Mark 5:25-34

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:25-34

The technical term is “inclusio”. This refers to a literary device where a story is wrapped, or framed, within a story. Mark likes to do this and what it does to us as readers is highlight both sides of the story, either to heighten the importance of its theme or to emphasize the content of the inclusio.

The first part of the inclusion was yesterday’s introduction of Jairus and his hurting daughter. Then, the middle part, on his way to Jairus’ home, Jesus is interrupted by a woman who had been suffering for twelve years. For twelve long years (maybe the age of Jairus’ daughter?) this woman had been suffering not only from her physical ailment but also from the social pain of being rendered unclean. The Old Testament is embarrassingly (brutally?) specific about how to handle women when they bleed (Leviticus 15:19-33).

Unlike Jairus, a respected elder within his village, who personally confronts Jesus to beg for help, this ritually unclean woman sneaks up on him. Even though no one else has been able to help her, she desperately reaches out to touch Jesus. She believes that Jesus can help, and her faith is met with her healing.

The interesting wrinkle in this story is that Jesus doesn’t realize what just happened. He knew something happened but not what happened. Only when the woman falls before him to confess the miracle she just experienced does Jesus get it. I really don’t know what to make of that, but it is surprising.

Upon hearing her story, Jesus addresses her as “daughter.” She is not a nameless person to him. “Daughter” is both a term of respect and endearment. She is no longer unclean. Perhaps she has never been unclean to Jesus regardless of what the Levitical holiness code might have said about her condition. He sends her off in peace.

These stories are not only about a sick little girl and a suffering woman, they are about the power of Jesus to heal the broken and restore the outcast. They aren’t just healing stories. They are love stories.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, sometimes we don’t realize the power of social conventions to damage the lives of people. We don’t realize how they can make sick people suffer even more. Thank you for the healing at every level that this woman experienced in your presence. Help us to receive, and to be agents of, such healing in our lives today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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