Mark 5:25-34 - We've all misunderstood the meaning of a text or email due to the absence of social cues.The same can happen to us when we read the Bible.
Oftentimes I have imagined what it would have been like to be alive in the times of Jesus and what that encounter would have looked like. One of my main questions is often about his personality, what was he like? Through text many conversations can be misinterpreted due to the absence of facial expressions, posture, or social cues that we rely on so heavily in day to day encounters. In my experience with scripture, I noticed a trend in my image of Jesus based purely on the text. This image was one of Jesus being this stern and stiff character who oftentimes lacked emotion. In many bits of scripture we see Jesus have what I would call “stern” replies to various people. This also was originally how I interpreted Jesus’ words in Mark 5 when he speaks to the woman suffering hemorrhages.
Set the Scene
I want to stop here and just allow some time for us to imagine this scene. Jesus had just gotten out of his boat when he was stopped by Jairus, a synagogue official, pleading that he come heal his deathly ill daughter. While on his way the crowd that had met him at the edge of the sea pressed in on him throughout the entire journey. Then, a woman who had been suffering for many years comes up from behind him to “but touch his clothes.” From the scripture we know that this woman had suffered for 12 years, spent all of her money, and was essentially out of hope for any sort of “normal” life, let alone complete healing. Humbly, and maybe even slightly afraid or ashamed, she comes from behind Christ and touches his cloak with full belief in the providential love of Christ that she will be healed. Immediately after touching the cloak, “ She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.” Now Jesus knew that something miraculous had just happened and that power had gone out of himself. He turns around and poses the question to the crowd, “Who has touched my clothes?”
Although the healing powers of Christ in this story are enough to marvel on their own, and we can do so in the future, it was short phrases and “accusations” like these that have caused my image of Jesus to be flawed. Reading this in the past I have always imagined Jesus using a stern tone of voice, almost as if he was disciplining someone. Upon re-examining this image I think he actually said it in the gentle, inviting tone with a slight smile on his face. I like to think that what he actually was saying through the tone of his voice, facial expression, and body language was, “Finally, someone in this giant crowd gets it. Show your face so I may know which one of you believes.” Surrounded by people who constantly were testing him or grappling with the reality of him, someone took him for his word and put their faith to the test. What a relief it must have been to Jesus to know that his work was producing true fruit in the form of faithful men and women.
Even after Jesus’ question, the woman is afraid of the repercussions of her actions. She approaches Jesus “in fear and trembling.” Often I have presented myself to Jesus in the same form, afraid of what he will say or do with me. Specifically, I have been ashamed to bring before God my faults or struggles because I have felt that he desires perfection, as if he was some sort of coach preparing me for the big game. Anytime I didn’t live up to his expectations, then my faith was discredited and I was unworthy to offer myself to him. I saw Jesus looking at me after those faults saying, “How dare you not have faith?” in an angry and disappointed manner. How backwards my mentality was.
When offering our struggles, faults, and afflictions to Jesus we may do so in confidence that we will be met with a smiling and joyful Jesus. One who is not mad that we have fallen, or that we came praying for providential healing even if we aren’t living the “perfect Christian life.” So what is Jesus truly saying? Through reading this passage I now understand what Jesus says to me and all of us when we come before him with our struggles, faults, and afflictions, “Thank you for believing.”
Friends, this flawed image of God loving us based on our performance, gifts and abilities, or anything else that is conditional is one we must fight immediately. Jesus’ love and providential care is not conditional on our actions, capabilities, looks, status, or any other worldly attributes. No, His love is truly unconditional and He is waiting for us to “but touch his clothes” so that we may also receive the healing love He offers us.
I was inspired to write this reflection after spending time with this piece of scripture through lectio devina. I invite you to explore this passage for 15 minutes and allow the image of Jesus' to sink into your heart.
Steps of Lectio: Read, Meditate, Speak, Contemplate. Start slowly reading the passage 2-3 times, stopping at words that jump off the page to you. Meditate on the words or phrases that stick out to you. Chew on them, take them to heart. After this I like to place myself in the scene and imagine Jesus' speaking to me. Talk to God in response to what He has put on your heart. Contemplate by being at rest with the Father, allowing Him to do the thinking while you rest and soak in his love and presence.