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4. Hurting Women Identified by Pain: A Sick Woman & A Dead Girl

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Time: Jesus' Second Year of Ministry, ~AD 29

Background

Jesus had been teaching God’s Word to large crowds in the area around Capernaum, healing many people. Then, He and His disciples got into a boat and headed to the east side of the lake. A windstorm literally came down from the surrounding mountains through the Jordan River gorge upon the Sea of Galilee, which is 680 feet below sea level, and shook the boat like a tempest. This type of storm was, and still is, a common occurrence. Jesus demonstrated His power over nature by rebuking the wind and waves then admonished the disciples for their lack of faith. Soon after, He encountered a woman and a girl in desperate need.

Women were not highly respected in Jesus' day. In fact, they were held responsible for the lustful temptations men suffered. A Jewish rabbi would not even talk to his wife or daughter in public. There was even a group of them called the “Bruised and Bleeding Pharisees” because they would rather cover their eyes than look upon a woman in public. As a consequence they would bump into walls and houses. Notice the transfer—because women were the greatest source of their own personal sin (lust), the woman becomes evil. Rather than face the sin in their own hearts, they make women the scapegoat. That contributed, of course, to the cultural position of women.

Hopefully in our study so far, you have seen how absolutely different the Lord Jesus Christ was from His culture in the way He regarded women! Thus as Jesus’ ministry unfolded, the average citizen of Israel began to witness an extraordinary approach to women, one that cut against the grain of commonly held practices. Jesus treated women as no man had ever treated them before. His warmth, personal attention, tenderness, sound teaching, and compassion toward women were revolutionary.             

Day One Study

1. Read Mark 5:1-21. Why would a large crowd gather around Jesus as described in v. 21?

Historical Insight: A ruler of the synagogue was a layman whose responsibilities were administrative and included such things as looking after the building (maintenance, repairs, and cleaning) as well as supervising the worship (conducting services, selecting participants and maintaining order). Though there were exceptions, most synagogues had only one ruler. Sometimes the title was honorary with no administrative responsibilities assigned. In any case, he was considered an elder so he sat in the reserved seats.

Focusing on the Woman

2. Read Mark 5:24-34 and Luke 8:42-48. Describe the woman and her circumstances.

Historical Insight: Her condition, though unknown, is probably uterine hemorrhaging like a number of women experience with endometriosis or fibroid tumors. The medical treatments available for her condition were limited although the Talmud (a book of Jewish history and rules) claims that physicians had at least 11 remedies. Some of the ones documented were: 1) carrying ashes of ostrich eggs on your body and 2) taking ground-up willow bark—a bitter-tasting remedy containing salicin, an aspirin-like drug, that would have only aggravated her bleeding.

3. Consider what kind of life this woman had led for 12 years. How would this ailment have affected her family life, social life, and worship opportunities? See Leviticus 13:45-46 and 15:19-33 for clues. Considering what you as a woman enjoy in life, what did she miss out on?

Scriptural Insight: The consequences of being “unclean” until evening or for several days were that you were excluded from the temple area (and synagogue seating), excluded from mingling with others, and considered separated from God. An unnatural discharge was treated like an illness, requiring an offering upon recovery.

4. Living Out His Love: Do you know a woman who is desperately ill? What are her felt needs? Does she feel isolated or alienated because of her condition? Does her illness have a social stigma attached to it so that she is not comfortable in public? Does she have a relationship with Jesus yet? How can you reach out to her with compassion to meet her felt needs and encourage a relationship with Jesus?

Day Two Study

5. Reread Mark 5:24-34 and Luke 8:42-48. What brought the sick woman to Jesus for healing? What do you think she might have heard about Him?

Think About It: It’s our job to tell others about how Jesus can change lives. How can others hear without a proclaimer (good news teller)? No one knows how many times it takes for someone to pay attention and respond. Our role is to tell.

6. Put yourself in her shoes. As an ordinary woman, what emotions would she have experienced…

  • As she reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak?
  • After she felt healing?

Scriptural Insight: The unusual expression, “Jesus realized that power had gone out from Him,” has been understood in two ways. “One view maintains that God the Father healed the woman and Jesus was not aware of it till afterward. The other view is that Jesus Himself, wishing to honor the woman’s faith, willingly extended His healing power to her. The latter view is more consistent with Jesus’ healing ministry. Power did not leave Him without His knowledge and will. However, He exercised it only at the Father’s bidding. The touch of the garment had no magical effect.” (Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 125.

