Jesus’ care for women was tender and counter-cultural. His “heart was touched by their grief” (Matthew 8:14-17; 15:21-28; 26:6-13; Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; 12:41-44; Luke 7:36-50; 8:1-3; John 4:7-45; 7:53-8:11; 20:1, 2, 11-18). That is certainly evident in our text today with Jesus’ encounter with the woman who in life of Christ studies is referred to as “the woman with the flow of blood” (i.e. discharging blood or subject to bleeding).
Mark (and Matthew) records this event as a “story within a story.” Bible scholars call it “inclusio.” We might call it bracketing. The story begins with Jairus’s request for Jesus to come and heal his desperately ill daughter (5:21-24) and ends with Jesus raising the little girl from the dead (vv. 36-43). Jesus’ journey to Jairus’s house is interrupted by this needy and faithful woman. This is the final miracle in a triad. Jesus demonstrated power over creation (Mark 4:35-41), power over the spirit world (5:1-20), and now power over illness and death (vv. 21-43).
This miracle within a miracle is held together by more than one thing. Both females in the text are referred to as “daughter.” Also the number 12 holds some significance. The sick woman had been ill for 12 years, and Jairus’s daughter was 12 years old. But maybe more to the point, these stories are told this way because they happened this way. Jesus started out to help one family and got derailed by the needs of this believing woman.
Her Need Was Large
This woman was living a kind of death. Her need was underlined in five ways. She had the problem for 12 years. The number could be symbolic, but it is probably best to understand it literally. She had suffered (mentioned three times in our English text translating two different Greek words meaning “severe illness” or “affliction”)a great deal. She had tried many doctors (healers) without getting relief. She had exhausted her income. Finally, she had gotten worse instead of better. She lived in a constant state of uncleanness (Leviticus 15:25). It’s probable this condition left her with a foul odor, not to mention personal embarrassment and shame. No doubt her emotional despair matched her physical challenge.
But large needs can be met by a big God. Somewhere she had heard about Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 4:23-25). She threw caution to the wind and came near this worker of wonders. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible (and perhaps in humility, trying to be careful not to contaminate others and thus obeying the law) she approached Jesus from behind and touched (mentioned four times) his clothes (mentioned three times). She believed that one touch would heal (i.e. save) her. Mark heightened the impact of the story by using one of his favorite words to describe this miracle, immediately. The bleeding stopped, and she felt (knew) that she was freed (made whole or healthy) from her suffering.
Her Faith Was Larger
Jesus stopped. Everyone gawked. Jairus probably grew impatient. On the surface the text seemed to call Jesus’ omniscience into question because he asked who touched him. This miracle seemed to have occurred without overt participation by Jesus. Without sounding irreverent, Jesus seemed all but clueless about what happened. The word is left untranslated, but Mark used his favorite word again, “immediately” Jesus turned around and asked who had touched him.
The disciples (who are usually portrayed in Mark’s Gospel as being “out to lunch”) pushed back against Jesus’ logic. The crowd was large and snug (literally, “the crowd was crowding”). The disciples all but rebuked Jesus with their question. But Jesus realized(intimately knew) that power had gone out from him and looked around (i.e. with a penetrating gaze) to see who had done it.
The woman knew the jig was up. With the same humility she displayed when she approached him the first time, she came forward and knelt down. In fact, she did so trembling with fear (literally, “fearing the trauma”). This phrase is used in the Old Testament to indicate how one approached deity. The woman confessed the whole truth. Perhaps she expected some form of rebuke. What she received was affirmation.
“Daughter” was a direct address of endearment. It conveyed tender respect. “Your faith has healed (saved) you” was a gospel announcement. Jesus came to save and heal. This tells us that the healing was a result of her faith; not something magical in Jesus’ garment. “Go in peace” was an imperative to embrace a preferable future. Large needs when accompanied by a larger faith create a context for a tender Savior to, almost accidently, heal all creation.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.