Monday, January 5, 2015

12 Years A Slave

MARK 5:21-34
In the seventh grade I made a new friend. Jerimiah Ramos. We came from different backgrounds, but we hit it off instantly. Maybe a little too well. He got me in trouble on the first day of school in our math class. Apparently Ms. Marusczak was not as amused by his impersonations of the The Simpsons characters as I was. Some people just can’t appreciate good talent.
I remember one of our first conversations was about our class schedule, particularly which elective classes we had chosen. When you are a student, those elective classes are the highlight of your day. Art. Theater. Band. They are a nice respite from the scholastic grind of math, science, literature, and the like. As Jerimiah and I pulled out our schedules, I was eager to show him that I had signed up for Industrial Technology, or “IT” as all the cool kids called it. IT was just shop class with a new name. I have to say I felt pretty macho talking about it. I envisioned myself disassembling a lawn mower engine, only to rebuild that puppy bigger and better. Like a professional quarterback calling out an audible, I would be barking out the names of wrenches to my fellow manly men:
“Hey, Jenkins! Toss me that 9/16s!
Lesser men would be clueless, but not the “IT” guys. I couldn’t wait! My senses would be going crazy...the sound of the miter saw producing that oh-so-sweet aroma of fresh cut wood. Power tools. Machines. Oil. Grease. Leaving class each day with sweaty faces and dirty hands. This was the class for real men! Let someone else learn to speak Spanish, in IT we would learn to speak “MANish” (okay come on have to admit that was pretty punny).
So after the little “testosterone trip” in my mind, the conversation turned to back Jerimiah. I inquired of what elective he had chosen to take. I was completely stunned when he said “Yeah man me and Zed Chavis signed up to take A-Choir.” I LOL’d before LOL was even a term. He had to be joking. So of course I pressed. “Haha that’s funny, man. For real though, what elective are you taking?” To my disbelief, he was serious! “Nah for real bro, I am taking choir.”
Was this dude crazy??? Everyone knew choir was for girls. This was social suicide! He was going to be the laughing stock of Zundelowitz Junior High (yes that’s the real name of my alma mater). If his desire was to go through middle school with ZERO friends, he was definitely on the right path. Shock and awe. I was literally speechless. Feeling the awkwardness, Jerimiah elaborated. “Think about it, man. There will be nothing but girls in there, and me and Zed will have them all to ourselves. And they look good, too!” My countenance instantly changed. This guy was not crazy or stupid at all. He was a GENIUS. While I was building pine wood derby cars in the hot woodshop with stinky boys, he was going to be in an air-conditioned choir room harmonizing with beautiful girls. In that moment all I could think was, “Dang! Why didn’t I think of that?” If it was middle school girls he wanted to be close to, he had definitely positioned himself for that very thing.
I learned something that day. If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get to it. Did you know there is a story in the Bible that validates this truth. This passage in Mark introduces us to a woman who was determined to get to Jesus. She demanded to be where He was. Period. And she would not be denied or deterred. What was the reason, why was she so motivated to get to The Lord? If you have read the passage, you know the answer. It was because she had nowhere else to go. She was out of options. To say she was desperate would be to vastly underestimate her reality. For twelve years she had lived as a slave. A prisoner. Not bound by bars or chains, but rather by a health condition that even doctors could not remedy. Not that she hadn’t given them the opportunity. To the contrary, she had emptied out her life savings seeking medical help. Like a kid playing hop-scotch, she had bounced from one specialist to the next. “Maybe this time I will get some answers. Maybe this doctor will be able to find something the last one didn’t.” But all her visits yielded no results. Mark tells us that not only did she not improve, but her condition actually deteriorated further. Her body, like her bank account, was broken. And no one could fix it.
In reading of this woman’s situation, how do we not feel a heaviness? Intrinsically our hearts hurt for people who suffer incessantly. And yet in verses 27-28 the story takes a dynamic twist: She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” I notice so many things in these two verses.
.    1)  She had “heard about” Jesus. Somewhere, someone, at some time had told her about this “Jesus guy” who works miracles. Isn’t it interesting to think about the role that this person played in telling her about Jesus? Had that person not spoken up, she might have missed her miracle. Something to think about.
.    2)  There was a crowd. It would have been easy to get discouraged when she saw Jesus surrounded by so many people. Like the paparazzi swarming the latest Hollywood big shot, throngs of people had flocked to Jesus. People less desperate might have walked away hoping they catch the Carpenter from Galilee another time, in a place less crowded. But not this woman. When you have been held captive by disease for 12 years, crowds don’t mean anything. She pushes through, bobbing and weaving until she is right behind Jesus.
.    3)  Her faith was off-the-charts HUGE. She didn’t expect Jesus to chat with her, listen to her story, or even pray for her. She had so much faith in the deity of Jesus, she had resolved that “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” She needed a miracle, she knew who could give her a miracle, and so she got to where He was. Upon touching his robe, the Bible says that she was “immediately” healed.
I love Jesus’ response. “Who touched my robe?” The disciples misunderstood the question. “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But they don’t get it. Jesus isn’t inquiring about incidental contact or someone unwittingly bumping into him. He recognizes that someone touched Him ON PURPOSE. Like money leaving an ATM, power has left the body of God’s Son. A divine transaction has transpired, and Jesus wants to see the face of the beneficiary whom He has healed.
But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”
Here is where we will land the plane. Consider this one thought: so much of this miracle rests upon something surprisingly simple— LOCATION. This woman spiritually positioned herself for healing when she physically positioned herself close to Jesus. How easy it would have been to miss her miracle if she had just stayed in the same place. I wonder how many spiritual miracles and blessings we forfeit because we fail to physically get close to Jesus. We fail to fall on our knees in prayer. We fail to open up the Word of God and let it saturate our minds. We fail to authentically worship. Because we fail to do what we can on our side, we miss out on what God would do on his side.
How badly do you want to get to Jesus? Are you desperate? Like the woman in this story, do you find yourself plagued by the same things all these years later? Distant from God. Disconnected from your faith. Defeated by sin. Maybe you just want to go to a new place spiritually. If you are ready for your breakthrough, get to where Jesus is. Do what you can physically to pursue Him, and He will do spiritually what you cannot do. When we step out with audacious faith, our God will respond. Get to where He is, and where you are will never be the same.

Jerimiah Ramos and I are still great friends to this day. And for the record, the next year as an 8th grader I was a proud member of the Zundelowitz Junior High A-Choir.

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