A large crowd followed and pressed around him. (Mark 5:24) And rightly so. Jesus had just healed a man possessed with numerous demons and was on his way to the house of a synagogue official who had begged him to heal his gravely ill daughter.
As the crowd bumped into Jesus, hoping to see his next “show stopping” miracle, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years discreetly made her way through the mass of people. She had suffered much under many physicians and had spent all that she had, and was not better but worse. (Mark 5:26) She secretly touched Jesus’ garment and was healed. Tradition tells us that her name was Berenice.
We can learn from Berenice, especially as we prepare for the upcoming season of Lent. This desperate, penniless, physically-drained woman touched my heart as I listened to the gospel reading the other day. And I would like to present some points to ponder regarding her story:
- Don’t Just “Bump into” Jesus
Intentionally seek Jesus out. Berenice had an intense desire to get close to Jesus. Do you want to enter into Lent with a desperate desire to get close enough to touch Jesus as Berenice did? Or will you just follow along with the crowd and bump into him periodically throughout the season?
All practicing Christians “bump into” Jesus during their lives, such as when a prayer is said before meals, or when you go to church on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong-those are good things to do. But have you ever thought that Jesus wants you to do more than just “bump into” him?
Being a tourist- a sightseer- through Lent is easy, but going on a pilgrimage, a special spiritual journey during the season is the challenge. Ask God to show you now (don’t wait till Ash Wednesday) what he would like for you to do this Lent. Then make those plans that will help you grow closer to him during the 40 day spiritual journey.
- Surrender and Prostrate Yourself
Berenice was considered unclean by Jewish law because of her issue with blood. She lived in constant social and religious isolation. This is why she strived to go unnoticed and came up from behind him. (Mt 9:20) She knew of her “impurity” and prostrated herself. She surrendered totally and sought out his healing.
It is not always easy to say that we need help. That we are hurting or struggling, or that we have failed in something. What are your pains? What/who are you tired of dealing with, fighting with? What exhausts you? Maybe it’s a physical aliment like Berenice. Maybe it’s a strained relationship. Maybe it’s a situation at work. Or maybe you have done things that you consider unforgivable.
We can fall into the trap of thinking we need to deal with these issues all on our own. But surrendering totally to Christ and laying our troubles at his feet, is the way to go. This Lent, God is calling you to give him all those heavy burdens. He wants you to give him everything, yes- even those “impurities” you are ashamed of. Empty yourself, and lower yourself before the Lord this Lent. Surrender and prostrate. He will heal you completely, just as he did Berenice.
- Act in Faith/Pray for Faith
If only I touch his garment, I shall be made well. (Mt 9:21) Berenice believed that Jesus would heal her. She did not plead with Jesus face to face for him to touch her. She had confidence that if she only touched the tassel of his garment she would be healed. And of course she was! Then Jesus said to her, daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace. (Luke 8:48)
Having faith is obviously an important thing. And we should grow in our faith. In Luke 17: 5, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. We too can struggle with the issue of faith. We might wonder, do I have enough faith? How can I increase my faith? Faith is a spiritual gift from God. Faith can be increased by prayer and by acting in Faith (just as Berenice acted in faith by reaching for Jesus’ garment.)
One of my favorite prayers regarding faith is from the father whose son is possessed and pleads with Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24) This is a prayer I bring before the Lord often: God, I do believe, help my unbelief. This Lent-and beyond- God would love to increase our faith. We just need to ask him; pray and ask him to help us.
- Seek the Lord intentionally and purposefully this Lent. Make a plan that will help you to grow closer to him.
- Surrender yourself totally to Christ and bow before him as your God and King.
- And, act in faith as well as pray for the Lord to help increase your faith.
Berenice (and others in scripture) can teach us so much. Is there anything about her story that left an impression on you? How is the Lord calling you to be more like Berenice this Lent?