It was about eight years ago, I was sitting in a college course and the class was entitled "How to Teach a Bible Class." And guess what that class was about? How to teach a Bible class. The big assignment that was meant to be scary was at the end of the course you were assigned a specific passage, and you would have to study and deliver this class in front of all of your classmates and your instructor, and my instructor was a very wonderful Bible class teacher. The passage that I was assigned is the very one we're looking at tonight.
When I first read this passage in that course, I'll be honest, I wasn't familiar with the passage I was given. I was raised in the church, I was raised going to Bible class as a kid, and it wasn't because my teachers neglected the Bible or my preacher never shared a passage like this, it was likely I just didn't remember it. And so I read the passage, I wasn't familiar with it, and at first glance I thought it wasn't very relatable.
- To the men, this passage, when you read it at first glance, is not relatable. And you'll understand in a moment what I'm talking about.
- To the women, you can better understand it and sympathize with the woman we're going to look at in a few moments, but even to a degree with the difference of our culture and society, it's still not very relatable until you dig in and understand her situation and some of the context and the details in the story.
My assumption and my hope would be that when this lesson is over, you realize that this woman's story is your story. Her story is my story, and I hope you'll understand what we're talking about by the end of this lesson. My hope also is that we will understand what Jesus wants us to know from this little encounter that He had with this woman. Starting in Mark 5:21, we're going to first explain the text, a few verses at a time, and explain the details. After we explain the text, we will then, secondly, apply it. What are a few things God wants you and I to understand, some takeaways that we can get from this woman and her meeting with Jesus.
With that being said, look with me at Mark chapter five, and we're going to start in verse 21 to get some context.
21And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, "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." 24And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
- Mark 5:21-24 ESV
The gospel of Mark is an interesting gospel. I like to call it the action gospel, because what you find is these words like "immediately," you jump from miracle to miracle in the first many chapters of this gospel. You could break it up in various ways but one interesting way I've read is that in Mark the majority of the miracles take place in the first eight chapters. Then in the eighth chapter, Peter makes this confession where he says that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. And what Mark is trying to do is show you is evidence after evidence, wonder and sign and miracle so that you will end up with the same conclusion Peter had when he said, "You're the Christ." He wants us to come to that same conclusion.
So in this lesson we're picking up, in the middle of Jesus doing many miracles. So He's already performed numerous miracles we could read about, He gets in the boat, He crosses the other side, and He's immediately swallowed up by a great crowd. There's a crowd who's already around Him. Can you imagine being famous and having paparazzi all the time? You get in an airplane, you fly somewhere, you step off the plane and, boom, there are thousands of people just hounding you. That is Jesus's life to a degree in the gospels.
So Jesus goes across the sea, steps out of the boat, and here are all these people who want to see this man. Is He really doing what they claim he's doing? What's He like? I want to see these miracles. Maybe these people are in need, so He steps off and we're introduced to a ruler of the synagogue named Jairus. He has a great need because you can relate to this if you're a parent, and I think you should relate to it even if you're a human, but his little daughter is about to die and there is nothing he can do.
This is his whole world, right? We say that about our kids, that's that little piece of me and he says, "I have no other hope. Jesus, would You please come lay Your hands on my daughter?" And Jesus agrees, and it's on the way to heal his daughter that we encounter this woman that we're studying in this lesson.
25And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
- Mark 5:25-26 ESV
We don't know much about this woman. We don't know her name, we don't know much about her background, we don't know her family history, all we know is that she has a physical condition. The ESV said she had a discharge of blood for 12 years. Some of the versions you're reading from might say a flow of blood, or a hemorrhage. A hemorrhage is internal bleeding, think about if someone has a hemorrhage in the brain, that's a brain bleed. So all of those have a similar idea but I think the most accurate maybe translation is a flow of blood, because this is a womanly issue.
Imagine my pleasure knowing when I was a 20-year-old college student, that in a room full of grown men I get to talk about a woman and her womanly issues. When I was a youth minister for seven years, it was a lot of fun when I would teach this class and there's a 13-year-old boy sitting there who has no idea what I'm talking about, and I have to tiptoe around that.