7. Discuss Jesus' response to the woman.

From the Greek: The Greek for “healed” actually means ‘save.’ Here both physical healing (‘be freed from your suffering’) and spiritual salvation (‘go in peace’) are meant. The two are often seen together in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 2:1-12; 3:1-6). (NIV Study Bible note on Mark 5:34, p. 1503)

8. Why do you think He insists upon her revealing herself? What would be the advantage to her?

Think About It: Now she could enter society because she is healed AND she receives spiritual life as well. God always does more than we ask or think.

9. Discuss the woman’s response to Jesus seeking her out. Why would she have been trembling with fear?

10. Living Out His Love: Jesus gave this suffering woman an opportunity to give her testimony publicly. Everyone hears her tell why she touched Him how she had been instantly healed. Others now hear. Her faith caused her to seek healing from Jesus in the midst of her pain.

Describe any of your own painful circumstances that have driven you to Christ. What did you learn about His faithfulness through that experience? How did others minister to you in love, showing Christ to you? This is part of your faith story that you can share with another woman.

Day Three Study

Focusing on the Girl (and Her Family)

11. Read Luke 8:40-42 and Mark 5:21-23. Describe the scene.

12. Consider Jairus’ position in the community (see “Historical Insight” in Day One). Contrast his apparent view of Jesus with that of the Pharisees and other religious leaders we have studied so far. Why the difference?

13. Read Luke 8:49-56 and Mark 5:35-43. What specific circumstance has occurred in Luke 8:49?

14. Discuss Jesus' words…

  • To Jairus—
  • To the wailing crowd outside Jairus’ house—

15. Why did the wailers laugh at Jesus?

16. Who went into the room with Jesus?

17. Once inside, what did Jesus do for the girl AND her mom and dad? Notice His tenderness toward the girl through His words and gestures.

18. Discuss why Jesus instructed the girl's parents to tell no one what had happened.

19. How is Jairus’ initial faith challenged and stretched through this whole incident?

20. Living Out His Love: From Jairus' viewpoint, he had to wait an agonizingly long time for Jesus to respond to his request through delays, diversions, and disappointing news. Look carefully again at Mark 5:36. What was Jesus' plan all along? Had He forgotten Jairus? Underline and memorize this verse. What comfort does it give to you? Dependent living is learning to say to Jesus, “Lord, I can’t do this on my own. But, you can in and through me. I will trust you.” Then, see what He does.

Day Four Study

21. Considering Jesus’ manner towards both the older woman and the girl (soon-to-be woman), in what ways did Jesus show that He thought of both of them as worthwhile individuals?

22. Living Out His Love:

  • When you petition the Lord, do you have faith in Him that He has heard and will answer? Are you willing to wait? For encouragement, read Romans 4:20-21 and 1 John 5:14-15.
  • Are you willing to accept "No" for an answer? Provide an example of an experience where God did not respond as you expected. How did you react? What was the ultimate outcome? What did you learn about God? Write this out in the space below as though you were telling it to someone. This is part of your faith story. Ask God to give you an opportunity this week to share this part of your faith story with someone else who is having a difficult time waiting for God or accepting His “No” answer.

[For additional insight on Jesus’ care and concern for these women, read the following essay “Jesus, a Personal God”.]

Jesus, A Personal God

Get the picture…A huge crowd of people welcomes Jesus. They were expecting Him. They are pressing around Him, crushing Him so that He could hardly move or breathe because of the jam. Driven from the Decapolis (Mark 5:17), He is welcomed in Galilee. They can hardly wait to see what He would do next.

Suddenly a man pushes his way through the crowd, falls at Jesus’ feet and pleads earnestly with Him to come and lay hands on his daughter. The synagogue ruler was a layman responsible for maintaining order, conducting services, cleaning the building, much like our deacons and elders do today. He was prominent and wealthy. But he had a problem that neither his prominence nor his wealth could solve. Luke tells us that his daughter was 12, an only child, and was dying.

Jairus obviously loves his daughter even though sons were considered more valuable, and he is very specific in what He wants Jesus to do. “Come and touch her.” The Jews believed that the touch transmitted vitality. Jairus had faith in Jesus’ touch, and he expressed that faith. Jesus acts upon the faith we have which is wonderful and encouraging to us. But, would He take time out to go to Jairus’ house for a little girl? Was a little girl of any value in His eyes? Jesus goes with him. To Jesus, this little girl is just as important as anyone else—with a desperate need. He starts off with the crowd following Him.

