Let me ask you something: how much of Jesus do you really want?
My pastor mentioned in yesterday's sermon the story of the bleeding woman in the Gospel. And this is a story I make a lot of reference to, and about once a year, I always have the same thought about. As I shape this thought yet again, I'm thinking about a woman who touched barely the hem of His robe.
The thought I always have about this woman is how much she risked to touch Him at all. To push through the crowds at all. To leave her banishment of uncleanness at all. I often think about how, under the Old Law, this woman would have made the Lord unclean by touching Him. And how, under the New Covenant, He makes her clean when she does. As I let the story sink into my heart yet again yesterday, I wondered for the first time if maybe she wondered if she could make Him unclean, even as she hoped that He would make her clean, and that's why she settled for just the hem of His robe rather than full-on reaching out to Him.
It's all speculation, of course, but there are a lot of levels of depth to this story when we think about what the woman knew, what the woman believed, what the woman thought. When we think about whether she hesitated or whether this was her full plan all along. When we think about the others in the crowd or the disciples or the Lord Himself. We could dissect this story for a very long time. But today, just the simple question: did she hesitate because she knew she might make Him unclean?
Did she secretly, in her fantasy, come rushing into the crowd boldly, the way the blind men often did? Crying out for the Son of David to have mercy on her? Falling at His feet the way the woman with the perfume did? Wrapping her arms around Him and not letting go? Did she dream about coming desperately, hungrily, fully to Jesus? Did she have this vision of herself?
Could she even have had this vision of herself? After 12 years of being an outcast, could she have had enough sense of self left to dream this way at all? Did she plan her covert operation in light of her uncleanness and only even intend to reach for the robe? Had her self-esteem dropped so low that she could not fathom anything else at all?
There's a moment of hesitation here somewhere, whether it's when this woman gets to the crowds or when she first begins thinking about them. There's something that caused her to pause and pull back, settling for a hem in a moment when she could have had Him.
It's something to consider, particularly in the present season. We're coming up on Christmas, a time when we celebrate the coming of Jesus. And more and more each year (although we're starting to see some push back to this, maybe), it seems there is this unholy hesitation we have about getting too close to Christ even in this season. We pull back and stay among the Santa Clauses and Rudolphs. We hang out with the Frostys the snowmen and the National Lampoons. We come together not in the Presence but in the presents and seem to forget what's going on away in a manger. We hesitate this season, this season when Christ Himself seems most near to us, and I wonder what that's about.
What is it that keeps us from coming desperately, hungrily, fully to Him? Why are we so busy looking at the stars on the tops of our trees that we can't see any more the star in the sky that guides us to a place where a little baby lay? Is it because we've thought better of ourselves? Is it because we think so little of ourselves? Is it because we think we could make Him unclean?
What if He could make us clean?
I don't know when the woman hesitated. I don't know why she settled for a hem when she could have had all of Him. When just a few more inches away was the fullness of God.
And I don't know why we do the same. Christ is near. He is powerfully near to us, especially in this season. Especially now. Just a few inches away, and we could have all of Him. Are we really content to settle for a hem? Are we content to settle for our hymns? He's right here. Reach out for Him.