This woman has a womanly issue, for 12 straight years she has consistently has this flow of blood. I won't begin to act like I know all of the physical symptoms and side effects of this, clearly there's fatigue and there's other issues. They don't have modern medicine. But when you understand who she is, where she lives, and the society she lives in, she has a much bigger issue than you might realize at the surface.
Mike Mazzalongo is teaching the Book of Leviticus. In that series, he said that the whole book is about one word, holiness. Clean and unclean, God wanted his people to know the difference between being clean and being unclean, what it means to be set apart as God's people, and He gave them laws to follow so that they would be holy.
And in the Book of Leviticus, if you read chapter 15, there is a whole chapter about bodily discharges. If you think the Bible is boring, there is a whole chapter in the Bible about what comes out of one person's body. You don't need to turn there but in verses 19 through 30, what we read is that this woman in her state is perpetually unclean. Every day with this condition, she is unclean. Now they live in a society where if you are perpetually unclean, they treat you like an outcast. Think of a leper walking in the streets. When people would see that person they would gasp, they would turn away, they would keep separation, these people would have to cry out "unclean" because they didn't want anyone to be in their presence and become unclean themselves.
So this woman, in many ways is an outcast in her own community. Can you imagine with me, not being able to be with your spouse to the fullest extent possible for 12 years? Can you imagine not being able to hug and kiss on your children as much as you please for 12 years? Can you imagine not being able to go be with your church family, for her it was to go to the temple or the synagogue and sacrifice on her own. Can you imagine not being able to meet with your church family for 12 years?
We don't know if she had a spouse, we don't know if she had kids but we can imagine it. This was a woman with her own life and her own story, and for 12 years that just got put on pause. We experienced a lot of separation in 2020 due to COVID. It opened a lot of our eyes to what many of our shut-in brethren have experienced for a time before then, but I'm going to assume none of us in here have experienced distance like she has. 12 Years, how would you describe her life? The one word that pops in my head is depressing. She lives a sad life. Look at verse 26 again:
and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
- Mark 5:26 ESV
So this woman is not only depressed and lives a sad life, but she's desperate. We don't know her financial situation. One could assume that in a Jewish law or a Jewish society at this time, women mostly depended upon the men to bring home money and they took care of the home, so she's likely not rich. That's an assumption, though, the text doesn't say that.
But however much money she had, it says she spent every single dime of it because she was desperate to get better, "No matter what it cost, I will spend all I have to get better," because she can't stand the life that she currently is living because she's unclean, and none of 'em made her better.
I can't imagine going to a doctor and number one them saying, "You know, I really don't know what's wrong with you." That sometimes happens today, doesn't it? But how many of us have been to multiple doctors after multiple doctors, and all of them made us worse? That's her life. She is depressed, she is desperate, and after spending every dime she has, she's hopeless. What other hope is there to have? I've been to the very people you've told me to go to to get better, and they can't do it. And so she is hopeless, but that starts to change in verse 27:
27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I will be made well."
- Mark 5:27-28 ESV
This woman goes from hopeless to seemingly being more positive and having some type of hope, and it's because it says she heard the reports about Jesus. Well, what is she hearing? She's hearing about the fact that on the other side of the sea He's already healed a man who had demons within him, He's casted those out. He's healed a man with a withered hand, He's healed the paralytic, He's calmed a storm with His words, this is the Jesus.
There are sections in Mark that don't give us specific stories but give us general summaries that say, "And many people with illnesses and sicknesses come to Him, and He heals them all." He just heals one after another, and she hears these reports and she thinks, "He sounds different than anything else I've heard of. I've been to doctors, that's not like the doctors I've been to. That Jesus, there's something about Him, I have to check Him out." And she says, "With that type of power, I can go to Him and I can touch his garments, and I can be made well."
Some versions say, "Touch the hem of His garments." If I understand Jewish tradition and the Jewish culture accurately, the hem of their garment was this tassel-like rope that went around them, and it draped over, it's this thin thing that they wore. And so I almost picture in my head our graduation tassels that we flip from one side to the other. Imagine long versions of those like a rope that go around this whole wardrobe, and what she's saying is, "I can go to Him and I can just touch this thin little thing that holds over His wardrobe, and I'll be made well." Two options, what that says about her:
- That she has some extreme confidence in the ability of Jesus. If you were her, wouldn't you want to go up and just hug Jesus? Give him a high five, something?
