There was a difference between those who just bumped into Jesus and the woman who deliberately got close enough to touch Him with faith. How do we get close enough to touch Jesus and release His power?
December 30-31, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer Touching Jesus Mark 5:24-34
Introduction and offering:
You can be as close to Jesus as you want to be. If you want to be friends with someone, what do you do? You move toward them. You hang out, spend time, get close.
James 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.
God wants you to be close to Him, and He is inviting you to come near. When you move toward God, He will move toward you. You can be as close to God as you want to be.
So today, I want to read a story about Jesus—a story about a crowd of people pressing around Him, bumping into Him, but one lady who pushed through the crowd and touched Jesus on purpose, with faith. She came near and something happened. Here’s the story.
Mark 5:24–34 A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
The crowd is pressing around Jesus. Everyone wants to see this young rabbi who is doing miracles. We’ve seen this when celebrities are mobbed by crowds. In this picture, Angelina Jolie is mobbed while checking out a refugee camp. It must have looked something like that. Jesus was getting mobbed in Capernaum; everyone wanted to see the celebrity rabbi. But one person wasn’t interested in celebrity; she was desperate for a miracle. She had been sick for 12 years and had spent all she had on medical care, and had only gotten worse. Jesus was her last hope. She pushed through the crowd and touched Jesus on purpose, hoping to be healed—and she was!
Jesus stopped and turned around. “Who touched me?” He asked.
His disciples were dumbfounded. “What do you mean, ‘Who touched me?’ Everyone is touching you! You’re being mobbed, for crying out loud!”
Luke tells us in his gospel that Jesus responded:
Luke 8:46 “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.”
“Someone deliberately touched me.” There was a difference between the jostling of the crowd and the deliberate touch of this woman. Lots of people were bumping into Jesus that day, but only one deliberately touched Him and she was healed and changed. So here’s:
The Big Idea: There was a difference between those who just bumped into Jesus and the woman who deliberately got close enough to touch Him with faith. How do we get close enough to touch Jesus and release His power?
I don’t want you to just bump into Jesus. I want you to touch Him. I want you to come near—get close to God—and be healed and changed. I want Jesus to say about me and you, “Someone deliberately touched me.” But how do we do it? How do we get close to Him? How do we touch Jesus?
I’m going to share two proven practical ways to get close to Jesus: a me and we.
Me: daily time with God (or PBJ).
When I open God’s word and pray, I’m touching Jesus.
If I want to be close to Laina, there are some simple things I can do: spend time with her, listen to her, talk with her, do things together. And if I ignore those simple things, I will not be close to her even though we live in the same house! So I have to be deliberate about spending time and having conversation with her.
The same thing is true of getting close to Jesus. We have to be deliberate. No one drifts closer to God. We deliberately move toward Him. Just like I make time to talk with Laina, I must make time to talk with God. It’s deliberate.
ILL: It’s like getting in shape. No one drifts into looking like this. You have to be deliberate. You make hard choices to go the gym regularly—you work out hard and often.
In the same way, no one drifts closer to God. In fact, if we aren’t deliberately moving toward God, we are probably drifting away. If we aren’t working out spiritually, we’re probably getting spiritually flabby. The apostle Paul actually uses this metaphor.
1 Timothy 4:7–8 Train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
Physical training has some value. I hope you exercise—it’s good for you physically and mentally. Get out there and shake your bootie! Get out there and move! But Paul says that spiritual training—training for godliness—is even more valuable, since it lasts not only for this life, but the life to come.
Just like you have to make time to exercise physically, you also have to deliberately make time for God, for spiritual training. You don’t find time—you make time for what’s important.
ILL: I started learning this in high school. It was hard to find time to spend with God. I am the oldest of six kids; I have five younger sisters—and we had one bathroom. Getting ready for school each morning was chaos. Do you know how long it takes a teenage girl to look good? Until they’re 20! I’m just saying: it was hard to find time before school. And of course it was impossible to find time during school, and after school I played sports. When I got home, there was homework. Finally, just before bed, I’d kneel by my bed and try to read my Bible. Can you guess how that went? My forehead kept hitting my Bible.
It was more of the same in college: I was taking an accelerated class load, trying to graduate early (don’t ask me why) and playing sports and doing youth ministry. I struggled to find time to meet with God, until my sophomore year when I learned that you don’t find time, you make time for what is important. I got deliberate. I decided to get up at 6 and spend my first hour with God. This meant that I had to be in bed no later than midnight, which was a trick because of my academic load. Do you know what I discovered? When I put God first in my time, He stretched the rest of it! It was like tithing: when I put God first with my money, He stretches the rest of it. I was going to bed way before midnight because my homework was done, and then getting up at six to be with God. It changed my life.
