Jesus’ Power Over Disease (Mark 5:21-34)

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Jesus’ Power over Disease:  What Makes You Well?

The Gospel of Mark 5:21 to 34–the healing of a very needy woman


All of us, to some degree, have suffered physically on earth–and if not now, you will.  I now suffer from wrinkles, hair growing in my ears, and weird growths showing up on planet Mueller.  Plus sometimes when I brush my teeth, other parts of my body move while I’m brushing, like some sort of dance routine.  God has purposes in your age, sickness, illnesses and disease, and only God is the one who can cure, heal, remove or fix any and all health issues—only God.  And the Lord is going to prove that now in Mark chapter 5.

If you’ve been with us, we’re working our way through the gospel of Mark verse-by-verse, and we’re in a powerful section where Mark is proving Christ’s power.  Jesus Christ is more powerful than the Roman legions.  Jesus Christ has more authority than the Roman Emperor.  Jesus Christ is all authority, and is all power–the source.  Anything or anyone who has any authority or any power has it on loan from Christ Jesus.

The Lord just calmed a storm no sailor could control.  The Lord just delivered a demon no person could contain.  Now the Lord is going to heal a woman no doctor could cure.  This entire section is answering the question the disciples asked after Christ calmed the storm, when they asked, “Who then is this?”

The end of Chapter 5 contains a Markan sandwich–no baloney!  One miracle event is placed within another miracle event.  Jairus and his dying daughter are the two slices of bread, and this sick woman is the meat miracle in between the other miracle.  Like a split-screen image, in chapter 5:21 to 43 you have two miracles combined into one event.  Both miracles emphasize faith.  Both miracles put the omnipotent, almighty power of God on display–the power of Christ over the DEEP, over the worst DEMONS and over incurable DISEASE prove Jesus is not merely a prophet, teacher, great guy, moral leader, but God come in the flesh.  Look with me at point #1.

#1  Her CIRCUMSTANCES  Verses 21 to 24

Mark 5:21 to 24, “When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore. 22 One of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up, and on seeing Him, fell at His feet 23 and implored Him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.’ 24 And He went off with him; and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.”

Jesus has returned to Capernaum, and immediately the crowds are pressing on Him like never before.  Then, to the shock of the crowd, a well-known synagogue official, someone who might actually sneer at Christ like the Pharisees did, now in desperation and humility, falls prostrate in front of Christ and the entire crowd and begs for His twelve-year-old daughter’s life.  And regardless of any previous hostility the man may have shown to Christ, or any association he may have with Pharisees who want to kill Christ, Christ follows this man to his home to help his daughter.

As a part of the crowd, this is something you don’t want to miss–Christ will now help someone belonging to His opposition.  Wow!  It’s at this very moment we meet someone totally different–it is a woman who is in a really bad way.  She has a horrible disease, and has suffered under it for years.  So now you have two people in great need.

First–a twelve-year-old little girl who is about to die, and

Second–a lady who has been suffering from a disease for twelve years

The contrast between these two needy people is striking, and reveals the wideness of Christ’s love and mercy.  Jairus was an important synagogue officer, and the woman was an anonymous nobody–yet Jesus helped both of them.  Jairus was about to lose a daughter who had given him twelve years of happiness and laughter with her family, and the woman was about to lose an affliction that had brought her twelve years of sorrow and ostracism from her family.  The girl had known twelve years of sunshine and happiness, while the woman had known twelve years of shadow and fear.

These are two desperate representations of society–one rich the other poor, one accepted the other an outcast, one familial the other alone, and both beyond human help.  For twelve years the girl and the woman had led different lives, but now adversity had bound their souls unaware together, and they were both to be recipients of God’s life-giving power.  Only Christ would be able to help either of them.

And this woman had an issue.  Do you know a woman who has issues?  Chocolate?  Crying all the time?  A honey-do list a mile long?  Women have issues–and so do men.  But don’t get distracted–this event is not primarily about a woman with a health problem, but about every person having a heart problem.  Jesus is not about healing physical health issues as much as He is about revolutionizing lives through spiritual redemption.  But let’s not ignore . . .

#2  Her CONDITION  Verses 25 to 28

Read Verses 25 to 28, “A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse— 27 after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. 28 For she thought, ‘If I just touch His garments, I will get well.’”