- Or it means "I'm only going to touch His garment because I'm an unclean woman who's about to go into a crowd, when I know I'm not supposed to be doing that, and I'm not supposed to get anyone else unclean." There is likely punishment and consequence for an unclean person knowingly making someone else unclean, and so, "In order to not cause a scene I'll just sneak in there, I will touch the hem of His garment, I'll be made well and no one will know the better." But she thinks, "If I go, I will be made well."
Pick up in verse 29:
29And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my garments?" 31And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32And he looked around to see who had done it.
- Mark 5:29-32
She touches Jesus, comes into contact with Jesus and 12 years of suffering end in an instant. Jesus makes her whole. He makes her well in a moment, just by touching the hem of His garment. But right after she touches Him, Jesus knows something has happened.
When you read that the first time, you might think that Jesus wasn't purposefully trying to perform this miracle, you might think that He was just on His way doing something else, He didn't notice, and here comes this woman, touches Him, goes on His way. He didn't know. Like He's almost a genie, that if you just touch this genie your wish will be granted. To my knowledge, there is not one miracle in the gospels that fits that. Every miracle we see, to my knowledge, Jesus knows what's going on and He's purposeful in it.
So I think the better idea is, Jesus knows a woman's going to come, Jesus knows this woman's going to touch Him, and he is just waiting to meet this woman after she does it. But she touches Him and He immediately starts looking for her, the disciples are like, "Hey, what do You mean who touched You?" That's like me going to an OU football game in Norman, and being shocked that someone brushed my shoulder as I'm walking in the hallway. It's like going to a concert, standing in a mosh pit, and being shocked that somebody touched me. That's what the disciples are saying, like, "Hello, there's thousands of people here, Jesus, everybody's touching You." But He's asking because He's wanting to meet the woman that was just healed. This means that, yes, Jesus could feel power leaving His body to some degree when He performed miracles. Can't explain that, I have nothing for you to add to that. But He knew, and so He says, "Who touched Me?"
33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
- Mark 5:33-34
This woman realizes that Jesus, while He has healed her, is now looking for her, is wondering who she is, and it says, "In fear and trembling, she falls down before Him." Now you might think maybe she's falling down with fear and trembling because He just healed me. Do you know who He claims to be, maybe she recognizes this is God, maybe it's just she's awestruck by His power, or it might be that she's afraid because she's an unclean woman who knowingly just went into a crowd of people, who touched this man who claims to be the Messiah, and now He notices.
This woman knew she was taking a risk by what she was doing, but she went because for her the risk was worth the reward. It was worth it, whatever the consequences may come, in order to be healed she was willing to go, willing to take those consequences on, "I'm going to meet Jesus, I'm going to contact Him, I want to be made well."
So it says in fear and trembling she tells Him everything, "Here's the whole story. This is who I am, Jesus, this is why I came. This is why I've touched you, this is what's happened." And you can imagine she's waiting for a harsh response or a punishment, and look at the first word Jesus says to her. Isn't that awesome? "Daughter." I wonder how long she longs for interaction like that. 12 years, for God to say, "Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace and be healed of your disease." We have a God who was very loving in His response, who cared about this woman, her condition and her soul, and He says, "Your faith has made you well."
One quick thing to note before we get into our application, that word for made well, the root word in that language means to save. And in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT) the way this word is used leaves open the idea that maybe there was healing beyond just the physical. We can't prove that one way or the other, but the idea is cool to think about maybe more than just her physical life was healed on that day. He says, "Your faith has made you well." That is the tagline of this passage and that is the main point, and we're going to expand upon that as we, secondly, apply our text.
We have three applications tonight, three things that I think every single one of us should take home from this passage. The first one is this:
1. Our greatest need is to be made well.
Every single one of us in here are like this woman in the sense that we are all broken people, every one of us.
