First, Be in Despair (Mark 5:25-34)

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.  For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5:25-34)

Have you seen the title for today? “First, be in despair.” If you want to live a faith life and meet God, you first need to be in despair. It sounds serious. Many people come to church, but not everyone meets God. Even our church Sungrak Church has had roughly 160,000 or 170,000 people come, but not all of them are leading their faith lives right now. Only a portion of them have truly met God and lived their faith lives. But we don’t know what will happen to that in the future.

True faith is that which is maintained until the day we meet the Lord, and it must be acknowledged by Him. Such faith can only be possessed by those who have truly despaired. Meeting Jesus is not part of a cultural life, nor is it simply adding one more item to the many pleasures and experiences available in this world.

The church is a place where people in despair gather. They couldn’t find hope in the world that they came here. One might say, “No that doesn’t apply to me. I still have hope in this world and I am going to have a great life in this world. I’m going to enjoy life! I’m going to have a plentiful life!” Although such a person might live a church life right now, there is a great possibility that he will one day leave God.

There was a woman I know about. She was ill and had been suffering for 12 years. As a woman, her illness was fatal. The bleeding didn’t stop. It was a bleeding disorder. Have a think about that. If a woman can’t stop bleeding, that is not a simple problem. Furthermore, she was a Jew who lived in the Middle Eastern region 2000 years ago.

At that time, such bleeding disorders and bodily discharge were regarded as unclean. It was deemed impure. Thus, merely touching someone deemed unclean made one impure as well. As they were a people who worshipped God, whenever they went before God, they couldn’t touch anybody who was unclean. For if they did, they would become unclean also and wouldn’t be able to go before God. And that person who was unclean first obviously couldn’t go before God. In severe cases, they were isolated. They couldn’t live with others but had to be isolated. That’s what happens with bodily discharge disorders.

Therefore, anyone who has this disorder would be cut off from the society. Thus, a woman who used to live a normal life in the society and as a wife, was treated as unclean and people began to steer away from her after she had this bleeding disorder. Consequently, she was left helpless and in despair socially.

Also think about it. If she has this disorder, her husband can’t be near her. So, her husband would no longer treat her as a woman. And she was in this condition for 12 years. We don’t know, but maybe her husband already left her early on. Whether she got divorced or how she lived, we don’t know. Yet as she suffered for 12 years, her marriage would’ve been destroyed. Therefore, as a wife and in terms of family, she was in despair. Socially and family-wise, she had no hope.

But it seems that she had some money. So, she sought out many doctors. She spent a great deal of money over the 12 years, but did her condition improve? It got worse than before. She suffered a great deal, but what is worse, she wasted all the money she had. Since she was socially isolated and despised by her family, at least having money might help. But she didn’t have any money left. She was deceived. Therefore, she was in despair, both physically and financially.

Moreover, she suffered in the hands of many physicians. To be examined for her bleeding disorder, she would have to show her body to the doctors. Over 12 years, multiple doctors examined the woman’s private part more than once or twice to diagnose her bleeding disorder. The doctors had done all kinds of things in order to treat her, but instead of doing her good, she was tormented. Hence, as a woman, she was emotionally destroyed after being put through such humiliation repeatedly. Financially, she was hopeless; emotionally, she was destroyed; socially she was in despair; and in her family she had no hope. She was in complete despair. Probably she had numerous urges to take her own life. This woman was helpless. She was in despair.

But then she heard a news. A man called Jesus was healing the sick. But unlike other doctors, He was healing the sick in an extraordinary way. It wasn’t through medical procedures, but by the word, by the authority of God He was healing the sick. And she heard that He said that everything He does is not His own, but the Father doing His work.

The woman could’ve ignored what she heard, but she didn’t. Perhaps if people who haven’t suffered a sickness like this woman heard the same news that Jesus healed the sick, they could possibly think, ‘Oh, it’s by coincidence that He healed the sick! I’m not going to believe such things!’ But for this woman knew very well how hard it is to heal a sickness. She experienced firsthand for 12 years that it is impossible to cure a bleeding disorder with man’s abilities, and that it only worsens it. Thus, when she heard about Jesus and how He healed the sick with a word, she believed, “Jesus is one God is with!” She believed that the power that came from Jesus was not man’s but the Almighty God’s.

When people heard the story about Jesus, their responses were all different. Of course, the majority of people despised Jesus. Only a handful of people followed him. But even those handful of people didn’t see Jesus as God; they just followed Him to receive help because He was healing the sick.

However, this woman believed that the healing works of Jesus were by God, who was at work in Him. She knew very well that it was not human power. Thus, in her state of despair, she found her only hope in Jesus. ‘Since God is with Him, He will be able to heal me! He can help me!’ She leaned on Jesus.

