Today we pick up again in the Gospel of Mark, with the story of the long suffering woman – Mark 5:24-34. This story is sandwiched between the beginning and the end of another story – about how Jesus raises Jairus’s daughter from the dead. But I thought we would begin with it, and then come back to the other.
24bAnd a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
Remember with me, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee to the Eastern shore.
- On the way over he calmed the stormy sea.
- And when he arrived he cast out the legion of demons from the man in the cemetery.
- And now Jesus has come back across the Sea of Galilee to the Western shore.
A large crowd greeted him as he arrived. And after Jairus asked Jesus to come heal his daughter – our story begins – with the crowds still in tow.
25And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
Five statements here tell the sad situation of this woman.
1. She has a chronic bleeding disorder of some kind, probably related to her menstrual cycle. And she has had this condition for 12 years. She has suffered a long time.
Apart from the physical aspect of this, according to the Law of Moses:
- she could not touch anyone, without making them unclean (Leviticus 15:25ff),
- she could not enter the temple (Leviticus 15:31)
- and she was forbidden to be sexually active (Leviticus 18:19). So if she was ever married she almost certainly would now be divorced
2. She has suffered much seeking help. She has gone to many physicians, not just a few. And their treatments are described as causing her misery.
Many ancient physicians used crude and ineffective procedures. For her situation you might be required to drink a goblet of wine with a powder of rubber, alum and garden crocuses; or you might be shocked; or you might have to carry the ash of an ostrich’s egg in a certain cloth. (Talbert, pl 174, referencing William Lane’s research)
3. She’s now poor having spent all her resources on seeking these treatments.
4. Her health is not even better and no wonder, given the treatments we just heard about!
5. And in fact, she’s worse than before despite all her money and all these physicians. She seems to be beyond human help.
27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
So Jesus’ reputation as a healer has spread far and wide.
Her hope is for a secret healing. She comes up behind him and just touches his clothing (the fringes that all devout Jews wore Matthew 9:20, Luke 8:44) and want to slip away unnoticed.
If we ask why? Perhaps she’s very shy. Perhaps because she’s not supposed to touch anyone? Perhaps she was ashamed of her condition? We don’t know.
But we do know that she has great faith in Jesus. She believed that she only needed to touch his clothing to be healed.
29And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
The healing is instantaneous and complete. Notice the contrast between the effectiveness of Jesus and the futility of the doctors of that day.
30And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”
Just as she feels in herself that she’s healed, Jesus perceives in himself that power has gone out.
There are a few interesting things about this:
- Jesus heals someone without even being asked.
- And he heals someone without him knowing about it, until after it happened.
- And although afterwards he knows it happened by supernatural knowledge, he doesn’t know who it is.
And so he asks, who touched my garments?
Well, the disciples don’t even know what to do with this question.
31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” 32And he looked around to see who had done it.
They’re saying, “Jesus, everyone is touching you!” But Jesus persists.
And the woman’s hope for a secret healing is foiled –
33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
Why was she afraid? Did she think she would be rebuked for touching Jesus in her uncleanness? Or for not asking Jesus for healing? And if Jesus is angry perhaps she thinks her healing might be rescinded.
Luke 8:45 tells us that everyone denied that they touched Jesus, at least in the way that Jesus is talking about. So it sounds like at first she tried to keep it a secret, but then comes forward before Jesus and tells the whole truth of what happened.
Why does Jesus draw her out in public? Healings that are not publicly verified cannot bring glory to God or bear witness to who Jesus is as the Son of God. This reminds us that we need to give praise to God and bear witness for Jesus when he works in our lives in answer to prayer.
Jesus also wanted to speak to her, which he does in v. 34.
34And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Jesus isn’t angry! He uses a term of endearment, “daughter.” And he commends her for her faith and reassures her that the gift of her healing is indeed hers to keep. He wished for her peace, that is, shalom; her wholeness and well-being.
Let me end with –
Two things that stand out from this story
The first is Jesus’ amazing power to save. He doesn’t just do miracles, he does extraordinary miracles. Recently he calmed the storm with the mere words of his mouth and he easily cast out over 5,000 demons. And now he has cured someone, whom no one else could. And the healing was instantaneous. We are reminded yet again that Jesus is amazing!
All these miracles point to his true identity. He is not just a miracle worker or a prophet – he is the Son of God, come to fulfill God’s promises and bring salvation to God’s people.
And these miracles also should draw us to come to him with our needs for salvation, healing and help.
And second, this woman is an excellent example of faith for us. So that when we come to Jesus, we receive.
She didn’t need Jesus to do something elaborate or to even show her any attention. She knew that he was so powerful that all she needed to do was touch his clothing. And because of her faith, she was made whole.
Listen carefully. Many people touched Jesus that day in the crowd going to Jairus’ house, but only she was healed. And she received from Jesus because she touched Jesus with faith.
As we close today and sing our final song, I invite you to pray and to touch Jesus in faith – so that you can find grace and mercy for your needs and your burdens.