Summary: Do you understand that that is what Jesus wants to do for you? He wants to heal the disease of your heart that alienates you from his Father and leads you to your eternal death. He wants to make you whole, not just feel better.
There was a series of commercials that featured particularly embarrassing moments for individuals, followed by an announcer saying, “Need to get out of town fast?”, and a camera shot of an airplane flying overhead. The main character in our passage this morning (at least for a moment) would have loved to have caught a quick flight.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. Our story is sandwiched in another story. Jesus is accompanying a father to his house in order to heal the father’s daughter who is dying. The crowd knows this. The father had pushed his way through them, fallen at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come heal his daughter before she died. This is real-life drama, better than watching “real police episodes” on TV. Indeed, TV would have loved catching this scene. Will Jesus make it on time? Will he be able to heal the little girl before she dies? Get a close-up on the father’s face and capture his anguish. The crowd, caught up in the drama, heightens it as well, because they press around Jesus, making it more difficult for him to move quickly.
But he forges on with the father, who undoubtedly grows more frantic with the slow pace. Suddenly, Jesus stops and asks, Who touched my clothes? His disciples, who themselves are having to press through the crowd, respond, “Are you serious? 31 You see the people crowding against you and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” Don’t you like the disciples? They are just like us. They are so exasperated. They are getting their share of pushes and bumps, and Jesus is concerned that someone touched his clothes. What’s going on?
What’s going on is another miracle. It is a common miracle for him – healing – and yet there are aspects about it that don’t quite fit what we would expect. For example, Jesus makes public a secret healing. Why do that when he’s never played one up before, and especially when he is on his way to prevent a death? That’s all he needs – more drama to draw the crowd around. The way the healing takes place is bothersome. It happens, not only without his permission, but without his knowledge. He, or really, his clothes, are treated like a magic talisman, which conveys power when touched. That phrase, power had gone out from him, makes him seem like a battery that has to be recharged.
Well, let’s explore this miracle event. Read what Mark has to say first about the woman. 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.
For twelve years this woman has suffered through a medical condition that has caused her to hemorrhage. She has a chronic illness that is steadily weakening her. Her many efforts to be healed through the common medical practices of the day have failed. Indeed, Mark describes her as suffering a great deal at the hands of doctors, not to mention that she has spent all of her money on them. This is not a mere slight tossed at doctors. The treatments for illness can involve suffering as any cancer patient will attest, and we all have suffered through ill tasting medicines and painful shots. This woman would have suffered through painful treatments that were also futile and plain silly. Here are some examples: drinking a goblet of wine containing a powder compounded from rubber, alum and garden crocuses; taking a dose of Persian onions cooked in wine administered with the summons, “Arise out of your flow of blood!”; receiving sudden shock; and, carrying the ash of an ostrich’s egg in a certain cloth.
Twelve years of bleeding; twelve years of futile cures. She also endured twelve years of being shunned. If the woman lived today, we would embrace her with sympathy. Our women would hug her and include her in their activities. Men might place a sympathetic hand on her shoulder and pray for her. When she came to church, the greeters would shake her hand, and she would sit at her favorite spot beside her friends. But if we operated under the laws of her day, we would ask her not to come at all. We’d send tapes and talk over the phone, but we would not visit, and we definitely would not want her walking into our sanctuary.
Why? She’s unclean. Her disease makes her an unclean person. Remember what we learned from the story of the leper? The unclean cannot come in contact with the holy. That’s a no-no. And whenever someone unclean touches someone clean, the clean person also becomes unclean. If she sat in a pew, no one else could sit on it without becoming unclean. Anyone whose hand she shook would become unclean. That’s the life she lived for twelve years. She probably lived alone. No man would marry her, and, if she had a husband, he most likely would have divorced her.