Desperate Deeds & Deeper Love
I have found that I tend to react with irritation toward people who do desperate things.
A man was standing at the side of the highway throwing clumps of mud at cars passing by. Finally one irate driver stopped, stepped out of his car and yelled, “Hey, Man, what’s the idea?”
Before he could say anything else, the man who had been throwing the mud cried out, “Thank you for stopping! I tried to wave others down, but no one would stop. My son and I were hunting, and he accidentally shot himself. He’s over here in the bushes. Please help!”
When people are acting their worst, it stirs up my irritation. But often when they are acting their worst, they are desperate for help. I see their “worst” and get irritated, but Jesus sees their need and responds to their desperation with deeper love.
Mark 5 records the story of two people who approach Jesus out of desperation. The first is a synagogue leader named Jairus, whose twelve-year-old daughter is dying. He pleads with Jesus to heal his beloved daughter, and Jesus hurries off with him toward Jairus’ home.
Along the way, though, another person takes desperate action. A woman “who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years” was already well acquainted with desperate actions. Mark reports that she “had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had” but had only grown worse. Not only had she been suffering physically from the consistent loss of blood, she had also been suffering emotionally. Jewish law stated, “Any bed she lies on, while her discharge continues, will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches these will be unclean, he must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening.” (Leviticus 15:25-27).
This left her in a rather miserable predicament. She was virtually cut off from connection with other people, and absolutely cut off from public worship of God. To take it a step further, tradition of the time blamed such bleeding on immorality, and required a husband to divorce his bleeding wife. She is assumed to be immoral, and is forced into a life of rejection, ostracism, loneliness and shame.
In desperation, she had probably moved beyond the legitimate doctors to the cockamamie folk cures that were popular in her day. One folk cure had promised healing if a bleeding woman carried the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in summer and in a cotton bag in winter. Another promised healing if she would carry a barley corn found in the dung of a white female donkey. Can you imagine her finding a white donkey, feeding it barley corn, then following it around for days to dig through its excrements to pull out a digested barley corn she could carry around with her? Can you imagine the pain and anger and frustration she felt when every crazy effort failed?
Because of her bleeding, she should never have been milling about in that crowd of people, but she is desperate—desperate enough to enter the crowd, desperate enough to maneuver her way close to Jesus, and desperate enough to grab one of the tassels that hung from the edge of Jesus’ robe as he hurried along the road.
Aware of what has taken place, Jesus stops and asks who touched him.
This question strikes tremendous fear in her. According to religious law and social custom, she should not have touched Him. If she comes forward, will Jesus scold her? Will the crowd humiliate her? As she stands there terrified her heart pounds, “Boom-boom! Boom-boom! Boom-boom!”
But Jesus responds to her desperate act with deeper love. He has no interest in adding to her embarrassment or isolation. Rather he waits for her to come forward in order to restore her. When she comes forward, he says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
For as long as Jairus’ daughter had been alive and loved by her father, this woman had been ostracized. She had been legally banned from physical contact with anyone. Anything she sat upon or lay down upon had been considered unclean. She was regarded as immoral. If she had been married, she had now been abandoned by her husband; if she was not yet married, she was considered unworthy of marriage. She had been alone and lonely.
But Jesus waited for her to come out of hiding and to come out of isolation. When she does so, he calls her, “Daughter.”
“Daughter”…. This is the only time in the gospels that Jesus calls anyone, “Daughter,” so we need to take it seriously. The word is a term of endearment, a title of intimacy, a word of relationship. Jesus looks upon this woman in the same way Jairus looks upon his precious little girl.
In Jesus, this woman’s desperate deed was met by deeper love.