Some say 12 is a perfect number. Thereare 12 months in a year and 12 hours on a clock. A dozen seems like the right quantity when we buy eggs or donuts. (The English term dozen comes from douzaine, French for a group of 12 items.) A holiday song celebrates “The 12 Days of Christmas,” though nowadays the season starts in October and lasts far longer than a dozen days. In football, famous quarterbacks have worn the number 12, including Roger Staubach, Aaron Rodgers, Terry Bradshaw, and Tom Brady.
In the Bible, there were 12 tribes of Israel, 12 stones on the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:21), and 12 spies who explored the land of Canaan. Jesus selected 12 apostles. There are 12 pearly gates in the heavenly New Jerusalem and 12 precious stones in the city’s foundation (Revelation 21:12-21). Throughout the Scriptures, the number 12 appears to represent completeness and perfection.
In Mark chapter five, however, 12 years paint a picture of pain. There we meet a woman who was sick for 12 years, and a girl on the verge of death at the tender age of 12. Comparing the two situations, 12 years seem like a painfully long time for an adult to be sick, but a tragically brief lifetime for a child. The woman was anemic and discouraged after 12 years of futile medical treatment. Meanwhile, the 12-year-old’s parents helplessly stood by her bedside, unable to find a cure for the child her father lovingly described as his “little daughter” (v. 23). There is no evidence that the sick woman and the sick girl knew each other, but their stories took place on parallel tracks. The whole time the girl had been alive, the woman had been suffering. While the girl was playing and moving through the normal stages of growing up, the woman was paying her hard-earned money to doctors in a desperate search for a cure.
Astonishing Power and Grace
At the very moment when the sick woman reached out in faith to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, the adolescent girl lay limply at home where her heartbroken family watched her die; but Jesus intervened in both situations with astonishing power and grace. He healed the woman’s longstanding illness, erasing 12 years of misery with one swift miracle. The disciples were amazed not only by his healing power, but also by his miraculous awareness of the woman’s need. Even in the midst of a jostling crowd, Jesus could detect the touch of one desperate woman who sought his help. Shortly thereafter, while mourners wept and wailed at the home of Jairus, Jesus stunned the skeptical crowd by raising the girl back to life.
Are you dealing with a longstanding problem? Are you wrestling with discouragement, grief, or physical pain? Reach out to Jesus. Cry out to Jesus. He notices you in the crowd. He sees your tears. He hears your pleas. He feels the touch of your outstretched hand. No magic formula can save you, but the perfect Christ can. Come to him in faith, and at the right time and in the right way—if not now, in eternity—he will meet your deepest needs and make you whole again. In an uncertain and imperfect world, you can count on him.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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