Today’s reading is Mark 5.
My wife Paige was not feeling well this last weekend, so as one usually does when one feels sick, we went to the doctor. She was promptly diagnosed with strep throat, we were given a prescription for antibiotics, we picked them up, and went on our way. After a day of rest and medicine, voila – she felt healthy and well again. Not once did we stop along the way and say anything like “hey, I don’t know if this doctor fella really knows what’s up. It might not be worth checking with him, but why not?” Sure, there’s a lot of trust to place on our medical professionals, but when comparing their expertise against the possible consequences of not going to the doctor, putting trust in our doctors is easy to do.
We see Jesus in this chapter healing three people from a range of afflictions. One man is driven mad by a multitude of demons, A woman has uncontrollable bleeding, and a young girl sits on her deathbed of an undisclosed illness. The way Jesus handles these three different situations and brings healing contains some wonderful truths we see in our own lives. All three stories are equally important and worth your time, and we see Jesus wield supreme authority over all things – even beginning to prove to God’s people how death itself can not stand against Him. But for brevity’s sake – it would be way too easy to write for days about this whole passage – I want to specifically focus on a single moment of this scripture that stood out & moved me: when the sick woman approaches Jesus.
In Mark 5:25-28, as Jesus travels towards Capernaum after crossing the Sea of Galilee, a large crowd congregates around him of people excited to see the Jesus they’ve heard so much about. Among the masses is a meek woman, suffering from some medical issue that had caused her to discharge blood for twelve years. The terror and agony this woman’s affliction has wrought her must be tremendous, with no end to her frustration. The passage says “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.” So for a dozen years, this woman had been seeking care for her illnesses, and with no answers to show for it, she had only continued suffering and nothing but dwindling funds to show for it.
So when this woman takes a chance and pushes her way through the crowd, just for the opportunity to graze Jesus’s clothing knowing that her troubles would be over, we see an incredible display of faith. Mark describes her train of thought simply: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” No “maybe”, no “might as well try”, just “I will be healed.” It is the absolute certainty with which she pushes through the crowd to share that moment with her Savior that relieves her suffering.
Now, it’s easy to see how amazing this display of physical healing is. A woman beset with illness for 12 years that no doctor could cure, healed in an instant by merely touching Jesus! Yes, this is amazing, and a miracle only our Creator could perform. But remember – this is all happening before Jesus died for our sins. At this time, the people of Israel were still living according to the Old Testament and the laws that God has commanded Moses to share with the Israelites. People in Israel at this time were very much under the constraints of purity and holy impurity – and Leviticus’s rules on what made someone ritually unclean. According to Leviticus 15:25, “If a woman has a flow of blood for many days… she is ceremonially unclean.”
This woman’s affliction went beyond physical pain and discomfort – she was exceptionally unclean. Unable to properly worship, and seen as impure in the eyes of those around her due to the suffering she was enduring. Worst of all, she endured ritual separation from God due to her impurity and her unrepentable sin. According to Scripture, only after the bleeding had ended and she could give a burnt offering would she be free to participate in worship and congregate freely. And in the daily life of the Israelite of this time period, worship was a lifestyle & a community, and being unclean meant being cast out from society. For twelve years, this woman was ostracized, forced out of her community, searching desperately for a cure. Even being near this crowd around Jesus and possibly making anyone there unclean as well could have caused an uproar.
In that brief moment that her fingers then could grace Jesus’s cloak, the Lord saw her faith in full display. The message Jesus’s healing sends here is overwhelming: Jesus was the Lord of all, and had complete power over all things. Even, in this instance, Old Testament laws that required animal sacrifice to make up for our sins, as Jesus would eventually go to take the place of Himself. Jesus has shown this woman and the world with this one touch that absolute faith in Him can cast aside any uncleanness and any sin like it was nothing, no matter the severity or duration.
After Jesus tells the woman in Mark 5:34: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering”, we can only imagine the joy in her heart and the weight lifted from her shoulders. But what we can relate to is the freedom Jesus offers. When we ourselves come to Jesus in moments of hope, when we ache for a freedom from our own illnesses of the spirit and only want Him, Jesus says those same sweet words to us every time: “Your faith has healed you, go in peace and be free from your suffering.” Jesus alone can provide the deep and meaningful healing our hearts need. As Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 17:14, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved.” What an amazing Savior we have, who would offer His son as a sacrifice when we need freedom from the suffering we can never afford ourselves! Let us give thanks today to Jesus the Healer, the only one who can save.
– Ross B.