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Mark 5:21-34

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

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.”
(Mark 5:21-34 NIV)

In our last few times together, we saw Jesus muzzle the roar of the demons that stirred up the wind and the sea to sink the boat, restore the mind and body of the wild demon-possessed man in endless pain, and send him out as the first missionary to the Gentiles.

The townspeople, out of fear, had asked Jesus to leave them.  Jesus, out of respect for them, honors their wishes, gets back in the boat with His disciples, and leaves.  Putting on our informed imaginations for a moment, the disciples were probably getting back in the boat with a certain fear and trepidation, wondering what was going to happen next.

In today’s passage, we see Jesus arriving back on the other side of the lake, presumably (although not stated) in Capernaum.  The crowds quickly learn that Jesus is back, and they flock to see Him.

In the remainder of chapter 5, we actually have two stories intertwined into one section:

  • Jairus and his sick daughter introduced (vv. 21 – 24)
  • The woman with the bleeding issue (vv. 25 – 34)
  • Jairus and his sick daughter concluded (vv. 35 – 43)

We will focus on the story of the woman with the bleeding issue today, and pick up the story of Jairus and his sick daughter during our next time together.

Verse 24 sets the scene for today’s story.  The crowds had gathered around Jesus and were pressing around Him in a near-mob fashion.  Remember, Jesus knew of this possibility; that is why He instructed His disciples to prepare a boat for Him to retreat to in case the crowds got too overwhelming (3:9).  In fact, Jesus did eventually use the boat to preach to the multitudes because of so many people crowding in around Him (4:1).

In verses 25 – 26, Mark (via Peter) sets the background and context of the woman before he tells of her encounter with Jesus.  While we might be quick to conclude that this woman suffered from prolonged vaginal bleeding, the text does not specify, nor does it matter.  God’s Law was clear was clear about anyone (man or woman) where human blood was involved – they were ceremonially unclean, and where they lay down or sat down, and anything they touched would become unclean as well (Leviticus 15).

To be ceremonially unclean was to be isolated – no Temple worship, no visiting of friends or having them over to your house, no touch or hugs from loved ones, limited public interaction, etc.

On top of the isolation, this woman was financially destitute, having spent all her funds on medical treatments.  She also probably suffered from severe anemia and other side effects of the bleeding.  It likely took all the energy she could muster to get from her home to where Jesus was.  She had lived in this condition for twelve long years.

Mark takes a little jab at the doctors treating this woman, implying that they all took her money, but none were able to help her, and in fact, they had made her condition worse.  Doctor Luke more objectively wrote that no one (implying doctors, medicines, folk remedies, etc.) was able to treat and cure her condition (Luke 8:43).  Like the demon-possessed man, this woman was dying a slow and painful death, one day, one week, one month, one year at a time, with no end in sight and no hope for a reversal of their situation.

In her desperate, last-ditch effort to be healed and whole, this woman, with a mixture of faith in Jesus and hope in magic, went out to find Jesus.  She hoped to touch the hem of His outer robe, believing that His garments carried the essence of His healing powers.  She also went with a great deal of fear, for if she was found out when she touched Him, she would make Him ceremonially unclean and suffer the consequences of her actions.

The woman did, in fact, find Jesus, and pushed her way into the crowd.  She did manage to touch the hem of His robe.  Her healing was immediate and complete.

As soon as she touched Jesus’ robe and was healed, Jesus knew that His healing power had been dispatched.  Jesus stopped and asked who had touched Him.  With all the crowd mobbing around Jesus, and everyone jostling back and forth, the disciples indignantly and disrespectfully asked Jesus why He would even ask that question.

But Jesus persevered, and the woman knew that she had been called out.  In fear and utter humiliation, she fell at Jesus’ feet and publically told her tale of shame and woe.  The cost of this encounter affected all involved:

  • It cost Jesus healing power and the disrespect of His disciples
  • It cost the woman public humiliation and disgrace
  • It cost the disciples embarrassment when they disrespected Jesus
  • It cost Jairus his daughter’s life (as we shall see next time)

And yet, the payback was overwhelming.  Jesus responds with a term of endearment, calling her “Daughter”.   He was not angry about her touching Him; in fact, He called out her faith in seeking Him out, for overcoming her fears and reaching out.

Jesus also used the opportunity to teach this woman that it was her faith that made her well, not any magic or superstition associated with touching His robe.  There was no fear of retribution for her making Jesus unclean by touching His robe, and there was to be no worry about this condition recurring.  Her surrender in faith and His salvation by grace were all that were needed for her to be whole again.  After twelve long years, she was physically healed, and according to God’s Law, just one week away from restoration to family, friends, and community life.  Jesus healed her emotionally as well – she had peace and hope for the present and the future.

May we pray, asking Jesus to have His sensitivity, to see into the hearts of others, to pay attention to the costly effort for them to live out what we take for granted each day.  May we empathize with them, walk in their shoes, feel their pain, and point them to the One who has experienced every situation, every human emotion, and desires to make us His and make us whole.


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