Will the war of words ever stop? Criticisms abound in the rhetoric of politics, fights over building walls, spewing out words of discrimination against skin color and righteous indignation over who has the “right” interpretation of the Bible. Christians all over the world proclaim stories about God’s love and forgiveness and their personal relationship with God. Other stories infiltrate news and social media regarding the decline of church attendance because people are turned off by the divisive words and actions by people of faith. A familiar sight around ball games, stamped under player’s eyes and splashed on billboards around the country is a go-to the biblical verse of John 3:16. Are you familiar with the words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Like many children, who attended Sunday school, I had to memorize and recite these words throughout my childhood. This verse is so familiar to most of us that it might be easy to gloss over its radical meaning. It says “whoever” believes in Jesus, will be with God through eternity.” It does not say, whoever is from a certain denomination, religious affiliation, a certain color or creed, or with the correct interpretation of the Bible gets a free pass into the kingdom. It might come as a shock that with that one word, whoever, God is going to great lengths to spend forever with us. These familiar words are not about what we have to do to earn grace and mercy. It is God’s free gift to us!
“He’s back!” “The man Jesus has returned from across the sea!” shouted the boy. Before he could fade into the crowd, I asked him, “Who is Jesus?” He turned to me with a look of disbelief and yelled over the noisy crowd, “Haven’t you heard of the man who heals the sick, help the blind to see and the lame to walk?” Before I could ask more, the boy was lost into the growing crowd. Just then my neighbor passes in front of me so in my excitement I grab her arm to ask her about this man called Jesus. She looked at me with disdain and pulled away saying, “Get away from me,” the woman said, “You are unclean so do not touch me.” I shied away from her hoping that nobody heard what she had said. I am so weary of not fitting in and being an outcast from family and friends. The doctors have not been able to stop the bleeding and now I am penniless. Caught up in the frenzy of the crowd, I jostle along with the mass and suddenly the crowd stops so quickly I stumble to the ground. As I try to stand, I see a richly dressed rabbi drop to his knees, looking up towards a man and begging, “Jesus, please have mercy on me. My daughter is dying and she needs your help.” As he speaks, I see the man standing in front of me reaching out his hand to help the teacher stand. The healer’s eyes were filled with compassion as he nodded his agreement to follow him and heal the girl. The people around him did not allow him to move because they too were desperate and begging for his healing touch. Instantly I felt the same desire for his healing power. Before he moved away I reached out to touch the hem of his cloak. With the crowd demanding his attention I didn’t think he would notice my touch. When the cloth was in my hand, I felt a healing power so great I couldn’t move. In an instant, I knew the bleeding had stopped and I was healed. I let go of his cloak and just sat on the ground in the middle of the impatient crowd stunned by what had happened. Then I heard these words, “Who touched me?” What? Who touched him? He couldn’t know, could he? I stayed still so he would not notice me. His followers scoffed and explained that with a crowd of this proportion any number of people could have touched him. Jesus continued to scan the crowd as he slowly turned to me waiting. He knew! How could he know it was me? With great caution, I glanced up to his face. His eyes were not filled with horror or disdain but with love. Then he smiled at me. His patient waiting gave me the courage to confess my story. Through my tears, I told him about my 12- year struggle with a blood disorder and how the doctors could not help me and how I knew he was my last hope of healing. The people near me gasped and slowly moved away afraid to be so close to an unclean person. I should be used to it by now but I can never get away from my old friend “shame,” which makes my whole body sag under its weight. The man, Jesus squatted down to me and grabbed my hand to help me to my feet. Then he said the words I will never forget, “Daughter, your faith has made you will; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” With a slight bow to me, he turned to follow the anxious rabbi to his home to heal his daughter. There I stood in a crowd of people feeling free for the first time in years. I was healed! I started to dance and shout, “I am healed!” “Do you hear me? Jesus healed me!” I realized then what a gift he had given me. Not only was I healed in body but also I was restored to my community. No longer will I be shunned and called unclean! I am free from the disease that has held me captive for so long. Shame will no longer have a grip on my life! I can dance and laugh and even giggle like a child. I am healed!!
Denise seeks to empower people to live into their true potential...