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Bleeding to Death

Based on Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56

A woman who has suffered from internal bleeding for years comes to Capernaum to meet Jesus and ask to be healed, but before she can speak to him a man asks Jesus to come and help his sick daughter. Thinking she has missed her chance the woman puts her trust in the power of Jesus and reaches out to touch the hem of his robe.

Copyright Gavin Owen 2007

Jesus jumped down from the front of the boat and landed in the water with a splash. The lake was too shallow here for the boat to go any further, so Jesus and his twelve friends had to wade through the waves until they came to the shore. In the distance they could see the rooftops of the houses in the little town of Capernaum that was now their home and coming down the beach towards them was a great crowd of people. Jesus and his friends had been away, visiting the towns and villages around the edge of the lake, telling the people there about God and the way to heaven. Now it seemed that half of Capernaum had come out to welcome them back. As they got close, the people gathered around Jesus and began to call out – “Teacher, tell us one of your stories. Jesus, come and have tea at my house. Master, do some more miracles.”

At the back of the crowd, unseen by everyone, was a woman standing by herself. She wasn't from Capernaum, she'd come to the town because she wanted to see Jesus. Now there he was just a few metres away. She had a special reason for wanting to meet him. She was ill, she'd been ill for twelve years, there was something wrong with her body, she kept bleeding on the inside, but nobody knew why and she'd spent all her money on doctors who'd tried to make her better but had only made her worse. She had no friends because people thought that the bleeding made her unclean and that if they even touched her they would be unclean too. She had nothing and no-one and she'd begun to give up hope. But then she'd heard stories about this man Jesus, about the amazing things he'd done, turning water into wine, making blind people see, making a paralysed man walk. Some people were saying that he had the power to do these miracles because he was God's own Son. Surely he could cure her illness?

So she'd come to Capernaum and finding that he was away she'd waited for Jesus to return. Now all she had to do was get to him, tell him what was wrong and he would heal her. But there was a problem, all these people! There was no way she could get to Jesus without having to squeeze past them, but if they realised that she was ill, that an unclean woman had touched them, they'd be furious with her, they'd throw her out of the town and she'd never get to meet Jesus. She racked her brains for an answer but she couldn't think of anything, so she closed her eyes, looked up to heaven and prayed, “Oh Lord, please let me get to your Son unnoticed.” Then she took a deep breath and plunged into the crowd. It had been so many years since she been this close to so many people that she found it terrifying, it was like being in a sea of bodies and she felt like she was drowning. But then she pushed forward and began to move through the crowd, slipping between people as if she was invisible and she realised – God had answered her prayer!

The noise of the people calling out to Jesus was almost deafening and the nearer to him she got the louder it became. She was right at the front of the crowd now and just waiting for Jesus to look in her direction. Then suddenly she heard a man's voice behind her shouting, “Out of my way, out of my way, move!” and the next moment someone had put a hand on her shoulder and shoved her roughly to the side. She stumbled and fell to the ground and the crowd pressed around her so quickly and tightly that she couldn't get back on her feet. She looked up to see who had pushed her and saw a man dropping to his knees in front of Jesus. “Please,” he cried out, “please help me, my daughter is dying.” At once the shouting stopped, the crowd was silent, and everyone looked at Jesus.

Jesus reached out a hand and pulled the man the man to his feet. “Of course I'll help you,” he said, “let's go.”

As the whole crowd turned and began to head back to the town, the woman with bleeding put her head in her hands. “It's not fair,” she groaned, “I was so close.” Then looking up, she realised that Jesus was about to walk right in front of her. “Surely if I just touch his clothes that will be enough to heal me,” she thought. So she reached out a trembling hand and as Jesus went by she let her fingers brush against the edge of his robe. The moment she did, she gasped. A deep heat was passing through her whole body, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. She could feel herself changing inside and she knew for certain that the bleeding had stopped.

“Who touched me?”

Everyone looked round. Jesus was standing still, his hand raised to halt the procession.

“Who touched me?” he asked again.

“Teacher,” his friends replied, “the people are all crowding around and pressing against you.”

“Someone touched me,” Jesus insisted, “I felt power going out of me.”

Then Jesus began to turn, looking at the people in the crowd one by one, searching for the person who had touched him. Slowly the woman stood up, walked over to Jesus and knelt at his feet, shaking with fear.

“Master,” she began slowly, “It was me, I touched you. You see, I've been sick for so long and then I heard about you, about the miracles you've done. So I came here to ask you to heal me but I couldn't get to you through the crowd and I pushed my way through and I was about to speak to you but then this man got to you first and I thought ... I thought that if I just touched your clothes I would be healed ... and I have been.”

She waited for Jesus to answer, afraid that he would be angry with this unclean woman who had dared to touch him, but when he spoke his voice was calm and gentle. “It wasn't my clothes that healed you,” he explained, “it was your faith – you believed in me. You're free now, your illness is gone and it will never return. Go in peace.”

As Jesus was saying these words a small group of men came hurrying down the beach from the direction of the town and stopped by the man whose daughter was dying. One of them stepped forward and quietly told him, “Your daughter is dead. There's no need to bother Jesus any more.”

When he heard these words the man looked as if he was going to collapse on the spot but Jesus put his hands on the man's shoulders and held him steady. “Look at me,” Jesus ordered, “don't be afraid, just believe, believe like that woman believed!” And turning to his friends he said, “Peter, James, John, you're with me, the rest of you stop this crowd from following us.” Then Jesus, his three friends and the man hurried away towards the town.

When they came to the man's house everyone inside was crying and wailing. “What's all this noise?” asked Jesus, “She isn't dead you know, she's just asleep.” The people looked at Jesus as if he was mad and they began to laugh. “That's enough,” Jesus snapped, “now off you go” and he sent them outside, all except for the man's wife. Then the man and his wife showed Jesus and his friends into their daughter's room. She was lying on her bed, not moving, not breathing, completely lifeless. Jesus sat down beside her, took her hand in his and in a voice that was barely more than a whisper he commanded her, “Little girl, get up!” At once the girl opened her eyes and took in a deep breath. The man and his wife let out a cry of alarm and drew back in fear but when their little girl sat up they rushed forward and threw their arms around her.

“Don't tell anyone what happened in this room,” Jesus warned them, “or people will be asking her about it for the rest of her life – she'll never hear the end of it. And give her something to eat, she'll be hungry after what she's been through.”

And with that Jesus and his friends left the house and headed for home.

The man looked at his wife and smiled, her tears of grief had turned to tears of joy. “How did he do it?” she asked him, “How did he bring her back to life?” “I don't know,” her husband replied, “It must be true what they say about him, he really is the Son of God.”