“Jesus Heals Two Women”
By Pastor Jerry Donovan
In Mark 5:21-43 the story of a hemorrhaging woman is sandwiched between two parts of a larger story involving the healing of another younger woman. Both are healing stories and both involve women. The story stands out because of the unique ways the older woman defies gender challenges in that ancient world.
The expectation is for her to keep her unclean hands to herself and not jeopardize the cleanness of a man. The bleeding woman’s defiant answer to the patriarchal challenge of her uncleanness is to reach out and touch Jesus anyway.
The woman’s uncleanness is not transferred to Jesus, but His power, His holiness, His wholeness actually transfers to the woman. There is no mention of his being tainted or receiving any curse, but rather his own power flows outward. The woman sneakily takes this power from him for her own ends, but Jesus is not angry with her. He affirms the faith that empowered her to do it.
There is more to this story than healing; there is acceptance; there is life out of death; there is hope. There are twelve years of a downward spiral leading to rock bottom; there are twelve years of young life that seem to be vanishing like the morning mist. There is a daughter reclaimed from shame and suffering, and there is a daughter reclaimed from death.
And there is a secret. Ah, the secret. Why does Jesus tell them not to tell? Maybe Jesus was setting the precedent for witnessing. Tell your own story, not someone else’s. And tell it with the life you live rather than your words, at least in the beginning.
In the Gospel from Mark, it is Jesus who is the example of grace or the example of giving whatever he has. Jesus seizes the moment, responds to the need, and is fully present with those who come to him, even though there is an interruption in the midst of it all.
I wonder if Jesus got exasperated at interruptions. I know he is ready to help and to heal and to go where he is most needed, but still. The demands of a crowd wanting something from him must have been like barking dogs getting on his nerves. Well, duh. Of course the point is, not only him, but we are as well. That’s the hard part; to not see needs, people, and opportunities as interruptions, but as grace moments. To give and to receive. To be attentive and to be present. To be alive and real. Like he was. He is.
Rather than calling on Jesus to exercise the strength and power expected of a Messiah, the woman’s faith in Jesus empowers her to enact her own healing. This empowerment reminds readers that Jesus the Messiah is not the strongman. This Messiah gives up his power, letting it flow out of him to others.
Mark’s Jesus is the Messiah who dies and then vanishes from his tomb, leaving the gospel work to his frightened and scattered followers.
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