When I read passages from the Gospels, I sometimes find myself forgetting that the people I'm reading about had real lives, real dreams, real joys, and real heartache. We talk about "Bible stories," and there's nothing wrong with that, but I think it's easy to to view Biblical characters' lives as just that: only stories--not realistic, not like us. Sometimes, a person's entire life is treated in only a verse or two, and much is left to the imagination. But before you hurry on to the next verse, it helps to remember this: these people had lives. Probably lives that are a lot like ours, at least in the ways that really matter: similar joys. Pain. Hope. Ideals.
Take, for example, the woman who came to Jesus in Mark 5 to be healed of her
bleeding disorder. I'm not sure whether it was hemorrhages or something else,
but this woman had been "subject to bleeding for 12 years." And then
her life (before she met Christ) is summed up in one verse: "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" (Mark 5:26). Just think
about it for a minute. This woman would have been considered the least of the
least in a Jewish culture that placed a premium on ritual purity. Because of
her illness, she would have been deemed impure. Unclean. Dirty. I'm pretty sure
she would have been forced to dwell outside the city gates, ostracized and
forgotten. She could very well have had family members that she could hardly
ever see, or who had given up on her entirely. She may have had small children
to care for. She was an outsider in the truest sense of the word, and had been
that way for 12 miserable years. More than likely, no one ever touched this
woman. No one wanted to associate with her, because if they did, they would be
And that's not all. She had tried her hardest to get better. She probably
went to every doctor she could find; she may have been victimized by scams from
physicians convincing her that they could heal her, and then taking her money
and abandoning her. She was penniless and alone. But, even though her illness
had robbed her of her money, her health, and her dignity, she clung to her
faith, and that is what mattered.
She heard about where Jesus was, pressed her way through the crowd, and
touched the edge of his cloak. This was an act of tremendous boldness on her
part--she knew that under Jewish law, she would transmit her
"impurity" to anyone that she touched as she forced her way through
the crowd. And after a single touch, a single contact with the Lord, she was
instantly freed from 12 years of suffering. But Jesus didn't let this woman
just walk away, content to touch only the border of his robes. No, He allowed
her to fall at His feet, to touch Him personally, to speak to Him. She didn't
have to blend into the background anymore. She didn't have to remain an
I think in some ways, this story foreshadows how Christ himself would eventually, in his suffering and death, become an "outsider" just like this woman. Hebrews tells us that Jesus suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His blood. He, like this unnamed woman, would become intimately acquainted with rejection, grief, and loneliness. Interestingly, the Gospel writer uses the Greek word for "suffering" to describe the woman's condition; but in every other instance in the book of Mark, that Greek word is used to describe the suffering of Christ in his death. While I don't think the writer intended to equate the suffering of this woman with that of Christ, I think it does suggest that Christ was willing not only to make physical contact with suffering people, but to take their suffering upon Himself when He became an "outsider" at the cross.
And He did it for us. So that we have the privilege of fully approaching Him, without hesitation, falling at His feet, and basking in His mercies.