Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sick Woman (Mark 5:24-34)

Our current Bible Reading Plan in on Leviticus and though hard-going it may be, it will come in handy when we interpret the gospels. I preached last weekend on the above passage and if we have Leviticus 15 in mind, this story comes alive.

In this short passage (Mark 5:24-34), we note the condition the nameless woman was in.

·         She had a medical condition that caused her to bleed continually for 12 years. We do not know what her medical problem was.
·         She suffered a great deal and will definitely be anemic and weak due to the continual blood loss.
·         She had spent all her money going from doctor to doctor. She is also therefore poor by now.
·         She was religiously impure (unclean)
God instituted a strict code of hygiene conduct for the Israelites in terms of dealing with diseases and bodily discharge in Leviticus 13-15.
Leviticus 15:19-24 talks about women’s menses when during the next 7 days from the initial flow, women are considered unclean and are not to touch or be touched. These laws probably worked very well for healthy women who had a menstrual period of five – seven days. It was a time out for them, when they were relieved of their normal duties and could rest.
Leviticus 15:25-27 brings another situation where it says that a woman having a bloody discharge other than her monthly period is unclean for as long as the bleeding occurs.
Anything and anyone she touches during this time will be unclean as well yet, here she was, in the middle of the crowd, determined to touch Jesus. It was a risky venture.
As harsh as it may sound then, the Pharisees had probably turned Leviticus into a system of man-made laws that had become oppressive and separated people, especially women.
·         She was therefore a social outcast. She’s not welcome anywhere and had to live alone.
·         She was carrying a huge burden of guilty which definitely led to a severe low self esteem problem. She wondered if God had left her and Jesus was her last hope. Women during those times had no personal worth. She had nobody. A total outcast. One of the greatest shames of a Jewish woman was the lack of a socially accepted status of motherhood. Motherhood was her future security that her children will take care of her. The Jews commonly referred to sickness as a chastisement from God.

Here you have a sick woman, described in the context of Levitical laws, a woman of great and desperate need. My heart goes out to her. Understanding the Levitical laws have helped me appreciate this story in ways I could not otherwise.

Her greater need was to be socially accepted back into her community and to know she was affirmed by God. With a crowd surrounding Jesus, it seemed foolish to the disciples that Jesus should ask who touched him. He had the woman in mind. He needed to draw her out into open for three reasons.

1.      She’s accepted by God. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Note the word “Daughter”. With a single word from Jesus, 12 years of pain and isolation were swept away. In no other gospel account does Jesus use this term of endearment and respect.
2.      He did this in the presence of Jairus, a synagogue leader. Whether he will be a testimony for her later, we don’t know. But it was necessary as part of the reconciliation process to the religious community.
3.      He did this in front of the crowd. This was necessary for her acceptance into her social community.

She was a member of the family now, restored to her community, setting an example for others. We find others later doing the same, showing others that their faith, no matter how small, is good enough for God as it is really about God’s grace, not so much our faith. (Mark 6:56) And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

Matthew 17:20
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

This woman had left a legacy of faith.

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