When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
The story so far could be summed up in two actions: Jairus asked and Jesus answered. It’s that simple…until they are interrupted.
The minute Jesus stepped ashore a crowd gathered. The miracle-worker was back in town. And the crowd of earnest seekers and the merely curious are now following Jesus as he makes his way with Jairus toward his home and his sick daughter. If you’ve ever been to a rock concert or gotten caught up in the dense part of a parade you can imagine what it was like – too many bodies, lots of heat, people jostling for a view of the main attraction, some pushing and shoving as they move their way slowly forward.
And then comes the interruption. Except it’s not just an interruption, but a person. A woman. A woman who had been suffering for twelve years, bleeding, hemorrhaging, likely as long as she was an adult. Nor was it simply any disorder, but one that had significant personal and perhaps social consequences as well, as it likely threatened her ability to bring children into the world and in this way possibly isolated her from her community. She had seen physicians. Not just seen, Mark tells us, but endured their treatments and remedies, and perhaps their poking and prodding, all to no avail. Twelve years of bleeding, of suffering, of disappointment. Not only that, but she’d spent all she had and was now destitute as well as suffering. All of which means that she, too, is desperate, as desperate as Jairus, certainly, and perhaps as desperate as any of us have ever been.
And so, like Jairus, she comes filled, I imagine, with a mixture of hope and fear, hope kindled by word of this miracle-worker’s abilities, fear that nothing will change. But hope overrides whatever anxieties she may harbor and so she wends her way through the crowd toward Jesus.
Mark doesn’t often tell us of the inner thoughts of his characters, but he does here. This woman has one and only one thought as she draws close to Jesus: She won’t even need to ask him for healing. She certainly won’t need to disturb his progress toward the house of an important person like Jairus. If she’s lucky, these two men won’t even notice. All she has to do is touch Jesus, even just touch his clothes; she’s sure that will be enough.
But it doesn’t work out that way. She is right about what she needs – all she does is touch him and she is healed immediately. But she is wrong about no one noticing. Jesus immediately senses what has happened and turns to see whom he has healed. But there are too many people jostling around them. So he asks, and his disciples – perhaps already bad-tempered by the crowds and this unexpected detour to Jairus’ home – react to the absurdity of the question: Tons of people are touching you, Jesus, so what are you talking about?
But the woman knows; she knows exactly what Jesus means. And so while she has no idea what will happen now that she has interrupted this powerful man’s journey to another powerful man’s home, nevertheless she comes forward, overcoming her fear, and kneels down in respect or worship to confess.
She told him, Mark says, “the whole truth.” I wonder what that means – the whole truth of what she has done, or perhaps the whole truth of twelve long years of suffering and disappointment and painful treatments and failed remedies and shame and isolation. She tells him the whole truth. This would not have been easy. She is not a man, not a leader, like Jairus. All her actions up to this point have been planned to keep her invisible, under the radar. Yet now she comes forward and tells the truth, the whole truth, no matter what the consequences.
And in return she is not merely healed but noticed, affirmed, confirmed in her faith, and restored. “Daughter,” Jesus calls her. A term of endearment and affection and restored status. Daughter. And then he bids her go in peace, healed, restored, renewed beyond even her wildest dreams.
Can we do that? Tell Jesus the whole truth – not just the parts we’ve rehearsed or prepared, but everything, the good and bad, the easy and difficult, the failures and successes, the hopes and disappointments? Can we tell Jesus the whole truth? If we don’t, who will we tell?
Prayer: Dear God, draw us to you in confidence that we might tell you the whole truth of our lives and hear, in return, you call us your beloved children that we might be renewed and restored in faith and life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.