Now when Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him. (Mark 5:21-24, NKJV)
Anytime we read that Jesus “crosses over” anywhere, we can know that He is on His way to a divine appointment–a divinely orchestrated encounter to reveal the purposes of God. And sure enough, as the multitudes eagerly gather to greet Jesus on the shore, that providential appointment immediately seems to present itself: Jairus, one of the local synagogue leaders, comes with a desperate petition for his little daughter. Jairus comes to Jesus as a prominent man, a man with a spotless reputation and powerful influence. If Jairus could be converted into a believer, he would undoubtedly help Jesus and His disciples gain a strong footing in the Jewish community. It’s a no-brainer that this is the encounter that Jesus came for! And how especially timely! In the wake of the most recently transpired “Bay of Pigs” fiasco, I’m sure the disciples were gleefully tallying the spike in Jesus’ PR ratings and excitedly prepping for the anticipated photo op!
Thronged by the multitude of spectators, Jesus slowly makes His way to Jairus’ house. Secretly, however, someone else quietly follows… “Now a certain woman…” followed from behind (verse 25). This woman has no prominent name or favorable reputation for herself. In fact, she was a woman cursed with a condition that rendered her ritually unclean and socially despised. For twelve years, she had suffered from a “flow of blood” that had been slowly draining her body of life (verses 25-26). She had spent all of her life savings on the painful, superstitious treatments of her day, yet she had only grown worse and worse until she was now a mere specter of the woman she once was. The doctors had pronounced her case as hopeless, and she had nearly lost all reason to live. But then one day she “heard about Jesus” (verse 27), and a glimmer of hope flickered in her soul.
We can imagine the nameless woman weakly trying to maneuver her way through the thick crowd. She cannot risk making her presence and condition known. As a ceremonially unclean woman, she has two stigmatizing marks against her. She is a marginalized member of society, and, unlike the prominent ruler of the synagogue, she has no right to make claims on the time of the Master. Growing weaker by the moment, the woman tries to inch her way closer and closer to the Teacher. The crowd is jolting, elbowing. But each step takes her nearer. She can see Him now. “If only I can touch His garment, I will be made well,” she whispers to herself.
Thus reasoning, she pushes her way through the crowd and with the pertinacity of despair she struggles in that dense throng
nearer and nearer
pushing and crushing.
People get in the way—not knowing her need.
Now she is desperate.
He must not pass so near and yet so far away. Was she to lose this opportunity?
She must touch Him.
(Dr. Peter Marshall)
She is so close now… But a careless foot trips her. She falls to her hands and knees. Looking up in pain, she now sees her one opportunity. Desperately summoning one last breath of energy, she lunges forward from her knees through an opening in the throng to reach for the Master! Her fingers barely reach the edge of His robe. And for one brief moment, her hand grasps one of the four tassels of Jesus’s garment, His tallit. Just as quickly as her fingers can secure the tassel, the surging crowd breaks her grip and presses forward, leaving her behind unnoticed in the street… But the opportunity had not been wasted.
It was enough! She had actually touched the Great Doctor!
With a trembling finger she had touched Him with the touch of a mighty faith! Like an electric shock there surged back into the shrunken veins
the panting lungs
the withered muscles
and the bloodless flesh
the rich glow of health and vitality.
Once again a body had been redeemed and given life.
She had touched Him with secret and trembling haste…
unnoticed, she thought.
No one had noticed her—
no one—but Christ!
Jesus suddenly stops, letting the crowd jolt to a stop behind Him. He looks around intently, searchingly. “Who touched Me?” Jesus slowly asks. The crowd murmurs, and the disciples stare at Him in disbelief. “Are you kidding me?” Peter blurts, “With all these people thronging around You, and You ask a question like that?” But Jesus had felt something beyond the bumps and bustles of the noisy crowd. He had felt the touch of faith!
Realizing that she had been exposed, the woman “fearing and trembling” steps forward and falls to her knees at Jesus’ feet, tearfully confessing her story (verse 33). She had good reason to be afraid. Not only had she defiled the Rabbi, making Him ceremonially unclean by her very touch, but she had dared to seize one of the four blue-corded tassels, or tzitzit, of His tallit, His prayer shawl! She had defiled the very garment that Moses had commanded the men of Israel to wear as a constant reminder of their holy consecration to God and to His Law! (See Matthew 9:20, Numbers 15:37-40.) The woman trembles as she waits for Jesus’ response.
But Jesus smiles. Perhaps with tears of compassion glistening in His eyes, Jesus speaks with love, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (verse 34). With that one word “Daughter,” Jesus does something astoundingly beautiful. He forever establishes the priceless value and eternal belonging of this unnamed woman—she is a daughter of Abraham, she is a member of the family of God, deeply and passionately loved in Her Father’s sight! You see, this was Jesus’ divine appointment—He came and He stopped for her!
She had no money—only faith.
She did not meet Him in a house of worship.
She met Him on the street.
She had no private audience with the Lord.
She touched Him in a crowd.
She touched Him in faith—in desperate believing faith and He stopped!
The touch of one anonymous woman in a crowd halted the Lord of glory. That is the glorious truth of this incident. She touched Him. So can we.
Let us take it into our apathetic hearts
let its glorious significance thrill our jaded souls.
The human touch has the power to arrest God.
Yes, to stop Him
to halt Him
to make Him aware of your problems
Jesus in the subsequent passages, of course, went on to Jairus’ house and healed another beloved daughter. In fact, He brought the child back to life from death with the gentle touch of His hand and the tender words, “Talitha, cumi—Little girl, I say to you, arise” (verse 41). Jesus is ever speaking life and healing into our lives.
But here’s the takeaway: The interleaving stories of these two women is deeply intentional. Think about it—the little girl was twelve years old, the woman had suffered in affliction for twelve years. The little girl had been loved and cared for as a cherished daughter her whole life, while the woman had been rejected and ignored as a social outcast in hers. Yet, the Person of Jesus Christ divinely intersects their two stories and, with His touch, He brings healing and new life to each of them. I think the most profound lesson we learn from both of these stories today is that no matter where we are in life, we all need the touch of Christ. Whether we identify most closely with the sick, marginalized woman, or the cherished, beloved daughter, or the desperate father, or the sardonic disciples, or the calloused, unheeding crowd—we need the touch of Jesus! Unfortunately, just because we’re in the crowd around Jesus, doesn’t mean we’re actually touching Him. As Dr. Peter Marshall writes:
We need to touch Him—O how much we need to touch Him!
Most of us are thronging Him—just like the crowd…It is easy to throng the Lord and never touch Him.
A great many people in the churches, and perhaps a great many outside the churches, are thronging Jesus
coming close to Him
but never actually touching Him.
So, let me now ask you… Who are you in this story? Are you the woman, rejected and hurting–agonizingly seeking a miracle in your life? Are you the little girl, loved and cherished? What about the unbelieving but desperate father? Are you a spectator in the crowd? Are you perhaps one of the disciples in the inner circle, busily championing the cause of Jesus?
But have you actually touched Jesus?
…Do you want to touch Him now?
He is waiting for you to touch Him.
The hand of faith is enough. Your trembling fingers can reach Him as He passes.
Reach out your faith—touch Him.
He will not ask, “who touched me?”
He will know.
Italicized block quotes taken from Mr. Jones, Meet the Master: Sermons and Prayers of Peter Marshall by Peter Marshall. Pickle Partners Publishing. 1950.