You don’t find time—you make time for what’s important. And nothing is more important than being close to God. I noticed that Jesus regularly made time to be with His Father.
Mark 1:32–35 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Notice that Jesus was up late into the night healing people—it must have been exhausting. And yet very early the next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus was up and went off to pray alone. He made time. This was Jesus’ regular and deliberate practice.
Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Was Jesus busy? Crazy busy—but He made time to be with God. And if Jesus, God’s perfect Son, needed to do this, how much more do I?
So here’s what I recommend. Make time. Set a time to meet with God, and then do it. And what should you do in that time? We call it PBJ: Prayer, Bible, Journal.
I start with the Bible. Each year, I use our Bible Reading Plan and read through the Bible. Our Bible Reading Plan is on our website, on our app, and is available at the welcome center. It’s also available on the YouVersion app, where it’s called the Life Journal Reading Plan. More about that in a moment.
So I start by reading the Bible. I pray, “Lord, speak to me from Your Word.” I am reading the Bible to hear from God, to connect with Him. This is critical. Read to hear from God! Expect God to speak to you from His Word. Read expectantly. I pray and ask God to give me one thing, then I read the daily reading—expectantly.
Next I journal. I use the SOAP method:
I write down in my journal the date, then the Scripture I read, then my observation. What does it say? What strikes me? What speaks to me? Then I write my application: what will I do? I try to be very practical. Finally, I write a short prayer about my one thing, and that leads into the rest of my prayer time. By the way, I often post my journal entry on our website and app—it’s called Joe’s Blog, and you can subscribe if you’d like it delivered each time I post.
When I pray, I like to start with thanksgiving or worship. Then I bring to God the things that are on my mind at that moment. Then I pray for things on my prayer list—recurring prayer items. And finally, I end with silence, just listening, giving God another opportunity to speak to me.
The whole point of this exercise is to come near to God. I don’t just want to bump into Him; I want to deliberately touch Him and experience His power in my life. I’ve read a couple authors who have mocked this practice—their point is that this can become just another duty, another ritual, and that spiritual life goes far beyond this practice. Agreed. It can become a duty or ritual. And there is certainly more to the spiritual life. We say that all the time: there’s more! There’s more to God than what you’ve experienced. But I cannot think of anything else I’ve done that has been more consistently impactful in my life than this single practice. It keeps me connected to Jesus. That’s why 52 years after meeting Jesus, I’m still doing it, every day—and I recommend it to you. Getting close to Jesus will change your life.
When I open God’s word and pray, I’m touching Jesus.
We: belong to a group.
When I’m with God’s people, I’m touching Jesus.
A couple months ago, I shared with you some research done by trainers on what was the #1 habit for sustained weight loss. Intrigued? Here it is: Create a community of consistency. Find people to share your journey. Permanent lifestyle changes happen in relationships. New habits form when people get together and help each other out. Create a community of consistency. (I’m currently in a weight loss contest with a buddy—doing it together is motivation. I want to crush him!)
This habit is not only #1 for weight loss, but for overcoming addictions—this is part of the genius of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s also the #1 habit for lots of other things…including getting closer to Jesus.
We say this all the time: Christianity is a team sport. No one plays alone. We do it better together.
Our English word “church” translates a New Testament Greek word ekklesia. This was the word used for a civic meeting in a Greek city. The word literally means “called out” (ek = out + kaleo = to call). At meeting time, a caller went through the city calling people to the meeting. Thus, the meeting was called ekklesia, the called out ones. (There is an example of this in the Matthew 22, in Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast. The servants are sent out to call people to the wedding.) The early Christians coopted this word to describe themselves. The church was Christians meeting together because of Jesus. This is still the simplest definition of the church.
This is why I object when someone says, “I am the church.” That is like saying, “I am the meeting.” You can’t be a meeting by yourself—you alone are not the church, just one small part of it.
This is why I object when someone says, “Don’t go to church, be the church.” I know what they’re trying to say: do more than just go to church—live your faith all week long. I agree 100%. But I would never say, “Don’t go to church; be the church,” because you can’t be the church without going to church. The church is people meeting together because of Jesus, and if you’re not part of that meeting, you’re not being the church.
So by definition, to be the church, you must go to church—you must be meeting with other Christians because of Jesus. Christianity is a team sport—we don’t do it alone.
But even more important than definition, if you want to grow spiritually, if you want to be close to God, you need a community of consistency.
