Go In Peace

June 17, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Luke 8:43-48

A Story Of Healing?

1. In today's gospel reading a woman comes to the center stage. She [has] a disease only a woman could get, where the bleeding would not stop for twelve years. She had consulted so many doctors. She used up all she owned on treatments. But she never got cured. On one certain such a day, she had heard rumors of Jesus. [She had probably heard something like this,] it seems this fellow Jesus lays hands [on people] and cures [them]. It seems a blind man became able to see. It seems a crippled person unable to walk had started walking. She had probably heard these stories. At that very moment Jesus had come back to that village from where he had gone to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. [Her] condition could be defined as [desperate], "clutching at straws." She slipped in among the crowd that surrounded Jesus. Then from behind she drew near to Jesus and then secretly touched the fringes of [his] clothes. Then what happened? The scripture tells us the following. "This woman drew herself in, and when she touched the fringes of Jesus' clothes from behind [him], the bleeding immediately stopped," (verse forty-four). Her illness of many long years was healed.

2. Today's gospel is the story of this illness being healed [from this woman]. What do you all think about it? It wouldn't be strange if a few folks out there thought, "Just cause she touched [his] clothing, she got healed of her illness; I ain't believing that!" Or maybe there are some who think, "If that really happened that would be cool!" Either way though, were this just a tale of a mere person getting healed of a sickness, then it probably wouldn't have much to do with most of us here except for those of us with an illness.

3. But, this story doesn't seem to me to be just about a person getting healed from a sickness of unstoppable bleeding, of constant hemorrhaging. If it were a story of an illness getting cured, if that was it, the story should have ended on that note, she was healed. Hurray, it's a happy ending to the story: it should have been like that if that's all there was to it. But, this very strange story has more to it.

4. Please look at verse forty-five. Jesus said, "Who touched me?," and he began to look around him disquietedly. He was quite determined to locate the person who had touched him. It all seems so strange to me every way I look at it because around Jesus a huge crowd was pushing and shoving like in the [infamous] morning rush hour at the Shibuya train station. So, Peter answered, "Master, the crowd is all around you pushing in." -- That means it's absolutely impossible to [try] to determine who touched [you]. I'm pretty sure that's what he meant. Nevertheless, Jesus doesn't quit. He is doggedly persistent and determined to find out [which person it was]. He said, "Somebody touched me. I sensed power go out from me."

5. It is not just about a woman getting healed, this strange story has more to say. Every way I look at it, it seems to me that it is not merely a story about an illness getting cured. Well, what might this thing be about then? What happened to her? What is this narrative really saying to us?

The Suffering Of Being Unloved

6. In order to think about this, we will want to take another look at the very suffering itself of this woman. This woman with the hemorrhagic health issue, even worse, with this disease that wasn't cured for twelve whole years, what would she say she suffered the most?

7. Whether it was actually an illness in which blood or pus wouldn't stop, in Jewish society, the illness was considered as "uncleanness, defilement." When [someone] is unclean, if that person touches somebody else, then he or she becomes unclean. In this way then, such a person is viewed as somebody who infects others with uncleanness. Being considered "unclean" and even to call yourself unclean was a hard way to go. Of course, there were [other times] besides being sick when one could be considered "unclean." For example, [there is] the case when a person had accidentally touched a corpse. But, if a person entered into a state of uncleanness by that means, he or she was cleansed by ritual purification. That wouldn't work in the case of an illness. As long as the bleeding continued, one would be considered as being unclean. The person would continue to be viewed as defiled. It had kept up for twelve years [in this woman's case]. For twelve long years they kept looking at her as defiled. Can you all imagine that?

8. Since it was twelve years ago, she was probably young when the disease attacked her. Before then she must have had plenty of friends. She probably had a lot of fun times, laughing and cutting it up with everybody. But, after she became "the unclean person," we can imagine how her close friends left her, first one, then another, then everyone left. Because if [I] touch [my friends], [they]'ll be defiled. Nobody will ever come near me again.

9. That's not all. When one gets this sickness, all kinds of things will be said about your family by society in general. "A kid in that family's got the disease where the blood won't stop. They'll always be defiled for ever and ever and ever. Maybe it's cause their ancestors did something bad I wonder, or maybe cuz the kid's parents did something bad, right, don't you think?!" The family will get the evil eye. So, [a person with the disease] will be treated like a parasitic pest even by his or her own family.

10. The unclean were not allowed to participate in religious events. Jewish society was comprised of a day to day society based on many religious events and functions. They could not participate in any of it, they could not participate in it regardless of how much time passed by. They were looked down upon by the religious. Although it is no fault of their own, when the sickness in which one is considered defiled continues on a prolonged basis, [society] will come to feel that [such a person] is detested by God.

11. But on the flip side, there also must have been those who did approach such a woman. There were people who would buddy up to and cash in on the weaknesses of sickness. They were the doctors, the pharmacists, and the shamans. You mustn't think of them as today's docs and druggists. Because they don't have qualifications in accordance with national standards, from of old there were a lot of questionable things. [Doctors and pharmacists] were little more than witch doctors and fortune tellers. Each of them would snuggle up to those who suffered with a view towards money. When a person suffered [he or she] would pay however much to escape from it. So, the text says, "She used up all she owned." In short, that is to say that the money she had was all drained away. Then what happened next is more obvious than seeing a fire. They say, "Stopping money is stopping relationships." So those who had buddied up with a view towards the money would already not be drawing near to her when the money ran out. Since she drained out her money, she was abandoned like a ragged dust cloth. Having lost all she had, only her sickness was left.

