Touching the Master, and Being Touched by HimJune 28, 2015; Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Lectionary: 98
Mark 5: 21-43 (New American Bible)
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to Jesus,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.
After a series of healings in Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus having authority over life itself, healing a little 12-year old girl who had been ill, the daughter of a synagogue ruler. Jesus enters the house, and says “arise.” In the midst of sorrow and pain, and public anguish and weeping, he is the calmest person in the room. It is an amazing healing.
But I want us to focus on the earlier healing we read about today, this woman who broke through the crowd to touch Jesus. This is a wonderful healing story, one that also applies to our own healing today. Not sure what affliction you may be carrying today—marriage in trouble, loss of a job, long bout with sickness or illness, a dullness and emptiness in your faith, searching for the life of faith, a separation between you and your children—this woman’s faith and action (and Jesus’ response)—tells us a lot about our own path to healing and wholeness today.
The Bible is not very specific about her problem, it says she had “an issue of blood” for twelve years. Most commentators agree it was some kind of chronic uterine bleeding. As a Jewish woman, she was thus rendered ritually unclean, compounding her health problems with moral ones.
Now Jesus has come to her village. With that, this poor woman makes the decision that somehow, someway she must get through to see Jesus. If only she could touch him. She did not speak to him because she was embarrassed and ashamed of her condition. She thought to simply touch him, receive her healing, and then slip away unnoticed. After so many years, she was used to coping with life that way.
Now she reaches out and touches Jesus. The text is very clear on what happened when she touched Jesus’ garment. Two different words are used. She was immediately (v. 44) and instantly (v. 47) healed. The text even specifies that at the moment she touched his garment, the bleeding stopped.
It was an amazing miracle. Jesus is walking away from her, Jairus the synagogue ruler is tugging at him and talking and crying all at the same time. Meanwhile, the crowd is so tightly packed in the narrow alleyway that a person could hardly breathe, much less move. The disciples are trying to do crowd control, but they are swept along with the flow. No one sees this poor woman off to the side, no one notices as she elbows her way to the center, no one pays attention as she reaches out her hand, no one speaks to her and she speaks to no one.
Here comes Jesus! As he passes by, her hand brushes his robe. Something like an electrical shock moves from her fingers through her hand, up her arm, and into every part of her body. Only it is not an electrical shock, but the infusion of some mighty power with which she was not familiar. And in less time than it takes to tell it, her weary arteries, shrunken veins, diseased organs, withered muscles, and shattered nerves are filled with health and life and strength. The disastrous decay of twelve years is instantly halted and then reversed.
She is well again! Healthy again! Whole again!
She turns to go, not ungrateful—no, not at all—but fearful lest she call attention to herself and she is respectful of the greater work Jesus does. He has gone to heal the daughter of someone important, a synagogue ruler, and has no time for me. She must not bother him. But with a smile on her face, the first real smile in a long, long time, she turns to go home.
But just at that moment, Jesus stops, turns, and surveying the crowd asks, “Who touched me?” It seems to Peter and the other disciples like the craziest question in the world. Hundreds of people were milling and jostling around and he wants to know who touched him? Everybody was touching him! So many people were crowding around Jesus it could have been anyone. Besides, what difference does it make? A touch is a touch is a touch.
But that’s not true with Jesus.
Jesus could distinguish between the bumps and jostles and the press of the crowd and the touch of faith. That’s the touch of this poor woman. If the disciples couldn’t tell the difference, it did not matter—Jesus could. He knew that someone had touched him in faith. He felt the faith in the passing brush of her fingers on his garment.
As he walked down that crowded street, hundreds of hands reached out to him. Yet he felt only this thin, sickly hand of faith. He felt it! He felt her touch ... He stopped ... He turned ... He spoke to her. He was not offended or angry with her. Nor was he too busy or too tired to bother with her. Think of it. She stopped Jesus in his tracks. In the gospels, the only thing that stops Jesus—that stops him in his tracks, that amazes him—two things: faith, or lack of faith.
He asks this question about touching not for the woman who had already been healed, but for the others who had gathered. For their faith. You know what? He also asks that question to us today. “Who touched me?”
“I know some of you are in the crowd, I know some of you are attending Mass today, but who really touched me?” “I know you sang a little, and stayed awake during the homily, but did you reach out and touch me in faith?” “Who reached out with even a feeble, mustard-seed faith?” “Who is struggling with those life-dominating sins, those weaknesses that have accumulated for years?” “Who touched me today?” “Who is going to touch me today?”
And he spoke to her as if she were the only person in the crowd. When he turned, it was just Jesus and her. No one else mattered.
Jesus loves you as if there were only one person in the universe to love. He hears you as if you were the only one speaking to him. He attends to your needs as if yours were the only needs in the universe. What a Savior! Can I get a witness?
All that touches you touches him. If it is your pain today, then he feels that pain. If it is sorrow, then he feels that exact sorrow. If it is loss, then he feels the loss as dearly as you do. If it is failure, then he feels the failure. Whatever it is that hurts you, he feels it. If it touches you, it touches him. That’s what the writer to the Hebrews meant when he said, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Thank God it is so. If it hurts us, it hurts him. And he bears that burden so we don’t have to.
This story also shows us the amazing power of even a feeble faith. She didn’t have a huge amount of faith. But she had a mustard seed faith, and through it God moved the mountain of her illness.
Do you ever feel as if your problems keep you from coming to God? Do you ever feel so dirty and unclean that you think Jesus would not have anything to do with you? Do not despair. Jesus is not offended by your problems. He’s seen it all before. I say it again. He will not turn you away. Can I please get a witness?
For those of you who partake in communion in a few moments, we have again the opportunity to reach out and to touch—to taste, to consume—the literal body and blood of Jesus. If we reach out to him with faith during those moments, he will stop, listen, hear, and bless our lives. We will touch him, and He will touch us.
That’s what even a feeble faith can do. Coming to Christ is not difficult. The hardest part is reaching out with the hand of faith. If you want to touch Jesus, all you have to do is reach out to him.