The tales of two women

On Sunday, Andrew spoke at our healing service about the woman who was healed when she touched Jesus’ coat (Mark 5:21-43).  Jesus, Andrew reminded us, sees us as individuals. Contrast that with crowd in the story.  We are individuals to Jesus: Jairus, his daughter, the woman, the few disciples allowed in to witness the raising from the dead miracle, the girl’s parents. Even, at the end, he wanted to make sure daughter was fed.

According to the ceremonial law, the touch of anyone having the disease which this woman had would have defiled the person touched. Some think that this may account for her approaching Him from behind, and touching his cloak. But more likely, her unseen approach, rather than avoiding contact with Jesus, was simply to avoid being noticed by him. It was an act of faith.

More importantly in my view, she instinctively knew, by the same faith, that if her touch could set her free from the disease itself, it was impossible that it would also defile him.  This most wondrous Healer must be above such laws. Whilst she was full of confidence that Jesus was able to heal: she trembled on account of her unworthiness (v33), thus illustrating the humility and confidence of a sinner coming to God for pardon and life. Acts 5:5 and 19:5 pick up the same point too.

At much the same time time, I’ve been thinking about the women who meets Jesus at the house of Simon the Pharisee. Another woman who approached Jesus from behind.

“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven -for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

The Pharisees had embraced a non-loving, legalistic lifestyle; they had become obsessed with the small print and missed the headlines.  Jesus, on the other hand, overruled the judgementalism that pushed this sinful but precious woman to the point of exclusion.

As Mike Wood suggests (Leading the Jesus Way: Church Leadership and Managing Your Life):

He valued her. He affirmed her. He protected her against humiliation. He accepted her act of love and devotion. [Her worship] was pure to Him although questionable in the eyes of others. It showed deep devotion. He received the adoration and worship of this broken and contrite woman. She received forgiveness. She was accepted. She had found a place where she belonged. She was saved.

Often in these days I have discovered in my conversations with others that those who have sinned much and have received forgiveness, healing and peace will celebrate the most. For them there has been a wonderful, brand new, fresh start.

What a testimony this woman had. She loved deeply. Her love was wonderful but was not the basis on which she received forgiveness. That was her faith (v50). Forgiveness is all about grace. It is unearned. It is undeserved.

However, as Mike Wood helpfully points out there are some good leadership principles at work here too:

1. Leaders will seek first the kingdom of God. Even in situations like this of conviviality. Leaders are always alert to the opportunity to say, “Yes” and welcome seekers into the family of God. Some of the most unlikely and surprising people make amazing Christians, especially those who have been forgiven much.

2. Jesus could handle the situation wisely and well. He did so with courage and style. He urges us to be strong but bold in our reaching out to the damaged.

3, Sometimes we can feel that the joy of our salvation is diminishing because of the pressures of leadership. Nothing restores it more than to be involved in seeing a sinner saved, rescued, healed, restored, forgiven and baptised. (Psalm 51:12)

4. It is great to be part of a fellowship where we can hug one another. So much is communicated in a warm hug. It is marvellous to exchange greetings with family affection. “Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss” (1 Thess 5:25).

5. Yet, leaders need to be very careful about our relationships with the opposite sex. This story was set in a very public place. If something similar had happened in private it would have been dangerous.

6. The devil wants to take something as wonderful as love and twist and distort it into lust. If he cannot stop love from flowing in a commu­nity, he will often change tactics and instead of resisting love, he will get behind it and push it into that which is exaggerated, distorted and not appropriate. We need the daily infilling of the Holy Spirit to put to death the things of the flesh and to live a pure and holy life. It is best to be strict and disciplined and to know the power of the fruit of the Spirit, especially self-control.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet 5:8,9).

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