12. When we try to imagine her twelve years, it becomes visible to us. The suffering of this person was not the suffering of the sickness itself. That wasn't it, but rather it was "the suffering of being unloved." [She] was considered defiled. No one would love her. Neither friends, nor family, nor doctors, not a one of them, was there to love her in her pain as their own pain. That's what it meant to keep being seen as an unclean person. [It was] "the suffering of being unloved." Since its that [kind of] suffering, we can understand that even if we're not sick. Since it's a story dealing with that suffering, perhaps it's a story that has to do with everybody. When a person is being turned away and just exploited, always being used and thrown away, wounded in different ways by someone else -- and is there anyone who can say I have never been hurt by someone? -- [You] must [try to] visualize how much she had suffered in her "suffering of not being loved."

Superficial Relationships (The Connectivity In Only Touching The Fringes Of Clothing)

13. This person had secretly touched the fringes of Jesus' clothes from behind him. That's right. She touched him secretly as if hiding [herself]. Standing directly in front of Jesus she doesn't say, "Please heal me of my sickness." She doesn't speak. Was it because the crowd was surrounding [them]? No, that's not why. Just before this, a man named Jairus asked Jesus directly for this very thing, "Please come to my house." It wasn't because he couldn't but because "she" couldn't. She could only secretly touch the fringes of his clothes by slipping into the crowd, and following from behind [him] as if hiding [herself]. Why was that? -- Most likely because she was afraid. Because she did want to be hurt again like she had already been.

14. If you are not loved, and have been betrayed, have received harsh mistreatment, and have been deeply wounded in relationships with others, then you will be afraid to come into direct face to face contact with people. It's only natural. If you were standing in front of Jesus and you asked him, "Please heal me," and you were given the cold touch even by Jesus, you might not be able to stand living any more. If he had said, "Since you're an unclean woman, it's nothing doing for you," if she had been hurt at that point, she might not be able to stand living any more. I want you to heal me so much but yet, I don't want to be hurt more than I have. So [I] slipped into the crowd, as one of the people in the crowd, [I] touched the fringes of [your] clothes. Since it's the fringes of clothes, it probably won't be noticed. Of course, I could never expect a personal one on one meeting to take place. But, that's okay. It would be enough "just to connect by touching the fringes of [his] clothing." Then if something good comes out of it, that'll be a good bargain.

15. Do you all ever remember having that kind of relation with someone? I certainly had an experience like that. A connection with someone of only touching the fringes of the person's clothing, [that is, superficially]. -- Was it a friend? It sure was. However we never did come face to face direct with each other on a frank level. We socialized to the extent of [being superficial, that is], touching each other at the fringes. That's was alright; because we did not want to hurt [each other]. What about you, guys? [Our] hand-held devices ring incessantly. So much email comes in. If you set up a blog, people are adding in comments for you. So, it looks like we're all connected that way, but we know the truth, that they're only superficial connections, just touching the fringes. We're not really one on one personally coming face to face. Is [there] love? We don't expect any; because we don't want to get hurt beyond this. Shallow fringe touching relationships are fine [for us]. -- Have you noticed these kinds of thoughts as seen in that woman do have every bit to do with us?

Go In Peace

16. However, something strange happened. "This woman" was thinking a relationship to the extent of just touching the fringe of his garment would be fine. She was thinking it would be fine being one person among the crowd. But, "Jesus" didn't. He began to search for the person who had touched [him] because he understood that the person who had touched him had been suffering up to this very point, had been hurting, and truly needed healing. Jesus understood that; because power had left [him]. Therefore, Jesus had begun to search for the person who had touched him, the person who had been suffering, the person who had been hurting. He did not want to have just a relationship to the extent of just touching between himself and her. Jesus wanted to be face to face with her. Joining head to head, making eye contact, he wanted to speak to her words from the heart, words that poured out from the bottom of his being, words that poured out from love.

17. Timidly she came out. And the text says [she] gave "a reason that she touched him." She most likely spoke of being sick. She probably told Jesus everything plain and simple, frank and out in the open, that she had suffered till that point in time. She was no longer a person in the crowd. She wasn't a person just touching the surface. As a human being she was face to face with Jesus. And Jesus face to face with her right there steadfastly, after hearing everything in her heart, that she had been hurt and suffered, that she could only touch him from behind on the fringes of his clothing, and upon accepting all [of her heart], he spoke to her as follows. "Oh woman, your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

18. I mentioned at the beginning that this wasn't just a story about an illness getting healed. What had happened to her? She had encountered love. Her true suffering was "the suffering of not being loved." That suffering was healed. It wasn't that just her sickness was healed, but also many of her wounds were healed that had come by not being loved.

19. "Go in peace." That's what Jesus said [to her]. That's right, she no longer had to be afraid. There was no need for her to be afraid of coming face to face with others. By meeting Jesus, we too will encounter true love. And Jesus is also saying to us, "Go in peace." Whenever we encounter the love of Jesus, we will no longer need to be afraid. We will no longer be afraid to love or to be loved.