Physically, we are broken, we suffer from bruises and bumps and breaks, we have viruses, we have diseases, we are diagnosed, we are in a body that is going to end one day. We're in a corrupted, fallen world. And so we are in broken bodies, like this woman, and we long to be made well.
Mentally we suffer, and we're broken people mentally from bad choices, from a world that's fallen from what other people do, just from being human, as we call it. And so we suffer that way, we're broken people, the same way she dealt with many emotions, the highs and the deep lows, and sometimes we get stuck in those lows or we have mental illnesses and we're broken that way; but just like her in the sense that there was something much greater going on, for you and I, we have a need that is much greater than those.
Spiritually, our greatest need is to be made well, our greatest need in life is to be made well, spiritually. I'm not making light of our physical problems. They're real, God cares about them, and God has a plan in Christ to even redeem those one day. Our mental issues, not making light of those. They're real, God cares, and one day God has a plan in Christ to redeem all of those issues. But God says, "He came to seek and save that which is lost, because He knows our greatest need in life is our spiritual condition." And the chapter about the coming messiah, Isaiah 53, that prophetic passage, there's the verse that says, "All we like sheep have gone astray." Later in chapter 59 verses one and two, Isaiah would say, "Behold, the Lord's arm is not so short that he cannot save, nor his ear so a dull that he cannot hear, but your sin has caused a separation between you and your God." Paul would say it in Romans 3, "For all I've sinned and fallen short, we are fallen, broken people who desperately need to be made well." But our greatest need is that spiritually, because of sin in our life, we have to be right with God, and God has done everything possible to make our sin problem go away, to make us well.
This application we should be reminded of, because sometimes we get our problems and our needs out of the right order, don't we? Not making light of our issues, we're physical people. When I woke up and couldn't speak last Sunday with strep throat, which really isn't that big of a deal, I mean, it felt like I was swallowing glass, which sounds bad, but not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, I immediately went to urgent care. I didn't care what it was going to cost, "Gimme the medication I want to get better." That's the kind of people we are, and sometimes what happens is we live in this life, we get all of our problems and our needs and we think our physical issues and our mental issues are these day-to-day things in our social life, and in our homes or families, they're most important. Not saying they're not important, but what's our greatest need?
Are you like me in that sometimes I catch myself caring far more about the physical issues of my life than the sins in my life? Like, "I got to get this right, but what about all these other things?" Our greatest need is to be made well, it's our spiritual condition. And that's one application that we can take from this passage, for this woman it was true, for us it's true, but there's a second one connected to that and it's this:
2. Only faith can make us well.
Only faith in Jesus can make us well. This woman went to every physician she could find, everyone she could afford, she spent all she had. Did she get any better? Absolutely not. I think there's a parallel today, sometimes, that as humans there are a lot of people in this life who are spending all of their time, their energy, their resources, trying to fix the issues of their life, and they go to every possible source they can to fix it except one. And it's the one person who can actually fix the brokenness in their life.
Have you seen that before in someone? Have you ever been that person? When it comes to our marriages, we will listen to every therapist, every worldly piece of advice, but when it comes to what Jesus says we kind of ignore it or don't put it into practice.
When it comes to the issues in my home, in my body, I will listen to anyone, but there is a God I could pray to or listen to and I ignore it. There are a lot of great people that we can go to for help, and we should, but there's only one source and one person who can fix us, who can heal us, who can save us, and that's Jesus.
And He says, "Only faith makes you well." For you and I, sometimes we try to self-medicate all our problems in life, and just one question we might ask ourselves tonight is, do I turn to Jesus in my needs? Do I truly believe that Jesus can work in my life and its situations? Do I really believe that Jesus has the power to work in my life and is a solution to the things that go on in my life, and in my home, and in my family's life; because here there was only one person who could fix this woman.
But then the third and last application that connects to that is this:
3. Faith is belief in action.
If you read that last verse again:
And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
- Mark 5:34 ESV
Do you find it interesting that Jesus said, "Your faith has made you well"? Who made her well? It was Jesus, wasn't it? Jesus is the one that made her well, she had to touch Jesus, it was Jesus' power, He's the one that made her well. So why does Jesus say, "Your faith has made you well"? He is clearly trying to show her something through that. And what he's trying to show her is, you had to do something in order to be made well.
