Unclean

January 10, 2016 No Comments »
Unclean

By Tyler Edwards

Jesus was a man with a mission. The single most important mission in the history of the world. With such an important task on his shoulders, it would have been totally reasonable for him to focus on nothing but the completion of his ultimate mission. He had every right to ignore the mess of humanity around him as he carried out his divine purpose. It would have been understandable. Yet throughout the Gospels we see Jesus going out of his way to care for the people around him. 

Out of Options

In Mark 5 Jesus was heading to Jarius’s house to heal his sick daughter. While he was traveling a woman reached out and touched him. This woman had an illness that resulted in her bleeding for 12 years. 

According to Old Testament law, when a woman bleeds she is ceremonially unclean. During this time a woman would be prohibited from worshipping God in the temple, from being around crowds of people, or from having contact with anyone else. If she came in contact with another person, that person would also become unclean. Her problem was not only medical. It was social. Her condition made her a pariah. 

No one has held her hand. No one has hugged her. No one has played with her hair or rubbed her shoulders. No one has shared a cup of coffee with her. Likely she hadn’t had physical contact with another human being for 12 years. I imagine she lived by herself and ate all of her meals by herself. She couldn’t get connected to a community of any kind. Not only was she suffering, she was suffering alone. 

Can you imagine being so rejected, being so alone, feeling so unwanted every day? Can you imagine being pitied by everyone, feeling dirty all the time, being told you can’t even go to church because you are unclean? She had tried everything. She went to doctors, looked at alternative medicine, did everything to get healed—but nothing worked. She spent everything she had trying to get better and ran out of options. 

Physical & Social Healing

Then Jesus came to town, a teacher with a reputation for healing the sick and performing miracles. That little seed of hope began to grow in the woman’s heart. 

She made her way through the crowd. She reached out. She touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak. “Because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (Mark 5:28, 29).

Once she was healed, Jesus stopped. “Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around
in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’”
(v. 30). 

Jesus could have kept walking. He could have moved on as if nothing had happened. He didn’t. He stopped and did the one thing the woman wanted to avoid. He drew attention to her. 

“Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’” (vv. 32-34).

He didn’t stop and speak to be cruel or embarrass her. Jesus drew attention not to the fact that she was dirty but to the fact that she had been made clean. In this Jesus didn’t just heal her—he restored her. 

Everybody knew her illness. They knew her problem wasn’t going to magically go away. If Jesus had kept on walking, she would have been physically healed but would have remained a social reject. In forcing this woman to address her problem, Jesus gave her back her life. She was healed and he wanted to make sure that everyone knew. The woman came to be healed of her physical condition. Jesus intended to heal her social condition as well.

Admitting We Sin

Sometimes the only way for us to get true healing in our lives is for us to confess what makes us unclean. If we try to hide the fact that we have sin in our lives, if we try to hide the past we are ashamed of, then we cannot receive the full restoration that Jesus offers. Our testimony doesn’t mean as much if we don’t tell people what Jesus saved us from. As much as we might like to avoid the shame of our past sin, when we do, we drain our testimony of its power. “I was a good person and then Jesus saved me” isn’t going to inspire change. Nor is it really true. “I lived a broken life, I struggled with sin, I was a slave to my pride and my temper. My world started falling apart. Jesus saved me.” That says a lot more.

A lot of times we come to Jesus like this woman. We try to sneak in to get our healing from Jesus and get out before anyone notices. If we try to hide the fact that we have sin in our lives, then we cannot receive the full restoration that Jesus offers. Jesus isn’t in the healing business. He’s in the restoring business. Just as Jesus healed the woman, it was not until she admitted she was dirty that he was able to truly restore her. 

There are two types of healing: 

1. Immediate healing. 

We live in a broken world. We are surrounded by pain, heartache, disappointment, frustration, and sickness. Jesus can and sometimes does immediately fix that which is broken. Jesus does offer, at his discretion, immediate healing. This can be for physical, relational, or emotional pains. Jesus’ healing in Mark 5 would have covered all three for the woman. 

What’s important to note here is that we are never promised this kind of healing. God never promises us there will be no pain. What’s important is not the pain or the healing. What’s important is how our situation can be used for God’s glory. Whether that means praising God through sickness or rejoicing in his healing from it. 

2. Permanent restoration. 

Immediate healing is nice. It’s also temporary. This woman, Jarius’s daughter, Lazarus, every person whom Jesus healed got sick again. Every one of them died. Jesus does heal his people. It’s not always an immediate healing. It’s not a physical healing. It’s a restoration. He heals that which is most broken inside of us: our souls. His permanent healing is a healing that restores us to our relationship with God. It’s an eternal healing. It’s a far better healing than the immediate one. 

Jesus doesn’t just fix our immediate problems. He is proactive in taking care of our long-term ones. He doesn’t always give us the healing we want. He always offers us the healing we need.

Tyler Edwards is an author and minister in South Carolina.

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