I’ve often been accused of being a day dreamer, of having my head in the clouds dreaming of what might be and what’s already happened and how it might have been different. Then one day a man I respect deeply gave me some wise advice, he told me that dreamers are important because they push us into places that we might never have thought possible, but Jesus also wants us to have our feet planted in the right now with eyes and ears wide open to recognize the opportunities to be a blessing and recognize Jesus’ presence and power in our lives.
Day dreamers can miss out on much of the beauty and wonder around them, in the people in our communities, in how Jesus is working right here, and how he can use us to be bringers of hope, peace, and grace. I’ve learnt to be more present and aware of what’s going on around me and have open eyes and ears to the Holy Spirit’s moving, allowing Jesus to use my life to bless others and help them see how the Holy Spirit is working in their lives right now. This hasn’t stopped me from day dreaming, but it has helped me to dream better in the direction that Jesus is working.
Mark shows us how Jesus practices being present in the moment even when everything around him is semi-chaotic. A synagogue ruler called Jairus comes up to Jesus in the middle of a large crowd who are following Jesus around the area. It’s already been a long day for Jesus, he cast out a legion of demons out of a man living in a graveyard, he crossed the lake to get some breathing room from the crowd, but they’ve followed Jesus around the lake anyway. Now Jairus approaches Jesus, pleading for Jesus to come with him and heal his dying daughter, and so Jesus goes with him.
As Jesus goes with Jairus, the crowd follows, pressing in close around Jesus. Today they’d all have their cellphones out trying to get a selfie with Jesus to show they were with him. It’s busy, crowded, noisy, stressful, emotional and then something insignificant happens that no one notices, but Jesus notices and responds immediately. In the crowd is a woman who’s been sick with a bleeding disease for over 12 years. Because it’s a bleeding disease, this means that if she touches someone, she will make them unclean, unacceptable to God, so it’s a pretty serious disease. She’s spent all her money on doctors, but now she’s broke and still sick and her only hope for a cure is Jesus. Her plan is to get close enough to touch Jesus’ cloak and pray that will heal her. It’s like a Hail Mary pass in football where on the last play of the game, the quarterback heaves the ball up into the air towards the goal line hoping one of his players will catch it and fall into the end-zone for a touchdown.
She comes up behind Jesus in the crowd and touches his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stops and she feels in her body that she is free from her suffering. She thought that she would make Jesus unclean with her illness, instead she discovers that Jesus takes our sin on himself, the uncleanness that we can’t wash off, and he takes it to the cross where he washes us completely clean with his death blood, healing our souls and hearts, making us holy and right in the eyes of our heavenly Father, so that we can bring glory to his name. Now the woman has done this so quietly that no one notices her and she goes to disappear back into the crowd.
But Jesus is paying attention to everything going on and he feels power slipping out of him as he goes with Jairus to heal his daughter. Jesus knows that his power has not just randomly slipped out of him, that someone with faith and intention has touched him looking for something from him that only he can provide and he wants to know the who and why. Jesus asks, “Who touched my clothes?” It seems like a crazy question with so many people there, but Jesus reaches down deep into our hearts and he felt the depth of faith and hope that drove this woman. She’s the only one touching him with a deliberate intent to be healed. Jesus is aware of everything happening around him and what has just happened.
Michelle Derusha shares her beautiful insights into this story, “Luke offers us a detail, a small but important insight into who this woman was: “When the woman realized that she couldn’t remain hidden, she knelt trembling before him. In front of all the people, she blurted out her story—why she touched him and how at that same moment she was healed.” Like the bleeding woman in Luke’s gospel, we, too, try to hide our worst selves, our shadow sides, our most broken parts from God. We hide our whole selves, not only because we feel ashamed and unworthy of love, but also because we don’t trust God’s goodness. We don’t trust that God loves us enough to accept our whole flawed and broken selves. This is because we haven’t paid enough attention to the presence of Jesus in our life, we haven’t been aware of his deep love for us. Fear and distrust prevent us from answering God’s invitation into intimacy and healing.
“We are not good at recognizing illusions,” Thomas Merton wrote, “least of all the ones we have about ourselves – the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin.” We refuse to face our deepest flaws and darkest sins because we’re afraid they’re unforgiveable and made us unredeemable and unlovable. We allow busyness, distraction, social media, our to-do list, and, above all, our striving to achieve, succeed, and please to shield ourselves from both our deepest sins and our deepest desires and from experiencing the presence of Jesus.
The woman reveals herself and Jesus responds, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Jesus blesses her, not only with healing for her body, but freedom from the suffering of being unclean and being unacceptable. Jesus is aware of not only her physical needs, but also of her soul and heart needs.
When we read this story of Jesus’ encounter with the sick woman and Jairus, we usually focus on Jesus’ healing power and power over death, both important revelations pointing us to who Jesus is as the Son of God and promised Messiah. Yet I also appreciate how Barbara Brown Taylor and Peter Schuurman also point us to how Jesus pays close attention to what’s happening around him, how Jesus is able to notice the sick woman’s need even while there is the pressure on him to get to Jairus’ daughter quickly because she’s so close to death, there’s the crush of the crowd and its commotion all around him, and how it’s already been a long day for Jesus and tiredness must have been beginning to set in. It would have been so easy and understandable for Jesus to completely overlook this sick woman with all that’s going on.
Jesus notices the woman because he is completely present in the moment. It’s easy to allow stress, worry, tiredness, and other distractions to keep us unaware of what’s going on around us. I notice this when I’m around children because they’re so much more aware of what’s going on around them. They ask questions and bring my attention to things and people I overlook. We become so used to seeing what we want to see that we often overlook opportunities to bless others and to be blessed. Do we see the woman walking out of the bank with tears on her cheeks, do we see the young mother or older man at the store checkout carefully counting their change with worry in their eyes, do we see the child sitting alone in the playground or park, do we see those who quickly leave each week after church and who don’t seem close to many others, what are we overlooking because of our own worry, stress, or distractions in our lives?
Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “we spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are.” Because of that we miss out on experiencing the presence of Jesus. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:34 to “not worry about tomorrow,” because worry distracts us from living well today. The more aware we are of what’s happening in the here and now, the more aware we become of the Holy Spirit’s presence, of the Spirit’s leading us to opportunities to simply be with Jesus and to rest in him. As we focus more carefully and deeply on what’s going on around us, we become more aware of the urges of the Spirit to be aware of the people and opportunities to be blessed and to be a blessing.