Understand, the stigma and humiliation of such a hemorrhage was perhaps second only to leprosy–she was in a bad way.  Why?

First  She was DISEASED  Verse 25

A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years,” she was hemorrhaging–bleeding constantly.  It’s presented here as a chronic fountain of blood, perhaps from a tumor, a disease of the uterus, or some kind of menstrual problem.  All in the present tense, she was unceasingly in the grip of this disease–no break, no relief, little strength, and no hope.  For how long?  Twelve long years–yet almost more damaging than her physical malady was her social stigma—because of her constant bleeding she was always ceremonially unclean.  She was ostracized, isolated and almost leprous.

Leviticus 15:25 to 27 makes that clear, “Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond that period, all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean. 26 Any bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her like her bed at menstruation; and everything on which she sits shall be unclean, like her uncleanness at that time. 27 Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.”

Wow–this meant she could not worship in the synagogue.  Her diseased condition forced her into social and religious isolationism.  At this point, this woman likely lived on the outskirts of town.  If she was married, her husband would have already divorced her.  Even her own children would be unclean if they touched their own mama.  She was a social leper, a community outcast.  Not only was she personally defiled, but she would also defile anyone she came in contact with, and anything she touched.  She was not only diseased, but . . .

Second  She was DESPAIRING  Verse 26

Read verse 26, “and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse.”  Ever have doctor trouble?  Have they had a hard time diagnosing your health issue?  Have they prescribed the wrong medication?  Your situation is most likely nothing compared to this lady.  One commentator put it this way:  “Her suffering was compounded by the clumsy vacuum of the world’s incapacity.”

She endured much at the hands of many physicians”–ENDURED means to SUFFER at the hands of many doctors.  And it refers to “to suffer pain.”  Both her disease and its treatments caused her a lot of pain.  In New Testament times, it was common with difficult medical cases for people to consult many different doctors and receive a variety of treatments.  Sadly, the so-called cures were often conflicting, abusive, and many times made the ailment worse, not better.

Luke, the doctor, tells us the woman was not helped because her condition was incurable.  Mark emphasizes the doctors made it worse.  The Talmud lists no less than eleven cures for this specific illness.  Some were potions, but others were superstitious folly.  For example, one cure was to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in the summer, and in a cotton bag in the winter.  Another cure was to take three pints of Persian onions, boil them in wine and give her to drink and say, “Arise from thy flux.”

A third cure–set her in a place where two ways meet and let her hold a cup of wine in her right hand, and let someone come from behind and frighten her and say, “Arise from thy flux.”  What?  But my favorite cure–carrying around a barley corn kernel that had been found in the dung of a white female donkey.  It’s very likely this lady tried some of these remedies, but to no avail.

Luke does affirm in Luke 8:43 she could not be healed by anyone.  The doctors had no cure, no medicine, no procedures to remedy her constant bleeding–they were all baffled.  This is not an indictment on doctors–my brother Mark is an awesome doctor, and my sister Wendy is a fantastic nurse.  The gospel writer Mark is simply giving us a description of the utter despair of this woman, and the repeated efforts she made to try to get better.

Verse 26 says, “she spent all she had”.  She has lost her health, and now she has lost her wealth.  She’s lost everything.  Verse 26, “was not helped at all.”  She’s not benefiting from this in any way.  Everything has failed, nothing was working–she’s in utter despair!  Verse 26, listen to this, “but rather she had grown worse.”  Over these twelve years, seeking help only resulted in her deteriorating physically.

This wretched woman was broke, cut off from home, society, her religion, and was in declining health.  She was at the bottom!  She’s at the end of her rope.  Her life is a hopeless misery, without friends, getting worse and out of options–except one.

Third  She was in DESPERATION  Verse 27

Verse 27, “After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak.”  I love it–this is her covert op.  She went black.  She got her stealth on, slid in the crowd to simply touch the edge of His garment.  The literal Greek of verse 27 is, having heard of the things concerning the Jesus.  Hearing all those reports of His miracles, this woman allowed herself one last hope.  Her desperation leads her to action.  She will touch Jesus, touch His cloak, sneak up behind Him as He walks away and just touch Him.  She’d never be noticed, just get in behind Him and tag the rag, touch the tassel.

