Monday, April 6, 2009


As I sat in church yesterday--Palm Sunday--my mind went back 30+years to a group of teenagers dressed in bathrobes, wearing towels on their heads, chanting over and over again the much-rehearsed lines, "Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!...."

This was one of the scenes from a musical the Kimberly Church of God youth choir performed more than 100 times! We literally traveled all over the State of Alabama and into a few other states performing "Celebrate Life!"

Our choir director and youth pastor's wife, Marla, would always sit on the front pew directing us and feeding the four "disciples" any lines they'd forgotten. (I'll bet that, to this day, the four of them could still recite many of those lines!)

One of the songs I particularly remember from this musical was sung by my friend, Joy. It was based on the woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years and had spent all her money trying to find a cure. Here are a few of the song's words:
"There was nowhere else to turn, and nowhere else to go.
My body knew all the pain a body could know.
But then I quietly turned to you. I quietly turned to you.
Help of the helpless, I turned to you...
I saw you standing there. I saw the beauty from you beaming.
I saw the hope and love and joy came shining through You."...

A year or so ago, I learned a little more about that hemorrhaging woman and why her story is even more amazing than I ever realized.

Most likely, she had heard all about the up-and-coming Jewish rabbi known as Yeshua (Jesus). This Yeshua would have faithfully followed all the commands of Torah, including the one found in Numbers 15: "From now on (the people of Israel) are to make tassels on the corners of their garments....When you look at these tassels you'll remember and keep all the commandments of God....The tassels will signal remembrance and observance of all my commandments, to live a holy life to God...." (v. 37-40)

I learned that, in Jewish culture, the prayer shawl, including the fringes on each corner (tzitzit), is often referred to as "wings." So, with that in mind, listen to God's words through one of his prophets, Malachi: "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture." (4:2)

Now, maybe like me, you've imagined that hemorrhaging woman crawling on the ground and reaching up to touch the bottom hem of Jesus' robe. But, the NIV translation tells us "the crowds almost crushed Jesus" (Luke 8:42). So, it seems the woman would have had to be standing, which implies that she reached out and touched the hem (perhaps even one of the tassels) of his prayer shawl--the one Malachi had prophesied about.

In other words, when this 12-years-long-sick, ceremonially-unclean woman risked pressing through that crushing crowd and reaching out and touching Jesus' prayer shawl, what she was saying by her actions was "I believe you are Messiah. I believe you are the Sun of Righteousness whom the prophet said would come with 'healing in his wings'."

And, when she did...well...let's listen to Dr. Luke's words: "Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped." (8:44, NLT)

Now, I could stop right there, and the story would be one of beautiful healing. But, Jesus is never content to leave us how He finds us. And he knows her wounded soul is also in need of the kind of healing only He can give.

You see, for 12 years, because of her bleeding, she has been "unclean" and, therefore, unable to go to the Temple and offer sacrifices. Besides that, any man who even accidentally touched her was considered "unclean" for the rest of the day.

For 12 years, she has been shut out from religious and social life; she is an outcast. Imagine her shame! No wonder she tried to sneak up from behind to touch this Yeshua!

So, with her newly-healed body, Jesus moves on to her hemorrhaging heart. (Remember, the fact that she had touched him would have caused the religious crowd to view Jesus as "unclean".) Let's listen in on the scene:

Jesus said, "Who touched me?"
When no one stepped forward, Peter said,
"But Master, we've got crowds of people on our hands.
Dozens have touched you."
Jesus insisted, "Someone touched me.
I felt power discharging from me."
When the woman realized she couldn't remain hidden,
she knelt trembling before him.
In front of all the people, she blurted out her story—
why she touched him
and how at that same moment she was healed."
(Luke 8:45-47, The Message)

Jesus would not allow her to go away from His presence still bearing the weight and shame of her secrets. He knew that, in the words of my Jesus-lovin' friend, Marla, "It's our secrets that keep us sick. It's our secrets that keep us stuck."

But, unbelievably, her Yeshua isn't finished with her. Listen to his parting words to this woman who has lived in shame for so long:
"Daughter...." (He calls her daughter!)...."you took a risk trusting me, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!" (Luke 8:45-48, The Message)

So, if this scene fulfills Malachi's prophecy, then he paints us a picture of what her trip home would have been like: "And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture." (4:2)

I can't help but wonder if she was there in the swarming crowd on that "Palm Sunday," as Jesus made his way toward Jerusalem for what would be his last Passover. If so, I wonder how many "Hosannas" she sang out that day.

Back when I was shouting "Hosanna!" with all those other bath-robed youth choir members, I thought the word meant the same thing as "praise". But, I've since learned that it's real meaning is "Save us!"

And...ironically, that's just what he was going to Jerusalem to do! They just didn't understand.

Truth be told...I still don't. I don't understand the love of God and why He would go to such painfully costly lengths for me--but He did! And when, like that hemorrhaging woman, I take the risk of trusting in that amazing, saving, healing love, I think I feel a little like that woman...a little like that young calf--"And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture."
(Hmmm....wouldn't that shock a few of my Baptist friends?)
When they neared Jerusalem,...
Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions:
"Go over to the village across from you.
You'll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her.
Untie her and bring them to me.
If anyone asks what you're doing, say,
'The Master needs them!'
He will send them with you."
This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:
Tell Zion's daughter, "Look, your king's on his way,
poised and ready, mounted on a donkey
(a sign that he was coming in peace)...."
The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do.
They led the donkey and colt out,
laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted.
Nearly all the people in the crowd
threw their garments down on the road,
giving him a royal welcome.
Others cut branches from the trees
and threw them down as a welcome mat.
Crowds went ahead and crowds followed,
all of them calling out,
"Hosanna to David's son!"
"Blessed is he who comes in God's name!"
"Hosanna in highest heaven!"
As he made his entrance into Jerusalem,
the whole city was shaken.
Unnerved, people were asking,
"What's going on here? Who is this?"
The parade crowd answered, "
This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee."

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