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A Change in the Crowd

If you had a time machine and could go back to any event, place, or space to deliver a single message, what would it be?

Would you go back and tell your 15-year-old self not to date that guy? Or would you tell your 20-year-old self to buy stock in Google or invest in real estate at the perfect time? Would you warn people not to get on the Titanic? Or urge people in Noah’s day to get ON the boat … trust me on this!

I can think of many such scenarios. But I’ll tell you what’s at the top of my list if you keep reading. First, go with me to Mark 5:24-34, the story of the woman healed in the crowd by touching Jesus. (Look it up, I’m on a word count here).

The woman, fueled by sheer desperation, dared to believe that Jesus was more than a teacher for the masses. After exhausting all other resources, ideas, and money, this would be the Last. Ditch. Effort. She summoned all her resolve, dragged her weakened body through the crowd, and reached out in hope. I wonder what she was thinking? Maybe something like, “please, Jesus, I beg you, make me whole.”

We don’t know the specifics of her ailment, only that it was a consuming, painful sorrow in her life. Have you ever suffered from something for 12 years? Or do you know someone who has? If so, my heart is full of compassion for you, and, even now, I’m believing for healing.

I haven’t ever suffered that long in my physical body. The closest thing for me was the heaviness of carrying twins for almost 37 weeks, with all the havoc it wreaked on my joints and bones and respiratory system and digestive system and literally everything else. When those two knuckleheads finally walked out of my body (it felt like they were full-grown and walking, but I guess they probably were not), I cannot describe the pure relief I felt. It was like all my organs went back to their default positions, and every cell in my body seemed to breathe … ahhhhh!

This is the kind of relief I imagine for this woman when she touched Jesus. In that one precious instant, she immediately felt on a molecular level that all was well. The long hard wait was over. The future didn’t have to continue like all the tears of the past. She must have been thinking, I didn’t waste my last shred of hope for nothing!”

As if that wasn’t enough of a life-change for one day, she then had a conversation with Jesus and was told to go in peace. Talk about a paradigm shift. The Son of God called her “Daughter” (Luke 8:42 NIV)! Can you imagine??

Miraculous as that is, I’m thinking about some different characters in that story today. What about the rest of the people on those dusty streets? Weren’t they touching Him too? Yes! So were they healed? Changed? Or at least awed or inspired?

We don’t even get a reaction from them recorded in Scripture. I want to know what was going on in their heads!

Usually, the Bible is pretty careful to say that many were healed when multiple miracles occurred in one setting (Matt. 4:24; Matt. 8:16; Mark 1:34). Yet, in this case, it doesn't say that anyone else was healed, just the woman. But the crowd touched Him, too. In fact, Luke’s account says, “the crowds almost crushed Him,” but they went away, presumably, unchanged and still carrying their burdens (Luke 8:42 NIV).

Some might think the crowd members just didn’t have any great needs like the woman did. But have you ever known a large crowd of people to be without any kind of pain/grief/sickness/depression … a crowd in which everyone is A-OK? To be human is to carry some burden, to know the weight of sin, the pain of disease, the agony of fractured relationships, the ache of depression, the list goes on. In any crowd, the whole spectrum of human pain can be found. I guarantee that they had brokenness too.

So why didn’t Jesus just heal them all? Surely He knew each person’s pain, and I believe He would have healed/forgiven anyone who had asked.

But here’s the thing, they didn’t ask. They didn’t reach out. And even those who physically rubbed shoulders with Him did not feel His power because there was a difference between the way the woman touched Him and how the crowd members bumped into Him. There was something different in her touch compared to the crowds pressing in. In her touch, she expected and hoped for a life-changing response. She was a seeker; the others were spectators.

I don’t judge the crowd at all. I see myself in them. I don’t think their problem was a lack of faith; maybe they just didn't know that Jesus would and could see individuals, that He was more than a good teacher for the masses, that He cared deeply about individuals, and most importantly, that He was available to them.

If I go to hear some famous speaker or musician, and I’m in the middle of a crowded stadium or concert hall, having never met the speaker/singer before, I wouldn't expect a personal conversation with just me, let alone a life-changing interaction. I would expect to be a faceless, nameless member of a crowd.

But returning to my question at the beginning, if you could go back to a previous place to deliver a message, what would it be?

I would whisper to each person in that crowd, “Hey, friend. See the power that changed that woman over there? That’s for you, too. This Jesus can reach into your life and heart and change them. Consider the possibility that you could walk away transformed! Shake out of the crowd mentality, just going with the flow, checked out, only watching. Touch Him, don’t just bump into Him!”

And then I would come back to the present day and say the same thing to us today, especially to myself.