Hebrews 10:25 Let’s not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The author of Hebrews was writing to people whose faith was in danger, and he told them to not give up meeting together. Don’t leave behind or forsake meeting with other Christians. Then he adds this telling phrase: “as some are in the habit of doing.” I looked up that word habit in the Greek—it means, “habit.” A pattern of behavior. Here are two contrasting habits: meeting together or not meeting together. It’s easy to get in the habit—and it’s easy to get out of the habit. Those whose habit is to meet with a community of consistency grow; they encourage each other. Those whose habit is to not meet together quickly become an endangered species.
ILL: The simplest illustration of this is a campfire. When I’ve taken my kids or grandkids camping, and we build a fire, what do they love to do? Play with it! If they pull one log out of the fire and set it aside, what happens to it? (Of course, they never just set it aside; they swing it around, poke it at each other, or run around with it like a banshee!) But if they did set it aside, it slowly goes out and grows cold.
This is what happens when we drop out of community, when we “give up meeting together”—our fire goes out and we grow cold. I’ve never known a fired up Christian who wasn’t a regular part of a church community. When we’re together, we stoke each other’s fire. We encourage each other to press into Jesus.
You can be as close to Jesus as you want to be. Be part of a community of consistency.
ILL: I was fortunate to learn this right out of the chutes. I became a Christian at 13 and quickly figured out that I needed other people to help me be close to Jesus. So I went to everything: Sunday School followed by church on Sunday morning, then youth group on Sunday evening followed by church again, followed by “afterglow” at someone’s house (we just hung out and had fun). That was Sunday—five meetings! Then on Wednesday we had potluck, followed by youth group and church. Basically, if the doors were open, I was there. And I grew like a weed!
You can be as close to Jesus as you want to be. Be part of a community of consistency. Make it a habit, and you’ll grow like a weed. Don’t just occasionally bump into Jesus; be deliberate about touching Him. When I’m with God’s people, I’m touching Jesus.
So practically, what does that look like for you? We talk about the first three steps of getting involved and growing here at Life Center as 1-2-3.
All three of these are about belonging to a group, being part of a community of consistency.
First, come to church. Church attendance in America has dropped steadily—people are coming less and less often. The average now is 1.7 times a month! The habit of being in church each weekend is fading—and spiritual growth and fire is fading with it.
You can be as close to God as you want to be—and this is a simple part of it. When you are with God’s people, you are touching Jesus. Every time you come here, you are deliberately moving toward God—and if you come near to God, He’ll come near to you. I approach church the same way I do the Bible: I come expecting God to meet me, to speak to me. It’s less about duty, and more about relationship. I am coming to meet with God. Jesus said,
Matthew 18:20 Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Jesus is here. When we meet together, Jesus is here in a unique way. We come to meet with each other, but we meet Jesus along with each other. By getting together with you, I come near Jesus.
Second, do Rooted. Rooted is a ten-week small group discipleship experience that will connect you with people. One of the best things about Rooted is that 75% of our groups go on to become Life Groups. They create a community of consistency! And that’s life-changing!
Third, belong to a group. The easiest way to get in a group is to do Rooted. And there are other ways too—let us know and we’ll do our best to get you in a group. Stop by the welcome center or contact us through our website. Or you can form your own group. We’d be glad to help you get a group started and coach you as you lead. If you want help, contact us through our website.
I’ve always been part of a small group—sometimes several at once! Why? Because I’m deliberate about knowing Jesus, being close to Jesus.
When I’m with God’s people, I’m touching Jesus.
Here’s one final idea that combines both the me (your daily time with God) and the we (belong to a group): form a group to do PBJ together. It’s really simple. Here are two ways to do it.
First, invite a few friends to do a reading plan with you, and then pick a time and meet once a week. At that weekly meeting, you can share highlights from the whole week, or you can actually do PBJ together: read the daily passage, journal, share your insights and pray. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it combines both elements: daily time with God and consistent community. Plus you not only get your insights from God’s word, you get to hear others—and that is very enriching.
Second, you can use the YouVersion app to set up a group of friends who will use a Bible Reading Plan together. Download the YouVersion app (it’s free) and get signed up. There are scads of Bible versions and plans available. You’ll find our plan, the Life Journal Reading Plan, listed under “Whole Bible” plans. To create a group follow these steps.
Start any Plan
Select “With Friends”
Choose a start date
Invite your Friends
We’ll leave this up so you can write it down; it will also be available on our website. You can only invite friends who have the app and are signed in, so you’ll want to let your friends know to sign up and then you can invite your friends to join your group.
Why did I go through all this detail? Because I want you to be close to Jesus! I want you to be on fire spiritually and be growing! I want you to be a force for God where you live! I want you to be someone who isn’t just occasionally bumping into Jesus, but is deliberately touching Him and being changed! And the best way for that to happen is to do these two things: