Healing the Shamed: A Distressing Condition

Healing the Shamed: A Distressing Condition

Healing the Shamed: The Woman with the Distressing Condition.

Please read Mark 5:25-34.

  1. Parallel Passages. This healing story is told in three gospels: Matt. 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48. Mark’s version has the most information and background, so it’s most helpful to start with Mark 5.
  2. Suffering Woman. There was a woman who had been suffering from the same ailment for twelve years… a continual bleeding, a menstrual disorder. Imagine the ongoing discomfort, weakness and public embarrassment. This humiliating illness would be extremely inconvenient and distressing to manage. According to Jewish law, this woman was ritually unclean (Lev. 15:19-28), which means she was “untouchable,” was excluded from social contact, was shunned by her community, and couldn’t worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. Also, if she happened to touch anybody, or anyone touched her, that person would be unclean as well. Imagine the depth of her shame in her situation. This woman went to many doctors for this hemorrhage, but she didn’t get any relief. She spent all her money on these doctors, and in fact her ailment was getting worse. So this unfortunate woman was in poverty as well as isolated and humiliated. The woman heard about Jesus in town, and thought that, if only she could just touch the hem of his outer garment, she would be healed. She was desperate. She would do whatever it took to touch His robe. She was soul-weary of her life full of shame.
  3. Healed. Fighting her way through a boisterous crowd, a large throng of people clamoring for Jesus’ attention, was the suffering woman, desperate for healing. Sure enough, she gets within an arm’s reach and touches the fringe of his outer garment. She was convinced, because of her expectant faith in Jesus, that that’s all she needed to do. Immediately, she knew she was healed. Instantly, after twelve long years, the bleeding finally stopped. The Greek word here for healing is “sozo,” one of those classic Greek words that means more than one thing. Sozo could mean safe and sound, healed, delivered, made whole, rescued, restored, saved. Healed of her desperate situation, this woman was certainly everything implied by sozo. She was healed in every sense of that word.
  4. The Hem of His Garment. It is significant that the woman wanted to touch the fringe of His outer garment. All Jewish men wore an outer garment that was actually a prayer shawl called a tallit (tuh-leet). Most men wore an inner tallit as well, beneath their cloak. According to Mosaic law, men were to tie tassels to the hem of the shawl, attached with a blue cord. These tassels were intended to remind the Jewish believers to obey the commandments of the Lord instead of following their own desires (Numbers 15:37-41). The Hebrew word for fringe or border can also mean “wing,” because when the arms of the square prayer shawl are lifted up in prayer, they look like wings. Many scholars point to Malachi 4:2, “the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings,” as referring to the tassels of the prayer shawl. It is that very fringe, those tassels, that the woman touched on Jesus’ shawl. This verse certainly became true in Jesus’ case, since “prayer wings” did indeed have healing power that came from the Sun of Righteousness Himself.
  5. He Stopped. Time and time again in the gospels Jesus has stopped in His tracks to minister a healing word or touch. In this case, He knew at once that His healing power was used. The word for power here is “dynamis.” Jesus offered spiritual dynamite for physical healing. Jesus sensed that divine energy had emanated from Him. So He turned around to find the person who had been healed. He asked the question, “Who touched my garment?” But most scholars believe He actually knew the answer to that question. He wanted to have a little conversation with this woman, so He wanted her to acknowledge herself to Him. He wanted to confirm the healing with loving words of affirmation. And He wanted to make sure she knew that it wasn’t a magical robe that healed her. It was her faith in Jesus that healed her. So that’s what He told her.
  6. Identify Yourself. The healed woman was at first frightened, afraid to identify herself. In her mind, she was perhaps healed without Jesus’ permission or intention. And she might be in trouble now, since she touched Jesus and He would be ritually unclean. Her impurity was taken away, but now was He impure instead of her? Jesus touched other untouchables throughout His ministry: lepers, prostitutes, dead people, the demon-possessed, certain Gentiles. Jesus was so pure that the impurity didn’t touch Him. Instead, He made things pure. He had no trouble managing these situations of ritual impurity.
  7. Tender Embrace. Despite the rather impersonal means of healing, Jesus was extremely personal when He addressed her. He used a term of endearment, a very intimate greeting to her… “Beloved daughter.” Her bleeding was certainly healed, but now so was her shamed spirit, after living a spiritually disconnected and socially rejected life for so long. She had suffered a lack of attachment to God and other people. Her inner brokenness was now healed through the loving words of Jesus. She was personally embraced by the Son of God, the very Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. Maybe that was the biggest miracle of this whole encounter. She became a beloved daughter, accepted, and empowered to live freely a life of faith without shame. She indeed, as Jesus told her, could now go in peace.