Who touched my clothes?: Mark 5:24-34

In the midst of a crushing crowd, pressing against him from all sides, Jesus asks ‘ Who touched my clothes?’

24 So Jesus went with (Jairus). A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Mark 5:21-34 (NIV)

Horsham 8th July 2024

As part of our study of Scripture, I like to encourage people to imagine that they were there, walking the walk with the disciples, looking and listening to their world – sharing their experiences. I’d love you to engage in that way with this story. One mistake we can easily make when we read Scripture is to imagine that Jesus lived in a sort of holy, silent, peaceful bubble. Here’s a story which emphasises that wasn’t the case.

Everyone wanted to catch Jesus’ eye or see what was going on. This would not have been a silent crowd. Along with the disciples, the crowd included a man called Jairus, and a woman who had been suffering bleeding for twelve years.

On the fore-shore, Jairus, leader of the local synagogue, in desperation and humility threw himself to the floor at Jesus’ feet. He tells Jesus that he is desperate for his help. In the midst of the bustle and confusion of the crowd Jairus tells Jesus that his 12 year old daughter is dying. He begs Jesus to come and lay hands on her to restore her to health. Jesus agrees to go with him and they set off towards Jairus’ house, with this crowd in tow. (see more about this meeting here)

So, this modestly large crowd follows Jesus, Jairus and the disciples into the town. Two things quickly happen. In the dusty, narrow streets, the crowd becomes compact and very noisy as people clamour around Jesus. Secondly, the crowd grows in size as people become curious, attracted by the noise and excitement. In my mind,  I see the disciples, acting like ‘minders’, close to Jesus, struggling to make space for him to progress through the increasingly dense crowd.

In a previous post I suggested that Jesus, the celebrity healer and preacher living in Capernaum, and Jairus, the synagogue leader in the same town, were almost certainly well acquainted. In the same way, I wonder whether they both already knew or recognised the woman who is about to take centre stage.

We don’t know her name We don’t know where she was from. We know nothing about her, except part of her medical history. We do know that for 12 years this woman had suffered some kind of chronic haemorhaging. Just think about the horror of her position. She was constantly losing blood. That renders her and her home unclean. She cannot visit the synagogue or play any normal part in the community. She is a virtual outcast. Her condition is enough to make everyone keep their distance and to make her life fall apart. But it’s not just the blood. Untreated, and with poor diet, her condition would have caused the crushing symptoms of chronic anemia.  Utter exhaustion. Constant weakness.  She would have been pale. This lady was visibly sick. Very sick.

Do you sense the courage of this lady. In spite of her poor health, she is so determined, so convinced that Jesus can help, she sets aside all the inhibitions which society has placed on her and somehow forced herself to the front of the crowd. She gets close enough to reach out and touch the edge of Jesus cloak (see Matthew 9:20). Jesus stops in his tracks.

Who touched my clothes?’, says Jesus. Not surprisingly, the disciples, currently focused on their role as security guards, want to say ‘In the middle of this pandemonium, when we’re all getting pushed and bumped in all directions are you seriously asking who touched your clothes?

In this moment I want you to notice the anxiety of Jairus, desperate that Jesus reaches his daughter without delay? I want you to notice the fear which is gripping this woman who realises that Jesus’ accusatory question is directed at her?

Now as with Jairus a few minutes earlier, we see this lady, throwing herself at the feet of Jesus, in humility and despair. In the midst of the bustle and noisy confusion of this busy street, she quietly tells Jesus why, after 12 years of suffering, she was so desperate to touch his cloak.

Pause and look at this scene, this moment of direct personal contact in the midst of a noisy crowd. Do you sense the compassion of Jesus? Do you see him moved by the faith of this ordinary and long suffering woman? ‘Daughter,’ says Jesus. (That’s a word Jesus doesn’t often use.)  ‘Your faith has healed you.

It occurs to me that Jesus could have simply let the moment pass. He knew that the power had left hm. He almost certainly already knew who had received that power. He could have simply allowed the woman to go on her way to rebuild her life. Yet something incredibly important happens in this moment. Her words, and her actions, testify to others that she knew that Jesus could help her. She did all that she could to connect with Jesus. Kneeling before Jesus, she told everyone, including Jairus and the disciples, including you and me, what Jesus had done for her.

His words show that he knows her suffering and is ready to help. He recognises her humility, her despair, and her faith. Doctors – all of them men – had taken everything she had and given her nothing.  Jesus takes nothing from her and gives her everything.

A few verses ago, Jesus turned to his disciples, those who knew him most and had witnessed his power in so many ways, and said ‘Where is your faith?’ Now, he turns to this afflicted, frightened, and incredibly brave lady woman  and says ‘Daughter. Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

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