dirty hands

I recently found myself digging around in my car trying to find enough loose change to get into our Wayne County Fair.  I had only two dollar bills and needed just one dollar more in change to pay for a ticket.  The ATM was miles away and I decided to spend several lonely minutes straining under narrow seats, lifting up dirty floor mats, and handling ancient french fries-all for some coinage.  I was desperate.  Have you been in the middle of a field?  Alone?  Searching with desperation not just for a few pennies but for the presence of God?  There is hope.  That hope is found by digging into a story found in Mark 5.

The lady described in Mark 5:25-34 has nothing in her dirty, sickly hands.  No money.  No home.  No health.  Dilapidated dreams.  Deflated faith.  Unwelcome in the synagogue with her “defiling” issue of blood.  Unwanted by her community.  She is desperate.  How desperate-blood will not stay in her body!  And her desperation births an idea when she hears of Jesus.

Why should we come to God with our desperation?  Because God is near two types of desperation.

“Incurable” Desperation

God can cure despite the time. (25, 27)

Time has a way of wearing down our faithfulness and faith in God.  We must remember that while time alone does not heal anything, time filled with God can heal anything!

We must listen for God (“heard of Jesus”).  A long series of desperate days often lead to a dullness of hearing toward God’s word.  Peter reminds us “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2Pe 1:19).  Stop complaining with your voice; start listening to God’s voice.

We must demonstrate for God (“touched his garment”).  Jesus’ robe is in sight.  Four tassels dangle from blue threads.  Ornaments of holiness worn by Jewish men.  How long since she had touched anything holy?  She extends her hand toward a tassel.  Her sick hand.  Her tired hand.  The hand the husband no longer wants and the family no longer needs.  We often lack God’s intervention because we fail to demonstrate physically our desire for Him to work on our behalf.  Impatience always leads to spiritual inactivity! Reverse that trend with demonstrative, time-activated activity.

Arnold Bennet states, “Time is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it.”

God can cure despite the trend. (26, 28-29)

I recently read a humorous statement as follows: “During exams, students look up for inspiration, down in desperation, and left and right for information.”  This lady had been looking “left and right” for years to even the fringes of the medical community.  Do you sense quackery in the words of verse 26?  Doctors who took not the disease but advantage of her?  She had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better.  In fact, she had gotten worse.  What do we do went the trend in headed in the wrong direction?

We must initiate with God (“If I may touch but his clothes”).  She kept telling herself that if she could just touch His clothes, she would be healed and then she could slip away unobserved. Perhaps her faith was mixed with a popular notion that a healer had power in his clothing, or she may have known someone who had been healed in this way (cf. 3:10; 6:56).  The original text of verse 28 reads, “For she kept saying.” It was as though she encouraged herself as she made her way to Jesus.  What is the missing “if” in your life that makes you desperate today?  According to James 4:1-3, prayer is the ONLY way to initiate with God!    If you are like me, probably most of the chronic desperation in your life is the result of a dysfunctional prayer life!

We must trust in God (“I shall be made whole”).  I read of a dear lady of the “lighter hair persuasion” that called out and asked her husband to help her with a very difficult jigsaw puzzle that she could not figure out how to get started. Her husband asked, “What is it supposed to be when it’s finished?”  She replied, “According to the picture on the box, it’s a tiger.”  He went into the kitchen and saw the puzzle spread all over the table. He studied the pieces for a moment, then looked at the box, turned to her, and said, “No matter what we do, we’re not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a tiger. Now, put the Frosted Flakes back in the box.”  Do you know that only God can assemble the pieces of your heart, body, home, and life into the “whole” big picture He has planned?  Verse 29 records that her faith positioned her to be made whole by the Lord.  Life rushes in.  Pale cheeks turn pink. Shallow breaths become full.  The dam cracks and a river floods.  The woman feels power enter.  By the way the word “whole” and the word “Jesus” are found frequently together not just in the Gospels in the lives of people today!

