Summary: Two people who were changed by one contact with Jesus, after trying to avoid meeting him tell their stories. Zacceus and the woman who bled.

Mark 5:25-34

Unclean! Unclean! Unclean! That was me

It was not really a life, more an existence, and a miserable existence at that. I was tired all the time and I was getting weaker, and weaker, and weaker. I had no energy, no joy or zest for life. Some days I could only lie on my bed all day. All the time I was bleeding, bleeding, bleeding. The life seemed to be slowly ebbing out of my body.

I was desperate for a cure, for the bleeding to stop. I went to doctor after doctor, increasingly frantically, looking for something that would cure me; that would stop the bleeding. In my desperation I even went to some that I knew were quacks. They tried a great range of different treatments, ranging from horrible potions to painful, degrading operations, but nothing worked. I just lost more and more blood and became weaker and weaker. Each time I went to see a new doctor I felt hopeful that he would be the one who could cure me, but I left in worse pain than I had started with. Eventually that problem was solved. I had no money left to consult any more doctors; I scarcely had enough for food.

The bleeding, the weakness and the tiredness were bad enough, but they were not the worst things; my problem meant that I was ceremonially unclean. Everyone I touched became ritually defiled; the whole town avoided me. I was lonely and despised. But even worse was the sense of spiritual desolation. An unclean woman like me could not enter the Synagogue, or take part in the prayers of the village. I desperately wanted to be part of God’s covenant with his people, but my bleeding cut me off.

I longed for a sense of acceptance from God, to be close to him. But I did not have it. I was unclean, an outcast from society, and, it seemed, from God. It seemed that I was as low as a woman could get.

Unclean! Unclean! Unclean! That was me.

I had heard stories of a great prophet, a teacher from God, who some were saying might even be the Messiah. Apparently God was performing miracles, healing the sick, even other unclean people, like lepers. I heard of the great teaching and the parables that he was telling. Although I had never met him, I knew that he was God’s man. His name was Jesus.

I knew that he was my only hope. Next time he came to town, I went to where he was. I stood well back, but I listened to his teaching, saw his power and knew that he was the One sent by God. When he started to make a move, I knew that my chance had come. I quietly and unobtrusively made my way into the crowd, making sure that nobody noticed me. Eventually I got near enough to touch him. I knew that if I just touched him, I would be healed, such was his power, his holiness.

I reached out, and gently touched the edge of his cloak, hoping that he wouldn’t notice. Immediately I felt my bleeding stop, and I knew that I was healed.

But to my horror, he stopped. He asked who had touched him. I shrank back into the crowd, fearing his anger for defiling him. He persisted in asking, so I had no option but to come forward, and tell him all. But instead of anger I got love. I was told that I was healed, that my faith had made me a whole, complete woman again.

I was unclean and defiled, cut off from God. But one touch of Jesus and I was:-

Clean! Clean! Clean!

Someone read Luke 19:1-10

Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!

I had always been unpopular. I suppose that I was unclean through my own deliberate choice. It all went back to my childhood. I was much smaller than the other boys, and they used to pick on me and call me names. They would never let me join the gang. I used to pretend that I didn’t care, but of course, I cared very much. I felt lonely and miserable.

As I grow up I tried to compensate for this lack of acceptance and loneliness by making money and by accumulating possessions. It was the only satisfaction that I could get.

That’s why I became a tax-collector. I could get rich. Particularly as I didn’t really care how I made the money. I would cheat, lie and extort. I would take bribes. I would fiddle both the people and the government. Each time I made something dishonestly I would feel satisfaction for a short-time, but it would soon go. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I knew that it displeased God.

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