Sunday, February 10, 2013

The deeper love

I teach the Bible portion of a small English class on Sundays for international students at a local church here in FW, and it's been an interesting semester for me as a new teacher. For about two years, I was a helper in the level 4 class, with many students from all over the world who had a great grasp on the English language and could hold a full conversation with next to no trouble at all. This year, I began teaching in a level 1 class (we have since become a level 2, but that's another conversation entirely...as I said, it's been an interesting semester!), where our students can barely put together a sentence. Being the deep thinker that I am, this has been a challenging switch for me to make, from explaining things in detail to breaking it down into the most basic form, especially when it comes to the Bible lesson! I have heard many pastors and Bible teachers say that if you cannot explain Scriptural concepts to a child, then you cannot really understand them yourself, and I am finding that to be very true, in a slightly different sort of way.

Our Bible curriculum does a good job of portraying a story, so my struggle is in conveying the purpose of the story. The story we focused on for the last two weeks was the woman who bled for twelve years. The basics of the story are fairly simple. As one of my Haitian students explained,

"Dees woman, she bleed for long long time. Dere many pee-pull, she push dem a-way so she touch Jesus. She wan to be hilled. She touch him, the bleed stops. Jesus tell her she is hilled, and she is very happy!"

Seems basic enough, right? Let's 'unpack' this a little bit. Mark 5:25 says the woman was 'subject to bleeding for 12 years.' We know from Lev. 12 and 15 that this would mean she was unable to: touch anyone or anything without making them/it unclean, participate in normal community life, or to worship in the Temple. Basically, she was isolated from God and her family; she was all alone. For twelve long years. No physical contact, constantly worrying about where to sit, what surfaces to touch, what buildings to enter. And with such a strange illness in such a shame/honor society, there was bound to be gossip galore!
As if the emotional strain of this condition was not enough, there is also the physical suffering of the bleeding, with all the pain that entailed. The doctors tried to help her, she spent all her money on them, but 'instead of getting better she grew worse.' (Vs. 26) And these doctors didn't have the high-tech, sterilized and specialized medicines we have today. I can't imagine the procedures and remedies they would have tried, nor do I want to! They accelerated her illness and depleted her finances, and she was emotionally isolated. There is one word I associate this woman very strongly with, and it is desperation

"When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, 'If I can just touch his clothes, then I will be healed.'" (27-28)

Their culture forbade her to touch anyone in her condition, the doctors had drained her of all hope of ever finding a cure. Yet she pushed through the crowd and touched Jesus' cloak, no doubt making 'unclean' more people in a few minutes than she had over the entire twelve year period. Instantly, her bleeding stopped, and she knew it. (29)

Jesus knew it, too. I've heard a lot of people teach his response to her (30-32) as though this was his way of testing her, to make her vocal about her faith in him. I don't think that this is wrong, but I think his response goes so much deeper than that! He calls her out, not so that he can bring attention to her faith or his healing of her, but so he can have relationship with her. 

"This woman would have been satisfied with physical healing, but her Savior would not. He forced her to come to him and be in relationship with him, to fall down before him, to come out of the shadows and into the full light of day. Our Savior loves to give us gifts but the best gift of all is himself, and he won't let us slink off, back into darkness and isolation. No, his love will pull us out of our shame, defilement, and fears, and then he'll speak gently and lovingly to us. 'Daughter, be at peace.'" ~Elyse Fitzpatrick in Comforts from the Cross

He calls her 'daughter', confirms to her that she is healed, and sends her in peace. He could have just kept on walking, been happy that she was relieved of her suffering. But he wanted her to know him, to know his love, to be completely healed. And my Savior wants the same for me: he cleans me, yes, but his desire isn't for clean people, but clean family. We are His bride, and marriage is an intimate relationship. This side of Heaven may be our engagement period, but everyone know that a good engagement means getting to know all about your fiancee! We will not know him fully until the Wedding, but we should take the time now to build the foundation of that relationship. Come to him as you are, get to know him and love him as he loves you. It is truly the greatest love story ever told!