ones who are called to bring his light into dark and dismal places.  Remember, Jesus is the God of desperate and last chances.  Whom do we know that has lost hope of another chance at life?  How can we, as disciples of the God of love and mercy, reach beyond the barriers that society has erected, and pull those people back into life?  Whom can we pray for today, that yesterday we said was a lost cause?