He said, "It's your faith, your faith that has made you well." And the religious world sometimes likes to disagree on what words mean and we argue about them. Your Bible words are best defined in context, let context define it, that's how it works. This passage tells us what faith is.
27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I will be made well."
- Mark 5:27-28
Right there, notice she thinks Jesus can heal her, she has mental belief. There is confidence there. Is she saved right then and there? Is she saved at that very moment? No, when was she saved? In verse 34, when she went up to Him and she touched Him, which means this, there is a mental part to faith but there is also a physical part to faith. It is belief in action, the two go together and that has some applications for you and I.
We can do all the right physical acts in our life, but if there is no mental belief, if there is no confidence, we're missing out on a part of faith. But you flip it the other way, you can have all the mental belief in the world, you can have so much confidence, but if you never act upon it you are missing a key component of faith. The Bible has a lot of verses upon that idea.
James would say, "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:14) That if you don't ever act out on your faith, that's not a faith that's alive, that faith is dead. And this very end of Mark:
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
- Mark 16:16 ESV
You know what he's telling there? Faith takes the mental part of you but also the physical, believes and is baptized. They're connected, faith is belief in action. For you and I, do we really have faith that Jesus can make us well? And think about that when it comes to both aspects, do I believe if I take Jesus at His word and obey His words, that Jesus really can do all the things He says He can do and He promises? Do I believe that? You know, we can do all of the commandments God gives, but if we don't have faith, isn't that an essential part of salvation?
But then if I have all the confidence in the world, but I see what God tells me to do and I just ignore it or I don't follow through with it, are we not missing out on an essential piece of faith in terms of our salvation? Is that really faith if I see what God says and choose not to do it?
Maybe this passage could define the word faith as trust. Have you ever played the trust fall game where you say, "I'll catch you, fall back." and you have that person who goes, "Hey, do you trust me?" Then the kid sticks his feet out there, he's like, "I'm falling." It's like, "No, you're not falling." They really don't trust you, do they? If they're not willing to fall back, do they trust you? No.
If Jesus tells me what to do and he plainly states it in His word, and I'm not willing to follow through with it, is that faith? Is that trust? Don't get me wrong, our faith is never perfect, we're trying to mature in our faith, we're trying to grow in it, there is always little parts that are lacking.
I think of the verse in the gospel that says, "Lord, I believe, help me with my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). That represents all of us, but we need to understand there are two parts of faith and we have to be making sure that we are right in both. There is the mental belief and confidence, but there's also the action or acting out upon that mental belief and confidence.
Those are three applications from this text. When I started, I told you this, her story is our story. Do you see it now? You and I are broken individuals who cannot fix our problems on ourself, and no body we find on this planet can fix them for us, but our great need in life to be made well, one individual has changed that entirely, and it's Jesus.
When we meet Jesus and He makes us well, we can go in peace and be healed of our disease. We have a wonderful Savior who says "Daughter," who says, "Son", Who loves us, and when we come into contact with Him and we come and we meet him face to face, when we in faith fall down before Him and tell him the whole truth, He loves us and calls us His own. That's our story as Christians, and I think that's a story that needs to be shared to a lot of people.
I don't know your situation, but I hope tonight that you'll see yourself in this story. You might find yourself at different places, it might be that you have never gone to Jesus and come into contact with Him like she did. You can do that, we can help you become a Christian if that's a need for you. It might be that you've done that, but you struggle with the confidence or the assurance part of your faith. We'd love to encourage you tonight. It might be that you're in a spot in life and you are downtrodden and disheartened because you are dealing with a lot of brokenness in your life. There's just a lot of things going on in your life that have you in a situation very down, in a very depressed state, you're dealing with a lot of hurt. We would love to encourage you, we would love to lift your spirits. Or it might be that you just need to think about your own life and say, "Where am I at with my faith?" Or maybe you just need to sing "Thank God I have a Jesus who has made me well." I don't know your need, but if you have one you can come forward now as we stand and as we sing.