The Circle Is Wide

I am on record as being a Christmasholic. I love everything about the season. (Except Santa Baby and fruitcake. Always that except.) But Good Friday and Easter . . . something there speaks to the deepest part of my soul. The happiness of Christmas is just that—happiness. The seriousness of Good Friday is a good somber. A cleansing interrogation in the mirror that leads to freedom.

43160-533652_4624500284437_1219894898_nAnd what freedom. The release of Easter is pure joy. Joy has a different quality than happiness. The tone is richer, the echo more long-lasting.

So during this Easter week we look for the last time at an encounter with Jesus.

As Jesus went with Jairus, he was surrounded by the crowds. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8)

I am intrigued by this woman. She has suffered in shame for twelve years. Her medical problem is assumed to be a “feminine” one—which makes her doubly unacceptable in social situations. She probably had to hide her face in this crowd; otherwise, someone will recognize her, and the whole crowd will form a space around her, marking her by her uncleanness in a painful, public way.

d8859-p1020775Maybe you’ve been in a circle like that. Maybe as a child on the playground the others circled around you, keeping the distance of “other” and making fun of you for your clothes, your face, or your accent. Maybe as an adult you’ve felt the circle more than seen it. It forms around you if you’re divorced, or single, or another race. If you have “difficult” kids or not enough money for ladies night out.

The circle can be cruel.

This lady didn’t want a circle to form, so she crept up to Jesus, unseen, and touched the hem of his clothing. Look at this. Just. Look. At. This.

She believed she would be healed if she touched his clothes. While other people are standing in front of him, demanding his attention, calling for light shows and free bread and dances on water—this woman just wants to touch the outer fringes of Jesus. She knows this will be enough.

That is faith I would give a lot for.

And she is right. Jesus heals her, without even paying attention to her. A miracle healing occurs.

But then another miracle happens. This one she does not anticipate. This time Jesus knows full well where his power is going and what it’s doing. In fact, he’s deliberately making it happen. He insists she come out of hiding and be seen. While she had wanted, needed, to remain hidden in the crowd, Jesus calls her out of hiding. She has to tell everyone what has happened. The details. Which are very personal.

A second miracle occurs. She is not only healed of her sickness. She is healed of her shame. She is called out of the center of the circle and told she does not ever have to stand there again and listen to the mocking of the crowd. She never has to hear their judgments or see their side eyes or wonder if she will be let into the group. She is free of the shaming circle. She is healed all the way through.

IMG_9266G.K. Chesterton said that,

“Christianity . . . has a God who knew the way out of the grave.”

Good Friday is a real reminder that sin and shame are a part of life this side of the Garden. Easter is a joyful reminder that we can bury them with a mere touch of Jesus’ clothing. He has that much power.

The power of Easter is that if somehow today you’re standing in the middle of a circle, you don’t need to. Whatever shame you’ve carried, you can leave it there. Whatever worry you’ve wrestled over, whatever judgment someone has rained down on you, whatever fault you can’t seem to shake—touch his cloak, leave it in the circle, and walk away free. Don’t be afraid to step into the light and look at his face as he forgives you or heals you or blesses you–whichever you need.

Jesus greatest miracle isn’t the healing.

It’s the calling into the light. It’s the demand that people be seen and known, no matter who they are or what their circumstances have been. It’s their restoration as creations and images of God, restored by the power of a God who knew the way out of the grave.

IMG_5234The miracle of Easter is that we no longer have to be afraid of the light, because the circle is wide. Wide as his love.

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