There are 37 miracles of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels, and two-thirds of these involved him healing someone. John’s Gospel tells us that what is written only represents a fraction of what Jesus did during his three-year ministry, so in reality there are likely to have been many, many more miraculous healings than this.
Sometimes Jesus healed somebody to make a point, for example the man lowered through the roof who Jesus healed to prove that he had the power to forgive sins having just forgiven the man, recognising the faith he and his friends had; or the man with the withered hand who Jesus healed in the temple to challenge the misinterpretation of the rules about the sabbath that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were using.
Sometimes Jesus healed people privately and instructed them not to tell anyone what he had done, like a man he healed of leprosy. Sometimes we are told that Jesus went on a journey to heal someone, Jairus’ daughter for example; sometimes he just spoke the word and someone was healed some distance away, such as the centurions servant. Sometimes he just healed someone right where they were.
Whenever Jesus healed someone, he meant it; his focus was on that person, he engaged with them, he looked into their hearts, he gave them his full attention; like Bartimaeus, a blind man who was brought before Jesus and who Jesus asked “What would you have me do for you?”. Jesus was interested in each and every person who he healed, whatever the reason was that he healed them.
But there is one, remarkable, healing story that is very different to all of the others. One story that contrasts with the typical way that Jesus engaged with the people he was healing. The story of the woman who was healed by faith of a condition that made her bleed by touching Jesus’ cloak. It’s worth reading the story in full before we draw out some thoughts from it about Jesus, healing and faith:
“A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”” Mark 5:24b-34
In this story we meet a woman who has had an extremely tough time for 12 years. She struggled with a condition that caused her to bleed, and despite the efforts of “many doctors” (one can only imagine…) her condition was worse than ever. Because of the nature of her condition she would have been an outcast, considered ritually ‘unclean’, she would have been lonely and the Gospel writer tells us that she was broke.
But even in the desperate position that she was in there lives in her a determination to keep trying, she hasn’t completely given up. She hears about Jesus and has faith that if she can just touch his cloak, that will be enough to heal her. She doesn’t think that someone like her could actually ask Jesus for help, but she recognises his power. She follows him and takes her chance, touching his robe and immediately is healed.
Then follows the farcical exchange between Jesus and the disciples where Jesus is asking who in the crowd has touched him and the disciples, not realising what has happened, incredulously say “everyone!”. But Jesus knows something significant has happened, something unplanned and unexpected, and power has left him. He knows someone’s touch was one of faith and he wants to know who it was.
Jesus was on his way to bring life back to the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader, an important man, but Jesus stopped to engage with an outcast, someone from completely the opposite end of the social order.
Can you imagine how the woman was feeling? Having been rejected for 12 years and finally feeling whole again, she is being sought out by the one who healed her. What would he do? Would he take the healing away? What kind of trouble would she be in? It took immense courage for her to come forward and admit what she had done; extraordinary bravery to tell her story and to declare in front of everyone what had happened.
But Jesus knew what he was doing. If she had just crept away, would anyone have believed her if she said that she was well now? After 12 years, would she have been accepted back into the family, into society? By calling her out and making her publicly tell her story Jesus didn’t just heal her physically, he restored her in every way. And he gave her all the time in the world to tell her story, she had his full attention.
Jesus, the teacher, called her “Daughter”; she was publicly declared not just to be ritually clean again, but accepted fully, she was called daughter by God’s son! Instead of Jesus telling her not to tell anyone what he had done, he was declaring it to the world so that everyone knew that she was restored in body, mind and soul.
So what does this amazing story say to us? How does the woman’s story have relevance to our lives? What does it teach us about how Jesus connects with us?
Well, first of all this story tells us that no matter how desperate our situation, no matter how difficult things are for us, for our family, we are never out of his reach. If we in faith seek him he is there for us, he is interested in us, he wants to know us. He longs to restore us, to respond to our faith in love.
He is not in a hurry, he gives us time, he gives us his full attention. Nothing is as important to Jesus as that moment that he is connecting with us. He wants to hear our whole story. Whether that moment involves us, or a loved one, being healed physically or not is not promised; but what Jesus does is to bring healing to our souls, to our very being, restoring us to him, calling us “daughter”, calling us “son”.
Whatever our story, whatever our journey through life has been to this point, let’s reach out and touch Jesus in faith, and let him minister to us, to bring healing to us, to restore us, to welcome us into his family… We have a sister there waiting to say “Shalom!”
The Additional Needs Blogfather
What The Man With The Withered Hand Teaches Us About Disability And The Church
The Man Lowered Through The Roof – Faith More Important Than Healing?
They Carried Me There But I Walked Home
(a contemporary re-telling of a well-known story)
Photo: © unknown