Pastor’s Blog – Sept. 2, 2021

[Read Mark 5:24b-34, NRSV]

            Mark, the author who tells this story, claims that this woman had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.  This is a rather delicate way of saying that this woman was afflicted with some gynecological disorder.  We’re not told what the cause of her problem is other than she had some slow vaginal seepage that stubbornly refused medical treatment.  In fact, she spent all of her savings going from one doctor to another trying to find a cure.     

            There are many women who can relate to this poor soul’s plight.  The symptoms of uncontrolled bleeding can be excruciatingly painful, if not outright debilitating.  But, for a Jewish woman in Jesus’ day, the pain ran much deeper.  There was a set of laws known as the holiness code that prevented such “bleeding women” from engaging socially with others.  The holiness code stipulated that when a woman menstruated, she was considered “unclean” for a week after the bleeding stopped.  Those seven days could be a pretty lonesome experience for women.  Women were removed from their home and sequestered in a shanty on the outskirts of the family compound.  No one who was clean could interact with an unclean woman.

            Imagine what it would be like for a woman who had continually bleeding over a stretch of twelve years.  Her husband, if she had one, could not be intimate with her.  She no doubt would have been infertile and childless.  That’s a whole other level of emotional baggage she had to carry.  The inability to not have children was considered shameful and grounds for divorce.  Other women would gossip about her within earshot.  In addition to being socially ostracized, a woman with a bleeding disorder would have been vulnerable to depression, anxiety, as well as post-traumatic stress syndrome.

            So, in a fit of desperation, this decade-long sufferer reached out and touched Jesus.  But why would she touch the fringe of Jesus’ robe?  Why not touch Jesus’ shoulder or Jesus’ hair or even Jesus’ hand as he passed through the crowd?  Why touch the fringe of Jesus’ robe.  I am holding a Jewish prayer shawl that was brought back from Jerusalem and given to me as a gift from a friend.  At each of the four corners of the prayer shawl are fringes.  The fringes represent the word of God or promises of God.  Related to these fringes is a word of promise given by the Old Testament prophet, Malachi, about the Messiah.  Malachi 4:2 says of the Messiah, “But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in his wings.”  The word for wings in this case can also mean fringes.

            What I’m saying to you is that the woman with the bleeding disorder had “heard about Jesus.”  She heard about Jesus’ capacity to heal people.  She heard the claims that Jesus was the chosen one, the Messiah, the one who was to come and save Israel.  So, in her mind she remembered God’s promise that there would be healing in the Messiah’s wings or fringes of his robe.  Therefore, she took a chance.  She took a chance that Jesus really was and is the Messiah.  She took a chance by touching the fringes of his robe and she was immediately healed of her bleeding disorder.

            Yet, what about those of you who have reached out to Jesus in faith and have come up wanting?  What about those of you who’ve stood at the deathbed of a loved one and pleaded to God for a miracle only to have your request denied?  What about those of you who’ve prayed for a grandchild or friend to be freed from an addiction, yet they relapse time and time, again?  Well, I want you to know that there’s good news for you, too.

            Did you notice the lovely conversation the woman with a bleeding disorder had with Jesus?  When Jesus discovered he’d been touched by the woman, she trembled with fear and came clean.  She told Jesus everything.  She told him about her ailment.  She told him about the rejection.  She told him that she hoped that as the Messiah his power could heal her.  Then, Jesus said something amazing to her:  “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34).  Wow!  I thought this gal had already been healed.  Well, she had.  When she touched the fringe of Jesus’ robe, she “felt in her body that she was healed of her disease” (Mark 5:29).  The bleeding had already stopped.

            So, why did Jesus tell the woman to go in peace and be healed of her disease if she already had been healed?  Answer:  there was another disease from which she had been suffering.  This was not a disease of the body, as much as a disease of her heart.  Jesus had healed her heart from twelve years of rejection.  Jesus had healed her heart from twelve years of loneliness.  Jesus had healed her heart from twelve years of self-doubt.  Jesus healed her heart.

            This woman was the glorious recipient of two healings.  She could proclaim that she was cured in body and in spirit, even though she had only prayed that God would heal her body.  Yet, Jesus also healed her in a place she didn’t expect.  In fact, the healing of her heart is the healing she needed most.  You see, even if this lady had been healed of her bleeding disorder, her heart was still bleeding from all those years of devastating rejection.  In the end, this woman learned that sometimes (not every time) Jesus heals us in ways we want most.  But, every time Jesus heals us in the ways we need most.

             There’s a song sung by Nicole Mullen entitled, “One Touch,” that describes the kind of faith both the woman with a bleeding disorder had in Jesus.  The words of this song say:

 

I had to touch the hem of His garment, and I know I’ve been made whole.

And how I had pressed my way through the madness, and His love has healed my soul.

Then with one word He touched the hem of my garment, and you know I’ve been made whole.

And somehow, He pressed His way through my madness, and His love has healed my soul.