Friendship, listening, and empathy: A Prayer GuideTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Praying about Jesus’s miracles: the woman who touched his cloak

Lynne Baab • Wednesday May 29 2024

Praying about Jesus’s miracles: the woman who touched his cloak

Three things are quite difficult for me: being interrupted, being in a crowd, and listening to someone when I feel the need to move on. The story of a woman touching Jesus’s cloak in a dense crowd evokes all of these (Mark 5:21-43).

Jesus has returned to the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee after being on the eastern, Gentile side. A crowd surrounds him. Jairus, a synagogue leader, approaches him to ask for healing for his daughter. Jesus follows Jairus through the crowd, but Jesus stops when he senses that someone has touched him and power has gone out of him.

The woman who touches him has suffered from bleeding for 12 years. We assume that’s menstrual bleeding, which would have made her unclean. Anyone who touched her would have become unclean, too. This woman had probably lived without human touch for 12 years. Of course, out of kindness for Jesus, she wouldn’t touch Jesus’s body and make it unclean, but touching his cloak dangling behind him might be okay.

Mark tells us that this woman “had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and she was no better but rather grew worse” (Mark 5:26). Sadly, those words could describe many people right now whose doctors can’t find the problem and whose copays and deductibles for medical treatments wipe out their savings.

Jesus stops in the middle of the crowd, baffling and frustrating his disciples. Jesus asks who touched him, and “the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth” (verse 33).  

Have you ever talked with someone who has had multiple medical treatments with no success? The “whole truth” takes a long time to tell. I wrote last week about imagining ourselves in a Gospel story. When I imagine myself as one of the disciples in this story, I feel the pressure of the crowd around me. I want to keep moving. Jairus is standing right there, waiting for Jesus to finish listening, and I can sense his frustration. Every minute matters for Jairus’s little daughter. And surely healing the daughter of a strategic Jewish leader is more important than listening to this woman go on and on about her various medical treatments.

As I stand there beside Jesus, the woman, and Jairus, I realize something else. Jesus is able to focus on this woman despite the pressure of the crowd and the urgency he must feel from Jairus. While I’m frustrated that he’s letting her talk for so long, I also admire his ability to focus on the person in front of him. I have felt that focus on me a few times, and I know how healing and empowering it is.

After she finishes “the whole truth,” Jesus gives her a blessing before he goes to Jairus’s home. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (verse 34). As is common with so many of Jesus’s interactions, this raises the question of what exactly her faith consisted of. Her belief that Jesus could heal her? Her approach to Jesus? Her honesty when Jesus asked who touched him?

Because my favorite term for prayer is “draw near” (used in some translations of Hebrews 4:16), I believe this woman’s faith is demonstrated by her willingness to approach Jesus to touch his cloak and then by her even bolder action of approaching him again, in honesty, when he realized someone had touched him.

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NASB). Almost half of the 33 translations of Hebrews 4:16 shown in Bible Hub use “boldly” or “with boldness” in place of “with confidence.”

Jesus, amazing listener, we ask for power and patience from the Holy Spirit so that we can be like you, willing to be interrupted at the right times. Jesus our Healer, we ask for confidence and boldness like the woman who touched your cloak. Help us sense your presence so we can draw near to you — we know you are already near to us — and receive your mercy, grace, and healing in our times of need.

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Next week: healings on the Sabbath. Illustration by Dave Baab: Lake Hawea, New Zealand.

Four years ago in late May, I was coming to the end of a 12-week series that began with the title “spiritual diary of self-isolation” and then continued with the name “spiritual diary of sheltering in place.” I normally write one post each week for this blog, but in those 12 weeks, I wrote 17 posts. I sensed such a great need among my readers in those early months of the covid-19 pandemic for assurance of God’s goodness. The first post of the series is here, and here are three of my favorite posts (as relevant now as they were during the pandemic):

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