Hey, HOPE-lovers, and happy Monday! I hope you all had a great first weekend of fall. It’s Monday, so let’s get motivated!
If you’re new to H4H or just to this series, we’ve been looking at the messages and influence of “Wonder Woman,” a record-setting movie this year, and WW’s backstory, “Professor Marston & the Wonder Women,” for a while now. Turning elsewhere, we are boldly establishing the dignity of women from the Scriptures.
These films have reminded the world of a unhealed wound, an ongoing “vacuum” that seeks equality, respect, and fairness. Celebrations of sexual license and particularized politics, however, only escalate emotions, reducing dialogues to monologues.
So, with humility and dedication, I, a man, seek to defend the infinite sacredness of womanhood. My true hope is that women will be encouraged by receiving some support from the male community.
My intent is to affirm and uphold the beauty, charm, mystique, worth, dignity, and importance of womanhood.
To rekindle our “wonder” with women, I humbly suggest we look to the maker of women. I believe there is NO higher authority or clearer example than the God who both created and died to redeem womankind.
Again, we will see Jesus affirm womanhood through 4 ways:
- His Stance
- His Strength
- His Sanction
If this seems odd or offensive, please read on! I think you will see that there is no greater source on this matter.
And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” ~ Mark 5:25-34 (see also Mt. 9:20-22 and Lk. 8:43-48)
This is the fourth week in a row that we see women being elevated and honored through the ministry of Jesus. At the risk of His own life even, certainly His reputation, Jesus defends and affirms women. Even the really “bad” ones! This is NOT something we read Jesus doing for men.
Women approaching and encountering Jesus was a frequent occurrence in His ministry. We saw it first with an adulteress in John 7:53-8:6. Then we saw a worshipful woman, a person who will forever be tied to the gospel, in Matthew 26:6-13. (see also Mk. 14:3-9 and Jn. 12:1-8) Last week, we saw another encounter involving a prostitute from Luke 7:36-50. Today, another woman, an “outsider,” will daringly approach the miracle-worker, Jesus.
It’s as if Jesus invited these sorts of interactions.
So, have you read today’s story before? If so, what have your feelings been about it? If not, what sort of reactions did you have? How do you feel about the reaction of Jesus? What about Jesus’ approval and blessing? And again, what do you think about the crazy audacity of this woman?
Repeatedly, I am confronted with my great struggle over the people Jesus interacted with! And if you’re not aware, today’s story is contained within a larger story.
Jesus is on His way to the house of a synagogue ruler to heal a young woman (the ruler’s daughter). On His way to touch the life of one woman, another woman sneaks in on the action. It’s as if she knows He has power to spare.
To really understand the audacity of this woman, you need to first read Leviticus 15:16-33. It is a very “interesting” chapter about uncleanness and holiness. You need to “feel” the weight of this issue for yourself and know how it was treated.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert on these womanly matters; years of cleaning women’s restrooms at Costco during college has probably slanted my perspective anyways.
You need to know that this woman has a couple cultural strikes going against her:
First, she’s a woman, and therefore, a subclass citizen to many in this time period.
Second, she would have been classified as “unclean” due to her discharge of blood for twelve years! And not only would she be considered unclean, anything and anyone she touched would also be classified as such. Through her actions, she just tainted the crowd, according to the Law, which probably explains her fear and trembling. She wasn’t supposed to do this and just took Jesus out of ministry for the rest of day! So she thought…
In summary, she was inferior because of her sex and unclean! Untouchable. Subhuman. Dirty. Contaminated and contagious.
Boy, she really had some nerve to break into this crowd to touch the healer, Jesus. But again, Jesus had the greater nerve to accept and approve of this unclean woman’s faith-filled push for restoration.
Wellness, peace, and healing. This is the gospel in action. The gospel applied.
Lately, we’ve been seeing how hardcore Jesus really was. How He would face disdain and death threats to teach and restore the “outsiders.” His compassion is both bold and fierce. He opens His arms so wide to provide room for everyone, including the outsiders. Even at the risk of being struck by a pair of nails.
Like the last entry, I want to take a look at what the woman does here.
