Who Touched Me?
It is a common question among the jostling middle schoolers waiting in line.
Kids who are clumsy, outgrowing their bodies, still learning about personal space.
Kids who are just trying to annoy others by not keeping their hands to themselves.
‘Who touched me’ is about guarding your personal space, your integrity.
Like the siblings who draw a line down the middle in the backseat of the car,
Like no man’s land in combat,
These are fighting words.
In Jesus’ day, they were fighting words, too, but for slightly different reasons.
In our gospel lesson story, Jesus was in the press of the crowd.
In the midst of usual push and shove, Jesus perceived a different kind of touch.
Power flowed out of him—someone had connected with his Source.
Someone was healed.
In all other cases in scripture, Jesus gave the word for healing.
In this case, the healing was taken without his permission.
But this touch was problematic for another reason.
This touch crossed cultural boundaries:
A woman did not touch a man beyond her family, especially not in public.
And a woman who was ritually unclean did not touch anyone else—
any flow of bodily fluid made a person unclean---
Because then they would be unclean too.
Touching like this was unthinkable.
Yet in her desperation—12 years of bleeding, suffering at the hands of witch doctors
In her unshakable faith—if I just touch his cloak…
This woman reached out for the healing she needed and got it.
Now as she stood before Jesus, her worst fears came true: he knew.
“Who touched me?”
Now she had to admit what she’d done.
How she broke the taboo, stole the healing, violated him.
The full shame of her situation and actions would be exposed and judged.
Have you ever been in a similar position?
Where you had done something wrong and were just waiting for the other shoe to drop?
When I was in my senior year of college, I wrote an 80 page honors thesis on Mary Magdalene.
I had turned it in and was preparing to defend it, when one of the professors called me in.
I hadn’t had this professor, and she taught the research methodology class.
“I want to show you a few passages from your thesis,” she began.
I read the passages out loud.
“Is this your work?” the professor asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Actually, it’s not,” the professor when on. She then opened a volume on the history of Christianity
And showed me the same sentence I had just read.
“That’s plagiarism,” she said.
I was mortified.
How could I have done this?
I had taken notes, I had thought I had put it into my own words, but here the words were,
Straight from the history of Christianity textbook.
My whole academic career flashed before my eyes—
Disqualified, disgraced, losing a whole year’s worth of work.
No honors thesis.
Sometimes we make choices that have unforeseen consequences.
Looking back, we say, I should have… or perhaps more often, I never should have…
There are so many cases where the world is not forgiving
Where breaking the rules incurs judgment and shame
Where we have to pay a hefty price for our mistakes, even innocent ones.
But Jesus saw things differently.
He didn’t think in either-or categories of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean.’
When he saw the woman before him, he saw a person: in need, and in faith.
When he asked, who touched me, it was a simple question.
And when in fear and trembling she admits to what she’s done, there is no judgment.
Only affirmation: “Daughter, you faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
Her boldness was not chastised, but applauded.
This is a story of grace, of liberation from sure punishment.
It is a story of healing, a woman set free from years of physical suffering and social isolation.
But it is also a story of learning to see things differently.
Jesus saw this woman not as a problem or a burden or a shameful situation,
But as a precious member of the family: “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”
Jesus saw in this woman a faith worth lifting up to the crowd, worth emulating.
It a faith that changes things—a faith that heals.
This woman’s willingness to break the taboo of ritual purity was ground breaking.
Jesus goes on to do the same thing when he meets Jairus’ daughter,
she had died by the time Jesus got there.
Now touching a corpse also made a person unclean.
But that didn’t stop Jesus.
Like the woman who touched his cloak, Jesus reaches out and takes girl by the hand
In that taboo breaking moment, he heals her.
I believe that Jesus healed not only the woman in this story, but all those who learned what happened.
Jesus healed those in the crowd who had written off family members and neighbors
Who for one reason or another had fallen into ritual impurity.
They no longer need to judge them, cut them off, think in ‘either-or’ categories.
They could call them sisters and brothers once again, daughters and sons.
I believe that Jesus also heals us who hear this story.
People who carry our own shame about something we have done or should have done.
Something we are still punishing ourselves for, when truly, the punishment is paid,
or perhaps as in this case, were never actions worth punishing at all.
The power of Jesus blows away the stale air of judgment and ushers in the cool breeze of grace.
The power of Jesus heals and sets us free.
Where do you see the power of Jesus healing and setting people free?
I thought of the Me Too movement when the read this story this time around.
It’s not that there aren’t falsely accused men, or bad choices that put women in dangerous situations.
It’s that as a society for so long we blamed the victim, and then refused to speak about it.
So this story of a woman breaking a taboo and reaching out for healing
is for me what the Me Too movement is about.
For me, Me Too is a breaking of the taboo of silence about sexual harassment and assault.
It is addressing the wrong of powerful people manipulating and threatening those with less power.
It is bringing grace into punishing situations, and healing to crushed souls and lives.
You might be wondering what happened with my honors thesis.
While I was reeling from the revelation of what I had done, the professor went on:
“I can tell that you weren’t trying to cheat: you cite the works right here in the footnotes.
But you do need to fix these quotes and make them your own.
And if you plan to do any more research, you need a methodology course.”
I defended my thesis, and graduated with high honors.
It was grace.
I have experienced that healing grace in so many aspects of my life, and seen it in the lives around me.
I hope you have too.
I hope you are hearing that liberating message right now:
You are forgiven!
Or maybe even: It’s not your fault!
But either way, in Jesus the healing is that we no longer bear our shame
And instead are set free to cross the boundaries of our day
Perhaps even break a few taboos
And reach out with Jesus’ healing to others.