Jesus understands our desperate need.

But in this crowd is a woman who has a desperate need. Her life is a living death, and her condition is hopeless. Her bleeding is probably uterine hemorrhaging like a number of women experience with endometriosis or menopause or perhaps it is something else. She has suffered for 12 years with no break; she is probably pale, emaciated, weakened. She must have been a woman of some means—at least she possessed enough financial resources to continue to seek out one doctor after another.

Jewish literature has a whole section of remedies for this malady, which apparently didn’t work. One was to carry ashes of ostrich eggs on her body. She may also have been given ground up willow bark to reduce her pain. This was a bitter tasting remedy containing salicin, an aspirin-like drug that would have only aggravated her bleeding. All her money was gone, and she was worse. Her one chance came now with Jesus.

Yet even worse than her physical condition is the social and religious ostracism she was certain to have faced. The prevailing opinions of her day were much the same as our own: Bad things don’t happen to good people. You get what you justly deserve. Thus, to be stricken with a chronic, incurable disease such as this was tantamount to a confession of sinful behavior, presumably illicit immorality.

According to Mosaic Law, anyone with a bodily discharge is ceremonially unclean. She cannot enter the synagogue or the Temple. People shun her generally, since anyone having physical contact with her is made ceremonially unclean until after they bathe and wait a specific period of time. She can touch no one and no one can touch her. Think of how this would have affected:

  • Her social life—not be invited to parties, weddings, anything.
  • Her worship life—she couldn’t even sit in the women’s section of the synagogue.
  • Her marital life—her husband would be unclean for 7 days after every sexual encounter with her; perhaps she had been divorced and shut off from her family.

She is an outcast: lonely, isolated, and probably in a state of clinical depression. If this should seem unreal to you, Ethiopian Jewish women experience this during their days of monthly uncleanness. They live in little hovels at the edge of the village, the boundary being defined by stones. The women can’t go pass the stones, and no men can come near them. Isolation. Modern examples are women who have AIDS, cancer, ostomies, oxygen tanks and tubes, burn scars, and disfigurements. By the way, men with a similar problem were also considered unclean.

She hears about Him. It’s our job to tell. How can they hear without a preacher or proclaimer? Who knows how many times it takes? She heard he was healing all kinds of incurable diseases. Hope flickers in her heart. Just going into the surging crowd would have brought their hostility on her if they knew.

She comes to Jesus on her own. No one has brought her to Jesus or vice versa. She acts on her own faith—mixed with some superstition about his garments. She doesn’t know if Jesus would respond to her. She thinks to herself, “If I just touch His clothes.” She wouldn’t ask him to touch her. She reaches out and touches His cloak. Probably one of the four tassels on his outer garment. She took the initiative for her own healing and is the only woman in the Bible to do this. Others inadvertently touched Him; she deliberately did. Immediately, her bleeding stops. Power surges through her body. She feels it. She knows she is completely healed. It is a vivid moment of joy for her!!!

At once, Jesus turns and asks, “Who touched me?” Did Jesus already know who touched Him? Commentaries will disagree on this. Most say God healed her through the power active in Jesus. So, when He felt the power go out of Him, He turned to ask. I believe He knew what happened because He was always God. He laid aside His glory and did not use His attributes for Himself while on earth. But He knew what happened. He always knew what those around him were thinking before they spoke. It is a dramatic moment for Jesus and for the timid woman. Later it was a common practice for the crowds to touch the hem of his garments and be healed. Here Jesus chooses to single out this case for examination. There is no magic in the garments of Jesus. Even if there is superstition in the woman’s mind, Jesus honors her faith.

Jesus isn’t asking for His sake, but for her sake. He wants her to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus will not allow the woman to recede into the crowd without publicly commending her faith, giving her assurance that she is permanently healed, thus declaring publicly that she is now clean, and letting her know that He accepts her. It is also likely that He wants her to know that He freely gave to her rather than her thinking she was taking something secretively.

Although a far more impressive male leader had asked Jesus to come to his home to heal his daughter, Jesus stopped the whole procession to talk to this poor, outcast woman as though she were the only one there. God’s love shows no partiality. We are more than just a face in the crowd.

Jesus wants us to know that, too. You may know someone who is involved in a bad relationship with a man who does not encourage her, support and respect her, or appreciate her worth. He may be too busy bossing her around. You need to let her know that Jesus considers her valuable.

