Reflecting on Mark for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of Mark, by Mary Healy, commenting on Mark 5:21-43


Who touched me? The disciples think Jesus’ question is absurd, given the thronging crowds. As on other occasions where he is about to display his sovereign power, they completely miss the point. They even feel obliged to help their Lord gain some common sense and realism (as in 6:35–37; see John 11:12, 39). But their perplexed reaction only reveals how much they still have to learn.

What made the woman’s touch unlike that of all the others in the crowd was her faith. She had wanted to touch Jesus’ garment lightly, without attracting any attention to herself, whereas others were jostling roughly against him. Yet her touch was more efficacious than all the rest, because through faith it came into contact with the person of Jesus and his healing power.

Jesus looked around, desiring that she meet his gaze and enter into a relationship with him. As soon as the woman realizes Jesus is seeking her out, she is afraid. And no wonder, because by deliberately touching another person she has just breached the rules regarding ritual impurity. But as the leper discovered (1:41), it is impossible to make Jesus unclean; rather, his touch makes the unclean clean.

The woman’s fear and trembling expresses not merely timidity but human awe at the mighty deeds of God, as at the calming of the storm (4:41; see Exod 15:16; Ps 2:11; Jer 33:9). She already knows she has been healed (Mark 5:29) but perhaps at a deeper level now, she realizes what has happened to her: she has come into contact with the Lord. She falls down before Jesus (a gesture of homage, as in v. 22), and confesses her daring act.

Far from reprimanding her for her boldness, Jesus reassures her, addressing her affectionately as daughter. Like all those who “do the will of God” (3:35), she is welcomed into his family. Jesus will later commend Bartimaeus with the same words: Your faith has saved you (10:52). The Greek verb sōzō, used here in verses 23, 28, and 34, means both “save” and “heal.” The woman’s faith has opened her to receive not only physical healing but also the ultimate salvation of body and soul that it prefigures.

© 2008 Mary Healy and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.