This past Sunday, our Pastor preached out of Mark 5. Specifically, he read Mark 5:24-34. I encourage you to look it up in your own Bible and read it, but the summary is this:
Jesus has been teaching, and He is surrounded by huge crowds. They are pressing in around Him. Amongst the crowd is a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years. She has heard that Jesus is a healer, and she believes that if she can just touch the hem of his robe, she will be healed. She works her way through the crowd, touches His clothes, and she is immediately healed.
Jesus, being the omniscient Son of God, knows immediately what has happened. He asks, “Who touched me?” His disciples think he’s nuts, because everyone is touching Him. But Jesus knows. The woman comes forward, and, petrified, falls at Jesus’ feet, and tells Him her entire story. He says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”
I have heard this story preached easily a half a dozen times in my life. I’ve read it even more. But, as the Holy Spirit is prone to do, I was struck anew Sunday by the power of this story and the beauty of how Jesus dealt with women.
This woman…oh, how my heart ached for her Sunday as never before. Twelve years she had been bleeding. This meant two important things:
1) She was ceremonially unclean. Leviticus 15:25-27 explains this in detail. Because of her bleeding, she was unclean, an outcast from among her people. She couldn’t attend Temple, she couldn’t touch others without making them unclean, and she lived with the social stigma of being unclean.
2) She was infertile. Perhaps she started bleeding as the result of childbirth, and she never stopped. Perhaps she miscarried. Perhaps she had never even been able to conceive before the bleeding began. But for twelve years…her womb was barren and inhospitable. (this prompted tears Sunday at church; I had never once considered this before). We think there is a stigma attached to infertility today; it was ridiculous in that time period (see: Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and Hannah in I Samuel).
I have been there. I have been unclean – I have been (am) wretchedly sinful. And I am still, twelve years into marriage, barren.
Yet this woman in Mark…she had heard that Jesus could heal. And she believed. She simply believed that touching his robe would be enough to heal her agony, to make her clean, to restore her to health and wholeness.
Do I believe that much in Jesus? Would I be the woman grabbing the hem of His garment, risking passing along my ceremonial uncleanliness? Or would I be the rest of the crowd, bumping into Him, clueless as to the salvation He has to offer?
Matthew 17:20 says, “…for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”
I don’t believe in coincidences, but Sunday morning, I was wearing a necklace containing a mustard seed. I gripped it throughout the sermon. Do I have even a mustard seed sized faith?
The other part of the story that I heard, seemingly for the first time, was she told Jesus her entire story. Jesus knew her story; Jesus knows everything. But she explained who she was, that she had been bleeding, possibly that she had tried everything, and that she had heard He could heal. So she took the chance of being recognized and called out, fought through the crowd, and made her way to the Son of God.
When I pray, God already knows, but there is something important in me saying the words to Him. Confessing my sins, admitting I need help, pleading for the Holy Spirit’s assistance and guidance, praising Jesus for provision and answered prayers – all of those are powerful reminders to me that God is always who He says He is. Jesus didn’t need to hear her story, but by her telling it to Him, it makes His Words all the more sweet.
This is a tiny story in the life of Christ. It seems almost insignificant in many ways, comparatively. But this woman was changed radically by her simple faith. And Jesus honored her faith: an unclean woman. It’s pretty radical and life changing, if you really ponder it.
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