I just can’t seem to get this passage out of my mind, partially because it is so powerful, but perhaps it is also because it feel so personally relevant to me right now…Luke 8:
43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
I tend to read Scripture like a non-Christian would. Uh, let me rephrase that. I don’t read Scripture as a Christian would. That doesn’t sound any better. In fact, it just sounds like the inverse of what I said before.
What I mean to say is that when I read the Bible, I don’t put on my Christian glasses and look for the right answers from the very start. I actually try to read it from the perspective of someone who has never read it before, who does not have the benefit of Christian culture and experience. I have found that reading Scripture in this way allows me to see angles and nuances that might be lost if I simply toed the typical Christian line.
When I read this passage in this way, there is a cynical side of me that feels like Jesus is just fishing for a compliment, that He wants the woman to acknowledge what He’s done, and thank Him appropriately. It feels kind of like what I do with my daughters. They’ll ask for a cookie or something to that effect, and I’ll hold it out to them, but before I hand it over, I prompt them by asking, “What do you say…?”, to which they respond in a monotone voice, “Thaaaank youuuuu.” And I get that sense as I read Luke 8, that before Jesus is willing to let the woman on her way in peace, He is waiting for her to respond and give credit where credit is due.
Now, this might seem a little distasteful, as if Jesus is starving for attention or accolades, but I don’t think it is. I think it is only right. Jesus has done something remarkable for this woman, something miraculous, and it is strange that the woman should leave that incredible experience not breathing a word of it to anyone, especially to the one who has performed that miracle for her. Jesus deserves credit where credit is due. It might seem weird that Jesus should wait for a word of acknowledgment, but I think it is weirder still for that woman to try to leave without giving that word.
But I don’t think that is what Jesus is really doing here anyway. He is trying to elicit a response from this woman, but not in the way that we think, solely so that He can receive credit. The key to understanding what is going on here is in verse 47, where it says this, “In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.” That is the context in which all of this takes place, in the presence of all the people. And I think this is why Jesus stops her and waits for her to say something, so that the blessing that she has received can be shared with those around her.
What Jesus is trying to pull out of this woman is not a simple thank you, but a praise report, a testimony that will encourage people around her. You see, if this woman had just walked away, secretly being healed by Christ, then the effects of Jesus’ work are limited – she’s personally healed and encouraged, but no one else is. But if she shares what God has done with others, those people are encouraged as well, and have hope for their lives and for their own conditions in turn. Healing begins to radiate outwards.
Just a few verses before this passage, in Luke 8:16, it reads this, “”No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” You see, when we are blessed, when we are enlightened, when we are healed, it’s our responsibility to share that blessing with people, to put that light on a lampstand. Blessings are there for us to share with others and to proclaim, not to hide or hoard.
And I think that is an encouragement, even a rebuke, that many of us need to hear and heed, that we have a responsibility to share and testify to God’s blessings, every single time we experience them. I think many modern Christians, including myself and nearly everyone I know, tend to be very private and circumspect when it comes to God’s blessings. We don’t want to impose our Christian-ness on others, and figure that talking about God too much will just weird people out. So we stay quiet, and keep our stories of God’s providence and transformation just to ourselves, to hold and cherish…under our bushels. As a result, whatever powerful work that God has accomplished stops there, with us, and goes no further.
But I think what Jesus expects of this woman, expects of all of us. He expects us to stop and testify as to the healing we have received, the goodness we have experienced, so that others might taste and hunger for that same goodness as well. We need to loosen our lips and testify about what God has done, so that God’s healing accomplish its full and intended purpose, which is the healing of many people, and many nations.