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A Desperate Woman is Healed

Mark 5:21-34.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, July 28, 2019.

Last week we were in the first part of this chapter where Jesus encountered a man possessed with many demons on the east to southwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.  That event ended with the people of the region pleading with Jesus to leave.  Thus, our passage today involves the events after they returned to the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, most likely Capernaum.

In a sense we will have one story interrupted by another story, but both of them have similarities that I will bring up in my commentary as we work through them.

The dire condition of Jairus’ daughter

When Jesus lands on the shore, it does not take long for a crowd to gather.  It is at this point that one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus (Hebrew- Yair, “God Enlightens”) approaches Jesus.  His daughter is at the point of death and her only hope is a miracle from God.  Jesus is the only prophet of that generation who evidenced the healing power of God.  We will focus on this story more next week because we are going to be interrupted by a woman who needs healed.  For now, we should recognize that the synagogue leaders generally did not like Jesus and we have no reason to believe that this man was much different.  This man is convinced that Jesus can heal his daughter. 

He also believes that Jesus needs to touch her in order for it to happen.  I mention this because, in the story of the centurion who was a dying servant, Jesus remarks that touching to heal is not a necessity.  That doesn’t mean that it is a hindrance either.  However, things like touching or putting mud on the eyes are really more of an aid to our faith.  Healing is not some kind of power that is transmitted through hands.  However, when we lay hands upon someone, it does encourage them to believe.  Thus, we can call it an “aid to faith.”

Most likely this man would not normally embrace Jesus in public.  However, he has become desperate because of the impending death of his daughter.  There are things that we would never consider or give a second thought until we become desperate.  This can work for the good and it can work for the bad.  This is one of the reasons that it is so important to share the good news about Jesus with everyone.  People may not respond immediately with any interest, or they may be hostile to the message, but some day they may find themselves in a desperate situation.  What will they turn to then?  We know that Jesus is not just one option among many.  He truly is the only option in the end for those who are desperate.  If you are in a desperate situation, now is the time to turn to Jesus with your problems and seek his help, healing, and forgiveness.

If you think that he will not help you then take note of the response of Jesus to Jairus.  Jesus begins to go with Jairus to his house in order to heal his daughter.  Of course, the multitude of people continue to follow Jesus and “throng” him (that is, to press in tight around him).

The desperate condition of a daughter of Israel

Starting in verse 25, this story takes a turn.  He is interrupted by one that he will call “daughter” in verse 34.  Now this woman is most likely at least the age of Jesus, which we will establish in a bit.  So, his reference to her as “daughter” is a reminder to her and everyone else that she is still a daughter of Israel.  She had a place and a portion among God’s people who are called Israel.  Her bleeding ailment threatened this.  Today we would use the phrase “child of God” or “daughter of God.”  Regardless the emphasis is that her condition does not make her an outcast, as she has been treated no doubt.  Through Christ we can spiritually be born again as a child of God who has a guaranteed place and portion among the people of God for each of us.  Thus, this story is thematically connected to Jairus and his dying daughter, as this woman is a dying daughter of God.

Let’s recount her physical situation.  We are told that she has a “flow of blood.”   It is not completely explained and does not seem to be immediately life threatening.  However, she has had it for 12 years and it is getting worse.  I would assume that this means the flow is greater, but it could be a reference to pain, even though pain is not mentioned.  Within the Judean society this would have been a devastating thing for her.  First of all, it means that she would be ceremonially unclean all the time.  She could never participate in any of the religious ceremonies of Israel.  Second of all, anyone that she touches would also become ceremonially defiled.  Thus, she would have been a social outcast, much like a leper.  She is not only sick, but has been unable to have a normal life for the last 12 years.

We are also told about her experience with the medical profession of her day.  She apparently comes from wealth because she has spent all that she had going to “many physicians.”  Instead of getting better from their efforts, her condition keeps getting worse.  This woman has desperately sought out any hope that the medical profession of her day could offer and found them dashed to the ground.  No doubt, each time, she would get her hopes up that a certain doctor could help her with a unique procedure, only to return home without relief.  She now has nothing left and is thus without hope, until she hears about Jesus.  What she could not buy for all the money in the world is now possible for free.  What a moment of hope this must have been for this woman.

