Summary: Many times the things that affect us the most are inside, beyond our ability to reach and heal. Such was the case with the woman we meet in this study. How she approached Jesus and what He did in response speaks to how we desire to be healed of infirmity
As I mentioned last time, Mark Chapter 5 is all about setting prisoners free. In verses 1 through 20 we see Jesus release a man who had been held captive by thousands of demons. This time we see Him set free a woman held in the bondage of an incurable disease for more than a decade. Next time He releases a young girl from the grips of death itself. What we see in common in all of these accounts is the bowing before Jesus as Lord and three different admonishments. The man with the demons was told to “go back home and report what the Lord has done for you.” The woman was told to confess that she had reached out to touch Jesus, and Jairus, the synagogue leader must choose to believe and trust, or give in to fear. These admonishments work as well in your life as a believer in Jesus.
Notice as well that all three of the miracles in this chapter involve uncleanness. The man was unclean because he was a Gentile, lived in the tombs, and had a demon (an unclean spirit). The woman was unclean because of her flow of blood, and to touch a dead body made someone unclean. Today we read about the beginning of Jesus’ encounter with Jairus, and the woman with the flow of blood.
Jesus probably returned back where He had come from: Capernaum. It’s no wonder that a large crowd gathered after the miracles and parables Jesus had given them prior to taking off.
22 – 24
A synagogue ruler was more like a school superintendent and facility administrator. He was a lay person who oversaw the workings of the synagogue and the school for the boys associated with it. He would also arrange for rabbis to come and teach. It was a prestigious position and Jairus would have been well respected in his community. The fact that he approached Jesus, whom the religious leaders of Israel had not accepted, speaks to Jairus’ character and to his plight. It’s interesting to me that people are so reluctant to even think about what Jesus Christ means to them. Sometimes it takes a real crisis to bring into focus what’s important, and when brought to an end in himself (this was his only daughter), Jairus doesn’t care about public opinion or his own doubts, he wants help and knows Jesus can help heal the sick. What’s cool, of course, is that it turns into much more than just healing a sick person!
Jesus agrees to accompany him to the house, and the crowd moves along. Mark notes for us that lots of people were touching Jesus as He walked.
25 – 29
In 1st Century Palestine (certainly in the Roman Empire) there were hospitals, sort of. They were called Asklepion centers. They were more like places where pagan rituals for healing were performed. Given what Jesus said, it appears there were professional physicians that charged exorbitant prices for sub-standard care. We don’t know a lot about how physicians operated in Jesus time, but touching was part of the treatment. (Kitchen, 2009). There were no medical diplomas given out so charlatans were as common as “real” physicians. If properly trained, a doctor could prescribe herbs, and even perform surgery, though it was mainly constrained to traumatic wounds. The kind of menstrual or urinary tract bleeding here would have been beyond their capabilities.
So consider the plight of this woman. In some ways it is similar to the man possessed with the legion of demons. She has something is wrong inside of her, it is doing things to her that she doesn’t want, she cannot cure it herself, and it makes her unclean, cutting her off from fellowship. Remember, the Law is very specific that a woman with a flow of blood cannot go to the Temple, and she cannot touch or be touched (Lev 15:19-28). The other analogue to her plight is leprosy. She has spent all the money she had and has only gotten worse, so she hears about Jesus and the healings He has done. She comes up behind Him, and reaches out to touch the tassels (Luke tells us) of His robe. It was commonly thought that touching a holy man could impart spiritual or healing power (see Acts 19:11-12). She came up behind because perhaps she thought Jesus would not choose to touch her since she was unclean. She succeeds, despite the crowd and somehow knows instantly that she has been healed. I’m sure it was such an incredible shock to her that she probably held back, frozen in shock and awe. Or perhaps she wanted to slink away undetected at having made the affront to reach out and touch a man who was not her husband.