Gospel writer Mark shares two concurrent stories spanning 12 years (Mark 5:21–43). Each culminates in pursued encounters with Jesus on the same day. Two female lives run parallel for 12 long years: one growing in family, love, laughter, joy, and hope for the future. The other declining in sickness, isolation, financial ruin, fear, and hopelessness. Both experience spiritual healing, renewed life, and eternal hope through faith.
Story 1: In the midst of a crowd, a wealthy synagogue ruler named Jairus comes to the young teacher, Jesus. Desperate, Jairus falls at Jesus’ feet, telling Jesus the whole story of his deathly-ill daughter, and pleading for Jesus to come lay hands on her so she will be healed and live. This father’s little girl, his only daughter, is 12 years old. Jesus agrees to go with the distraught father but then Jesus stops to talk with a sick woman, and the mission delays. Men from Jairus’ household arrive to say the girl is dead. “Don’t be afraid, just believe,” Jesus instructs Jairus. Jesus and His inner circle (Peter, James, John), then continue the journey to Jairus’ house. With only the parents and His three disciples in the room, Jesus takes hold of the dead girl’s hand, not worrying about Jewish law which would proclaim Him “unclean” by touching a dead body. Jesus raises the little girl back to life. He affirms that faith in God provides resurrection life. Jesus tells the small group to keep this miracle to themselves.
Story 2: In the midst of a crowd, a destitute, unnamed woman who has suffered for 12 years with incurable bleeding comes up behind the young rabbi, Jesus, and touches the corner of His garment. She has lost everything in life and continues to get worse. Although for 12 years she lived as an outcast and was prevented from participating in religious life due to being ceremonially unclean, this desperate woman heard how Jesus can heal people. Today, she believes that if she can touch His clothes she will be healed. So she reaches out. Immediately her bleeding stops and she feels in her body the release of her intense, prolonged suffering. Jesus stops. Looking around the crowd, He calls for the person who touched Him to come forward. Knowing all along who would emerge, Jesus compassionately allows this woman to come face-to-face with her Healer. But fear grips her. Trembling, the woman falls at Jesus’ feet and tells Jesus her whole story. Jesus comforts the older woman and speaks as God, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” Faith in God brings healing, not a magical cloak. The whole crowd heard her testimony of faith and cleansing.
Suffering fosters surrender to Jesus, and leads to new life. Faith conquers fear, and leads to hope and healing.
Though a crowd of people pressed into Jesus and clamored for His attention, the one He stopped for, called to, and healed was the diseased, ostracized, untouchable woman crippled by pain and driven by desperation. The unseen, unworthy woman experienced a one-on-one encounter with Jesus. She had endured 12 years of debilitating health and financial ruin. Year after year after year after year: pain, suffering, loss, hopelessness. And yet, she fought her way to Jesus.
While the humility of the woman falling at Jesus’ feet does not shock us, we have to admit how shocking it is that she willingly came forward and confessed to touching Jesus. By telling the frenzied crowd that she had touched the prominent rabbi––thereby making Him unclean––she risked receiving a verbal and/or physical flogging. Instead, Jesus spoke as God the Father, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” Humility led to the revelation of her identity as a daughter of the Most High God. And she walked upright for the first time in years.
Our cultural lens encourages us to immediately affirm why Jesus agreed to go with Jairus to help the young daughter. Yet Jesus chose to pause His critical mission in order to metaphorically raise the old woman to new life. As God, Jesus understood the anguish of a loving father like Jairus. And as God the Father, Jesus shared the pain and desperation of the old woman, His beloved daughter. Note that both the old woman and the young girl are unnamed. Mark wants us to know that they represent all of us.
We all face times of pain, uncertainty, and despair. And Jesus shepherds His daughters through the dark valleys, step by step. Here’s my story…
Several years ago, I slipped on the ice and fractured my spine. Initially it was not a full break, so I began the process of trying to find relief. Unfortunately, during a visit to one specialist, he tried to “pop” my bones back into place, and the result was a collapse of my lower spine at L5/S1.
For the next 18 months, I saw upwards of 40 different specialists. I endured multiple procedures and injections. For three of those months, I went three times a week for decompression. I saw nerve specialists, pain management specialists, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, sports medicine specialists, acupuncturists. Many doctors assured they could help––until they examined. I wrestled through conflicting opinions, long waits and doctor visits, the cost of surgical injections and experimental procedures not covered by insurance, increasing pain, and increasing hopelessness. During this time I also started a new job as Covid began to spread through the country. In the early days of the pandemic, work proved doubly difficult as uncertainty mounted. I struggled with how I could take time off for surgery and recovery. Unfortunately, my condition continued to degrade as my pain continued to mount.
But God. By God’s grace, my pain management doctor introduced me to “the one.” The one surgeon whose skill was world-renowned, who provided an accurate assessment of the required treatment, and who provided thoughtful care for me. The one willing to fight for me with the insurance company who rejected the initial submission for 360 fusion surgery. The one who hand-picked a second surgeon to assist in my complex procedure. The one who did not cancel my surgery due to the pandemic.
My recovery from fusion entailed much more pain, time, and effort than I ever imagined. However, two years later, I continue to praise Jesus for my surgeon and his skill, wisdom, expertise, care, and patience. I may never understand why my path to healing included a medical obstacle course, but Jesus walked with me step-by-step. And now as I read Scripture––especially stories of pain, disappointment, and despair like that of the old woman––I immerse myself in the story as I praise Jesus for His desire and power to heal us, both physically and spiritually.
Sisters, encouragement comes through knowing that others understand our pain and will pray us through dark days. Do you have a story of hope and healing you will share with others? Leave a comment here sharing your story, or pray for someone needing hope and healing. We’re in this together.
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, thank You for Your grace, compassion, and sensitivity to suffering. Thank You for Your power to heal and Your desire to make us relationally and spiritually whole. Help us in the coming days to fall at Your feet and confess our whole story. Help us to place our hope and trust solely in You and grant us strength and wisdom to persevere by Your side. Amen.