We are told that her plan was to come up behind Jesus, while he is in the crowd, and touch his garment.  What is interesting here is that she has the same concept of the connection between touch and healing that Jairus did.  However, in this case she believes that it doesn’t even have to be a purposeful touch.  She hopes to get a healing on the sly and slip away.  Why would she do that?  Part of it may have to do with the fact that her unclean condition is well known.  For her to purposefully touch a rabbi in public, thus making him ceremonially defiled, would be considered at least a social faux pas and perhaps even an act worthy of civil punishment.  On top of this is the question.  How many people would she touch in trying to get through the multitude to Jesus?  Her only chance of getting close to Jesus would be to hide her identity and attempt to get it without anyone knowing.  To get forgiveness is easier than to get permission.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told that she wants to touch the “hem” of his garment.  Typically, the hem would have tassels and even, at times, designs that evidenced a person’s place and authority.  This could be the hem at the bottom of the garment or on his sleeves.  We are not told if Jesus had any such items, but this is reminiscent of Malachi 4:2 where it says, “But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings;”.  The word for “wings” can mean exactly that in the context of birds or such.  It simply means the extremity of something.  In the context of a garment this could mean the edges or hems of the garment, and in the context of the person it would be their hands and feet (extremities).  I believe that this verse in Malachi is clearly referencing the Messiah by the title “Sun of Righteousness.”  Since it is a person the image is not so much wings, but rather his hands or the edges of his garment.  Our passage today is clearly a fulfillment of this passage and so is any healing event in which Jesus laid his hands upon the person.

The woman is healed

Upon the touching of the hem of Jesus’ garment, we are told that the “fountain of her blood” was immediately healed.  Whatever the source of the bleeding was, it was instantly healed and quit bleeding.  We are also told that she could feel that something had changed in her body.  She knew in that instant that she was healed.  Now, all she had to do was slip away and go through the purification rituals.  She would no longer be ceremonially defiled and could return to a normal interaction with Judean society.

Just as the woman felt something physically happen to her, so Jesus sensed the power that had healed her.  The word for “power” her is the term “dunamis,” which points to the creative and restorative power of God.  At first, this may give the impression that the Bible is saying that healing is something that can be carried around and given to someone else by touch and even without willing it.  That is, all it takes to be healed is to touch something that his holy, and blessed by God.  Yet, there is more to it than that, which we will come back to in a moment.  Before the woman can make her exit, Jesus suddenly turns around within the crowd and says, “Who touched my clothes?”

The disciples are incredulous at the question Jesus asks.  They point out that many people in the crowd are constantly touching him.  The question might be better, “Who hasn’t touched me?”  Clearly this is not what Jesus is talking about.  He knows who he is talking about and so does the person who was healed.

The woman is afraid and trembling as she falls down before Jesus and confesses the whole story to Jesus and the surrounding crowd.  Most likely, she expects some kind of public rebuke and perhaps legal consequences.  Yet, Jesus is unconcerned with any fears of being defiled and protecting his reputation as a holy man.  He never even brings it up.  In fact, this episode begs the question.  Is Jesus now ceremonially defiled?  The most powerful evidence to the contrary is the fact of her healing.  It was not her defiling him, but him healing her.  The defilement of her condition was no match for the healing power of Jesus.  We cannot defile him, but he can heal us.  This is not just true with physical issues.

Many people do not turn to Christ because they fear that they will be rejected due to their sins.  However, our sin cannot affect Jesus.  He can handle your sins.  He went to the cross for your sins.  His power is greater than all our sin and can set us free from them, both legally and in actuality.  In no way, do I imply that it is okay to embrace sin as a follower of Jesus.

This part of the story ends with Jesus addressing her as daughter.  We talked about this earlier, but I believe it is an endearing term meant to set her at ease, and also a reminder to those around them that she is still a daughter of Israel.  She never lost her place with God because of this disease.  The pharisaical position on such people would be that they are cursed by God, no doubt due to sin, and thus a sub-citizen of sorts.  She would not be seen as a true daughter of Israel, at least until she is healed.

His statement following this address is that her faith has made her well.  Jesus does not mean that faith by itself is enough to be healed.  It is not a faith that just keeps saying, “I am healed; I am healed.”  This would be faith in faith itself.  However, Jesus said “her faith.”  What exactly was her faith?  Her faith was not centered in positivism or a mantra.  It was solidly placed upon the person of Jesus.  She believed that Jesus could heal her if she just touched his garment.  This is the plain teaching of Scripture.  God has provided for healing through faith in Jesus.  No, it is not guaranteed that all people will be healed in this life because God has a purpose that goes beyond this life.  As Jesus told the Apostle Paul, “My grace is enough for you.”  Yet, this story is an amazing revelation nonetheless.  Many simply will not believe that healing in the name of Jesus is possible at all, and thus they miss out on the possibility that God would heal them.  Others believe that Jesus heals, but blame all situation where there is no healing upon the faith of the person or their loved ones.  We must be careful in this area and ask for healing and yet trust God no matter what his answer.

Jesus tells her to go in peace and enjoy her healing from this plague.  Not all that plagues humanity is physical.  However, in Jesus we have the One who is able to make us every bit whole.  Will you put your faith in him for both your body and soul?  We can touch Jesus through our prayers of faith in him.

Woman Healed audio