Jesus will not allow the woman to recede into the crowd without publicly speaking to her and commending her faith. He keeps looking, penetratingly. The disciples are unconcerned and give a nervy answer about the crowd. Jairus is probably getting very anxious and impatient about this woman. But, Jesus insists. When she sees He’s not going to let her go unnoticed, she tells Him the whole truth. Some of us feel that God isn’t noticing our pain. We pray, nothing happens. We are not unnoticed. He is sovereign, and He knows. He chooses the instrument He uses to make us more like the Lord Jesus Christ. And suffering is an important instrument in His hands much as we hate it. A goldsmith keeps the metal in the fire until his reflection is seen in its surface. God keeps us in the fire of suffering until He sees the character of His Son reflected in our lives.

The trembling woman falls at His feet. What a vivid picture of the feeling of this sensitive woman who now had to speak. Everyone hears her tell why she touched Him and how she had been instantly healed. She gives her simple testimony. Others now hear.

Jesus calls her, “Daughter,” the only time recorded when He addresses a woman by this name. It’s a tender expression. She has a new relationship with God and a new relationship with Jesus. Remember whom He said were in His family? Those who do God’s will. Those who believe in Him. All through the Gospels, Jesus honored an individual’s faith in Him or rebuked a lack of faith. Jesus took the time to point out to both the men and women in the crowd that this woman’s faith was the reason for her healing.

The New Testament word for “healed” actually means “saved” as well. Here both physical healing (freed from suffering) and spiritual salvation (peace) are meant. The two are often seen together in Mark’s gospel. Romans 5:1 says we have peace with God through faith in His son. Peace speaks of wholeness in our relationship with God when we trust Christ. She just wanted healing. Now she could enter society because she is healed AND she receives spiritual life as well. God always does more than we ask or think. Because He sees the woman’s needs, He does not pass her by. He seems acutely aware of the woman’s pain, and so He reaches out to help.

Jesus has the right to choose what He brings into our lives.

In the meantime, Jairus’ faith is stretched. His little girl dies. This woman has delayed them. What is Jairus thinking by now? Jesus tells Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” In the Greek, this really means, “Stop being afraid and keep on believing” (a continuous action). You can’t do both at the same time since being afraid and believing are mutually exclusive. The Psalmist said, When I am afraid, I trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3).

This is important for us as well. When fear overwhelms us, we can with an act of our will stop being afraid and choose to believe God that He is in control and will not abandon us. Fear is an emotion; faith is an act of the will. We moms have to do this particularly with our kids. We trust the Lord with their lives and do our best to guide them.

Jesus promises Jairus that his daughter will be healed. It takes more faith to believe that He can bring someone back from the dead than to just heal from a deadly disease. Jesus wants to stretch Jairus’ faith. It takes greater faith for tougher times. We always have solutions we pray to the Lord. But we have to face life realistically saying to the Lord, “I am your daughter, Lord. Help me to deal with this situation.”

Jesus tenderly takes the little girl by the hand, touches her (this makes a Jew unclean, but nothing can make Jesus unclean), and speaks to her in tender terms, “Little girl, get up.” Her spirit returns. The touch of Christ’s hand and the power of His voice restore her to life. She stands up with instantaneous recovery. Her parents are “out of their minds” with excitement and joy. He tells them to feed her. He has done His part. He turns her over to her parents to do theirs.

Jesus cares for women.

Jesus stopped His public ministry to heal two women—

  • One publicly; the other privately.
  • One was socially dead; the other physically dead.
  • One touched Him and was healed without a word; the other He touched and spoke to when she was healed
  • One was an outcast; the other was loved within her family circle
  • Both were unclean.
  • Both were healed instantly and completely, receiving new life.
  • Both were beyond human help and without hope.

Jesus demonstrated the value He places on every person—radically different from His day. He healed a man of horrible demonic possession whom everyone else had shunned. He took time out from his busy schedule to minister to two women personally. God’s love knows no partiality.

Jesus takes a personal interest in each one of us. His value system then is the same today. He cares for us as individuals. He meets our individual needs. He openly demonstrated His love for each individual He met, man or woman.

Jesus has the right to choose what He brings into our lives. He tells us to stop being afraid and to keep on believing, to exercise the faith that we have.

Jesus loves a woman’s soul. He treated women as no man had ever treated them before. His warmth, personal attention, tenderness, sound teaching, and compassion toward women were revolutionary. Jesus loves you in the same way. 

Related Topics: Character Study, Love, Women

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