“Insignificant” Desperation

Do you like to be in the midst of big crowds?  I remember several years ago being in New York City and feeling immensely insignificant.  It is when you are in the mass of humanity that you get “lost in the crowd.”  The Lord intervened when the woman must have felt “lost in the crowd.” (v. 24)

God can connect despite the crowd. (30-32)

God asks for you (30).  Jesus also feels the power exit.  He is unwilling for her to experience a miracle and not seize the opportunity to give glory to God.  The redeemed of the Lord are instructed to “say so” (Psalm 107:2, 20-21).  Instead of focusing upon on the prayer that God has not answered; focus on the praise that you have not uttered.  There other desperate people that need to hear of the God who delivers!  Ps 29:2 “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”

God looks for you (31-32).  I am always struck by the optimism and love expressed in cardboard signs on telephone poles-“lost dog, lost cat, lost llama (Okay, I admit that I made up the last one.)  In moments of desperation or deliverance, we are tempted to think that God does not see us individually!  In the Parable of the Lost Sheep-the shepherd leaves the 99 in fold to find how many-one (Luke 15).

As one commentator points out, “Jesus’ question seemed absurd to His disciples because the crowd was pressing in and many people were touching Him. This emphasized Jesus’ ability to distinguish the touch of one who in faith expected deliverance from the inadvertent touch of those crowding against Him. There was, and still is, a great difference between the two.”

In Luke 12:6-7, Christ elevates our significance, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”  No matter how big the crowd around you, don’t allow your own emotions or others’ remarks convince you that God does not look for you !

Civilla Martin recounts, “Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was the outcome of that experience.”  Does this same musical anthem characterize your view of God in desperate situations?

God can connect despite the concealment. (33-34)

Have you ever seen what are called “low profile” tires?  You know the kind the cause your “cool car” to scrape on speed bumps. In like fashion, many of us want to be “low profile” in our relationship with a “high-profile” God.  That is not possible.  This dear lady quickly touched the border of his outer garment despite her “uncleanness” and with a desire to avoid an embarrassing public disclosure of her malady.  Can we fault this woman’s timidity?  She doesn’t know what to expect.  Jesus could berate her, embarrass her.  Besides, He was her last choice.  She sought the help of a dozen others before she sought his.  And the people-what would they do?  What will the ruler of the synagogue she cannot enter do?  He is upright.  She is unclean.  And here she is lunging at the town guest.  No wonder she is afraid.

God listens to you (33).  Not only does Christ make this woman “whole,” but He listens to her “whole story.”  One writer observes, “‘The whole story.’  How long had it been since someone put the gear of life in Park, turned off the key, and listened to her story?  But when this woman reaches out to Jesus, he does.  With the town bishop waiting, a young girl dying, and a crowd pressing, he still makes time for a woman from the fringe.”  Only desperate people can humbly fall at Jesus’ feet and give glory to God for His powerful working.

God blesses you (34).  The affectionate title, Daughter (its only recorded use by Jesus) signified her new relationship with Him.  Jesus attributed her cure to her faith rather than the touch of His clothing. Her faith healed her (lit., “has saved or delivered you”) in that it caused her to seek healing from Jesus.  It is a desperate need that only Jesus can meet that leads to an intimate, dynamic relationship with God!

I recently read a sad news article regarding a new policy in the state of Hawaii.  Under pressure from the visitor industry, the Honolulu City Council is taking up a slew of proposals to ban sitting, lying down, and other activities on sidewalks in Waikiki and other public places.  In another proposal, the city may allow its homeless population to camp on Sand Island, a remote, mostly industrial island far from resorts that was used during World War II as a an Internment Camp for Japanese Americans and is home to a wastewater treatment plant and former dump.

Unlike mankind, Christ repeatedly demonstrates that God is not “for” discarding upon an isolated island those who are in a desperate place at this moment!  He is a prayer away from the most desperate person in the most dire place.  Will you allow Christ to remove your “incurable” and “insignificant” desperation?

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