Mark 5:21-34 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and 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.’’ So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 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 suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘‘Who touched my clothes?’’ ‘‘You see the people crowding against you,’’ his disciples answered, ‘‘and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?’’’ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then 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.’’
Jesus wasn't like today's TV evangelists, because he insisted on personally interacting with each person he healed. He wanted to see this faithful woman face to face. It wasn’t good enough for him to just know that someone somewhere had benefited from him. Jesus’ love
for the individual is, for me, his most attractive characteristic. His love for all types of people—from children to the aged, from Pharisees to prostitutes—draws me to him. In this instance he shows exceptional tenderness and compassion to a fragile yet faithful woman. Reread the passage and try to picture the scene. One aspect of this account has puzzled me in the past. This woman was more than a bit afraid of revealing herself to Jesus—she was ‘‘trembling with fear.’’ Why was she so afraid? Was she simply very shy? Was she ashamed to speak of her malady? No, she had obviously discussed it frequently with many doctors. I’m convinced that this woman was afraid that she had done an evil thing in touching Jesus’ clothing. She was, after all, ceremonially unclean due to the nature of her affliction. What’s more, anyone or anything she touched would also be rendered unclean and would require atonement before the Lord. How could she, one who was unclean, dare to touch a man so clearly full of the Spirit of God? Yet, at the same time, she was convinced that God would heal her through him. That’s why she only dared to touch the Lord’s robe, not his person. When Jesus stopped, demanding to know who had touched him, great fear seized her.
To fully appreciate the depth of Jesus’ tenderness and compassion, we need to think about the extent of this woman’s suffering. She had not only suffered physically from her condition, but she had also suffered from the ineffective treatments that the doctors had given her. Yet far greater than her physical suffering was the emotional pain she must have endured in a society which had shunned her—and everything she touched—for twelve years. Her spiritual anguish was equally great. She felt like she was under a curse. Why had God not allowed her to be healed? She had to struggle every day with feelings of hopelessness and despair.
After hearing the woman’s story, Jesus utters some of the most powerful words in all of the gospels. She must have clearly remembered each and every word he spoke to her that day. His first word to her was ‘‘daughter,’’ a term of endearment that served to express his love for her, to protect her and to pull her into the shelter of his presence. To a woman who was probably completely alone, shunned by her family and friends for twelve years, acceptance and love from this man of God must have flooded her with joy. Then he commended her for her faith: ‘‘your faith has healed you.’’ The Greek word for ‘‘healed’’ used here actually means ‘‘saved.’’ Jesus is confirming that not only was she now physically whole, but she had also been forgiven and justified by God. He then comforted her and encouraged her as he sent her off with the words, ‘‘Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’’ In addition to her cleansing, he affirmed that she could now begin a new life filled with peace between her and others and between her and God. Consequently, her intense suffering was over. Jesus’ message is the same today for all of us who have faithfully accepted that he is the way out from our unclean lives.
We who aspire to powerfully move people have a lot to learn from Jesus’ sensitivity and compassion. We will do well to imitate his use of his tongue to build people up, to give them a new hope and a new life. While this woman was healed because of her personal faith in God, she also received healing from the few words that Jesus spoke to her that day. He didn’t babble on and on as we often do, hitting and missing with his words. Instead, he said just what she needed to hear.
The book of Proverbs has a great deal to say about how we speak. With the benefit of Jesus’ example, implementation of these principles for effective speech is easier to envision, and more possible to attain.
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:23-24)