This was not an accident, but a deliberate act—pre-meditated touching.  She did this on purpose.  In fact, this is all she thought about–she was determined.  Look at verse 28 again, “For she thought, ‘If I just touch His garments, I will get well.’”  What faith–she believed in the power of Christ to heal by just touching Him.  The text tells us she repeatedly said this, over and over to herself.  The phrase, “for she thought” is, “she kept saying to herself,” or to others, out loud as she pressed through the crowd, “if I just touch His garments, I will get well.”

“I will get well” is, “I’ll be delivered”–not “I will deliver myself” but, “I will be delivered by Him.”  And the word delivered is the same one used for salvation–sodzo, will be saved, pointing to the strong possibility she was saved in this encounter with Christ.  Christ’s omnipotent power is being put on display in a great way.

Look back at Mark 3:10, “For He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him.”  And look ahead to Mark 6:56, “Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.”

Verse 27 literally means, “if I myself just reach out and might touch His garment in a deliberate act, I will in the future be delivered.”  The woman’s faith in Jesus’ healing powers was so great she believed even indirect contact with Him through His garments would be enough to produce a cure.  Matthew 9:20 says the same, “And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak.”

This is her hope, and her faith in the person of Christ–are you as impressed as I am with her determination?  She was drained, anemic, lethargic, but she does not quit.  We can learn a lot from her–if not physically, spiritually.  Don’t be half-hearted in your pursuit of Christ or growth in Him.  As your first love, He can’t be approached merely out of convenience.  Draw near to Christ–let nothing stop you from honoring the King.

She is diseased, despairing and in desperation.  She is continually bleeding, not helped by any doctor in any way.  This is her last chance, and nothing will stop her.  So from her 1) circumstances, we learn about her 2) condition, and now . . .

#3  Her CURE  Verses 29 to 32

Read verse 29, “Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.”  I love that first word–what is it?  Immediately–snap your fingers, in an instant, she went from weak to well, sick to strong, bleeding to blessed and vexed to vibrant–what a moment.  There are certain memories that are never forgotten–when Jean said, “Yes,” when we sang, “Oh, How He Loves You and Me” at our wedding, when I graduated from seminary, when my boys were born, when I performed their weddings.

This was one of those events–she played this over and over in her mind.  Suffering for twelve years from a debilitating disease–and now, just one touch she is totally cured.  The Greek word “the flow” is literally “the fountain or spring” of blood was dried up.  This was a gushing bloody problem.  When Mark says, “she felt in her body,” that means, “to know by experience.”  She was conscious of the fact the flow had stopped.  The fact that she was healed suddenly dawned upon her.

She was healed of her affliction.”  The tense of healed tells us what she thought.  She said to herself–“I have been healed.”  Can you see her crying with joy?  The word “affliction” means “a whip or a scourge.”  The word is used of distressing bodily diseases, and of afflictions which are regarded as a scourge from God.  This illness had whipped her and scourged her, like ripping the flesh off her body.  But now her torment is over.

This healing must have produced a definite physical sensation within her, which thrilled her with the assurance she’d been healed.  Wow, multiple doctors could do nothing, but with Christ, all it took was a touch of His garment.  The same power that calmed the stormy deep, the same power that calmed the raging demoniac now calms an intense bloody disease.  She’s cured–no relapses, no gradual decline of symptoms.  Like the storm calmed, like Legion cast out–this disease is gone.  She’s totally healed.

Verse 30, “Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My garments?’”  Christ’s power is His inherent ability to minister and work supernaturally.  And this always proceeded out from Him under the conscious control of His sovereign will.  So when Jesus literally asks, “Who touched Me on my clothes?” the Lord is asking this question not out of ignorance, but that He might draw the woman out of the crowd and allow her to praise God for what had just happened.

Our Lord must have related this to His disciples.  Mark heard it from Peter.  Our Lord’s words state this—“I felt in Myself the power go out from Me.  I knew what happened.”  As she touched Him, power flowed out of Christ–and He experientially knew it.  He knew what He was doing, but He turned around in the crowd and spoke crazy–who touched My garments?  In the midst of this pressing and shoving crowd, He knows someone touched Him with a touch of faith.

The crowds are pressed in all around Him.  He is surrounded–the people are all about Him, pushing, shoving to get close, to see, to hear, to get something from Christ, but she took something out of Him, and supernaturally Jesus of course knew.  The Lord knew the difference between a touch of indifference, and a definite touch of desperation and faith.

