First Mennonite Church
August 6, 2017
Jesus Meets a Woman and a Girl
Text: Mark 5:21-43
Jesus had just returned to Capernaum from the land of Gerasene. There he cast out a legion of demons from a man. Upon his return, a leader of the synagogue came pleading with him for the healing of his daughter. As Jesus headed to Jairus’ house with the crowd pressing against him, a woman furtively came to touch Jesus’ clothes with the purpose of getting healed.
At the outset, one major social implication about the woman’s condition is not apparent to the modern reader. In her religious and social setting, this woman might have been secluded from society for many years. The Levitical law prescribed that menstruating women should avoid any kind of physical contact with other people for seven days. Anything a menstruating woman touched was considered impure. The Levitical law also included regulations pertaining to abnormal genital flow for both men and women. In this regard the woman who secretly came to touch Jesus might have deliberately broken her twelve-year seclusion. Her suffering for twelve years pushed her to the limit of her patience and isolation. She must have made the conscious decision to transgress the law in order to seek help from Jesus. It is no wonder why Luke includes the fact that she was trembling and fearful when her action was discovered.
It might seem that her approach to Jesus was sort of superstitious. She thought that Jesus’ clothes must have power on their own and that if touched Jesus would not know. She thought she could secretly get benefit if she were to only touch the garment. Yet, at the very moment the unnamed woman touched Jesus’ clothes he knew that power had gone out from him. He asked, “Who has touched me?” The disciples rebuked him saying, “The crowd presses on you, and you still ask ‘who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking for the one who had touched him. Upon realizing that her action had not gone unnoticed, the woman confessed everything to Jesus and that she was the one who had touched him. If her fear was that Jesus would rebuke her for defiling him in public or that he would call upon her the punishment if there were any for those who violated the Levitical proscription, she was relieved by what Jesus said to her. Jesus instead affirmed her faith, sent her in peace, and pronounced her healed.
Whether because of Jesus’ delayed journey to Jairus’ house or because of the severity of the girl’s illness, word came that Jairus’ daughter had died. From there on, Jesus only allowed Peter, James and John to accompany him to Jairus’ house. There they found a commotion due to the death of the young girl. She was twelve years old. Life had been snuffed out by death at a young age; therefore lament and grief were not out of order. But when Jesus said the girl was only sleeping, the grieving crowd jeered at him. But Jesus kindly said, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!’”
In this story Jesus heals a woman who had suffered for 12 years and brings back to life a 12-year old girl. The woman had spent everything she had on doctors, but her condition only worsened or at least went without remedy. It is remarkable how life is. When we are young we are tempted to believe we will always be healthy. When we were young the doctors did find ways to bring us back to good health. But as we grow older cures and full recoveries begin to become more elusive. Often we find ourselves thinking of where we can find treatment for something. As one gentleman in his seventies said, “After a certain age, you never are really well. Just less sick.” With every illness comes worries and uncertainty. With every illness we are strained not only physically and emotionally, but also for certain, financially. The story of this woman hits close to home when it comes to the financial drain a prolonged illness can cause.
Jesus’ apparent insistence on finding who touched him is rather interesting and might seem even selfish. Yet, what followed after the woman identified herself changed those perceptions. What can we learn from that? Has God ever done something for you, which, besides your close circle of friends, nobody else knew about? Have you ever failed to acknowledge God’s providence in the fellowship of others? Could this story be a reminder that we need to openly acknowledge the grace of God shown to us?
Let me finish with Jesus’ meeting the young girl. The girl was dead, yet Jesus described her condition as “only sleeping.” Sleeping is the euphemism Paul also used to describe those dying in Jesus. In this story, Jesus commanded the girl to “rise up.” It’s the same word Jesus used to describe his resurrection (Mark 8:31). Whether by illness or some other way death overcomes life in us, we will sleep in the Lord. We will enter into a time of waiting until the day our names are called by the Lord. And we will rise again and taking up imperishable bodies we will be with the Lord forever. But as for now, let us take to heart the words of Paul who said, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1Thessalonians 5:9-11). Amen!