Who Touched My Clothes?

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Mark 5:21-43

Last Sunday we read in chapter 4 that Jesus told parables to the people and at the end of the chapter he told the wind to stop blowing. That frightened his disciples and they said, “Who then is this?”

Today, they will get a couple more jolts. The beginning of chapter 5 gives us the account of Jesus driving out the demons from a man possessed. I’ve always thought it odd that Jesus would cross the lake to heal a foreigner and immediately return to the west side, but that is the account.

As soon as he steps ashore, people are clamoring for him to do this, do that. And then Jairus arrives. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” NIV

In the first century the leaders of synagogues were not generally trained men. Rabbis attended synagogue but seldom held leadership roles. Today all synagogues are lead by rabbis with the cantor as the second leader.

We should remember that Jesus’ reputation in synagogues is not great. He had a habit of violating one or more of the strict rules of the day. Still this man knew of Jesus and even seemed to know what he looked like—when he saw Jesus—and he begged for help. We are told simply, So Jesus went with himNIV

It is interesting to make note of the different ways Jesus responds to people. Usually, he would exchange words with Jairus, but this time he starts walking. That’s when something beyond astonishing happened.

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her sufferingNIV

The cause of the woman’s bleeding is not important. The fact that she was bleeding meant that she should not be in public. Just touching another person made them ritually unclean. We are given some background so we will understand how disparage she was. Twelve years is a long time to suffer with any medical issue. And she was losing the battle. It seemed to her she had only one last chance. It may not work but she had to try.

It does seem from this reading that she had heard about Jesus and she had some level of faith—I will be healed. We cannot say what Jesus was wearing but he certainly may have had on a prayer shawl (tallit). You will notice in the photo above of a modern tallit that there are tassels hanging from the bottom edges. These are called tiztizits and are not just decoration. As in the picture above, the color scheme is always blue and white; but there is also a gold thread running from the tiztizit to the head of the tallit. (The rich would often have real gold threads.) That thread carried the prayer to God, to oversimplify.

The Greek of Mark records only that the woman touched Jesus’ clothing, but I like the symbolism of her touching the very tassel that would send her message directly to God.

Jesus felt her touch. Mark makes a point of telling us that, A large crowd followed and pressed around himNIV How, among all the people touching him and jostling him, did he feel her touch? Peter is in Heaven right now still trying to figure it out. My best image is of something like an electrical charge leaving him.

But why was no one else blessed with healing in that crowd. We are often told that Jesus healed many without giving us any details. Here there is only one healing and Jesus uses it as a lesson, mostly for his disciples. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” NIV How could he know she touched his outer garment?

That was exactly what Peter and the boys thought.  “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” NIV

The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” NIV

Why was she afraid? See above, she had no business being on the streets, let along in a crowd.

Jerome wrote in the fifth century; The woman with 0the hemorrhage had spent all that she had on doctors. Hungering and thirsting, her spirit had died within her. Having lost everything she possessed, because her life was wasting away within her, she cried out to the Lord in anguish. Her touch on the hem of his garment was the cry of a believing heart. In this she is the figure of the assembly of God gathered from all nationsACCS

Ephrem the Syrian wrote in the fourth century; Through this woman whom they could see, the witnesses were enabled to behold the divinity that cannot be seen…. He saw through to her hidden faith, and gave her a visible healingACCS

That was not the end of the story. We are told next; While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” NIV

Ah, the theme develops.

This time there is a big difference. He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and JohnNIV Once inside, Jesus chased away everyone except the child’s parents. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eatNIV

We should note that at 12, she was old enough to be married; hardly a ‘little’ girl. But she was Pappa’s little girl.

The big difference is the strict order. Why did Jesus not want anyone else to know what happened? I think there are two main reasons. It is too early in his ministry for this kind of miracle to be shouted about. People would want him to lead an army against the Romans.

Perhaps a more important matter is that he brought someone back from the dead—differently too early for that to hit the front page of the Jerusalem Post. He carefully made it clear that she was not dead. The child is not dead but asleepNIV Whether people believed what he said or not, they likely believed him when they say the girl later. ‘Oh, I guess we were wrong. She was just asleep.’

I especially like what Peter Chrysologus wrote in the fifth century about Jairus. Those who are sick do not lay down the conditions of how they are to be cured. They only want to be made well. But this man was a ruler of the synagogue, and versed in the law. He had surely read that while God created all other things by his word, man had been created by the hand of God. He trusted therefore in God that his daughter would be recreated, and restored to life by that same hand which, he knew, had created her…. He who laid hands on her to form her from nothing, once more lays hands upon her to reform her from what had perishedACCS

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s