Sickness is the Great Interrupter of life. It enters without knocking, thwarting all plans, mocking the idea of certainty, and diminishing hope for the future. It intrudes like a burglar in our home, touching every part of life.
Such an interruption occurred to a woman in Jesus’ time. Her encounter with Jesus is told in Mark 5. The incident takes place on a city street. It is a narrow twisted street packed with a crowd of excited people. Not unlike the malls at Christmas, people were moving past bazaars and stores with noise and confusion. The crowd is there not to purchase gifts, but to catch a glimpse of the one named Jesus. He walks like a king. The common people speak of Him with deep affection. The beggars whisper His name softly. The children may be heard singing about Him. He is known to the diseased. His fame has trickled down to the streets of forgotten men and women. It is Jesus of Nazareth.
At the request of one Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, Jesus is on His way to restore to complete health Jairus’ dying daughter. He is on a mission of restoration, and the crowd is following Him in order to see Him perform this miracle. Opinion is divided. There is argument and discussion. Some are declaring He can do it; others are doubtful.
His walk is interrupted by a very sick woman. Her face is marred with lines of agony. Her body is racked with pain. Who is she? Tradition gives her various names, but I cannot tell you who she was. It does not matter. Is it enough that she was a woman in pain? She is typical of countless cases of endless pain and suffering. For twelve years she had suffered and twelve years is a long time. She wants relief. Restoration. Health. Life. She hopes Jesus can heal.
She had every reason to want to be healed. Her sickness, as any sickness, had a profound effect on her. She felt the losses caused by her illness everyday.
The Losses of a Sickness
In sickness, as in any battle, there are losses, even for the victor. The pain, and uncertainty of illness usually amplify the sense of loss experienced by the victim. Among the most common feelings of loss are:
1. Loss of control. Suddenly the body, rather than obeying you, has its own agenda and behaves any way it pleases. It’s like driving a car on an icy highway. Suddenly your car hits an ice slick, and you are out of control. Hit the brakes, twist the steering wheel — nothing helps. All you can do is hang on and wait for the crash. It is a sickening, helpless feeling.
This was the embarrassing condition of the woman. She “had been subject to bleeding for twelve years” (Mark 5:25). Her body was out of control.
2. Loss of identity. Sick people become defined by their illness. Isn’t it interesting that the lady in the story is not called by name. Simply, “A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding.” The same is true today. We speak of certain people and say “She has cancer,” “He has AIDS,” or “She suffers from manic depression.” Sick people lose their identity in their sickness. One is no longer the person they were; they are the person who has an illness, who is disfigured, who endures chronic pain, who is dying.
3. Loss of certainty. With a chronic illness everything becomes contingent upon the condition. Vacations are contingent upon the body. One will go to work if the sickness allows. Even getting up in the morning is stipulated by the sickness. What was once predictable is now provisional.
4. Loss of place in society. When sick, losses go beyond the body. Sickness often puts a strain on relationships, on jobs, on hobbies, on families. The sick person feels a better fit in the hospital with other sick people, but not in the healthy world. They don’t fit in.
5. Loss of resources. The older woman in the story “had spent all she had” (Mark 5:26). She was financially bankrupt, emotionally spent, and physically weak. She reminds us that vast fortunes of time, energy, and money can be squandered in an effort to bring healing.
6. Loss of hope. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this lady’s life was that she had tried everything “yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (Mark 5:26). She was beyond human help and hope. She was at her wit’s end. As a last resort, she comes to Jesus hoping against hope that He could heal her. She was desperate enough to try anything.
The Desperation of the Sinner
Sickness makes us do some strange things, doesn’t it? Pain can make us desperate. Not satisfied with conventional treatment, the sick may seek alternative treatments unendorsed by traditional medicine. Some alternatives may prove valid, even miraculous. Others may flirt with quackery, but at least they are something to do and to try.
The older woman in the story was desperate. She was willing to try anything to bring healing to her body. She had heard about Jesus. A healer. Strangely, something awakens in her breast. Resolution gradually builds in her heart. I must find Him. I must go to Him. He can heal me! So “she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak” (Mark 5:27). Like a frightened, whipped puppy edging toward a bone, she wishes to steal a blessing and remain anonymous. All she wants to do is to touch His garment and depart.
