September 22, 2016 • Life for Leaders
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
In the previous section of Mark, where Jesus encountered the Gerasene demoniac, Jesus acted in ways that were puzzling, even distressing to those who witnessed them. The puzzlement continues in the next episode of the Gospel of Mark, which is a double-healing story, one that moves into new territory because one of the healings is actually a resurrection.
This story begins when a synagogue leader begs Jesus to heal his daughter, who is dying from some unnamed disease. Jesus consents to go with the leader, so they head for his home, with a large crowd following. Suddenly, a woman in the crowd secretly touches Jesus’ robe, believing that this would enable her to be healed of a disease that had afflicted her for years. In fact, she is healed instantly. But her hopes for a clandestine healing are dashed when Jesus asks, “Who touched my clothes?” (5:30).
I love the response of the disciples, who take Jesus literally and thought he was being silly. With everybody pressing in around Jesus, lots of people are touching his robe. So why ask, “Who touched my robe?” But Jesus knows exactly why he is asking this question, and so does the woman who had been healed. Jesus is asking her to reveal herself, not only to him, but also to the crowd.
We don’t know all of why the woman wanted to be healed secretly. But part of her motivation surely had to do with the fact that, by touching Jesus, she would make him ritually unclean. This would not be something one should do to a Jewish holy man. No doubt the healed woman expected Jesus to be angry with her, and the crowd to rebuke her for soiling Jesus’ ceremonial status.
When the woman falls before Jesus, trembling with fear, she admits what she did. Jesus responds simply, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (5:34). No mention of uncleanness. No anger. Just affirmation and good news.
So why does Jesus call out this woman, bringing her action into the light? In part, he seeks to reassure her, even calling her with the intimate address, “Daughter.” In part, Jesus wants to hold her up as a paragon of faith. And, in part, he wants all to know that she is healed and restored as a full member of their community. Physical healing is the occasion for a deeper and wider restoration.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever felt like the woman in this story, reaching out to Jesus in desperation? When? What happened?
How is Jesus bringing wholeness to your life?
Gracious Lord, as I read this story, part of me relates to the disciples. There are so many times when I don’t quite get what you’re doing. I’m sure I stick my foot in my mouth with you hundreds of times. Probably thousands. Yet you remain in relationship with me, bringing me along patiently and graciously. Thank you!
There is another part of me that relates to the woman in this story. Though I haven’t been in her exact situation, there have been many times when I have reached out to you in desperation. Thank you, dear Lord, for being there for me. Thank you for being my Savior, my healer, and my hope.
As you did with the woman in this story, so you have done with me. You have done far more than I expected. You have healed me more deeply than I knew to ask. You have restored me . . . and keep on restoring me . . . with a vision for my wholeness that outstrips my own. All praise be to you, gracious Lord, for your amazing goodness to me. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Be Authentic About Your Work
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.