A Healing in the Crowd

There was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years… . She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.’ And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease” (vv. 25–29).

- Mark 5:24b-29

God’s old covenant law distinguishes between the clean and the unclean. Those who are unclean are forbidden from entering into the worship assembly. Some forms of ritual uncleanness were temporary conditions, and it was possible for the person who had been unclean to regain ritual cleanness. Childbirth, for example, rendered the mother temporarily unclean. After a short waiting period, however, she could be cleansed and restored to the community and sanctuary (Lev. 12). Other forms of uncleanliness were permanent. An incurable leprous condition, for instance, rendered one permanently unclean (chap. 13).

Today’s passage records Christ’s encounter with a woman who for all intents and purposes suffered from a condition of permanent uncleanness. Mark describes a woman who “had had a discharge of blood for twelve years,” or continual menstruation (Mark 5:25). This woman was in a desperate condition, for women were unclean under the old covenant during menstruation, so she had effectively been an outcast for twelve years (Lev. 15:19–30). Furthermore, her attempts to find healing had left her penniless (Mark 5:26). But hearing of Jesus, she sought Him out in the crowd. He was her last hope (v. 27).

Mark explains that the woman’s goal was to touch our Lord’s garment, believing that contact with it could heal her. In those days, many people believed they could receive a benefit from a great person simply by touching the person’s clothing, so it is likely that her pursuit of Jesus was not entirely free of superstition. Still, our Savior’s power healed her (v. 28). John Calvin comments on this account that the woman’s being healed despite her superstition shows the grace of God. The Lord accepts imperfect but true faith, and He does not wait for us to be free of all theological errors before He saves us. That is a good thing, for none of us will have perfect faith on this side of glory. Of course, that gives us no license to hold on to our superstitions and false beliefs. God commands us to grow up in the faith and advance in our understanding of Him and His ways. Failure to do so is no mark of true spirituality (Heb. 5:11–14).

Contact with the bleeding woman would have made any ordinary person unclean (Lev. 15:20–21). But Jesus was no ordinary person. Instead of her making Him unclean, He could cleanse her. What the doctors and the law could not do, Jesus could and did.

Coram Deo

When we first come to faith in Christ, our theology may be filled with many errors. Over time as God matures us, however, these errors are corrected, and we grow in our knowledge of what is true and right. Let us seek this Christian maturity so that we would have a greater apprehension of God and His promises.

Passages for Further Study

Jeremiah 33:1–8
Ezekiel 36:22–38
Mark 1:40–45
Colossians 1:28

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