Here are three things I see immediately:
1) Lately, I have admonished the example of women in worship — they show the rest of us how it’s done and we all need to learn! But now, I want to highlight how a woman teaches us to seek after God. I can’t imagine the awkwardness of her condition; I just know that she is courageous! In fact, this woman was SO bold that it almost seems selfish. I think this is why she tried to hide in the beginning — she knew the cultural stigma that she was disregarding. She’s aware of the crowd that she is affecting, and we know about the suffering family she is delaying. But her persistence is so remarkable. Cards face up, I give up on a lot of things after twelve minutes…she had been fighting this for twelve year! What?! And in year twelve, she saw God’s window for her and she leaped head first. This is living completely in the moment! No regard for consequences. Others’ opinions, cultural customs, and religious ridicule no longer mattered, just her desperation plus with the reports she heard about Jesus. It was enough to compel her into controversy.
2) Women show us how to have faith. More than that, they ignite it like a wildfire! Beyond the shadow of a doubt, I know I am where I’m at today because of the faith of specific women in my life. The men fled. So many men I know have “jumped ship” that it’s made me want to do the same multiple times. Not the women. Sure, they struggle, but they rise like the dawn. They anchor us. This bleeding woman had such a faith that Jesus had to stop while rushing to save a dying girl! It physically affected Him that much. Imagine the scene. The panic and hysteria. “Hurry, Jesus! The girl is waiting for you and she’s running out of time!” They have no concept of resurrection, of course. But this unclean woman’s faith forced their first century “ambulance” to slam His breaks and He became desperate to find her.
3) Last time, I also highlighted how women teach the rest of us what it means to repent. They show us how to make things right. To take responsibility. To take ownership. Again, this woman is the last person who should be in a crowd! She shouldn’t even be outside — she’s contaminated, contagious and requires atonement per the Law. We know that she is on a mission to be renewed by her Maker, but she doesn’t just flee after she got what she came for. She publicly confesses and faces Him. Faith isn’t just a one step process. Faith doesn’t stop when we get what we want or need. Faith yields the truth, even in the most difficult circumstances. Faith raises the hand and says, for better or worse, “Yep. That was me.” And lastly, whether it’s physical or in some other sense, faith has some traveling buddies: wellness, peace, and healing.
1) STANCE: Jesus stood with the unclean, “subclass” woman. He affirmed and elevated the woman, contradicting not only the status quo but the age-old religious practices in the process. If you’re the High Priest, God’s atonement is yours to offer. Again, this is how you make enemies and commit suicide. And He did this all while letting someone else suffer and die (at least that’s how it appears in the moment). If there was ever a time to “fly by” and say, “Catch you later!” this was it. But this woman, despite her condition, completely altered the course of Jesus.
2) STRENGTH: Jesus swung the pendulum, which is always offensive for religious types. It was probably bothersome for the desperate family as well. Again, we see absolutely no march, no picket signs, just Jesus crushing cultural norms through His love and availability. The woman is elevated and blessed because she possessed an unashamed but humble faith that illustrated the mission of Jesus. The unclean woman does NOT belong here, but Jesus seizes the opportunity to reveal the heart of the Father to her and those like her.
3) SANCTION: Jesus demotes the rigid, hypocritical religious mindset of His time. I’m sure a crowd of Jesus followers were familiar with the Levitical Law. I’m sure, based upon her behavior, this woman was aware of it as well. She crossed a line and whenever that happens, justice is the natural outcome. But what if the line didn’t exist in the first place? Or, not as we originally perceived? The book of Hebrews specifically instructs us on this, but for the sake of space, I’ll simply state that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that the Law looked forward to. The Law was a symbol, Jesus is the substance. He, therefore, possesses the authority to bless this woman the way that He did. And because of Him, she leaves not only healed but completely restored to life and community for the first time in twelve years.
4) SALVATION: Grace is unfair: there are NO outsiders. Humans love to marginalize. Departmentalize. Divide (and conquer). This woman was separated and isolated for twelve whole years, the same twelve years the young girl Jesus was about to resurrect had lived, ironically. Jesus stops His urgent resurrection party in an attempt to engage and highlight this woman. And in response to this woman’s faith, He gives exactly what she needed. It makes no sense. It’s unfair. She shouldn’t have been here. Jesus was busy!
Again, I am overwhelmed by the example of this Jesus who puts it all on the line for one woman. She was out of place, crazy, and dirty, but Jesus corrected culture by extending healing and restoration to her. His crowd turned into her “homecoming” party and initiation back into society. He even appears to “endanger” a little girl in the process. This is another story that speaks volumes to His value and inclusion of women and how we should value and include women as well.
How are you positioning your STANCE, STRENGTH, and SANCTIONS to provide SALVATION (or restoration) for women today?
Start with those you know, perfect your process, and then apply your approach to others.
Come back next week for another story where Jesus stabs the sexist psyche in the heart. Until then, proclaim your deliverance and run hard in Christ’s freedom.