s125g94 Somerton Park 26/6/94 Sunday 13

"She fell at his feet and told him the whole truth." Mark 5.30

There is a curiosity here, which is important to bring out. In the story of the healing of the woman with the haemorrhage, Jesus actively seeks the woman, who had touched him secretly, and gets her to tell him, and the crowd, of her healing. But at the end of the passage, after the girl is raised from the dead, he strictly tells everyone not to make the incident public.

It might be thought that Jesus was being a little cruel in so actively seeking out the woman and getting her to confess, in public, to her private long standing gynaecological problem. On the face of it nothing more was achieved for the woman by her "confession". Even before Jesus had sought her out, she had been restored to health, she was already going in peace, free of her complaint. These are the only words of blessing that Jesus said to her after she had told him her story. If she had known how Jesus had operated, how he so frequently commanded silence after his healings, she may well have thought that Jesus would have preferred her to slink off into the crowd quietly.

The question is why did Jesus do this. On the one hand Jesus commanded silence about a spectacular raising from the dead, an action which showed his compassion towards the anguish of bereavement of parents. That compassion reflects the compassion of God and seems worth shouting about. But on the other, a simple healing, about a rather delicate subject, is highlighted, not hushed up.

It is true that this woman would have been ritually unclean because of her complaint. This is specified in Leviticus 15.25-30. To be fair to Leviticus, both men and women came under the same sorts of regulations. An uncleanness in a man, practically was more serious than in a woman, simply because women were already second class citizens, in terms of temple worship anyway.

Certainly Jesus did not make an example of the woman for the reason of personal glorification of himself. He did many other things, much more verifiable and public, about which he commanded silence.

So he must have done it for the woman, and so for us.

I believe it is precisely the fact that it was a rather delicate gynaecological problem that Jesus did what he did. We all have a conception of God and religion as being all about prayer, doing good, coming to Church and loving our neighbours. All good, nice, and above all modest.

On the other hand we often think sexuality is something unrelated to the religious life. Sex is a part of life which none of us can deny, yet because it is so personal, and few of us are particularly confident about discussing such a personal matter, we don't talk about it. It has often become the great taboo. Or we see it as potentially dangerous, capable of being used rightly and wrongly, we think perhaps it is neutral morally.

Sex, I suspect we think, is a bit like money. It seems to exist wherever there are human kind. It can be used for great good - and it can be used for great evil. Perhaps we feel safe provided we don't have too much. If we don't have too much money, we can't be defrauding others. If we don't come across in any way as men or women, but simply as persons, we can't be tempted.

However this incident of Jesus making public the curing of the woman with a haemorrhage, speaks of Jesus, and therefore of God's concern for the sexual side of our lives. In this action of Jesus, he highlights the conception that sexuality is not dirty, nor is it morally neutral, but in fact it is a gift from God.

It is a gift from God in quite a different way to money. The origins of commerce and trade, even of bartering, before the advent of coins, and money in general, are lost in the mists of time. They are not even recorded in the Bible, to my knowledge anyway. But the gift of sexuality is, in both the stories of creation, the first and most precious gift to mankind. In the first story, God says: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1.28) immediately after the simultaneous creation of man and woman. In the second story, where man was created before woman, it is God's love and care for the man, because it was not good that he should be alone, that causes God to create woman of man's own flesh. "Therefore a man ... cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh." (Gen 2.24)

Jesus cured this woman then, first and foremost, to restore to her the pleasure of her sexuality. I have no doubt that this is what she would have realised the healing would mean and what was most important to her. The story is retold, and retold in fact by Matthew and Luke also, to encourage us to rejoice in the pleasure of our own sexuality, and to see in it a great gift from God. From my reading, it is the only story told by Jesus himself, which relates to this subject, and as such it is most precious to us. << St Paul counsels "Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season" (1 Cor 7.5 * - *) However sometimes St Paul's counsels are a trifle confusing! >> So it is especially precious from the actions of Jesus.

So today, as we read this story of the restoration of the pleasure of the woman's sexuality, let us rejoice in the pleasure we receive from our partners. As we rejoice in that pleasure, I have no doubt God himself will also be smiling.

* - * Gr: pros kairon => Lk 8.13 = for a while i.e. not a long time.

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