There is a well-known, undeniable fact about Jesus: He always was available. In all four gospels, we find examples of individuals requesting help and blessings to which Jesus always and graciously responded. But, honestly, that’s history. All those spectacular, brilliant acts of Christ’s benevolence 2000 years ago are already consumed. We cannot escape the uncomfortable thought that their meaning is locked when we read them. How should we unlock the meaning? Our needs are the same, but do we have the same expectations? Do we believe that we are the modern lepers, paralytics, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, blind men or abused women who can expect precisely the same outcome?
We believe that Jesus is always the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That is a biblical statement. But to become a fact, we find the transition extremely difficult. For example, a mother that is crying and praying that her nameless, premature son may live despite his terrible condition, would we count her plea as being realistic? Should she give up on him because that’s the natural way of life: only the robust and healthier will live? She is not craving a mansion or asking for a facelift or a trip to the Bahamas. She is begging for his survival. We have many needs: physical, emotional, social, relational, intellectual, spiritual, material, aesthetical, etc. And we hold expectations accordingly—expectations from God, our fellows and ourselves. If we had the chance to present just one petition to Christ, what would that be?
Mark 5, 24-29 tells the story of a sick woman. There are three other participants in this story. The key word is pressing around and one thing in common: Jesus. The crowd always flocked to Jesus. Instinctively they felt He was the Provider. Everyone was keen to stay near Him and get a bigger slice. But this pressing was turbulent; the crowd didn’t know what to expect. Just a general blessing or something concrete? Sermons, teachings, miracles, healing, fish and chips? Or just curiosity, superstition, or fun? (Fun is the new, fashionable religion of the 21st century. But there is nothing fun in following a crucified God). Was that pressing around intentional or just accidental? They touched Jesus but for what end?
What about the 12 disciples? They were pressing around too. But at least they were the “professionals”. Unlike the crowd, they were the inner circle, not the outer layer. They had the best seats. They saw Him performing live. They heard all His sermons. And they had some clear goals, too, material and spiritual. They were the remnant and the future. Upon them, Jesus would build the real tomorrow. And they touched Jesus too. Every day, everywhere. But for what end?
Jesus was surrounded by a crowd and a group of professionals, but no one managed to activate His power, except for someone who was there for a specific purpose. It was this desperate woman. She did not strive for a decent, predictable existence like the crowd. She did not aspire either for some political or financial ambitions as Jesus’ disciples did. Her purpose was simple: she just wanted to survive and nothing else.
We don’t want just to survive. We want to live purposely and intentionally, inspired by great dreams and exciting visions. But there is a problem with that. We often get stuck or lost somewhere along the road, unable to cross the bridge from imaginary to reality. We dream about many beautiful things, hoping they will become true one day if we stay close enough to Jesus in the roundabout of expectations. However, as we can see in this story is not enough to press around Jesus. The crowd and the disciples were acting as a buffer. To penetrate this “wall” was not an easy endeavour. They were pressing around hard. What chance does that desperate woman have? In theory, everybody can come to Jesus, but the practice is complex.
The church always tried to protect, defend, and press around Jesus in her millennial history. In her zeal, she even alienated Him from the people outside the walls. You cannot make entrance just as you are. The church will make some “cosmetic” refurbishment work on you; it will hand out a guide for good behaviour, a list with all the rules and regulations. In short, it will make you likeable to Jesus. But is it our job to make people better and agreeable or introduce them to Jesus as John the Baptist did?
The sick woman understood that a traditional approach would not work for her. The ceremonial and cultural conventions forbade public interaction between a woman and a man, especially if he was a teacher. Due to her marginal position in society, she could not hope for a favour. She tried without success all alternatives – doctors, treatments, diet, pills, ” aloe vera”, etc. She even suffered worse ” under the care of many doctors ….” the Gospel says. Jesus was her last chance. However, there was a technical problem: how to approach Him? Jesus was a man, a rabbi, a righteous one; she was a sick, unclean woman. She will come to Jesus but in a completely different way. She did not ask Jesus for help: no prayer, fasting, or supplications. She had no doubts like the royal official and no out-loud requests like Jairus. Her faith was fuelled by a strong confidence that the healing was within her reach. All she had to do was to reach out to Jesus and secretly claim the blessing.
And she did that. She unlocked the door and helped herself from that infinite warehouse of grace. She had the entry codes and the password. It was like a self-banking situation: ” for healing, press one; for forgiveness, press two; for peace and assurance, press three”. We are not fortunate enough to have Jesus physically among us. What is the second-best option? We can try praying and fasting and supplicating – the traditional way. It’s alright. It is still available and biblical too. But how has that worked out for us so far? We are not yet fully recovered, healed or saved and still waiting for a future miracle.
Like the young ruler, we feel something is still missing from our lives. We are obeying all the commandments, doing the proper diet, keeping the Sabbath, doing mission and charity, and being involved in the community. Still, something is missing. What is the trick? Trying harder, press around Jesus with a double zeal?
All we need to do is go for it, claim the blessing now, and secure the gift: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11,24).
Sorin Petrof is the Communication and Media Director for the SEC