Sermon July 1, 2018

“A Healing Unseen”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Mark 5:21-43
July 1, 2018

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”  – Mark 5:30i

She had been suffering for twelve years. She had seen countless doctors. None could help. Twelve years – it’s a long time even by today’s standards.

But in antiquity, twelve years could be a lifetime. Listen to what Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, wrote in Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels:

To imagine the significance of age in the first-century Mediterranean, note that a person of twelve was well along in his or her life span. In the cities of antiquity nearly a third of the live births were dead before age six. By the mid-teens 60 percent would have died, by the mid-twenties 75 percent, and 90 percent by the mid-forties. Perhaps 3 percent reached their sixties. Few ordinary people lived out their thirties. . . . much of Jesus’ audience would have been younger than he, disease-ridden, and looking at a decade or less of life-expectancy.”1

You may already know what I am about to say. The issue of blood that tormented this woman had a physiological component. She needed to be physically healed. But there was another dis-ease with which she was burdened. It is why fear filled her heart when she came, knelled before Jesus and told Him the whole truth.

If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness; as in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. (Leviticus 15:25) 

Anyone who touched her would be unclean, too. She had wandered into a packed crowd. People were pressing in upon Jesus. He couldn’t even tell who touched the hem of His garment. She told Jesus the whole truth and now, according the Law, Jesus had been made unclean, too.

My brother, Doug, died of an AIDS related illness in 1982. Ellen had just given birth to our second son. Our oldest child was 4. This was at a time when we were just learning about AIDS. We didn’t know much about how it was transmitted. Some people thought that if a mosquito bit you and that mosquito had bitten a person with AIDS, you, too, would be infected. So we went to our pediatrician to get his opinion about going to visit my brother before he died. He said something that has always stuck with me. “If you can’t be touched by others, you’re already dead. For twelve years this woman had been dead to those around her.

By Jesus healing this woman He also healed a community that had shunned her. Almost always when Jesus performs a healing, He heals His culture, too. God healed her, true, but God also healed those who had shunned her.

Do you know how the fifth chapter in Mark starts? Jesus heals the Demoniac. He lived in caves where the dead were buried. He was often shackled to the wall because he posed a threat to the community. He was dressed in rags and lived in filth. He may not have been a Jew, but Jesus was. For Him to be amongst the tombs was already violating the Law. Numbers 19:11  “Those who touch the dead body of any human being shall be unclean seven days.” Jesus heals the unclean and touches those the Law says should not be touched. He heals the dis-ease of His culture.

And then we come to Jairus’s daughter. Jesus agrees to heal her. Indeed, he is on the way to Jairus’s home when this woman with the issue of blood touches him. How long does all this take – the healing, Jesus looking for the one who touched Him, the woman telling Jesus the whole truth? We don’t know. What we do know is that in the time to heal her, Jairus’s daughter dies. How must Jairus have felt about this woman who in her uncleanness had the audacity to touch Jesus and in so doing delay Him?

The messengers who brought word of the girl’s death said there was no need to bother the teacher. The moment had passed. She was dead and the words of Numbers 19:11 ring in our ears: “Those who touch the dead body of any human being shall be unclean seven days.” Is this why Jesus said the girl was not dead but only sleeping? Would these leaders of the synagogue and town allowed Jesus to defile Himself if she were dead? He could have raised her with His voice, right? That’s what He will do with Lazarus, but the text is very specific, Jesus took the dead girl’s hand. What had been unclean was made whole. Maybe Jesus had to touch her to make the healing complete. Maybe He wanted to heal His culture of their devotion to the law while forfeiting love.

And what of us? Have we become so devoted to the law that we let it thwart compassion? Have we allowed our fear of “the other” blind us to the angels of our higher nature? Jesus does more than heal a person. Jesus heals his culture and in so doing He has shown us the way to heal our own. Let us pray….

1 Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (Minneapolis: Fortress,

1992), 211. 179

i Mark 5:21-43

21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

24So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32He looked all around to see who had done it.33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?”36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.