Because she despaired, this woman was able to come to Jesus. People who are not in despair will despise Jesus. Only those who are depressed will come to and rely on Jesus that others ignore. That’s why that woman thought to herself, ‘He is different to doctors because He is God! He doesn’t even need to examine me. If only I touch the edge of His cloak I will be healed!’ That’s how she believed. This is totally different to what she experienced before. Doctors have to examine the body, use different medications, and even look and touch to treat the disease, but she believed that since He is God, she would be healed if only she touches the edge of His cloak. Why is that? She believed that He is omniscient, and therefore He would know her even if she touched Him secretly. Plus, because He is all-powerful, He would be able to heal her straight away. That’s what she believed.

With that faith, she was going to approach, and just then the opportunity came. Jesus was on His way to heal a young girl, passing near her town, and she squeezed through the crowds gathering around Him. While a crowd of people surrounded Jesus and pressed Him from every side as He went, it would’ve been very difficult for this woman to get through to Him.

But she felt like this was her only chance, and she most desperately went for it. She was then able to touch Jesus’ cloak from behind. The moment she touched His cloak, she felt it. Her bleeding had stopped. She felt her bleeding stop. ‘Ah I am healed!’ In that same moment Jesus suddenly turned around and asked, “Who touched me?” The disciples next to Him heard Him say this and answered, “Look how many people are around You and pushing You. How can You ask who is touching You? They all are!”

But Jesus knew that power had gone out of His body, realizing someone had touched Him. Though about twenty or so people were surrounding and touching Him, the touch of others held no significance. Jesus recognized that it was this woman had touched Him. He understood that it was her specific faith that caused the power to flow from Him.

What was different about this woman’s touch compared to other people’s? Others had not despaired like this woman did. She was in utter despair. This was her final resort. Her ultimately last resort. If she can’t find a cure here, she has no hope whatsoever. Because she was in despair, she acknowledged Jesus as God, and with faith that He is God, she touched Him. When she did, power went out from Him automatically, so this woman was healed.

Thus, when Jesus said, “Somebody has touched Me,” how scared would she have been? Unclean women cannot touch anyone. According to the Law at that time, if one was unclean in any way and touched something, that something also became unclean. Therefore, he was not allowed to be in contact with another person and couldn’t go before God nor worship while everybody else did. So how can this unclean woman dare touch anybody? But now she was caught touching Him. She was meant to do it in secret. She was terrified. She probably wanted to run away. Since her bleeding had stopped, she could’ve just made a run for it as though it were not her. If she had done that, she wouldn’t have been saved, even if she might’ve been cured.

The woman, however, knew that Jesus was omniscient. She knew she couldn’t hide or run away and came forward to Him trembling. And she told Him everything. Then Jesus declared to her, “Your faith has made you well!” Not only was this woman healed, she was acknowledged by Jesus. As a result, it wasn’t only this woman who knew Jesus; Jesus knew this woman also. She opened up her whole life to Jesus. She didn’t simply use Jesus’ power, she opened up to Jesus about her situation in despair and entrusted herself to Him. When she did that, Jesus saved her. Her life was changed. That woman got to meet Jesus, and by her faith, she was one step closer to enjoying all the beautiful things that God prepared for Jesus together with Him.

When you came to church, you didn’t come to gain something from this world a little bit quicker. You came to obtain what the world cannot give, what the world cannot dare show you. It is not because you rely on some outstanding person that you came to church. You came here to receive something from Him by relying on the almighty and omniscient God. . You came here to receive that which only He can give. And that can only be obtained by the person who has been in despair.

There is nothing for us to expect from this world. The world may be splendid. Culture and civilization is advancing and their wealth is increasing. It’s remarkable. However, those things cannot save our spirits. Our despairing condition remains the same. The world will flourish beautifully even after we die, but that will have nothing to do with us. What we desperately need is eternal life. But the world can’t give us that. This world cannot give us everlasting love.

What sort of world is this dazzling world? When God sent His Son Jesus, the world mocked Him, beat Him, crucified Him to death, and completely destroyed Him. That is this world. So is it to be a little more successful in this world, to be wealthy and gain peace in your heart, or to live your life more beautifully in this world that you came to church in and rely on God? This is purely a man’s idea. That’s not the essence of our faith. People who have found no hope in this world, whose hearts are empty, who desire eternal life but cannot find it and are in agony, only they can receive what only God can give when they come to church.

Therefore, when you come before God, you need to open yourself up completely, like this woman did. “I am a sinner! I have no more hope. All I have is despair. There is nothing I can rely on in this world. I am at rock bottom. The money I have, relationships, reputation, and so on are all meaningless. I am in despair! So, I come before God! God, I want to meet You and possess what You are giving!” This kind of faith will draw God’s attention.

Many people come to church, but some fail to draw God’s attention. But anyone who is like this woman who relied upon God in her most desperate state will be able to draw His attention so that He will say, “Who touched Me?” In Jesus’ name, I bless you to have faith that will draw God’s attention. I’ll pray.

Father God, grant grace to all the souls who are here so that they don’t seek happiness through the things of this world but instead despair in the world first of all, so that they can rely on the omniscient and omnipotent God to receive and enjoy what God is giving. Help them to be filled with the heart that desires eternal things. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center