What happened?    Verse 31, “And His disciples said to Him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, “Who touched Me?”’”  I love the disciples, cause they’re just like me–stating the obvious, with a tone of superiority, “Come on, Jesus, be reasonable!  Are you serious?  That’s ridiculous!  Who touched you?  It’s a crowd!”  I will give you one guess who said this?  Of all the twelve disciples, who was the most vocal, state the obvious, think before you speak–the apostle of the foot-shaped mouth?  What do you mean Peter?  Mark doesn’t say who it was—but Luke does in 8:45.  It was my mouth-mentor, Peter!  So it’s the disciples here who are actually out-of-touch.

Plus, have you forgotten what is going on here?  Have you forgotten where Jesus is currently headed right now?  You’ve forgotten poor Jairus.  What do you think He’s thinking right now?  “Come on, Jesus–my daughter is on her deathbed, and You want to know who touched You?”  This divine ambulance stops for providential traffic, and Jairus’s blood pressure is rising in a panic.  But what does Jesus do?  He doesn’t keep going, but . . .

Verse 32, “And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.”  This describes a long, searing gaze—continually.  He’s waiting, to get the woman to come forward.  Jesus knew who it was, and is now searching to find her, because Luke 8:47 says, “She had not escaped His notice.”  This is amazing.  Someone touched Him, and did so with a purpose, with a touch of faith.  She’s moving away from Christ, but she must have been looking back after being healed from a twelve-year disease.  You’d not be able to stay away, no matter what.

My guess is she must have seen Him looking–she potentially heard His words, “Who touched me?”  She saw His face of compassion, she looked into His eyes that danced with life, searching for her, and her conscience forced her to turn back and say, “It was I, Lord!”  Can you picture her, teared-up with emotion?  Christ seeking her out in front of everyone–but not for His sake, but for her sake, for Jairus’ sake, and for your sake.  Listen to . . .

#3  Her CONFESSION  Verse 33

Read Verse 33, “But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.”  She came back, fell down fearful and trembling.  With all three miracles thus far in chapters 4 and 5, there’s been a response of fear (4:41, 5:15, 5:33).  That is so different than all the fake healings shown on TV.  This woman was quivering in fear as she fell down before Christ–she was in awe of what happened.  How come?

Mark tells us she was aware of what had happened to her.  The verb tense, in “what had happened” to her confirms her healing was a complete and a permanent cure.  So she came and fell down before Him.  She fell to the ground, knelt or lay prostrate before Christ.  She is overwhelmed–twelve years, no hope, no cure, cursed to bleed.  Twelve years, but now with one touch she’s restored to full health by falling down before Christ.  She’s expressing humility of heart and reverence to Christ.  She was unworthy, Christ is worthy.

What does she say?  Verse 33, “and told Him the whole truth.”  She makes a full confession.  Luke 8:47 says, “When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.”  Her circumstances were in the midst of a crowd as Jesus went to heal a small twelve-year-old gal.  Her condition was desperate, as she had been sick for twelve years, resulting in isolation and ostracizing.  Her cure was to touch Christ, and her confession was to admit all she had done, which led to . . .

#5  His CLARIFICATION  Verse 34

Read Verse 34, “And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.’”  The woman had already heard of the fame of Jesus.  Now, from what Jesus says to her, she’d get a taste of the Lord’s exquisite sympathy, by using one word, see it—daughter.  Christ speaks not as man to woman, but as father to a child.  I love that . . . daughter–you’re part of the family of God now.  The incredible compassion of Christ, like when He says, “My Son,” in Mark 2:5, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Our Jesus is not angry, disappointed or unclean.  He is desirous of clarifying to her the reason for her healing.

Jesus says to her, “Your faith has made you well.”  This is what Jesus wanted this woman to know.  It was her faith that healed her, not her touch.  The Greek verb translated, “has made you well,” means “has made you whole,” and is in a tense that assures us her healing was complete and permanent.  “Made you well”–well is the same word often translated “to save”, and is the normal New Testament word for saving from sin, which strongly suggests that the woman’s faith led to her spiritual salvation as well.  She is healed and possibly saved.

It was not her touch that healed her, but her trust in Him.  It is not the touch of an object, or relic, or garment, or shroud of Turin, or piece of the cross, or cloth washed in the blood of Christ.  Only Jesus heals people, and only Jesus saves people—and only Jesus Himself grows people, sanctifies them, uses them.  Not His garments, God–not His costume, Christ.

