And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Today’s scripture is familiar to many, but not as familiar in this story is Jesus feeling “power” going from Him. We who believe in Jesus’ deity might be left scratching our heads wondering about the touch of an incurably ill woman pulling power from Him.
But first the backstory! It is about a pitiful woman who has been bleeding for 4,380 days. She is left destitute, having spent all she had on many physicians. Rather than getting any better, she is getting progressively worse.
Mark the Gospel writer wants us to read between the lines and see that the woman is penniless, unemployable, likely anemic, possibly dying, and cut off from all human touch. For years she has lived withdrawn because of Levitical law dictating that her discharge of blood renders her ceremonially “unclean” (Leviticus 15:19-30). For her merely to touch another person will render that person also ceremonially unclean. She is barred from worship and community life. She has endured without so much as a hug or squeeze of the hand from family or friends. All of this explains her shamed reluctance to publicly appeal to Jesus. Rather, she tells herself: “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” I won’t dare to touch Jesus! What might He say! What would others say! What would they do to me!”
Instead, she reaches out to touch just the hem of Jesus’ garment. And as she reaches out believingly to Jesus, “Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” As an untouchable woman dares to touch just Jesus’ garment, He is “Immediately aware that power had gone forth from Him.” Note that the crowds “pressed in” on Jesus, but it was this woman’s touch of faith that drew Jesus’ healing power. Jesus felt His power going forth from Him.
Bible commentator William Barclay writes that this story tells us something about Jesus: “It tells us the cost of healing. Every time Jesus healed it took something out of him.” (William Barclay, Daily Bible Study) Centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah foretold Messiah Jesus healing work: “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases” (Isaiah 53:4). It truly does cost Jesus something to heal and to forgive.
D. Edmond Hiebert writes about Jesus’ power in his commentary on Mark’s Gospel: “His healing power did not work automatically, like a battery discharging its power when accidentally short-circuited…His consciousness of that power going forth from Him suggests that His healing ministries cost Jesus much spiritual energy. (D. Edmond Hiebert, The Gospel of Mark) Jesus feels with us in all of our infirmity and pain. He bears it! It costs Him! Just look at His unspeakable agony in Gethsemane and on the cross!
Jesus heals unlike any other physician who prescribes medicine, gives instructions and leaves us to follow orders. No, the Great Physician heals by becoming the patient and taking on Himself our infirmity, sin, weakness, and suffering. He makes it all His own. He goes down into death for us and brings us up into new life.
Here’s something to think about! Does not Jesus feeling power go forth from Him tell us something about His need to get away from the crowds to spend time with the AbbaFather? And might it not also explain why it is necessary for us to often pull away from the “crowd” to spend time with Abba Father?
Grace and peace,
P.S. For spending time with the Father, I think you will find helpful our Lent Devotional, Living the Life! Daily Reflections on the Upper Room Discourse. Lent begins Wednesday, February 14. Perhaps you would like copies for your Sunday School class, home Bible study, church, etc. Order printed copies today!