Crossing over: one healed

Mark-5-two-miraclesFear and Peace. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Why would the woman approach in “fear and trembling?” Perkins [588] provides a wonderful explanation that I will simply offer in whole:

The woman’s fear at being discovered suggests the magical view of such healing powers. She might be accused of stealing what belongs to the healer without appropriate supplication (or payment)!213 Other interpreters suggest that her fear stems from the possible accusation of ritual contamination. Purification legislation from Qumran equates women with a flux of blood and males with a genital discharge. After the discharge stops, a seven-day purification period, followed by laundering clothing, is required before those who touch such a person are free from that contamination. Readers know that Jesus was not concerned about the problems of ritual contamination, since he had touched the leper (1:41), and the woman is said to be familiar with Jesus’ reputation. Therefore, ritual impurity does not appear to be the primary focus of Mark’s narrative. Unlike the story of the leper’s healing, Jesus does not instruct the woman to observe the required period of purification.

The exchange between Jesus and the woman removes any suggestion that Jesus’ clothes were endowed with magical power, nor does Jesus condemn her for attempted “theft” of his power. Jesus does not possess a magic force that accounts for his ability to heal. Instead, healing reflects the presence of God’s saving power (Deut 32:39; Isa 35:4–6; 53:4–5; Hos 11:3; Mal 4:1–3),215 and Jesus’ saving and healing presence demonstrates that the kingdom of God is near. The woman’s gesture of pushing through the crowd to touch Jesus’ garment resembles the faith exhibited by those who brought the paralytic to Jesus (2:5a). Jesus points to the woman’s faith as the real agent of healing and pronounces the cure permanent (v. 34).

The fear the woman exhibits as she responds to Jesus’ question stems from her knowledge of what has happened to her (v. 33). In other words, she recognizes the extraordinary divine power possessed by Jesus. Fear and trembling are common responses to the presence of the divine. The disciples were “filled with a great fear” after Jesus calmed the storm (4:41). In that situation, they were accused of having no faith (4:40). Likewise, the Gerasenes were so afraid of Jesus’ powers that they asked him to leave their country (5:15–17). Jesus addresses the woman as “daughter,” suggesting that she now has a personal relationship to Jesus as one of his family (3:35). (Some see his form of addressing her as an indication of the difference in social status between the two, although it appears to narrow the gap exhibited by the woman’s falling at Jesus’ feet.) The term may have been introduced when this story was combined with the cure of Jairus’s daughter (v. 35). It carries more personal overtones than would the term “woman,” which had been used for her in the rest of the story.

Daughter. At their core, the concerns and dynamics surrounding ritual uncleanliness, especially leprosy, bodily discharge, or touching corpses, were about relationships. They put one outside of the community. When Jesus calls the woman who touched him “daughter,” he established a relationship with one with whom he should not have a relationship. Her illness made her unclean. Her attempts to be healed by doctors made her impoverished. Her brazen invasion of Jesus’ space, touching Jesus’ clothes, “technically” made Jesus’ unclean and could have resulted in him condemning her. Yet by calling her “daughter,” he established the same kind of relationship with her as Jairus has with his “daughter.” He would do anything possible to save his daughter.

Jesus addressing the woman as “daughter,” suggests that she now has a personal relationship to Jesus as one of his family (3:35). She is one who does the will of God. Stoffregen writes: “The persistence of Jesus in discovering who touched him rivals the woman’s persistence in reaching Jesus. She wants a cure, however, a something, whereas Jesus desires a personal encounter with someone. He is not content to dispatch a miracle; he wants to encounter a person. In the kingdom of God, miracle leads to meeting. Discipleship is not simply getting our needs met; it is being in the presence of Jesus, being known by him, and following him. … In a way the woman cannot yet know, the desire for healing and wholeness is the desire for Jesus.”

The final words spoken to the woman, “Go in peace,” while a traditional leave-taking, are here informed by her entire experience. The peace with which she departed signified more than release from agitation over a wretched existence or from fear of recrimination for having touched Jesus. It was the profound experience of well-being which is related to salvation from God. When Jesus declares, “be cured of your affliction,” he confirms that her healing was permanent and affirms his active participation with the Father’s will to honor the woman’s faith.

The woman had experienced an aspect of salvation in anticipation of the more radical healing to be experienced by the daughter of Jairus.

NOTES

Mark 5:33 fell down … and told him what she had done. Jesus’ question elicited the woman’s public testimony. She was trembling because she had not been able to be healed anonymously. Would he be angry that she had made him unclean? She told “the whole truth” (so the Greek) of what she had done and Jesus reassured her that all was well. She learned that what had taken place was not simply an ancient form of magic.

Mark 5:34 daughter: Later tradition embellished the Gospel account, seeking to answer the questions asked by generations of people. In the Greek tradition the anonymous woman was given the name Berenice, while in the Coptic and Latin tradition she received the related name Veronica. Eusebius states that she was from Caesarea Philippi, and that by the door of her home there was erected on a high stone a copper statue of a woman kneeling, her hands outstretched before her, entreating one purported to resemble Jesus. At the feet of the male figure a “strange sort of herb” is said to grow on the column which possessed medicinal powers against a wide variety of diseases.

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