When in Israel, I was in The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the place of the Crucifixion of Christ.  While there, I watched a woman wiping down a stone with wet cloth after cloth after cloth.  I learned later, these little towels were to be sold to Catholics who’d want to buy something that had been dragged across the stone where Christ’s blood was spilt.  They will sell them for a lot of money since they claimed this so-called bloody spot gave these rags healing, prayer-answering, and magical, protecting superpowers.  Jesus wants her to know it wasn’t touching tassels that healed her.  It was not an external act, but the expression of her heart toward Christ.  Only Jesus can save you, not grabbing garments.

She came to be healed of her affliction and found grace salvation.  In verse 34 Jesus says her faith had made her well.  That does not mean faith was the cause of her cure.  It means faith was the instrument through which the cure had been accomplished.  Ephesians 2:8 and 9 makes this clear, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Faith is a gift–the gift to depend on God, relying exclusively on Christ.

Mark 9:23 and 24, “And Jesus said to him, ‘”If You can?” All things are possible to him who believes.’ 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’”  Mark 10:52, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’  Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.”  Even though our faith is often imperfect, flawed, and weak, when God gives you faith to depend, your heart is able to turn to Christ and depend upon Him.

Listen, visiting friend or new attender–you do not need to have it all figured out to possess a faith which pleases God.  This is why a child can come to Christ.  This is why God often saves those who know virtually no theology.  I am not minimizing a deep, Word-saturated understanding of the Bible and theology, which is meant to foster a profound faith.  The point is this–the faith that pleases God does not belong only to the informed elite, to scholars, or the rich.  Faith belongs to us, blue-collar, son-of-teamster types too.

This woman represents humanity–all of us.  We are all ill.  We have spent our resources trying remedies which do not work.  No religion or church attendance or good actions or nice lifestyle is going to save you or get you to heaven.  We need to touch our God by faith.  Just you and Christ your God–have you met yet?  Do not fear you’re too ignorant.  Do not fear you’re too selfish.  Fear only one thing–that you will let Him pass by today without reaching out to Christ in faith.

Faith is total dependence.  Faith is total trust in another.  Faith is putting your life now and eternally into Christ’s hands.  Faith is exchanging all that you are for all that He is.  In a sea of a crowd, Christ will see the one heart that is reaching out to Him in faith, though it be infantile and imperfect.  Christ speaks to us from the cross, and we need to touch Him by faith.  Are you sensing within you the stirrings of faith?  By God’s grace, exercise it–it will not go unnoticed by the Master.

Now as Jesus wraps up in verse 34, Jesus looks at her and gives her two commands–do you see them?  He commands her to, 1) go in peace.  Go live, go to family, now go to worship.  Go back to your life with God’s smile upon you.  And Jesus commands, and 2) be healed of your affliction.  It is done, like “Let there be light,” then it was a created certainty, Jesus says, “I command it be healed, therefore it is done.”

The command, “Be continually whole,” or, “Be healed,” literally is “to be sound of body,” and is where we get our word hygienic.  You are hygienically clean and completely healed now–of what?  “Of your affliction” is again the Greek word for a plague, or a whip, scourge, calamity or misfortune, often used of distressing bodily diseases that Jesus says is now over—how come?

You’ve just met the Savior, the eternal Son of God.  His power is seen in the eye of the storm, in the exorcism of Legion, and is now seen in the healing of this diseased woman.  What a compassionate power, proving Jesus is not merely a great teacher, miracle worker, or prophet.  Jesus is God in a body–fully God, fully man, the God-man, the One who came to earth to solve our biggest problem.  Our sin separates us from a perfect, Holy, righteous God.  We can’t live good enough, give enough away, be religious enough in order to erase our own sin problem.

So in His great love for us, God came to earth to take care of the problem.  The God-man, Jesus lived perfectly, then died violently, suffering the punishment for our sin upon the cross. Then, with no sin of His own, He rose from the dead and lives to provide salvation for those who put their faith in Him–they give their lives away to Christ, and Christ then gives His life inside them, cleansing, forgiving, empowering, giving hope, faith and love now and providing the only way to live with God in heaven later.  When you die you will not be in a better place, unless you give your life to Christ now.  Do not let Him walk by–reach out and touch Christ in faith.  Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.