Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Open Pleading, Quiet Reaching

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years . . . She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak (Luke 8:43-44).

In the churches that nurtured my young faith there was only one way to come to Jesus: right out in the open. A public profession of faith. I understand that professing faith openly is important. I know now that this can be done in a number of ways. But in my childhood this involved a singular act of commitment: walking the aisle at the end of a worship service.

Walking the aisle was an act that coupled one of the most wonderful experiences of life (coming to faith in Jesus) with one of the most horrifying experiences of life (walking to speak to the preacher while everyone watched). When I came to Jesus and mustered the courage to walk the aisle, the preacher who welcomed me was my Dad. I cherish the memory now – but I was still horrified.

I would have much preferred to come to Jesus in a way that drew less attention. A less observable approach would have been nice, a quiet and unassuming path to the savior. Not unlike coming up from behind and reaching for the edge of his cloak.

Luke’s skill as a storyteller is especially evident in this episode that begins with one drama about a dying girl, interrupts it with another about a chronically sick woman, and then returns to the original drama. Both Jairus and an unnamed woman seek out Jesus. What they both need is his healing power. But they come to Jesus in very different ways.

Jairus is a man of position and status. As ruler of the synagogue he knows God’s law and is at home around holy things. This woman has no status to speak of. She too knows the law of God, but this Law tells her she is unclean because of her bleeding. She is not at home around the holy.

Jairus approaches Jesus boldly. He falls at Jesus’ feet and openly pleads for Jesus to come and heal his daughter. His request is direct and forthright. The bleeding woman comes indirectly. She has enough determination to push through the crowd, but her approach to Jesus is hidden, from behind. She speaks no request. She simply reaches for the edge of his cloak.

Two different people, two different approaches to Jesus. But Jesus responds to both. He agrees to go to the home of Jairus. And when the woman touches his cloak, he senses that power has gone out from him. Jesus responds to our open pleading. Jesus also responds to our quiet reaching.

There is more than one way to come to Jesus today. What matters more than anything is that you come, that you seek him out. Jesus’ invitation is broad: “come to me all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28).

The burdens you bring to Jesus may compel you to make bold and direct requests. The burdens you bring may strap you down with shame. You come to Jesus cautiously, even timidly. Either way – the good news is that both of those ways move the heart of the only one who can heal us and make us whole. However you come today, just come. You will not be ignored.

“I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame . . . Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:4-8).

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