She thinks to herself “If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed” (Mark 5:28). Can you imagine her nervous reasoning? Touch Him … yes … just to touch Him — there would be no harm in that! On the head? — no, that would be irreverent! On the hand? — no, that would be too familiar! But there cannot be any harm in touching His robes as He passes. It would be enough — just to touch the hem of His robes. If I just touch Him. If I get some of that power.
If? Stop for a moment to consider the magnitude of that little conjunction. That’s the issue, isn’t it? This woman believes in Jesus’ power. She knows in her heart that Jesus can pull off a healing. Or, at least, she is desperate enough to give it a try. She squeezes through the crowd, reaches out to touch His garment, and slinks back into the crowd. It is a daring yet cowardly move. She, in one moment, displays both faith and fear. While others bump into Jesus, she reaches out and touches Him.
What does this say to us? When we are so desperate and so dead that we know we have nothing left to lose, we can risk being brave and reach out to Jesus.
The Compassion of the Savior
As instantaneously as the women touched Jesus, He sensed that healing power had gone out of Him. No one noticed her — no one but Jesus. He turned around to see who had touched Him, who had just been healed and why. He asks, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30). He looks for her, but she does not wait to be found. Once again, as in the initial healing, she comes forward on her own and presents herself to Jesus. Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34). Jesus calls her daughter. She had been a daughter of death; now she is a daughter of life. In an instant, her body regains control, she is granted a new identity, she now has a certain future, she regains her place in society, she is restored to wholeness, and she discovers hope. In an instant, Jesus heals her sickness, eases her suffering, grants her freedom, and saves her soul.
The Other Miracle of the Story
That is the record. These are the facts. It is a matter of history.
That is the miracle. Jesus heals a woman who had a bleeding problem. What a miracle it was! The only miracle recorded in scripture where no word was spoken or action displayed by Jesus.
Is there another miracle lurking here?
Notice, she did not meet Jesus in a house of worship. She met Him on the street. She had no private audience with the Lord. She touched Him in a crowd.
She touched Him in faith — in desperate believing faith and He stopped. That is the miracle I don’t want you to miss. The touch of one anonymous woman in a crowd halted the Lord of glory. That is the glorious message of this miracle. She touched Him. And so can we. The other miracle is that the human touch has the power to arrest God. Yes, to stop Him, to halt Him, to make Him aware of your problems, your petition.
We need to touch Him. Most of us are thronging Him — just like the crowd. It is easy to throng the Lord and never touch Him. A great many people in the church, and perhaps a great many outside the church, are thronging Jesus but not trusting Him; seeking Him but not being found by Him; coming close to Him but never actually touching Him. Coming close to Jesus is not enough. It is like missing a train. You may miss it by one minute and that’s pretty close but you have lost the train. It is gone, and you are left behind.
Thronging saves nobody. Coming near to Jesus will not bring healing. We have to touch Him for ourselves.
How can I touch Christ? It is one thing for that woman long ago, but how can I touch Him today.
Suggestions for the Seeker
1. Give God a chance. Take your problem, what ever it may be, to Him in prayer. Tell Him about it — just as if He did not know a thing. Hold nothing back. Dare to be honest.
2. Believe that God will hear you. Remember that He heard the poor woman who only touched the hem of His garment. Believe with all your faith that He cares what happens to you. You must believe that. You can’t doubt it when you look at the cross.
3. Be willing to wait patiently for the Lord. He does not answer every prayer on Sunday afternoon. You may have to wait until Friday. But wait. God is never in a hurry. The person who waits on God loses no time.
4. Reach out and touch Him. It is one thing to throng the Lord and quite another to trust Him. Many people bump into Jesus, but few reach out and touch Him. In faith, reach out as He passes by.
5. When He speaks to you, do what He tells you. He may not tell you audibly. You may not hear His voice, you will not see writing on the sky, but generally through your own conscience or through trusted counsel of friends He will indicate a course of action. When He lets you know what you must do, do it.
The message of this miracle is that one woman, at the end of her rope, had the courage to step out of normal procedures to find healing and hope. She touched the Lord of the Universe. And He stopped for her. He will stop for you, too. Don’t miss that miracle.

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