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Pastor Glenn McDonald: The Transforming Touch

According to the Jewish Scriptures (Deuteronomy 22:12), men were required to wear fringes along the edges of their cloaks. 


Traditionally, these fringes ended in four tassels of white thread, with a blue thread woven through them. 


The tassels were to serve as reminders, every day when getting dressed, of the high call to obey God’s Law.  Over the centuries – in times and places when it becomes dangerous to reveal one’s Judaism in public – the tassels have been worn on the undergarments.  Today Jewish men typically display the white and blue tassels on their prayer shawls. 


In a story that begins in Luke 8:42, Jesus is approached by a woman who wants to do nothing more than touch one of the tassels on his cloak.


“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.  She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.


“’Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.  When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’  But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’ 


“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet.  In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.  Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.’”


For twelve years this woman has been living a spiritual nightmare. 


Old Testament Law made it clear that anyone who was bleeding was ceremonially unclean.  That means that she cannot, in good conscience, approach the temple to worship.  She is cut off from God and cut off from life.  Anyone she touches – or anyone who happens to touch her – will likewise automatically become ceremonially unclean until sunset, and will also lose worship privileges.


Overwhelmed with shame that she is carrying a kind of spiritual infection, this woman has done everything she can to get rid of it.  Notice how Luke describes her: “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.”  Here’s how Mark reports the same information in his gospel: “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (Mark 5:25-26). 


What’s interesting about this contrast is that we know that Luke was a doctor.  Apparently he just couldn’t bring himself to strike a blow against first century healthcare by including that extra detail.


Have you ever felt that you were not worthy to come into a place of worship – that you have no business even singing the songs or praying the prayers? 


You dare not go public with what you have never told another living soul – the story of the abortion, or the reckless way you blew your family’s money, or the horrible things you said to your father just before he died.  You’ve invested time and treasure in therapists, but the shame just doesn’t seem to go away. 


Propelled by the desperation of carrying a load too great to bear, the woman in this story decides that she will touch the edge of Jesus’ outer garment. 


She dies to her pride. 


Is there one sin that is worse than all others?  Yes – it is pride.  Pride is what makes us keep holding on to our own brokenness in the false hope that we can provide our own restoration. 


If only this woman can touch one of the tassels on the edge of Jesus’ cloak, perhaps she can be healed.  She is taking an incredible risk.  For a woman to reach out in public and touch a man to whom she is not married is scandalous.  And she knows that touching Jesus will render him ceremonially unclean. 


But she gets the surprise of her life.  She discovers that the power has worked in reverse.  Instead of exporting her shame, his fullness has overwhelmed her emptiness.


What is weighing you down today? Bring it into the presence of Jesus. 


“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed…”


Jesus notices everything.  He knows what is crushing your spirit.  His cloak is within reach, and he is willing to make you whole. 


Reach out, in your mind’s eye, to those blue and white threads. 


You can trust him with the heaviest burden of your life.



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