Crossing over: the healer

Mark-5-two-miraclesThe Healer. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”

In the controversy stories, Jesus shows himself aware of the inner thoughts and motives of his opponents, yet in the very same moment of healing, Jesus realized that “power had gone out from him” and seems unaware of the woman at all. This is an unusual expression which occurs only in Mark’s Gospel. We are perhaps surprised that Jesus seems to be caught unaware and that this power is not under his conscious control. The idea of dynamis (power) is intrinsic and constitutional in the biblical concept of the personal God. As Lane [192-3] notes: “Jesus possesses the power of God as the representative of the Father. Nevertheless, the Father remains in control of his own power. The healing of the woman occurred through God’s free and gracious decision to bestow upon her the power which was active in Jesus. By an act of sovereign will God determined to honor the woman’s faith in spite of the fact that it was tinged with ideas which bordered on magic.”

Jesus’ question “Who has touched my clothes?” might be simply the reaction to a moment that took him by surprise. The question seems pointless to the disciples since he had been jostled and touched by any number of people. It may well be that the disciples are trying to “keep Jesus on task” since the immediate mission was to assist Jairus’ daughter who was dying – any delay could prove fatal.

Or the question could might be far more important than simply mortal death. What is different about this encounter is that the power went out from Jesus. Certainly lots of people touched Jesus, yet not every contact resulted in an outflow of divine power and healing. It was not a unilateral event under the control and decision of the woman only – there is something more: a encounter of a personal nature. If the question is left unanswered, then the woman may well leave the encounter believing in the quasi-magical efficacy of touching famous and noteworthy people. In asking the question, Jesus is seeking to find the one who touched him with an expectation of salvation – immortal life. Her faith needs to be identified as the real source of her healing (v.34). In the meantime the disciples continue to be unaware of Jesus’ real power.

NOTES

Mark 5:30 healing power had gone out from him. Jesus knew that someone had touched him. As one who possessed healing power and transcended any defilement that normally would result from such contact, Jesus now made public what the woman had naturally hoped would remain private.

Mark 5:31 ‘Who touched me?’ The disciples were amazed that Jesus would ask such a question. The crowd was so tight around him that numerous people were touching him. Jesus, however, knew the difference between casual contact and what had taken place. God had acted graciously in healing this woman and she needed to understand that.

Mark 5:32 who had done it. This expression is feminine (“the woman who had done this”), indicating that either Jesus or the narrator knew that this was a woman. A narrative comment to that effect seems superfluous as the story makes this clear, so there is a hint here that Jesus was aware of who it was. Jesus sought her out for her sake, not his own.

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