She is at the end of her rope … that place where despair drives people to do desperate things because they have nothing left to lose.

She has bled for twelve long years … leaking away by dribbles and trickles. She lives in exhaustion—anemic and feeble. She lives in embarrassment—bloody cloths and stained garments. She lives in shame … perpetually unclean … an outcast.

This woman is desperate for help.

She’s seen every doctor she can find. She’s tried every remedy they prescribed. She’s spent every dime she owned on physicians and their quasi-cures.

But nothing has worked. The bleeding’s gotten worse. She can see the end of her life looming before her, not far away.

When this woman hears about Jesus, she decides—out of sheer misery—to try one more remedy. Everybody said he was a great healer. Blindness, leperosy, fevers, paralysis. Didn’t matter the problem. Jesus could cure it. He was that powerful.

So the woman seeks him out. “If I can just touch him,” she thinks, “I can be healed.”

She stands among the throngs that press about him. She disguises her uncleanness. She mingles with the healthy in hopes of a miracle.

And when he nears—unsuspecting, unaware of this woman and her need—she reaches out a trembling, hopeful hand and rubs his cloak.

Immediately, instantly, utterly … she is cured. She knows it as soon as she touches him. She can feel it in her body … the pain easing … the end of her suffering.

And Jesus knows it also. He feels the power leave him. He feels the flow of the Spirit staunch the flow of blood. “Who touched me?”

There are people crowding him, pushing him, reaching out and demanding a piece of him. They are all around him, noisy and needy and insistent. He’s been touched by hundreds that very day. Yet, somehow, her touch is different. He’s not asking about anybody. He’s asking about her.

And it’s not relief that floods her heart. Not even gratitude or amazement. She is consumed by a cold, intense fear … a flood of terror. She trembles at his question. Who is this man who can heal her with a touch when so many others had failed? Who is this man who, even in the pressing crowds, can discern her touch and demand her identity?

She falls at his feet and confesses. And, though he has healed her, she is not at all certain how this unbelievably powerful man will respond to her admission.

Commonalities

According to Mark, Jesus did not initiate any of these encounters. The storm just blew up while Jesus was asleep. Legion attacked Jesus and his disciples while they happened to be walking past. The woman approached Jesus, not the other way around. And Jairus (as we are about to see) asked Jesus to do something for his daughter; Jesus merely responded to a father’s invitation.

What we see in each of these stories is Jesus being Jesus. He’s not scripted or trying to shape people’s perceptions of him. His actions are not managed or staged or choreographed. Rather, he encouters situations he does not manufacture and then acts intuitively, responding according to his nature.

In these four stories, you could almost say that Jesus is caught off guard … that he reacts to the circumstances that present themselves in unrehearsed, instinctive ways.

Only, what comes out of Jesus naturally in these moments is utterly alien. His “normal” is not normal for the rest of us.

We would endure the storm, hang on and wait it out. If attacked by a lunatic, we would fight or flee. Should a diseased woman touch us in a crowd, we would flinch and withdraw … we’d reach for our hand-sanitizer. And stuck in a room with a dead girl? We’d give sincere condolences to the family and escape at the earliest opportunity.

Not Jesus.

  • There is a storm? Jesus trumps the laws of physics and demands calm.
  • There is an attack by a lunatic? Jesus triumphs over the forces of evil and causes demons to beg.
  • A diseased woman touches him in a crowd? Jesus heals her. Asserts himself over her capillaries and cells. Without thinking about it. Without even knowing about it!
  • A dead girl? Jesus resurrects her with a touch and a word. As if raising the dead were a common-place for him! As if death itself were no big deal.

Jesus’ “normal” is not our normal. And when people see this … when they watch how Jesus naturally responds to the abnormal …  when they realize he is so far past normal as to make normal seem small … they can’t handle it. They come apart. They react with fear and trembling and the dread-filled question: “Who is this?”

The disciples glimpse this alien Jesus in the storm and they are terrified. The townsfolk see what he can do with a lunatic and they are afraid—“Go away!” The woman in the crowd realizes who she has touched and what he can do, and she collapses at his feet in fear and quavering. And the little group who witnessed Jesus raise the dead girl? Mark describes their reaction with the comment, “They were astonished.” Perhaps he was too polite to say, “They wet their pants in fear.”

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