She was a footnote in this chapter of the Jesus Story. But she was NEVER a footnote to Jesus.
And neither are you, as you will be reminded in this poignant PODCAST.
If I had to choose one word to describe this woman — and let me assure you, there are many to choose from, such as desperate, fearful, impoverished, unclean, shunned, rejected, lonely, isolated, alone, damaged —
If I had to choose one word to describe this woman, the one word I would choose is invisible. She was indeed invisible. Totally and completely invisible.
She was invisible to her family, her former friends, her neighbors, her faith community…
No one gave a thought to, or cared one whit about, this poor precious woman.
Except for Jesus.
If you have ever been tempted to think that Jesus is mean, harsh, angry, impossible to please, time to meet this woman — who will never look at Jesus the same way again.
And neither will you.
Let’s begin by reading Mark 5:31
His disciples said to him, “Look at all these people crowding around you! How can you ask who touched you?”
Let’s talk about who touched Him… and why.
First off, you need to know this: I do not view the Bible as a record of events that happened to people. I view the Bible as my personal introduction to people to whom events happened. It may seem like a subtle difference, but to me it’s as huge as the difference between genuine gold and fool’s gold.
You see, events happen in fables, fairy tales and fiction. They can be embellished, fabricated and be very impersonal. Events do not necessarily touch our lives.
But when you acknowledge the people whom the events happened to – the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends… every event becomes personal.
So, when we view the Scriptures through this lens, we see verses like those in Mark 5 differently.
34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.
Think about that: her faith, her belief healed her. We need to know what she believed. What was the content of her faith, so that we can have the same healing faith?
Well, first let’s look at the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life to put this woman’s story in context. Jesus had just finished teaching all the parables that we have taken the last several weeks to go over (yes… all of them in one sermon). Then, at night, He and his disciples crossed the sea and encountered the demon possessed man, whom Jesus cured and sent the demons into nearby pigs. Then, they set sail back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee where, as Mark 5:21 tells us, “when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea.”
Why had this crowd gathered? Why had they expectantly hovered around the docks waiting for Jesus’ boat to come across the horizon? Because the president of their synagogue’s daughter was dying. That’s why.
Mark 5:22- 24 tells us why they were all there:
22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
It’s no secret that there is nothing on this planet that can begin to compare to a daddy’s love for his dear daughter. And this daddy’s little girl was dying.
Now, almost as a footnote, or at most a side-story to what was happening in Jairus’ home, we read in the very next verse about an invisible woman in the throng that had gathered around Jesus:
And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
So, what did she believe in? What did she put her faith in?
For starters, she believed in Leviticus 15
“Any woman who has a flow of blood outside of her regular monthly period is unclean until it stops. Anything that she rests on or sits on during this time is also unclean. If you touch these, you must wash your clothes, take a purification bath, but you still remain unclean until the evening. Seven days after the woman becomes well, she will be considered clean”
The problem is, for this woman, for twelve long years, she never got well. That means that for a dozen interminable years, she had basically led the life of a leper – completely and totally shunned by everyone. She was never allowed to go to synagogue. Never allowed to fellowship with anyone. She couldn’t even touch her own children, much less her rabbi.
That is what she knew. What she believed.
Which is why she came up behind Jesus in the crowd. She knew that if anyone saw her, they would ban her from His presence. Then, when she touched Him, she came to Him trembling with fear and collapsed at His feet. Any other rabbi would have condemned and publicly shamed her right then and there, banishing her from his presence. But not Jesus.
All Jesus cared about was this desperate woman whose life was filled with unending pain, who desperately needed to touch Him… and He let her. By doing so, according to the Law, He was rendered unclean. Think about that – Jesus Christ, Son of God was unclean.
But, you see, in the heart and soul of a gentle Jesus, love trumps Torah.
Now, I’m not sure what to do with that. You could say that by allowing her to touch Him, He participated in the violation of His own law.
What do you do with that?
And what are the practical implications for us today when we encounter someone who violates our own religious traditions?
In addition to Leviticus 15, she also knew about Tzitzits, or tassels. She knew what the Torah says in Numbers 15:38-39
‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord,
So, this woman understood that Jesus authority as a rabbi was symbolized by his Tzitzits or tassels. She understood that He was the heaven-sent Son of God. She understood that He was her long-ago promised Messiah. And His tassels were the symbol of this.
So, she believed that if she could just grab His tassels, she would be healed.
Matthew, who wrote to a predominantly Jewish audience, put it this way in his Gospel:
20 A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the tzitzit on his robe. 21 For she said to herself, “If I can only touch his robe, I will be healed.” (Matthew 9:20-21)
Was she healed? For the medical facts, the good doctor Luke wrote this in his Gospel:
(The woman) came up behind him and touched the tzitzit on his robe; instantly her hemorrhaging stopped. 45 Yeshua asked, “Who touched me?” (Luke 8:44-45)
Think about it – she had defiled this Rabbi, Jesus, in front of the president of their synagogue, en route to going to the president’s house to heal his dying daughter. She was a goner!
But instead of condemning her, Jesus called her “Daughter”. As I said before, there is nothing on this planet that can begin to compare to a daddy’s love for his dear daughter.
Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, your suffering is over.” (Mark 5:34)
That’s the Jesus I signed on to follow. That’s the Jesus I am continuing to get to know. That’s the gentle Jesus I love.
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