There were 8 guys from the upper tier tonight.
When I met with this group two weeks ago one of the guys had stomped out of the room declaring that there was no such thing as a miracle and that Jesus was just a man the same as anyone else. (->Link)
That same man closed us in prayer tonight. More on that later.
God sometimes has an interesting sense of humor. I’d been praying about what scripture to do tonight. His suggestion was:
25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”
29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”
31 But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”
32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
So here I am leading an all male group in a study about a woman who’d had a non-stop period for 12 years.
I recalled Nancy Beach remarking at how it always seemed that she ended up preaching on the scripture passages that talked about circumcision.
So what could this group of guys (me included) learn from this story?
It turns out there are striking similarities between this woman’s situation and people who are incarcerated. Her prospects to provide for herself would have been extremely limited. She would have been ostracized by society and described as unclean. Her condition would have strained her relationship with family and friends.
In many ways the guys were in a similar situation. Finding employment would be difficult: job applications that ask if you’ve ever been convicted of a felony, gaps in employment due to incarceration. Relationships with family and friends are strained or have broken down completely.
When we looked at verse 33:
But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.
One of the guys focused on “told Him the whole truth.” Each person who comes to Jesus has a story to tell. I asked each man to think about his own story.
In verse 34 Jesus says, “Go in peace.” I asked if it was possible to have peace where they were right now – even in jail.
Some of the men shared how they had found peace even in these circumstances. The man who had walked out two weeks ago said he didn’t think it was possible. He began to share his story. There is a lot of pain, disillusionment, and crushed hopes. Other men spoke words of encouragement. The prospect of a very long sentence weighed heavily on him. He asked if it was possible to have peace even if you are looking at life in prison. I talked about what one man had written after his 12th prison anniversary. (->Link) I shared how I have seen God use “lifers”, and that it is still possible to have a life with meaning, purpose and peace.
As our study drew to a close the group encouraged him to close us in prayer. The pray was simple and heartfelt. The man who had stormed out of the study two weeks earlier was now speaking openly and honestly with God.